Budget for a Military PCS (Permanent Change of Station)

Is your family among the thousands of military families moving this year? Then you may be thinking about how you are going to financially pull off, yet another military move. If you are similar to my family, who will PCS this summer. The good news is you are thinking about your budget for a military PCS, six months before your actual move date.

However, you may not know where your family is being relocated. This makes nailing down a PCS budget difficult, but not impossible. Most likely you have an idea of your chances of moving overseas or state side and perhaps even know the five or so most likely locations of your new home.

The best advice, start saving NOW! You can always calculate more of an exact budget after you know the details. Before you start saving blindly, try to determine an estimated PCS Budget. This way, you know approximately how much you need to save each month to hit your target.

Budget for a Military PCS

Budget for a Military PCS

Savings or PCS Fund

Do you already have an established PCS Fund? Some military families who move often choose to always have a PCS Fund, because they never know when the next move will occur. If you already have a PCS Fund, you are way ahead of the game! Well done! Now it’s time to determine if it will be enough to cover your upcoming move.

Do you have extra in your savings account? Larger than needed Emergency Fund? How much can be used for your upcoming PCS expenses?

If you do not have extra in savings or an establish PCS fund. Do not panic. You still have time to save.

Expenses to Consider

Please keep in mind each military branch handles certain expenses and reimbursements differently. For some military families, a few of these expenses may be directly paid by the military or will be paid with a GTC (Government Issued Travel Card). However, some families will choose to do a DITY (Do It Yourself) Move and have even more expenses than listed below.

Please consider the following list a starting point and not a list of every possible expense.

Expenses at Current Location

  • Medical/Dental Procedures – Appointments or procedures that need to be completed before your PCS.
  • Pet Expenses – Will your pet need to visit the vet or get vaccines before moving?
  • Moving Expenses – Do you need to rent a trailer or truck to move? Mailing things to your next location? Will your household goods be over the weight limit? If so, prepare to pay the overage fee.
  • Child Care – You may need to hire someone to watch your children while the movers are in your home, while you are deep cleaning your home, or during required PCS appointments/meetings/classes.
  • Cleaning Your Home – Whether you are hiring someone, need to rent a carpet cleaner or just buying extra cleaning supplies. You may also need to consider expenses to paint and perform small repairs.
  • Selling Your Car(s) – Your car may need repairs or detailed before you sell it.
  • Selling Your Home – If you currently own your home, but plan on selling before you PCS. Do not forget to budget the expenses (repairs, paint, cleaning, etc.) to prepare your home for the market and closing costs. If you owe more on your home than it is currently worth, you will also need to factor in this expense.
  • Rental Car – Will you be selling and/or shipping all your vehicles before you travel to your next location? Estimate how many days/weeks you will need a rental car and the associated expenses.
  • Hotel or Temporary Living Facility (TLF) – Will there will be a gap between when you need to move out of our current home and when you actually travel to your next location?
  • Restaurants – Your household items may be in boxes for days if not months (overseas moves). Budget to eat at restaurants and purchasing convenience foods.
  • Passports/Visas – If you are moving overseas you will need to pay for this expense months before your travel dates.

Travel Expenses

  • Transportation Expenses – Airline tickets, gasoline, bus/train tickets, taxi, parking, etc.
  • Hotel – If your travel is going to take more than one day.
  • Food Expenses – Your family will most likely be eating at restaurants during your travel day(s).
  • Pets – Will your pet need to travel by airlines? Need a special crate? Once you arrive, will you need to hire a company to transport your pet from the airport? Does your pet need to be quarantined (overseas)? Will you need to pay for boarding until you secure pet-friendly housing?
  • Transportation of Your Vehicle(s) – Are you driving your vehicles? Pulling one on a trailer? Shipping it?
  • Vacationing or Visiting Family on the Way? – Many military families take the opportunity to take a vacation or a quick trip to see family on the way to their new location. Do not forget to budget for these travel and entertainment expenses.  

Expenses at New Location

  • Rental Deposit & First Month’s Rent – If you live in military housing, chances are you will not have to worry about this expense. However, if you do not. This expense could be quite large. It could be as low as $1000 total. However, some overseas locations can be as high as $6000 or more!!!
  • Utility Deposits – Some utility companies (electricity, gas, water, garbage, etc.) require a deposit. This could be a small fee or up to ~$100 for some companies.
  • Car(s) – Do you plan on purchasing a car(s) at your next location? How much do you plan on spending? Do your research to ensure you will be able to buy a vehicle at your budgeted price. Include taxes, registration, and any safety/emissions tests that are required.
    If you plan on bringing your car(s). You will need to consider registration, license plates, and safety/emission test expenses. If overseas, you may also be required to pay for modifications to your vehicle.   
  • Rental Car – If you are purchasing or shipping a vehicle, you will need to rent a car until your shipped vehicle arrives or until you purchase a vehicle.
  • Hotel or Temporary Living Facility (TLF) – Would it not be great to show up to your new location and have a home ready for you? You know the reality. It may take days, weeks and in some situations months to find a home. The good news, you will not be paying rent. Therefore, your housing allowance could off-set this expense.
  • Restaurant/Convenience Meals – You may be living without your kitchen items for days, weeks, or months. This makes food prep difficult and chances are you will spend more than usual on food while waiting for your household goods to show up.
  • Phones – If you are moving to a location where your current mobile provider does not operate you will need to consider the expense of purchasing phones and/or possible fees associated with contracts.
  • House Supplies – There always seems to be house supplies that need to be purchased when moving into a new home. Shower Curtains, Garbage Cans, Cleaning Supplies, Curtains, Storage Units/Containers. If you are moving overseas, you may need to purchase small appliances because 240 voltage is used in many foreign countries (microwave, toaster, coffee maker, iron, vacuum, hair dryer etc.).
  • Re-Stock Kitchen – It always amazes me how expensive those first few trips to the grocery store are after each move. You will need to buy all your staples (flour, sugar, rice, pasta, beans, olive oil, etc), condiments, spices, paper goods (toilet paper, paper towels, trash bags, aluminum foil and plastic wrap), personal hygiene products, plus everything you need to prepare your meals for the week.
  • Professional Licenses/Certifications – If the non-military spouse has a career where he/she needs a specific state license or certification to be employed in your new state or country, do not forget to include these expenses.
  • School Supplies – If you are moving mid-school year, your children may need completely different school supplies. Or if you are moving in the summer, back to school expenses will be right around the corner when you arrive at your new location.
  • Clothes – If your new location has vastly different temperatures or climate than your previous location you may need to budget for clothing.

