How Your MWR Saves You Money

Morale, Welfare, & Recreation (MWR) works together across every branch of the military to support military families by making leisure and recreational activities more affordable. The goal of the MWR is to help these military families live the same kind of life as the civilians they’re fighting to defend. The MWR offers quality of life…
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Morale, Welfare, & Recreation (MWR) works together across every branch of the military to support military families by making leisure and recreational activities more affordable. The goal of the MWR is to help these military families live the same kind of life as the civilians they’re fighting to defend.

The MWR offers quality of life improvements for active, Guard, or Reserve military members, their families, civilian government employees, retirees, and veterans a service-connected disability. A law change in 2020 also opened the doors to base access for commissaries, exchanges, and MWR facilities for disabled veterans and caregivers.

Each branch of the United States Armed Forces has its own version of MWR services, and each MWR location is unique in what it offers. The benefits available at each location will also vary from base to base, depending on the size of the military installation that particular MWR supports.

US Army MWR Program

Although the actual services will vary by location, you will have access to free or price-reduced activities, services, and equipment. Each MWR installation or program works to improve your quality of life and help save you money.

MWR facilities are also supported by purchases made at base exchanges, commissaries, and other on-base activities.

Ways You Can Save Money at Your MWR Center

The MWR Center is a great place to visit when you first PCS to a new base, when you are TDY, or when you grab a Space-A flight to a location you haven’t previously visited.

These are just a few of the cost-saving benefits you have access to through your local MWR installation.

Fitness Facilities

MWR fitness facilities offer individual and group fitness classes, help with nutrition education, swimming and diving pools, weight rooms, cardio training equipment, and more. Many of these fitness facilities also offer intramural sports programs like football, soccer, flag football, softball, and more. There’s no need to spend money on expensive civilian gym passes when you have free access to the MWR fitness facilities.

Bowling

Many military installations have bowling centers where you can enjoy a round with friends, hold a birthday party, or get involved with a bowling team or league. The Army MWR alone has 80 Army bowling centers in the United States, Europe, Puerto Rico, Japan, and Korea, but every other branch has bowling centers as well. Take advantage of these lanes, and enjoy an inexpensive night out with family and friends.

Cinema

Movie showings through the MWR movie program are much more affordable than showings out in town. You can expect to spend $6 per adult and $4 per child to see a movie through a Reel Time Cinema. Find out the next Reel Time Movie Theater showing at your nearest installation.

Catering

The MWR also offers affordable catering services for any size or budget. Have your MWR installation’s team of professionals cater your next wedding, birthday party, graduation celebration, or business event. The catering capabilities will vary from location to location, but all catering locations offer affordable, price-reduced services.

Conference Centers

MWR conference centers offer great affordable space to rent and help you save money when planning your next family or business get together.

Golfing

Each branch of the military offers a variety of golf courses both in the U.S. and abroad. Enjoy the driving range, take classes, play in tournaments, and shop the pro shop.

Marinas

Save money on your recreational boating vehicles by utilizing the MWR marinas. They have boathouses, boat maintenance areas, boat ramps, dock berths, dry docking, fueling, and mooring stations, and wash racks. Whatever you need to take care of your boat at a reduced price, the MWR can help.

Childcare Services

The MWR also offers accredited family child care and youth and school-aged services at many installations. In many cases, the cost is substantially lower than off-base child care, and the hours may be more forgiving for those who work military hours.

Information, Tickets, and Travel (ITT)

The Information Tickets and Travel Program offers discount ticket sales for special events, area attractions, hotel information, and cruise booking. You will also find region-specific brochures and information. Visit your MWR ticket installation to get special, reduced-rate tickets for all military family-friendly attractions, including Disney, Sea World, and other theme parks or attractions.

