When we were young and fresh and owned nothing but a bed, a TV, and a couch we picked up from the sidewalk, we thought a military move was a time to make money.
The military paid for the movers AND you got a handy dandy allowance on top of that!! Cue the Jimmy Buffet, people. This is a vacation!
Then we moved again. And again. Pretty soon a vacation was a time to dig ourselves deeper in debt and sob over our moving mistakes.
At our recent Military.com Spouse Experience at Joint Base Lewis McChord, our military spouses shared the moving mistakes they had made during their PCS moves that put them in the hole so that you can skip those errors and stay young, fresh and financially solvent as long as possible.
1. Stupid savings fail.The most frequently mentioned moving mistake was a failure to save money in advance of the move. No one wants to save money for something they don’t even want to do.
And you have to be careful to make that check cover the cost of hotels, restaurants, gas, tolls and visits to the Walgreens when everyone gets an intestinal flu in the middle of Nevada.
2. Stupid lack of planning.Even though there are people who will tell you not to organize until after the move, a lack of that kind of planning was the second most mentioned moving mistake from our participants.
They wished they had checked to make sure they had their important papers. They wished they had checked their weight allowance and got rid of stuff sooner. They wished that had planned their travel route, reservations, housing search, job hunt, and child care options before they ever left their previous duty station.
“Twenty five days in a hotel is always a bad idea,” said Lisa W.
3. Stupid emotional house buying.Making the biggest purchase of your life when you are smack in the middle of a place you have never seen before is not the best idea ever. And when you are basing you decisions on how everyone feels instead of on the most logical financial savvy possible, you have a perfect storm of financial trouble ahead.
“Buying a home without doing enough homework really cost us,” wrote Katie. "BIG."
4. Stupid pre-move spending.Having a moving allowance or dislocation allowance or allotment coming has a way of making you feel richer than you really are. Spending that money before you actually get it was the kind of mistake that still had our participants shaking their heads.
5. Stupid magical thinking.Do you believe in your marriage? Do you believe the two of you can do anything? Then decided to do a DITY move or even a partial DITY move in order to save money. Only the strong survive. You won't believe us until after you do it yourself, but if you tell your spouse you are sorry a lot and swear that you will never do this again eventually you get over it. Eventually.
6.. Stupid travel purchases.Our participants regretted buying an expensive new car. A new unscratched dining table. A puppy.
Stefanie Anderson said that she and her husband regretted buying a travel trailer and then driving it from Georgia to Washington State. Which might have been OK. But they did it with two kids. Two cats. And a dog.
7. Stupid vacay spending.In the military, we don’t actually get a lot of vacations even though we have all that stored leave. Many of us are married to service members who don’t actually believe in taking their leave days—except during a move.
Yet somehow the moves we treat as minivacations really rack up the debt. Mary Courtney said that they decided to stay in a hotel with an attached water park so the kids would have somewhere to play. “Bribing children to be good is $$$!” Mary wrote.
8.Stupid mover trust.We military families move on average every 2.5 years. Moving guys pack people up every day. So we tend to trust those illegible inventory lists hoping that they reflect exactly what we have and the actual condition that it is in.
“Check that tiny writing!” Teresa urged. “It could be worth thousands.”
9. Stupid epic car fails.If Murphy is going to visit you during a move, he is sure to strike your car. Participants reminded us that it is really, really, REALLY worth your time to get your car checked before you head across country.
Also think twice before shipping a car. “It cost a lot of money and then we didn’t see our car for two months,” said one Army wife. “We had to rent a car which really added up.”
10. Stupid receipt toss.You really need to review the rules for filing a claim after you move. Even movers who seem like they are doing a fantastic job can get it a 14 car pile up on their way to your new house.
You will need your receipts to file a report of loss or damage within 75 days of your delivery. Find more info about claims here.
BONUS TIP: Stupid moving before the final orders arrive.Your service member might have been guaranteed those orders, promised that duty station, received a welcome packet from the command. But don’t move yet.
Even if you want to get the kids to the new duty station before the first day of school, DO NOT MOVE UNTIL FINAL ORDERS ARRIVE. Orders can get switched when you least expect it.
To get the best possible move, one tool you can try is Military OneSource Plan My Move. Plug in your current duty station, your new hometown and your estimated date of arrival and they will provide a complete to do list.
Planning can’t solve every crisis that pops up. But it can help a lot. And the rest you just turn into a funny story later. Maybe.