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The 2018 Military Family Lifestyle Survey results were just released, and I’m excited. This might highlight my nerdiness, but I want to know what’s top of mind for our active military, their spouses and our veterans.

 

Family moving-shutterstock_794983366.jpgOne stat continues to baffle me: 31% of military families experienced over $1,000 in unreimbursed expenses during their last military move. I think this is a trend we can reverse.

 

Remember that a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) is not an emergency; it is a normal part of military life. In fact, my wife and I always looked forward to our next PCS. We enjoyed moving, as it provided an opportunity to visit new places. My personal opinion is that I could have done without a short stint in Alamogordo, New Mexico, but you must take the good with the well … you know. Here are three easy steps you can take now to plan for your next PCS.

 

Step 1: Start a PCS fund.

USAA believes servicemembers need an extra $1,000 for a domestic PCS and $3,000 for an OCONUS PCS. This extra money covers expenses like auto repairs, boat shipment, and pet travel fees. Plan for these expenses ahead of time to avoid resorting to credit cards or your emergency fund.

 

Step 2: Avoid common PCS mistakes.

    • Be aware of your per diem. I once had a friend who felt each PCS was his time to splurge by staying in 5-star hotels and eating steak each night. He then wondered why his daily allowance from the military did not cover his PCS lifestyle. If you carefully plan your travel and eat modest meals, your per diem will be enough. Tip: Choose a hotel that provides a complimentary breakfast. For lunch, fill a cooler with drinks and sandwiches.
    • Watch out for non-reimbursable expenses. To limit your out-of-pockets costs, keep these to a minimum.
    • Keep all receipts. Even if you will not be reimbursed for an expense, you may be able to deduct it on your income tax return.
    • Lighten your load. While the military provides a generous housing weight allowance, sometimes you may go over. Make sure professional gear is not counted as household goods, as that might send you over your weight limit. If you routinely go over your weight limit or think that you might, plan a yard sale or donate infrequently used items to a local charity. My wife and I lived by a rule: “If we haven’t used it since the last PCS, sell or donate.”

Step 3: Use the Do-It-Yourself Move (DITY) and Dislocation Allowance (DLA) to your advantage.

Believe it or not, I made money in each of my five military moves. Here’s how:

    • No matter what, I always did a partial DITY move and carried some things with me. I packed financial records, jewelry, and things my family would need immediately in the new location in my car. And if I’m carrying them with me anyway, I might as well have the military pay me to move them.
    • I was also judicious in using my DLA. As of February 2019, an E-6 with dependents receives a $2520.80 DLA. While my wife and I did use part of our DLA to equip our new home with items like new curtains, we never splurged on expensive curtains. We were only going to use them for two years until our next PCS, and in the seven homes I lived in during active duty, none of them had the same size windows.

Hopefully these tips will help you break even on your PCS and maybe even save a bit of money. What do you do if you save money? Put it toward your emergency fund. If that is already fully funded, save it for the next PCS.  Happy Packing

 

*All images licensed from Shutterstock

 

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