PCS Move Money-Saving Tips: The Ultimate Guide

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What is a PCS move?

A Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move refers to the relocation of military personnel from one duty station to another. PCS moves are a normal part of military service, often occurring every few years - we regularly work with active duty when they PCS to Charleston and again when the PCS out of Charleston. These moves can be both exciting and challenging, as they involve uprooting and resettling in a new location. During a PCS move, military personnel and their families must consider various factors such as travel expenses, weight allowances for household items, temporary lodging expenses, and financial goals. It is essential to plan ahead and find ways to save money throughout the moving process. By being proactive and implementing the right strategies, individuals can ensure a smooth and cost-effective PCS move.

Why are money-saving tips important for PCS moves?

Money-saving tips are crucial for PCS (Permanent Change of Station) moves because these transitions can wreak havoc on tight budgets. Moving from one duty station to another often involves various expenses that can quickly add up, putting financial strain on military personnel and their families.

Some of the major expenses associated with PCS moves include temporary lodging, vehicle maintenance costs, and travel expenses. Finding affordable temporary lodging options, such as military housing or short-term rentals, can help reduce accommodation costs. Additionally, taking proactive steps to maintain vehicles, such as regular servicing and checking tire pressure, can minimize unexpected repair bills.

To avoid financial pitfalls during PCS moves, it is essential for couples to have open discussions about expenses and plan ahead. Setting savings goals and creating a budget can help allocate funds accordingly and ensure that financial obligations are met. It is also important to explore additional income opportunities, such as taking on part-time work or utilizing skills that can generate extra money.

By implementing money-saving tips and actively managing their finances, military personnel, and their families can ensure a smoother transition during PCS moves. These efforts not only help protect tight budgets but also provide the peace of mind needed to focus on the new duty station and the upcoming challenges.

Saving Tips for Before the Move

Before embarking on a PCS move, it is crucial to have a solid financial plan in place to alleviate financial stress and ensure a smooth transition. By following some key money-saving tips, service members and their families can minimize expenses before the move begins. This includes being strategic about temporary lodging options, maintaining vehicles to avoid unexpected repair costs, and having open discussions about expenses, and creating a budget. Additionally, exploring additional income opportunities and finding ways to generate extra money can further bolster savings.

Finally, if you’re a homeowner, you should consider using an MRP real estate agent. Using an MRP-certified agent to assist military personnel with the purchase or sale of a home saves time, money, and headaches trying to facilitate things yourself. Agents with an MRP certification are a great choice because of their knowledge of the PCS process, terms, and timelines - better yet, an agent who’s also a military veteran is even better.

By implementing these tips, military personnel can better prepare themselves financially for the upcoming move.

Start Planning Months in Advance

Planning for a PCS move months in advance is extremely important for military personnel and their families. It allows them to start preparing early, ensuring a smooth transition to their new duty station.

Starting the planning process as soon as you are within the PCS window, approximately 6 months ahead, gives you ample time to research your new duty station. This research includes learning about the housing market, climate, cost of living, local schools, and other important factors. Gathering this information helps you make informed decisions about where to live, what kind of housing to look for, and how to adjust your budget accordingly.

Estimating household items is another crucial aspect of planning for a PCS move. By determining what items you need to bring or replace, you can avoid unnecessary expenses and reduce the weight of your shipment. You can also organize a yard sale or donate items you no longer need, helping you declutter and save money on moving costs.

Setting savings goals is a fundamental part of planning for a PCS move. By analyzing your financial situation, you can establish a budget that accommodates all the expenses associated with the move, such as temporary lodging, travel expenses, and any unexpected costs that may arise. Starting to save early allows you to build an emergency fund, ensuring you have a financial safety net in case of unforeseen circumstances.

In conclusion, starting to plan for a PCS move months in advance is essential. It gives you the opportunity to thoroughly research your new duty station, adjust your budget, estimate household items, and establish savings goals. By doing so, you can alleviate stress, save money, and have a smoother transition to your new home.

