When you are enlisted and live in the barracks, you are living rent free w/all your basic needs being provided for (meals, housing, etc). The only thing you would be paying out of pocket is if you have a cell phone, a landline in your room, cable, or that kind of thing. If you reach a point where you are allowed to live offbase, you will be allotted a certain amount of money for housing based on your rank, but the rest would be up to you. For example, let's say you're an E-4 living offbase, you would be allotted let's say $800 a month for rent. (I'm just throwing a number out there, I don't know what BAH is nowadays) You find an apt for $850 a month. You would have the $800 from the military, you would pay out of pocket the difference of $50. You would be responsible for whatever isn't included in the apt (some include things like heat & water, so you would want to check what's included and what's not). So let's just say you're paying rent, electric, gas, etc. You have to fit that all withing your budget of what you're getting in BAH and COLA (Cost of Living Allowance). You aren't allowed free meals on base so if you eat in the chow hall on base, you will have to pay for it.