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With Proper Planning, PCS Moves Don't Have to Break the Bank

By Perry Lockhart / Lifelines

In many ways, moving day can be a shattering experience. Brickhands Moving and Storage accidentally puts Aunt Martha's antique vase in the box with Joey's Hawaiian lava rock collection, and then slides it down the stairs "because it's faster that way." Fifteen-year-old Kristin won't ever, EVER speak to anyone again because she just said goodbye to Buggy, the only love she'll ever have, and the only boy who will ever, EVER understand her. Mom gives up a long-sought promotion at work to begin again at a new job in a new town far, far away. Three weeks of field training will begin two days after reporting at the new duty station in Dust Bowl, Utah.

Shattering experiences all, even when most of them are expected in a military career requiring frequent moves, new duty stations, and upheaval every few years.

One constant in all of the chaos surrounding a permanent change of station (PCS) is that it costs money to move. Even though the military provides moving allowances, per diem, and other monetary incentives for a PCS, out-of-pocket expenses can add up quickly. While moving allowances can be quite generous for PCS moves, in most cases it will not be sufficient to cover all of the costs associated with moving. Without proper planning and an understanding of the kinds of expenses that can be expected with a PCS move, breaking the bank may become the most shattering experience of all. It is important to calculate the cost of a PCS to ensure financial security throughout the move.

Preparing a budget for a PCS, well in advance, is the most important step a family can take to financial security during a move. Here are some considerations to make while setting up a budget for a PCS.

Initial expenses
Costs for a PCS begin to mount as soon as notification arrives about the impending move. Ideally, notification occurs months before the actual move, but in some cases notification can be as little as a week prior to the move.

Initial expenses include:

  • long distance telephone charges to realtors, schools, chambers of commerce, the new duty station.
  • subscriptions to the new local newspaper to find housing, jobs, lifestyle information. Much of this information can also be found online.
  • travel expenses to the new location for house hunting, job interviews, school enrollment, and site visits. These expenses may include airfare, hotel rooms, food expenses, and a rental car. These expenses are not reimbursable by the government. Again, a lot of this initial research can be accomplished online.

Housing expenses
Considerable expenses will be incurred both during the move out from the old location and move in at the new location, including:

  • rental deposits, if you're renting. Plan on at least one months rent plus the first months rent as a security deposit for most locations. Pet deposits will be extra.
  • closing costs, if buying. These expenses will be extensive, and a part of the home buying process.
  • cleaning, maintenance and repair expenses. If you're renting, moving out will require a complete scrubbing of the house, possible repainting, professional carpet cleaning, and repair of any damage caused during tenancy. The entire security deposit will only be refunded if the property is vacated in the same condition in which it was when moving in. Even in government quarters, a professional cleaning may be required before the house passes inspection.
  • utility deposits. The new location may require security deposits for electricity, water, gas, and telephone. In some cases, these deposits may be reduced or waived.

Traveling expenses
An allowance for traveling expenses makes up the major part of the governments travel entitlement for PCS. However, this allowance may not cover all of the expected expenses, which include:

  • temporary lodging. Lodging expenses will be incurred from the time you move out of the old residence until you move in at the new duty station. This period can last from a few days to months, depending on the availability of housing at the new duty station and a successful search for housing.
  • automobile expenses. Gasoline, oil, tolls, parking, and operating expenses for one or all vehicles traveling to the new duty station.
  • food. Eating out every day is expensive. Unless the hotel or temporary lodging facility has a kitchen, plan on spending most meals in a restaurant until new quarters are ready.
  • in-transit insurance. Household goods need to be protected during the move. In case of damage, the government has limits on the amount of reimbursement for damaged or lost goods. Insurance will help ensure there is enough money to replace lost items.

New location expenses
It costs money to begin again at a new location. Expenses that must be budgeted for include:

  • new furnishings, curtains, household supplies
  • a grocery store run to fill up the new refrigerator, freezer, and pantry
  • pet boarding. Some pets may have to be boarded at a kennel until move in
  • automobile registration, insurance, and inspections. These expenses vary by state and locality. Reregistering vehicles in a new state can cost thousands of dollars. Insurance rates may rise. Some states require vehicle inspections.

Don't let these expenses catch you off guard.

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