16 To-Dos for Your Next Move

Packers keep track of military household goods by tagging and keeping a log of personal belongings. Peak season for household goods movement due to PCS is May 15 to July 30. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios)
Packers keep track of military household goods by tagging and keeping a log of personal belongings. Peak season for household goods movement due to PCS is May 15 to July 30. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios)

Moving is a lot more than getting your stuff from point A to point B. It's a major life event.

Without proper planning, a move can squeeze your savings -- and challenge your sanity. To help keep costs and headaches to a minimum, get organized early. Follow this checklist of moving tips to help make your relocation go as smoothly as possible:

1. Save Before You Go. Even when the military or another employer covers some costs, moving expenses can set you back thousands of dollars. Shipping charges, personal travel costs, temporary housing expenses and start-up fees at your new residence can add up. So, as soon as you know you're going to move, figure out your out-of-pocket costs. Then, set aside some cash each month for the move.

2. Do It Yourself? If you're in the military, you usually can choose whether to let a military moving contractor pack and transport your belongings, or manage the move on your own. Formerly called a DITY move, this option is now referred to as a "Personally Procured Move." The government will pay an incentive to service members who move themselves.

3. Look for Work. While you may have a career waiting for you, don't assume that your spouse will easily find a new job. Start reviewing the job boards and calling on personal contacts before you go.

4. Buying or Selling a Home? Be sure to research home values in your current community, as well as where you're moving, to get the best possible deal at both ends. Working with a trusted reliable real estate agent can help. Ask for recommendations from friends and family.

5. Set a Spending Ceiling. If you live off your post or base, you should spend only about 85% of your Basic Allowance for Housing on rent or a mortgage payment, says J.J. Montanaro, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM practitioner at USAA. Save the rest for utilities and insurance.

6. Browse Your New Community. Check out websites for your new city government, chamber of commerce, and convention and visitors bureau.

Military personnel should ask about the Relocation Assistance Program, which offers detailed information about military communities worldwide. Military OneSource's Plan My Move page is a good place to start.

7. Educate Yourself on Schools. Check school schedules and enrollment requirements. Pick up school records or have them sent to the new schools.

8. Protect Your Belongings. Obtain appraisals for high-value items. Then, at least 24 hours before you release your belongings to the mover, contact your homeowners insurance or renters insurance company to ensure your possessions will be covered while in transit or storage. Make an inventory and take photos of your valuables to have a record if you need to file a claim.

9. Is Your Car Road-Ready? Take care of auto maintenance and repairs before you make a long trip. And don't forget to notify your auto insurance company of the move.

10. Move Your Money? Determine whether your current banking institution will be able to serve your needs after you relocate. Also, get familiar with any smartphone/tablet applications your bank might offer, which can keep you in the know during your move.

11. Turn It On, Turn It Off. Notify your utilities and local services of disconnect dates. Order utility services for your new address, including Internet and TV services, home phone (if you want one), electricity and natural gas.

12. Update Your Address. Fill out an online change-of-address form through the U.S. Postal Service to ensure important mail will be forwarded to your new home. Also, be sure to send your new address to friends and family, your physician, schools, magazine publishers and providers of financial services.

13. Clean Up. Properly dispose of flammables such as aerosol cans, cleaning fluids, paint, ammunition, weed killer and acids. Drain oil and gas from your lawn mower or other power equipment. Clean the refrigerator and the freezer; allow them to dry one or two days with the doors blocked open to protect your small children or pets.

14. Hold a Garage Sale. Put the extra cash toward moving expenses. Consider donating anything that isn't sold to charity -- and keep the receipts for tax deductions.

15. Save Brilliant Deductions. Some moving expenses may be tax deductible, such as those incurred through travel, a spouse's job-hunting costs and mortgage points. Look for details in IRS Publication 521 (Moving Expenses) and Publication 3 (Armed Forces Tax Guide). Create a move file to save deductible receipts and other important paperwork.

16. Pack Securely. Pack a suitcase with items you'll want to keep close or secure for the move, such as money, jewelry, medicine, books or electronics. If you are traveling by air, do not check this bag.


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