Association of Military Banks of America

Planning & Preparing for a PCS

Amy Miller, AFC®

PCS (Permanent Change of Station) season is here, which means many military service members and their families will receive orders and start preparations to move to a new duty station.

On average, military families move every 3 years, some more often. Unfortunately, these frequent moves can add to many costs for our service members and their families. According to the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN), service members spend an average of $5,000 in out-of-pocket, non-reimbursable expenses during a PCS.

PCSing can be challenging but researching, planning, and budgeting can help make the process go more smoothly and could help save you money. Here are a few steps to help prepare for your PCS:  

Research Entitlements & Allowances

Service members receive travel allowances and entitlements that help reimburse expenses associated with a PCS including mileage, hotel stays, and food while en route to their new duty station. Depending on the situation, service members could also be eligible for a temporary lodging allowance while waiting on permanent housing and a dislocation allowance that can help with replacing household items needed to set up a new home.  

Some of these allowances can be paid up to 10 days in advance of the move to help offset out-of-pocket costs incurred. Researching the amounts that will be reimbursed during a PCS move is imperative to making a successful PCS plan. Learn more about allowances and reimbursements and check this year’s rates on the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) website.

Create a PCS Plan & Budget  

Creating a PCS plan and budget doesn’t have to be complicated but does take preparation. Start by making a list of all known expenses. In addition to regular moving costs like packing supplies and storing items, also consider fuel, hotel accommodations, food, pet charges, and activities along the way.  Work the highest possible price into the budget to account for increases in costs.

Underestimating actual costs or not controlling expenses can lead to overspending and possibly exceeding reimbursement limits. It’s a good idea to include a “contingency fund” into the budget – just so there is a little extra built-in, just in case you run into some unforeseen “bumps in the road” along the way.

The DoD’s Milspouse Money Mission website offers information on budgeting for a PCS and has worksheets that can be used to prepare.   

Don’t forget to keep your receipts!

Utilize Available Resources

Often, military families find themselves arriving at a new duty station before their household goods arrive or before their on-base housing is available and ready. This leaves many in temporary lodging, possibly lacking some essential items, which can lead to additional costs when you need to purchase these items. The resources available can help lower these costs and assist with these expenses. There are on-base lending closets, thrift shops, and pantries, usually run by spouse’s clubs or the 1st Sgt Council, where families can borrow or purchase items at deep discounts instead of heading out to a local retailer.  Many installations will have restaurants that offer family meals and fun nights at reasonable prices, which can be a more budget-friendly option for eating out when unable to cook normally. 

Installation Military & Family Support Centers are a great source of information and offers assistance and programs like newcomer briefings, childcare options, and career counseling. They are also able to connect families with their Key Spouse or Ombudsman which can help them get familiar with the area and other available resources.

Military OneSource offers additional tips for planning a PCS move and has consultants available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week that can answer questions and help make connections with other resources. A consultant can be reached by calling 800-342-9647 or via live chat.  

Embrace PCS’ing

PCS’ing is anything but easy but it could be the start of a great new family adventure.