Selling Assets, Refunds & Extra Income

Do you have assets you will sell or extra income you will earn before your move? Can this extra money be used for PCS expenses?

  • Selling Your Car(s)
  • Selling Your Home
  • Yard Sale – Selling household goods you will not need at next location.
  • Deposit Refunds – Rental and utility deposits that will be returned upon vacating your current home.
  • Extra “Income” – Perhaps the non-military spouse has saved up PTO (Paid Time Off) at his/her current job. Expecting a tax refund before you PCS? Perhaps a “bonus”?

How Much to Save for Your PCS?

Now that you have thought about your possible expenses, savings, and assets. It is time to determine how much money you need to save before your PCS. Simply, add your savings and assets and then subtract your estimated expenses. Use this FREE PCS Budget (Google Doc).

(Savings + Assets) – PCS Expenses = Amount You Need to Save

How much do you need to save each month? Let’s say you need to save $7200 and you PCS in 6 months. This means you need to save $1200 each month!

Can You Save Enough?

If you do not have $1200 of “wiggle room” in your budget each month. You may be thinking “yeah, right” throw up your hands and give up on budgeting for your PCS.

But wait! There is still hope. You can do this!

Back-up Plan

Budgets are extremely flexible! With some hard work and sacrifices we can do much, MUCH better financially than if we had not budgeted at all for our PCS.

Where Do I Find the Extra Money?

  • Decrease Your Expenses – The first step is to look over your PCS expenses. Where can you cut back? You could plan on buying a cheaper car or be a one car household until you save more at your new location. You could try to rent a less expensive home at your new location. This would lower your rental deposit, your first month’s rent and allow you to save more each month once you are moved. Can you reduce your hotel/restaurant expenses by staying with friends/family? Instead of renting a car, do you know someone who will allow you to borrow their car for a few days?   
  • Extra Income – Can either you or your spouse pick up extra jobs (child care, lawn care services, shoveling snow, sewing services, delivering pizzas, waiting tables, etc.) over the next ~6 months to boost your PCS fund?
  • Sell More Items – Do you have more assets you could sell? Do you have a vehicle with a high monthly payment that you could sell and purchase something more affordable?
  • Seek Help – There are programs that are offered to military families to help with the burden of PCS expenses. Visit your military installation’s family resource center and inquire about these programs. Many of these programs will be discussed during your PCS briefings.

The military also offers “advanced pay” of up to 3 months of your basic pay. It could be viewed as an interest free loan to pay for PCS expenses that are non-reimbursable. However, if you do choose the advanced pay option. PLEASE be aware that your paychecks will automatically be decreased over the next 12 months to pay back this “loan.” Meaning, if your family has very little extra income with your current pay. This decreased income will make it extremely difficult to make ends meet over the next 12 months.  

Reimbursement for Expenses

If this is not your first PCS, you know many of these expenses are reimbursed. There are also several one-time (per PCS) reimbursements that help cover those non-reimbursable expenses. Please read this Military.com article for more details.

Our family chooses not to factor in these reimbursements with our PCS. The reason being, you do not receive the reimbursement until a month or more after you PCS. Much later than when these expenses need to be paid. We prefer to save up a PCS fund so we can pay these expenses as they occur. Preventing the accumulation of debt. Once we are reimbursed, then we use this “extra” money to replenish our savings or apply it to financial goals we have put on hold while saving for our PCS.

What Do You Think?

How Does Your Family Prepare Financially for a PCS?
What PCS Expenses did I Forget?
Are You PCS-ing this Year? Where?


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3 thoughts to “Budget for a Military PCS (Permanent Change of Station)”

  1. Thanks for the list! It is very helpful for me to read these things as we are moving soon and I am not really aware of what to do and what is the PCS fund. Thanks a lot!

  2. One of the best PCS budget lists I’ve seen. I just shared it on my FB site, PCS Prepper! Budgeting is so important–I know a lot of people think that DLA will cover it, but so many unexpected expenses pop up that can drain that DLA very quickly! Thank you for this great post!

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