Research Your New Duty Station

When planning for a PCS move, one of the most important aspects is researching your new duty station. This involves gathering information about the housing market, cost of living, and local amenities. By conducting thorough research, you can make informed decisions that will help you adjust your budget and make wise financial choices.

Firstly, it's crucial to examine the housing market of your new duty station. Look into the availability, prices, and types of housing options in the area. This will give you an idea of what to expect and how much you need to budget for housing expenses.

Understanding the cost of living in your new location is equally important. Different regions have varying costs for groceries, utilities, transportation, and other everyday expenses. By researching the cost of living, you can estimate how much you will need for your day-to-day expenses and adjust your budget accordingly.

Additionally, take the time to explore the local amenities and services available in your new duty station. This can include schools, healthcare facilities, recreational activities, and public transportation. Understanding what is available in the area will help you plan and budget for these essential services.

By conducting thorough research on these factors, you can adjust your budget and make informed financial decisions. This will not only save you money but also ensure that your move to the new duty station is smooth and well-prepared.

Adjust Your Budget Accordingly

When going through a PCS (Permanent Change of Station) move, it's crucial to adjust your budget accordingly to ensure a smooth financial transition. By carefully considering all moving expenses, knowing your entitlements, and knowing if you still get BAH if you buy a home in your new duty location, you can effectively manage your finances and stay within your budget.

Start by examining your moving expenses, such as transportation, temporary lodging, and packing materials. Take advantage of your entitlements as an active duty service member to determine what expenses are covered and what you need to budget for. This can help you avoid unexpected expenses and plan ahead.

Another way to adjust your budget is by looking for deals and discounts. Many restaurants and hotels offer special promotions, such as "kids eat free" nights or military discounts. Take advantage of these offers to save on travel expenses during your move. Additionally, explore different options for transportation, such as car rentals or military travel programs, to find the most affordable and convenient choice.

By being proactive about adjusting your budget, considering all moving expenses, and taking advantage of deals and discounts, you can effectively manage your finances during a PCS move. This will help you stay within your budget and save money for other financial goals.

Make a Weight Allowance and Limit

When preparing for a PCS move, understanding your weight allowance and limit is crucial. This determines the amount of household items you can transport without incurring additional charges.

To begin, familiarize yourself with your specific weight allowance, which is based on your rank and number of dependents. This information can be found in the Joint Travel Regulations (JTR) or from your unit's resources.

Next, estimate the weight of your household items. Start by creating an inventory of everything you plan to move, including furniture, appliances, and personal belongings. Use online resources or consult a moving company to determine the average weight of each item. Add up these estimates to get a rough total.

To ensure accuracy, contact the losing base's Travel Management Office (TMO). They can provide a more precise estimate and help you adhere to the weight limit. TMO specialists are well-versed in PCS moves and can offer guidance on various aspects of your relocation. Take advantage of their expertise to avoid any surprises during the move.

By understanding your weight allowance, estimating your household items' weight, and consulting with the losing base's TMO, you can ensure a smoother PCS move while staying within your weight limit. This will not only save you money but also prevent any unnecessary stress during the process.

Estimate Household Items to Pack

When preparing for a PCS move, it's crucial to carefully consider which household items are essential and should be packed. These items are the ones you'll need immediately upon arriving at your new duty station, so it's important to set them aside and keep them accessible.

Some of the essential household items to pack include bedding, towels, cooking utensils, and paper plates. These items will help you settle in and maintain a level of comfort while you wait for the rest of your belongings to arrive.

To prevent them from being packed by the movers, it's a good idea to clearly label and separate these essential items. Designate a specific area or box where you keep them so that you can easily transport them with you.

Another helpful tip is to take advantage of the lending lockers and thrift stores available on military bases. These resources provide an opportunity to borrow or purchase items at a lower cost, allowing you to save money on buying new items.

By estimating and packing your essential household items and utilizing lending lockers or thrift stores, you can make your PCS move a little smoother and more cost-effective.

