Moving is expensive, there's no way around it. Fortunately, the military reimburses a hefty amount, but you may feel like you're bleeding money anyway.
Maybe that new bathroom just begs for a different color shower curtain than the one you already own. And what about the deposit for your new gas and water accounts at your new duty station? Even a credit check cannot always get you out of those.
USAA's financial guru J.J. Montanaro, a certified public accountant, gave us some great tips for ways military families can tackle their next PCS and still be smart about money. Here are his top five PCS money tips:
1. Create a moving fund. Even if you are going to get back from Uncle Sam most of what you spend on the move, you still need to have the money up front. And while you may be able to get an advance on your pay, who wants to spend the next year getting a reduced paycheck while paying it back? J.J. advises setting up a moving fund now to cover your move later.
"Essentially what I mean there is there's so many reasons to have some cash when you get to the other side of a PCS," he said. "I'd much rather have my own cash in hand for a deposit for utilities, a down payment for a house, for all those things."
And if you save all that cash and then don't end up needing it?
"That's still good because then you have that money in hand," he said.
2. Make the right call on a roof over your head. When you get to a new duty station, you may be in a hurry to get a place to live, sign a lease and receive your household goods as soon as possible. But J.J. advises that you take your time instead -- if only so that you don't have the financial burden of moving yet again in a few months when you realize that the place you signed a lease on in a hurry is awful, awful, awful.
3. Use the PCS as a way to reset your financial structure. Moving can be the perfect fresh start. As you (once again) put away all of your stuff, you probably took the opportunity to decide if you really needed all of it. So why not re-examine your financial stuff, too? J.J. said moving is the perfect time to create a budget and make a renewed effort to live within your means.
"Moving to a new location, from a financial perspective, really gives you an opportunity to reset things and take a look at how your expenses are structured, how much you're spending on housing and transportation and the various things that are out there," he said. "I think it gives you an opportunity to reinvent yourself ... and that's exciting."
4. Do your research. Remember when J.J. said in Tip Two that you should make the right housing choice? Doing so involves research -- lots and lots of research.
J.J. says taking your time is the biggest key to research.
"I want to look at the neighborhoods that are out there, the schools, the amenities, the travel time to and from work," he said.
While most people may not have as much time to research as they would like, you can at least make the most of every second of those 10 days of paid-for housing when you arrive at your new duty station. And, generally speaking, most military members get orders or at least have an inkling of where they'll be moving several months in advance. Take that time to pull up Google and research your future hometown. It will pay off.
5. Lighten your load. Moving isn't just a great chance to reset your budget, it's also a great chance to offload stuff you don't need and earn a little extra cash in the process, J.J. said.
"Maybe you're looking for ways to build up the moving fund," he said. "So it's a garage sale, maybe it's selling a car, maybe it's ... making a bunch of charitable donations of all the stuff that doesn't necessarily need to go with you on the move. So look for opportunities to get to the new station lean and mean."
These five tips can make future moves go much smoother on both a financial and sanity level. Here's to a relaxed move!