It's that time of year: Permanent Change of Station (PCS) season. You've received your orders. What's your next move?
Peak season for PCS moves began May 15 and is expected to continue through August. Whether you're beginning to plan your move or expecting a move next summer, start preparing now. Your budget will thank you.
If you're moving this summer, you're in luck. Moving companies are now allowed to book shipments of household goods a month earlier during the peak summer season. This should make the process easier for you and your mover.
Review your overall financial picture
Since you and your family are being relocated, it makes sense to expect all your PCS charges to be covered. That’s not always the case. In fact, some experts suggest say that service members spend an average of $1,725 in non-reimbursable costs during each PCS. If you’re moving every few years, this can be a significant burden on your finances over time. To limit your out-of-pocket expenses and going into debt during your move, consider these suggestions. Review all your spending, including housing, utilities, insurance, and your private vehicles and gas. Relocation can impact these major spending categories. Cost of living varies throughout the world, so expect these amounts to change. You may not know exactly what your projected budget will be, but a quick internet search will give you a general idea of how your spending will need to be reallocated.
Don’t forget to make an appointment with your finance office at your current duty station. They’ll be able to provide you with more details about your relocation benefits. You may be eligible for temporary lodging reimbursement if you’re moving overseas, reimbursement for house hunting expenses and even per diem for PCS travel. Then you can budget and save for your upcoming move without having to dip into your savings.
Determine which move is right for you
You can decide if you want to conduct a Personally Procured Move (PPM) or opt for a government-arranged move.
Photo Credit: Navy Federal
You can decide if you want to conduct a Personally Procured Move (PPM) or opt for a government-arranged move, which is when a contractor packs and ships your belongings to your new location. Start by setting a meeting with your base transportation office.
The name of this office varies with your branch of service:
- The Department of Defense: Joint Personal Property Shipping Office
- Air Force: Traffic Management Office
- Army: Installation Transportation Office
- Navy and Marine Corps: Personal Property Shipping Office
- Coast Guard: Household Goods Shipping Office
Fees charged by a government contracted commercial mover should be 100 percent covered by the government, but you also have the option of doing a PPM. If you make moving arrangements yourself, you should be reimbursed 95 percent of the government’s estimated cost to move. This may be a financial advantage if you’re able to move for less than the government estimate because you can keep the difference.
For example, if you’re moving across the country from North Carolina to California, the estimated cost to move you and your family, as well as your belongings, comes to $10,000. If you choose to use the contracted mover, you won’t pay anything out of pocket as long as you meet the weight restrictions. Whereas for a PPM move, the government will reimburse you $9,500. If you can move for less than $9,500, you get to keep the difference.
The estimated moving cost for you and your family depends on the number of people in your household, and your pay grade. This is why you should price out both options, especially if you have some time before your move.
Prepare for the following expenses
Regardless of whether you’re purchasing a new home or renting, prepare for a change in housing costs. Start by calculating your new Basic Housing Allowance (BAH) here. Then, you can look at available housing in this range to best budget what you need to spend to meet your needs. If you predict you’ll have leftover BAH, consider building your emergency savings or saving for a future move. For PCS relocations outside the United States, you may not have this option. Some stations require you to live in military housing.
If you’ll be renting, you’ll likely owe application fees, a security deposit and possibly the first month’s rent upfront. If you have a home that you’re leaving behind, check out rental opportunities to earn some passive income to pay the mortgage and maintenance costs of your home while you’re away.
Consider the cost of moving your vehicle to your new location versus selling it and purchasing another one when you arrive. Compare costs of driving your vehicle or shipping it. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of gas, registration and taxes in your new location. If the cost of shipping or transporting your car is greater than the value of the car, it’s probably worthwhile to sell it. If you’re relocating overseas, this is something to consider, as transporting multiple vehicles is likely more expensive than purchasing new when you arrive. You might need to rent a car once you arrive while you shop for a new vehicle or wait for your vehicle to be shipped. This expense can vary based on your new station and the size of your household, so be sure to budget for this.
After all, they’re a part of the family, too! It can be costly to transport your pets, so prepare your budget for these costs and any associated fees to get them into or out of the country. Make these arrangements as early as possible; you don’t want to leave anyone behind.
Advance you financial goals with your move
PCS season may be a stressful time for you and your family. But consider the upside this move can have on your finances and your financial goals.
If you have an expensive vehicle and an auto loan that isn’t practical, now’s a great time to sell and downsize to a more economical vehicle. This could save you hundreds of dollars a month. Or, this could be a great chance to downsize your home. If BAH covers a three-bedroom house and you used to live in a four-bedroom and used a bedroom exclusively for guests, this might be a great time to downsize. Then you can use the savings to build savings, pay off debt or plan for retirement!
Know where you can find the help you need
Relocation is a part of military life, but planning ahead will keep your move from impacting your finances. If this is your first PCS, it can be exciting and stressful at the same time; don’t be afraid to seek out advice along the way. Take advantage of online resources and installation offices to ease your transition. Move.milis the military’s go-to resource for everything PCS for service members and civilian relocations. You’ll find helpful FAQs and all the necessary forms you need to schedule your move. Military Installationsis a directory of military installations worldwide that can help you get to know your new location. There’s also necessary information about relocation resources, housing and local schools. Lastly, your financial partner can help you plan your finances for PCS season. Whether you’re adjusting your budget or house hunting for a new home and need a mortgage, financial institutions for service members like Navy Federalcan help ease your transition and take the financial stress out of moving.
Navy Federal Credit Union is federally insured by NCUA and an Equal Housing Lender.
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