Create Savings Goals and an Emergency Fund

When it comes to a PCS (Permanent Change of Station) move, creating savings goals and having an emergency fund in place is crucial for financial preparedness. Moving to a new duty station can bring unexpected expenses and challenges, so it's essential to have a savings plan in place to alleviate any financial stress.

One of the first steps in creating savings goals is to determine the amount you need to save. Consider the costs involved in the move, such as travel expenses, temporary lodging, and shipping household items. Setting a realistic goal will help you stay focused and motivated to save.

Next, set a timeline for achieving your savings goals. Determine whether you need to save a certain amount each month or if you can save a lump sum over a specific period. Break down your larger goal into smaller, achievable milestones to keep yourself on track.

In addition to savings goals, having an emergency fund is vital. An emergency fund acts as a safety net to cover unexpected expenses, such as car repairs, medical bills, or any other unforeseen circumstances. Aim to save at least three to six months' worth of living expenses in your emergency fund.

By creating savings goals and having an emergency fund, you can be financially prepared for any unexpected expenses that may arise during your PCS move. Being proactive and having a savings plan in place will help you navigate the financial challenges that often come with relocating, ensuring a smoother transition to your new duty station.

During the Move: Ways to Save Money

Moving can be an expensive endeavor, but there are several ways to save money during the process. By implementing these money-saving tips, you can ease the financial burden of a move and have more money in your pocket for other priorities. From planning ahead to being resourceful, these strategies can help you keep costs down and make your move a more budget-friendly experience.

Use Travel Expenses and Credit Cards Wisely

During a PCS move, it's important to use travel expenses and credit cards wisely to save money. One way to do this is by researching and choosing the right travel insurance. Having travel insurance can protect you from unexpected events and save you money in the long run.

Another tip is to utilize public transportation or carpooling to save on transportation costs. Public transportation is often cheaper than renting a car or using taxis. Carpooling with fellow military members who are also moving can help split the costs and save money.

Shopping around for car insurance is also important. With a PCS move, your car insurance rates may change depending on your new location. Take the time to research different car insurance providers and find the most affordable option that still meets your needs.

Consider buying a used car instead of a brand-new one. Used cars are generally cheaper and can save you money upfront. However, it's important to conduct thorough research before purchasing to ensure you're getting a reliable vehicle.

By using travel expenses and credit cards wisely, you can save money during your PCS move. Research travel insurance options, utilize public transportation or carpooling, shop around for car insurance, and consider buying a used car. These simple tips can help you keep your expenses in check during this transitional period.

Seek out Service Providers for Discounts or Free Services

When planning a PCS move, servicemembers can seek out service providers that offer discounts or free services to help them save money. These discounts and freebies can apply to various expenses incurred during the move, including transportation, lodging, and other moving-related services.

To find these service providers, it's important to conduct thorough research and compare options. Start by reaching out to your local military base or installation. Many bases have partnerships with businesses in the surrounding area that offer discounts to military personnel. Check with base services or the installation's Family Readiness Center for a list of these service providers.

Additionally, utilize online resources and forums dedicated to military families and PCS moves. These platforms often have discussions and recommendations from other servicemembers who have experienced similar moves. They can provide valuable insights and suggestions for service providers that offer discounts or free services.

When contacting service providers, don't hesitate to ask about any special offers or military discounts they may have. Many businesses are willing to provide discounts or free services to servicemembers as a way to show appreciation for their service.

By seeking out service providers that offer discounts or free services, servicemembers can significantly reduce their expenses during a PCS move. Saving money on transportation, lodging, and other moving-related services can help make the transition smoother and less financially burdensome.

Be Aware of Diem Rates and Extra Expenses

During a PCS move, it is important to be aware of diem rates and extra expenses to effectively budget and save money. Diem rates are daily allowances provided to military service members to cover meals and incidental expenses while traveling. These rates can vary depending on the location and duration of the travel.

