I see and hear a lot of myths and misinformation about military allowances -- everything from Tricare giving every spouse one free plastic surgery, to some mythical 51% custody rule for service members to receive Basic Allowance for Housing, to bonuses being taxed at a high rate.
But the misinformation that makes me the craziest is that you can make a ton of money on Personally Procured Moves (PPM), the official name of what is commonly called a DITY, or Do It Yourself, move.
Generally, the misinformation I hear about DITY moves says something like, "You'll make so much money! We made $6,000 on our last DITY move!"
Now, you can make money off of a DITY move, especially if you can keep your costs down with recycled packing materials, if you already own your own trailer, and/or if you literally do it all yourself. But most of those huge sums that people quote include a lot of allowances that you'll get on any move, whether you have the military move all your stuff or not.
All PCSing service members may be entitled to several travel entitlements, including:
- Temporary lodging (TLE in the continental U.S., TLA outside the continental U.S.)
- Monetary Allowance in Lieu of Transportation (technically called MALT, but often just called mileage), this is usually only paid for travel in the continental U.S.
- Per diem for travel days, whether traveling by personally owned vehicle or government-provided transportation such as flying
- Dislocation Allowance, in almost all cases
The only thing different with a DITY move, or a partial DITY move, is that you'll also be given an allowance based upon the weight of the items that you moved and the distance covered. In general, you are paid 95% of the amount it would have cost the military to have professional movers move you. That payment covers whatever expenses you incur: boxes, rental truck, help, insurance, etc. If you have money left over after you pay those expenses, that is considered taxable income, and you'll pay taxes, at your regular rate, on it.
The reimbursements and allowances that are received for every move, DITY or not, can range from hundreds to many thousands of dollars, depending on the details of your specific move.
When I ask more specific questions of folks who have made tons of money on their DITY move, they are almost always including these allowances that they would have gotten anyway. This means that they aren't actually making all that money for the time and energy of moving themselves.
There are many good reasons to move yourself, particularly if you are on a specific timeline, or if you really don't want other people to touch your stuff. And you might make some money, if you are able to keep your expenses low. But next time someone tells you about the thousands of dollars they made on their DITY move, remember that they may be including money that they would have received anyway.
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