After you get your bank account taken care of; which is also in your appointment package; you'll have a place to put money. My son; knowing he was going to the academy; politely asked us, grandparents, sister, etc... to give cash as high school graduation presents. He's got enough in there to last him a while. Probably until larger pay checks his junior/senior (C2C/C1C) years. Plus, birthday/christmas/etc... we simply give money. And with us living a few minutes from an air force base; and the same bank on base; we're able to deposit it into his account and he has it immediately. Of course, we are fortunate that we don't have plane fare to worry about. And my son, being as cheap as he is, saves most of the money. But there are a lot of cadets who do quite fine on the $150 +/- a month they get. There is very little that you need to buy. But it is nice to have when you want to take a day off and go to town and see a movie or go out to dinner. But plane fare home for xmas, spring break, and summer could be tough. My son's room mate is an international exchange student. He has figured out that he MIGHT be able to go home 1 time in the 4 years. He's hoping in between his 2nd/3rd year summer. Then 2 years later when he graduates. But there's a lot of cadets to help them out. He came home with my son for Thanksgiving and to another cadet's for christmas. So, it can definitely be expensive depending on how you look at it.