Just how much a military move costs out of pocket can be a surprise for military members and their families, no matter how many times they've relocated. From replacing dry goods to buying curtains to fit the windows in your new home, the incremental spending can add up fast.
That's why it's important to not just plan ahead for your Permanent Change of Station (PCS), but to know and use the resources you have available, said Kia McCalister-Young, an Air Force veteran, former military spouse and the lead of the nonprofit America Saves program, which helps teach financial literacy. Financial confidence, she said, isn't about having all the money in the world. Instead, it's about understanding your financial landscape.
McCalister-Young joined PCS with Military.com to talk about her best tips for having a financially confident military move. Here's her advice.
Listen now: How to Make a Financially Confident PCS
Get a clear view of what you have and where it's going. The very first thing anyone getting ready for a PCS needs to do is understand how much money they have and how they are currently spending it, McCalister-Young said.
"The first thing to do is to sit down and get a really clear view, not just wing it because that is easy to do," she said. " And what I mean by that is knowing exactly what you have coming in. Exactly what's going out when things are due, if there's anything, and then looking to see what you can adjust."
During a PCS, those adjustments could include canceling streaming subscriptions that you're not using while in transition while understanding how much debt you really have on your credit cards or loans and what you need to do to pay that off, she said. Hiding from it, she said, doesn't help or make it go away.
"I call it 'the ostrich' because you're stressed financially, you want to not look at it so you put your head in the sand," she said. "You can't do that now -- not when we're PCSing, not when we're just living our daily lives."
Set up automatic savings. Whether it's through a paycheck allotment or an automated transfer from one bank account to another, McCalister-Young said setting up an automatic savings is her favorite way to plan ahead financially for any upcoming expense, including PCSing.
"We always say the easiest way to save is to save automatically," she said. "It's the easiest way to say you can set it and forget it. And before you know it, whether it's $10 a month or $100, that's going to contribute well to your next transition. We say start small and think big, so whatever you can do, do it -- but set it up to automatically go into your savings."
Better yet, she said, don't stop the automated savings even if you reach your financial goal, save enough for the upcoming expense or finish your PCS.
"Wouldn't it be cool for you to just continue to miss that money and put it right into savings?" she said.
Understand your available resources. McCalister-Young said her America Saves team doesn't define financial confidence as having huge amounts of money sitting around waiting to be used. Instead, she said, it's all about knowledge.
"It's not about how much money is in your bank account. It's knowing what's available to you and doing what you and your family needs in that moment for you to get by," she said.
That means knowing what financial resources are available and using them as needed without shame or self-judgment, she said. For example, military members can take advantage of service aid organizations like Army Emergency Relief (AER) or visit a local food bank for pantry items as needed.
"It's just getting from point A to point B with no tears, not a bunch of debt and feeling good about how you get from point A to point B, even if that means getting help and support," she said. "It's a stressful situation already, moving into a new place and having to learn a new town and get new hairdressers. All of those things are stressful. And so we want money to be one of those things that you are not stressing about."
Keep Up-to-Date for Your Next PCS
Get the inside information from those who know. Get PCS help and all the news and benefits information you need delivered straight to your inbox. Subscribe to Military.com now.