PCS BUDGET: EXPERT TIPS & 5 TOOLS TO PLAN FOR IT
IntroductionPCSing is far from easy. Alongside physically prepping what’s essentially your entire life for a move across the country - or farther - you also have to make sure that you have the funds to move everything correctly, safely, and in a timely manner. That’s where a PCS budget becomes essential. Whether this is your first time PCSing or you want a refresher, our PCS budget tips, tricks, and tools will come in handy throughout the entire PCS process. So if you can’t count on your significant other to help you out, you can trust the folks here at MyBaseGuide!
PCS PlanningWhether planning is your bread and butter or the bane of your existence, PCSing requires good, if not great, planning. We’re not saying you have to have seven color-coded binders full of PCS planning information, but having a couple of spreadsheets can go a long way in making the PCS process a lot smoother. Planning ahead before you officially begin your PCS will also help you understand exactly how you need to set up your PCS budget. PCS planning allows you to actually visualize what you need to pay for and how much you can expect to receive from the military for moving expenses. Budgeting for a move is all about the planning!
Military Moving AllowanceYour military moving allowance isn’t a one-and-done kind of deal. The military will provide you with funds, advancements, and reimbursements for several aspects related to your military move. You can count these items when you start your PCS budget.
Before you dive in: You can access ALL the correct forms and documents for each allowance type on the Defense Finance and Accounting Service website here. They also have two separate portals to make receiving your military moving allowance easier than ever.
Per Diem Military Moving AllowanceYour per diem allowance is what the military pays you for food, lodging, and travel expenses for each person moving as you go from one installation to the next. Lucky for you, the amount that the military pays for per diem allowance went up as of October 1, 2021.
You can now expect to receive a minimum of $155 per day you travel. For OCONUS moves and to see the most accurate rates in your area, visit the Defense Travel Management Office website. If you have dependents, you can also expect to receive per diem for them (but at a reduced rate from what you and your spouse receives). If your child or dependent over the age of 12 is traveling with you, you have an allowance of up to 75% of your per diem rate for them. Those under the age of 12 will qualify for up to 50% per diem.
Monetary Allowance in Lieu of Transportation (MALT)Turns out, a MALT is more than just a delicious dessert. You can get MALT money for each mile you traveled to your new installation per the official distance between your old and new postings. This is available for anyone using a POV, or privately-owned vehicle, to move. If you want to receive MALT money, you need to pay attention to your odometer. Write down how many miles you were at before you started your trip and how many miles you’re at once you arrive at your new installation. This Joint Travel Regulations (JTR) document (page 180) has more in-depth information on your MALT.
Temporary Lodging Expense (TLE)If you have to stay at temporary lodging as a result of a PCS move, the Temporary Lodging Expense can pay you for the cost of your stay in addition to the meals you eat while you’re there. TLE has a limit of 10 days for continental PCS and
caps out at $290 per day. To receive your TLE, you’ll need to fill out this form and submit it to your Paying Office.
Dislocation Allowance (DLA)Dislocation Allowance is pretty much what it sounds like. Its purpose is to reimburse military members for any costs related to relocating you or your household during your PCS. You
cannotreceive DLA under the following conditions:
- This is your first time PCSing, and you DON’T have dependents.
- You’ve been ordered to Active Duty, and you DON’T have dependents.
- Your travel is on the basis of separation or retirement from the military.
- You already received DLA in this fiscal year.
current DLA rateshere.
Personally Procured Move (PPM) AllowanceIf you decide to go it alone and move all by yourself, you will still receive assistance from the military. The PPM or DITY/ Do-It-Yourself move allowance will reimburse you for the most common operating expenses related to a move. Let’s look at authorized and unauthorized PPM expenses. Items that are
NOTeligible for reimbursement:
- Safe Move Insurance
- Full purchase of dollies or auto transporter
- Additional drivers
- Totes or storage bins
- Oil changes
- Meals & lodging
- Routine maintenance
- Sales taxes
- Tire chains
- Hitching and tow bars
AREeligible for reimbursement:
- Rental trucks
- Rental of dollies or auto transporter
- Road tolls
- Packing material
- Boxes & tape
- Furniture pads
Advance PaymentsYou may be able to receive MALT, DLA, and PPM allowances in advance of your PCS move. If you are
nota Government Travel Charge Card holder, you can expect to receive the following percentages of your allowance in advance of your move.