Tracking and budgeting for additional expenses is essential during a PCS move. While diem rates cover some expenses, there may be other costs that need to be accounted for. For example, packing supplies such as boxes, tape, and bubble wrap can add up quickly. Temporary lodging, especially during the transition period between duty stations, can also be an additional expense. Transportation costs, including gas, tolls, and parking fees, should also be considered.

By being aware of diem rates and creating a budget to include these extra expenses, military personnel can effectively plan and save money during their PCS move. Monitoring and tracking these expenditures can help in making informed financial decisions and avoid unnecessary overspending. It is also advisable to research and explore available options for discounts or special offers from service providers to further maximize savings.

Save on Temporary Lodging Costs

Saving on temporary lodging costs during a PCS move is an important aspect of budgeting. One way to achieve this is by considering renting houses instead of staying in hotels. Renting a house offers several advantages, such as having access to a kitchen. By preparing your own meals, you can save a significant amount of money compared to dining out for every meal.

To find affordable vacation rentals, it's essential to plan ahead and book in advance. By doing so, you not only have a better chance of securing a rental at a lower price but also have more options to choose from. Additionally, comparing prices online allows you to find the best deals and potentially save even more.

Temporary lodging costs can quickly add up, but with some careful planning and consideration, you can significantly reduce these expenses. Exploring the option of renting houses and taking advantage of early booking discounts can be a game-changer for your budget during a PCS move. By saving on these costs, you'll have more money available for other necessary expenses related to your move.

After the PCS Move: Financial Goals to Consider

Congratulations on successfully completing your PCS move! As you start this new chapter, it's essential to refocus on your financial goals. A move, whether domestic or overseas, often comes with unexpected expenses and shifts in financial dynamics. Now is the ideal time to reassess and fortify your monetary foundations.

1. Budget Adjustment

Your cost of living can vary greatly depending on your new location. Maybe utilities are more expensive, or perhaps groceries are cheaper. It's crucial to sit down and adjust your budget to align with your new circumstances. By doing so, you can maintain financial stability and avoid potential pitfalls that come from overspending or not allocating funds appropriately.

2. Setting New Savings Goals

With a new environment might come new aspirations. Whether it's purchasing a home, traveling more, or investing in local experiences, you'll need to re-evaluate and set new savings goals. A clear vision of what you want will help guide your financial decisions and motivate you to save.

3. Building an Emergency Fund

If you haven’t already, start building an emergency fund. Life is unpredictable, more so after a move when you might not be entirely familiar with your new surroundings. Having an emergency fund is like having a financial safety net—it can cover unexpected costs such as medical emergencies, car repairs, or sudden travel needs. Aim for three to six months' worth of expenses, and adjust based on your comfort level.

4. Expense Monitoring

A significant part of staying financially sound is keeping a watchful eye on where your money goes. New places mean new temptations and expenses. Use apps or traditional methods to track your spending. Regular expense monitoring ensures you stay within your budget and helps identify areas where you can cut back if needed.

5. Seek Financial Advice

It's okay to admit if you feel overwhelmed by financial planning, especially post-move. Consider seeking advice from financial planners or consultants. Their expertise can guide you in making informed decisions, setting realistic goals, and understanding complex financial concepts.

6. Long-term Financial Plans

Don't forget the bigger picture. Alongside your immediate financial adjustments, think long-term. This could mean starting or contributing more to a retirement fund, setting up college savings if you have children, or investing in properties or stocks. Whatever your long-term aspirations are, remember that today's decisions influence tomorrow's outcomes.


In conclusion, while a PCS move can be a daunting transition, it also offers a fresh slate—an opportunity to re-evaluate, adjust, and prioritize your financial goals. By emphasizing budget adjustment, setting new savings goals, building a robust emergency fund, and vigilantly monitoring expenses, you set yourself up for financial success in this new phase of your life. And remember, always seek guidance when in doubt, because your financial wellbeing is paramount to enjoying your new environment to the fullest.

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