One of the many benefits to Army life (or military life for that matter) is being able to shop on post at the PX and the Commissary. So what’s the difference between the two and what should you know about them?
PX (also known as the Post Exchange)
This is a department style store somewhat similar to a Wal-Mart. You can typically find brand name items at way below brand name prices. The brands and items that the PX carries vary widely depending on each post. Some even carry department store cosmetics such as Clinique. You can usually save money by shopping at the PX.
You will need to have a military ID to check out at the PX. Also, usually in the same building, you will find other shops such as eyeglasses, some sort of fast food establishment, dry cleaners, and uniform shop. The uniform shop carries dress uniforms, PTs, BDUs, etc. as well as all of the badges and insignia that they need for their uniform. They usually also have Army related gift items such as yellow ribbon magnets for the car and the Army Soldier teddy bears.
The commissary is the grocery store on the post. They have very competitive prices and are in most cases lower than the typical grocery store off base. They will also accept coupons and have a weekly sales flyer that comes out with additional savings. Perhaps the most inconvenient thing about the commissary is the hours. Typical hours are from 9:00 in the morning until 6 or 7 in the evening. On Sunday, hours are usually noon to 5. You can check with the commissary on your post for hours.
You must also have a military ID to check out at the commissary. If at all possible, you should avoid the 1st and 15th of the month (i.e. paydays) as it will be very busy. If you must go at these times, prepare for a long line. Also, the people who bag your groceries work strictly on tips so you will be expected to tip this person. There is no set rate. I usually just try to gauge it on the number of bags that I have. For a normal trip to the store, I would tip $3-$5. But this is completely up to you. I know some who do much less and some who I would be willing to take their groceries out with as much as they tip!
Be sure to take advantage of all of your benefits.