MALT: 80% in advance
DLA: 100% in advance
PPM: 100% in advance
formsfor each allowance type:
Related read: 3 of the Best Credit Cards for Military & Veterans in 2022
PCS Weight AllowanceDepending on your personnel status/rank, the JTR has outlined specific weight limits for your household goods. Your PCS weight allowance is how much weight you are allowed to ship when moving for a PCS. There will also be slight differentiation based on if you have dependents or not, in which case the PCS weight allowance will usually be slightly increased. You can learn more about these numbers on page 268 of the DoD’s JTR.
|Rank||W/Dependents (lbs.)||W/out Dependents (lbs.)|
|O-10 to O-6||18,000||18,000|
|O-5 or W-5||17,500||16,000|
|O-4 or W-4||17,000||14,000|
|O-3 or W-3||14,500||13,000|
|O-2 or W-2||13,500||12,500|
|O-1, W-1, or Service Academy Grad||12,000||10,000|
|E-3 to E-1||8,000||5,000|
|Service Academy Cadet/Midshipman||N/A||350|
How To Budget for a Move: What To ConsiderBefore you get into it, budgeting can seem overwhelming. There’s an abundance of things you have to take into consideration and work into your calculations. A PCS budget can seem even worse with all these allowances and limits you have to worry about. Making your PCS budget is simply a matter of good planning and diligent calculations. So, where do you even start? We have the tips below that will help kick-start your budgeting process. When you know everything you’re going to have to pay for, it becomes easier to alter your lifestyle to account for that in the months leading up to your PCS.
1. Consider All Moving ExpensesYou’re going to want to make a moving expenses checklist. You may think that a moving expenses checklist will only get you down, but we promise this is an important first step that will create the framework for the rest of your PCS budget. These expenses will be different depending on if you’re embarking on a DITY/PPM move or if you’re letting the military take care of some of the hassle. If you’re doing it alone, you’ll have to set up arrangements for rental trucks as soon as possible. Check the rates for rental services in your area before deciding on which one you’re going to go with. Add in the expected cost for gas, food, and lodging during your trip. If you’re having movers handle your stuff, check with all the local moving companies in your area. Ask them about their rates and let them know when you’re planning to move. Don’t forget to reach out to your Personal Property Processing Office (PPPO) well before your move begins to get all your paperwork in order and properly prepare your household goods for shipment with the military. For each expense that’s NOT set in stone, write down the
highest possible pricefor that item. Were you quoted somewhere between $100 and $400 for a moving expense? Mark it down as $400, that way you’re prepared for the most expensive option, and you can budget accordingly. Best case scenario, you’ll have money left over in your budget! Worst case scenario, you’ll break even because you planned ahead for it.
2. Consider Travel InsuranceTravel insurance can cover a whole host of unfortunate and unforeseen events related to your PCS move. We know it seems like another useless expense, but take a look at the benefits of travel insurance. It can help cover costs of lost baggage, delayed or missed flights, or accidents en route. If you’re looking for a place to start, Travel Guard is highly recommended for military members and their families.
3. Consider StorageYou don’t have time to visit open houses halfway across the country when you get your PCS orders. You might get to your new installation and find that you don't have quite as much room for all your things as you really need. That’s why you should take storage into account before moving. Storage can also be good for larger pieces of furniture or other household items that you don’t feel like moving in immediately once you get there. Keeping a storage unit under your name can also make your next PCS smoother, as you can start packing and moving household items into the storage unit way before you move. This will cut down on the clutter and chaos leading up to your next move.
4. Consider Reusable Packing MaterialsThis isn't your last PCS. If you want to make things easier on yourself when you go to move for your next PCS, consider investing in reusable packing solutions. It may cost you more up front, but after your third, fourth, or fifth PCS, you’ll be saving more than you can count.
Don’t forget!If you’re doing a PPM/DITY, you may be eligible to receive reimbursement for your packing materials!
