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Budgeting tips for PCS moves

The time to plan is now for PCS move next summer

The best part of PCSing is the boxes. Michael and Charlie Cleveland enjoy building a box fort. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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Nine out of 10 middle-class military families who moved during the 2019 PCS season budgeted for the extra costs involved in relocating to a new duty assignment, according to the First Command Financial Behaviors Index.

"PCS season is a normal part of the lives of our nation's military families, and servicemembers and spouses have learned that responsible budgeting is critical to managing the costs of these frequent moves," said Scott Spiker, chairman/CEO of First Command Financial Service, Inc. "Nine out of 10 relocating families say they feel extremely or very financially confident about their preparations."

The First Command Financial Behaviors Index® revealed, "89 percent of middle-class military families (commissioned officers and NCOs in pay grades E-5 and above with household incomes of at least $50,000) who made a Permanent Change of Station (or PCS) this summer will have budgeted for the costs of their relocation. Half of these families said they expected out-of-pocket costs of at least $500, and 16 percent expect to spend at least $2,000."

August marks the end of PCS season, but if you are moving in the summer 2020, it is not too early to start financially planning for your move. "The key to effective budgeting for a PCS move is knowing what is and is not covered," said First Command President and Chief Operating Officer Mark Steffe. "Many of our financial advisors come from the ranks of veterans and military spouses. So, they understand the importance of budgeting for unexpected costs that are not covered by their government benefits. Our deep experience and understanding of military life have prepared us to coach our clients through PCS moves and other financial challenges of military life."

Here are some of the covered expenses and advance pay options.

  • Advance Basic Pay -- an interest-free loan of up to three months of basic pay.
  • Advance Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) -- an advance on monthly pay for off-base rental housing.
  • Dislocation Allowance (DLA) -- helps pay for moving expenses.
  • Monetary Allowance in Lieu of Transportation (MALT) -- pays for mileage when driving to a new station.
  • Per Diem Allowance -- helps pay for meals and lodging while traveling.
  • Temporary Lodging Expense (TLE) -- helps pay for meals and lodging when temporary housing is required in the United States. Temporary Lodging Allowance (TLA) is the same but for overseas assignments.

It is important to know exactly what you are entitled to so that you will know what you need to budget for. The Temporary Lodging Expense is an allowance many don't take full advantage of. It provides a total of 10 days of meals and lodging split between your departing location and your new home. The catch here is that you must have a zeroed-out lodging receipt. I've seen many families "camping" in their homes, not taking advantage of this benefit because it also has a meal allowance.

Now is a good time to start budgeting for your summer PCS. Ten months out will allow you to put aside a little extra money each month to help with unexpected expenses. A PCS is less stressful when you don't have financial worries. Visit your local credit union, bank or First Command for options to help you save.

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