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Paycheck Chronicles

The PCS Budget Reset

PCS.  Three letters that can strike fear in the hearts and wallets of military families around the world.  It is true, PCSing can be expensive, but it can also be a wonderful chance to reset the fixed expenses in your budget.  Every time we move, we have the opportunity to choose housing that is a little less expensive, or live in an area where the children can go to public schools, or live somewhere that doesn't have a hugely gas-guzzling commute.

Obviously, each new home has its own set of pros and cons.  For example, when we lived outside Washington, D.C., we chose to live pretty far away from my husband's work.  The house was less expensive (and larger!) and the public schools were excellent.  However, we spent quite a lot of money on gas, parking and Metro fare that tour.  The option of living closer to his work would have meant less transportation costs but more housing expenses and quite possibly private school tuition (which really isn't an option with four kids.)

Looking ahead, we expect to be PCSing overseas this summer.  We are in the discussion stages of what is most important to us: location, cost, size, etc.  I'm leaning towards a smaller place so that we still have money to explore the area around us.  Of course, the first concern is safety, and then we'll have to look at proximity to his work, and whether the DOD school bus comes to that area, and it needs to be a good place for our family.  There are so many things to consider!

There are sometimes other costs that can be adjusted as part of a PCS move.  If you need to buy a car when you arrive at your new home, a less expensive choice will pay financial benefits for quite a while.  The same is true for furnishings or electronics.  You can't always avoid making purchases, but making your old things last just a little bit longer can help keep your budget in check.

Setting up a new home is expensive, and having to do it every few years is a fact of military life (for most of us.)  With some consideration, however, it can also be an opportunity to shed some higher fixed expenses and reset your budget.

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