Library – Books, Movies, Games, & More

Instead of paying for a new book, magazine, or newspaper, use one of the MWR library facilities instead. They offer all of those resources for free, along with access to computer resources and programs. You’ll never want for access to library resources. The Navy NGLP libraries alone include more than 300 afloat and 30 shore locations. The MWR even has a digital library where you can access free eBooks and audiobooks, live, free tutoring for kids through tutor.com, get help with a resume, and more. Check out all of the resources that the MWR digital library has to offer.

To be validated as a library customer to use the Digital Library Products & Services you will need to either log on with your Common Access Card or DS log on.

Please note that the Army and Airforce digital libraries differ from the other branches of the armed forces and can be found at their own respective links.

Take advantage of the free library services available through MWR programs, and you will have access to audiobooks, eBooks, newspapers, reference materials, and practice tests at no cost.

Accommodations

If you’re arriving at a new duty station or looking for a leisurely weekend away, take advantage of the MWR sponsored hotels that offer reduced rates. Besides hotels, you can also rent cabins, cottages, cabanas, lodges, RVs, and campground sites. These hotels and accommodations on and around military installations really help abate the necessary costs associated with travel. Base lodging can be a cost-effective way to save money on vacation. Here are some more ways military members can save on travel.

Guided activities, trips, and tours

Each MWR is different in their available services, but the following are just a few of the guided activities, trips, and tours that you have access to at affordable rates through your nearest installation:

  • Adventure races
  • Skiing
  • Archery
  • ATV tours
  • Backpacking
  • Sailing
  • Camping
  • Canoeing
  • Deep-sea fishing
  • Golf tournaments
  • Mountain biking
  • Nature hikes
  • Paintball
  • Boating
  • Cycling
  • Surfing
  • Whitewater rafting
  • And much, much more!

Auto Repair Facilities – AKA – Auto Hobby Shop

Many MWR installations offer self-help auto repair facilities that provide vehicle lifts, tools, and a trained instructor on hand to offer assistance with your vehicle repairs. These facilities allow service members and their families to perform minor repairs to their vehicles and save on their auto-repair costs.

This is an example of the fees associated with one of the MWR auto crafts shops (check with your local Auto Hobby Shop for current prices):

Fees & Charges:

  • Service Bay $6.50 per hour
  • Lift Bat $6.00 per ½ hour
  • MIG Welder $15 per hour/use
  • Tire Change
    Tires 13″ – 17″ – $8.50 per tire
    Tires 18″ – 22″ – $20 per tire
  • Balance
    Tires 13″ – 17″ – $8.50 per tire
    Tires 18″ – 22″ – $20 per tire
  • Torch $15 per hour/use
  • Oil Change $12 (Must provide own oil and filter)

If you feel comfortable around your vehicle or you’re willing to learn basic auto repair, these service bays will save you a lot of money on vehicle maintenance.

Equipment Rental / Outdoor Rec

The list of rental equipment available through MWR installations is endless. You can rent jet skis, RVs, fishing or party boats, and more. They also offer Party supplies, camping equipment, moonwalks, tables, chairs, canopies, etc. Basically, anything you can imagine needing to host a party, go away for the weekend, or take part in a new sport or activity is available for a very reasonable fee.

Two things military families don’t usually have in large quantities: money and storage space. If you’re like me, your garage is probably filled with military gear, which doesn’t leave a lot of space for lawn equipment and camping supplies. That’s ok because we learned years ago that we don’t need to take these large, heavy items with us to every new duty station. Instead, on the rare occasions we need them, we can rent them from Recreation Checkout.

