Government reimbursements probably won't cover all the costs of your permanent change of station move, and the people assigned to help you plan out your PCS may know less about it all than you.
Certified Financial Planner and Military.com financial columnist Kate Horrell said her family has executed about nine military PCS moves. She shared some of her best advice learned along the way in an episode of PCS with Military.com. Here's what she said.
1. Figure out what you're entitled to. First of all, familiarize yourself with the various allowances given to troops and families who are PCSing, Horrell said. For example, her family didn't know they could get reimbursed for temporary lodging and slept on the floor of their new home, waiting for their household goods, during "many, many moves."
Families also may not know about the Dislocation Allowance for certain moves, Horrell said, which is a one-time flat payment determined by paygrade. "Dislocation Allowance is something that a lot of families don't know about, and you have to ask for it," she said. "It just doesn't show up in your bank account unless you check the little form on your travel voucher."
2. Set aside money for PCS expenses in a separate account. Putting aside money in a separate savings account probably won't make the move any cheaper, but it can keep a family from going into debt while they wait to be reimbursed.
Savings can also go toward expenses the government won't pay for. Pet transportation, in particular, hasn't traditionally been covered, though some pet costs may be reimbursed going forward.
3. Be creative -- and realistic -- when choosing food options. Horrell figured out that she could buy cold cuts and pre-made veggie trays during a move -- "getting some vegetables in -- rather than hitting the likes of an Applebee's for every meal. At the same time, "My kids know that PCS means Toaster Strudels," she admits.
Pre-packaged pulled pork might normally fall outside a family's food budget, but pre-made grocery store foods could "make a lot more sense than getting takeouts," she said.
4. Assemble an "everything-you-need binder." Horrell spent three years devising what she has developed into a product she now sells on her website, a binder's worth of instructions and checklists of important papers and information to carry with you from one home to the next.
Kids' immunization records came to mind as a necessity that could keep a child from starting school if the form is packed in household goods that might not arrive for days or weeks.
Horrell also suggested online document storage.
"Like when my kids get new glasses or contacts, I automatically upload their prescriptions to the cloud because that way, when we are in the middle of Nebraska and someone is in a crammed car and steps on their sister's glasses, we can go get them new glasses because I know that prescription exists in the cloud."
-- Amanda Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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