Fiona Lee is a personal finance writer for ReadyForZero, a website that helps people get out of debt faster on their own. She is a frugalista who loves discovering new ways to save money, especially in expensive cities. After living in New York and Beijing, she now makes her home in San Francisco. You can follow @ReadyForZero and @moderntime on Twitter.
For military families, moving is a fact of life. While the final destination may be an opportunity for both professional and personal growth, getting there is half the battle. Since moving is both expensive and stressful, this leads to a perfect storm of circumstances that leads many to spend more than they need to.
Whether this is your first move or your tenth, use these tips to keep your PCS (Permanent Change of Station) on budget.
Any move is difficult without a plan, and with a military move, you'll need to be very organized. Keep track of everything, because there is a lot to handle. For starters, create a schedule, hold onto your receipts, organize your important documents from the government, and understand what is and isn't tax deductible. Be aware of what exactly the military will reimburse you for your move -- the reimbursements will help you save money. Most importantly, make a budget -- a military move calculator will help you understand how much all of this is going to cost.
Try to get your finances in order as much as possible beforehand, including your budget, and your debt. Another key piece of advice: the website SargesList.com has a thorough overview with checklists so that you and your family know exactly what you're getting into with a PCS.
Do Your Research
Once you know your destination, it's research time -- especially if you're going overseas. While many families will be tempted to cut down to the bare minimum to save on the costs and hassle of moving, that may actually cost you more in the long run if you arrive at your destination and you can't find particular items or they cost more there, especially with custom taxes abroad. Necessary goods such as medications should always be carried with you. Check if your base has a loan closet and what its inventory includes so you can get by in the first few weeks.
Once you're there, your first stop for making new purchases should be the local military community. Military families are happy to sell their used items for great prices to others -- in fact, many are passed down from family to family as they come and go.
Consider Going PPM
If you're moving within the United States (CONUS), one major decision you'll have to make is what kind of move this is going to be. Your options range from the full military move to the PPM (Personally Procured Move) option is a good choice for those who are looking to save -- or even make -- money on their move as the military will reimburse many expenses involved with PPM moves.
To help you decide, look at your budget and figure out which choice would be most cost-effective for you and your family. According to our guide to moving, "You're entitled to travel allowances, per diem and mileage through the government. You also receive $25,000 of insurance coverage. An advance monetary allowance for your move can be paid under certain circumstances." It may make more financial sense for your family to make this move on your own than having the military cover it.
Don't Exceed Your Weight Allowance
If you choose to use military resources to make your move, be aware of the weight allowance allocated. This is the perfect opportunity to downsize and get rid of some of the things that might not fit in your new home. You can hold a yard sale or sell items on standbys such as Craigslist or eBay. You can also use Sargeslist.com, a classifieds service strictly for military families. As a last resort, you can also get rid of things that can't be sold through Freecycle, a community of people all around the world who give away and receive items for free.
Good luck with your move. Although moving is never fun, it'll certainly make for fun stories you'll be swapping with other military folks. What tips do you have for making military moves?