Military Recreation Checkout Benefits

Most military bases have an area called Recreation Checkout (Marines), Outdoor Recreation (Navy), or Equipment Checkout (Army). Their mission is to provide large specialty items to military families at discounted rates. It’s a wonderful resource that not enough people seem to know about. I love having this office located on base for many reasons:

  1. Recreation Checkout saves you money. If you are hosting a party or planning a trip, you don’t need to purchase all of the supplies that you may only use once. You can rent them at a discount, much cheaper than you will find at party centers off base.
  2. Outdoor Recreation saves you space. Outdoor hobbies can require a lot of bulky equipment that you only use a few times each year. The office takes care of maintenance and storage, so you just pick it up and return it. This is especially convenient if you are cramped in a tiny house on base.
  3. Equipment Checkout saves you time. You don’t need to shop around for a specialty item or drive an hour to pick something up from a rental store or storage unit. Plus, items are given to you clean and ready to use, so you won’t have to do any complicated equipment assembly.

Not sure what the Recreation Checkout center can do for you? Find the website for your base’s office so you can browse their inventory and price list. To give you some ideas, here are some of the ways to take advantage of this base resource:

Backyard Party

One of the most popular rentals is a Bounce House or Jump House. Inflatables range from $50- $150 for a one-day rental. You can also rent a large smoker with propane for $50, folding tables for $4 and chairs for .50 each. Need some shade? A folding canopy is $5. They also have backyard games, like corn hole, softball gear, volleyball net, tug of war rope, and a dunk tank. You could transform your backyard into a fun carnival party for less than the cost of reserving a pavilion at a public park. It’s relaxing and makes it much easier to prepare and store food. You are responsible for bringing a vehicle or trailer large enough to pick up the supplies.

Camping Trip

Want to get away and enjoy the natural beauty of your state? New camping supplies can be costly, and it’s hard to know exactly what you need the first time. At Recreation Checkout, you can rent a large RV or a tent that suits your camping style. Tents come in different sizes, $5-$9 per day. You can also get essentials like sleeping bags ($4), a lantern ($2), camp stove ($2), cooking pot ($2), a large ice chest ($3), and folding camp chairs ($2). We spent hundreds of dollars on camping gear because we went camping cross-country during a PCS move. We couldn’t use Recreation Checkout because it was a 1-way trip. But their supplies are perfect for local trips from your duty station, especially for anyone who isn’t sure about camping and wants to give it a try before investing in all the supplies.

Lawn Care

If you live on base, you are typically only responsible for maintaining your backyard. The Housing office will mow front yards and common areas. There is no need to have a lawnmower, trimmer, leaf blower, rake, etc taking up space in your garage. We used to own lawn equipment when we owned our first house off base. But since living on base the last few stations, we have learned that it is much more cost-effective not to PCS with that heavy equipment. Just rent it when needed.

A Day at the Beach

Water sports are fun, but it’s great to try them out before buying all the expensive equipment yourself. No need to buy yourself a kayak you will only use a few times when you can rent it for $35. An inflatable stand-up paddleboard is also $35. A snorkel mask is $2, and fins are also $2. Life jackets for kids or adults are $2 each. If you need folding chairs and coolers, or even a keg buddy, they have that too!

Stop by the Recreation Checkout center on your base to see their inventory and start planning your next adventure.

Take Advantage of These Money-Saving Offers

To utilize the free and reduced-cost services available to you and your family through the MWR, check with your local command or go online to find the nearest MWR installation. The following links will take you to the home website for the MWR of each branch of the Armed Forces.

The MWR strives to provide the same quality of life afforded to the members of society that our service members protect. Take advantage of these affordable recreational and leisure activities, and start living the life you want, knowing it’s a life you can afford.

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About Kristi Muse

Kristi Muse is a military reservist spouse and freelance writer. She loves writing about strategies to save military families money, get out of debt, and live a frugal life. Kristi shares her own experiences about debt and parenthood on her blog Moderate Muse.

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  1. Michael Kerr says

    To start out, I think the mwr is a good thing. But it was great. I’m a disabled Army Veteran and I love to go camping. It’s getting harder and harder because the campgrounds on base are so full of DOD and Active duty LIVING there, not camping. My family can’t get a camp site, and they keep raising the rates but no improvements to the place.
    It’s getting sad to watch everything that was once great for us turn in to all about the money. Thank you for your time.

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