Budgeting Tips for BeginnersNow that you know what you need to budget for, how can you successfully follow that PCS budget? Below, we’ll cover some things that will make budgeting a breeze and go over some easy ways to save money that will work for your military family.
1. Keep Track of All Your Receipts & BillsMake a place in your home dedicated to all of your monthly bills and receipts. At the end of the month, you can use these to calculate average expenses and plan the next month accordingly. This will also come in handy in case you need to dispute a charge.
2. Open a Separate Bank AccountYou know moving isn’t cheap, nor is it simple. An easy budgeting solution that helps a lot of people budgeting for a move is to open a separate account solely for PCS expenses. This keeps all your important financial information related to your PCS in one convenient place and away from everything else in your personal account.
3. Split Up Your Direct DepositWhen you get paid each cycle, your money probably goes directly into your bank account. If you didn’t know, you usually have the option to split your direct deposit between banks or checking vs savings account. If you have a dedicated place for your PCS budget money, you may want to think about splitting your paycheck and contributing some to your PCS budget each paycheck.
4. Set Aside Days Without SpendingWe know it can be hard, but your PCS budget may really benefit from a “no-spend” day. Between each paycheck, once a week, once a month, or whatever interval works for you, set aside one or multiple days where your aim is to simply spend NOTHING. It’s more effective than you think!
5. Use Online Budgeting ToolsIt’s the internet! There are hundreds of tools, programs, and software dedicated to helping you plan out a budget. Take a few minutes and scour the internet to find the best PCS budget tool for you, or skip below to see the tools we recommend! You don’t have to go it alone when the internet is behind you.
6. Use Cash Where You CanWe all know how easy it is to swipe your card and go. That’s why it’s so dangerous. When you’ve got that cold, hard cash in your hand, it may make it a little harder for you to actually let it go. For some people, this helps wake them up and make them more conscious of their spending habits.
7. Create MilestonesThanks to everything you know from the info above, you should know roughly how much your move is going to cost at this point. This means you know how much you need to save. Don’t rely on the final goal; set up mini goals all along the way to encourage you to keep saving. You can even set aside (a small amount of) reward money for yourself at each milestone as a celebration for reaching your goal!
8. Get Real About Your SubscriptionsHow much are you paying for subscription services every month? If you have Hulu, Amazon, Netflix, Spotify, and Game Pass, you could be paying a lot more than you realize, and those things add up. Get real about how much you actually use each service. Do you really need to be subscribed to 4 different movie streaming platforms? Save yourself a bit of money and get to your goals faster by giving up one or two subscriptions you use the least.
Save up for your move with 55 of the Best Year-Round Military Discounts!
Individual & Family Financial Planning ToolsThe following money management websites and other tools are must-haves for someone who’s not familiar with budgeting for a move or making a PCS budget. Whether you’re PCSing alone, with a spouse, or with your entire beautiful military family, you can rely on these tools to take a lot of stress out of the PCS equation. Most of these are free,
freeto use and beginner-friendly.
3. MoneyGuideMoneyGuide isn’t free, but you can sign up for a
free 14-day trialto see if it’s a good software for your needs. An individual account will get you a personalized planning portal, help you set financial and lifestyle goals, and walk you through allocation comparisons.
4. HoneydueHoneydue is perfect for all you military couples out there. It’s a
freeapp that allows couples to coordinate on bills, savings, and budgeting by connecting their accounts. You can even get a joint Honeydue account that’s separate from your personal accounts and use it exclusively for things like bills and savings (or, in your case, a PCS budget).
freetool on the roster is Goodbudget. Goodbudget offers a wide-ranging set of features with simple charts and tables that make budgeting much easier to understand. It’s great for families, couples, or individuals getting ready to start up their PCS budget.
ConclusionBy now, you’ve seen first-hand that planning a PCS budget isn’t exactly simple. But by following good money management practices, using financial planning websites, and understanding how the military helps you with your PCS, you’ll feel like a pro by the time you get to your new installation.
While you’re prepping to move to a new installation, check out MyBaseGuide for the inside scoop on your new posting and the local area!
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