While every military member knows that they are required to have the funds available to move their household on a moment’s notice, a recent study by the DOD stated that early 10% of enlisted members do not have enough money in savings to cover their expenses if they were to miss the next pay check, much less the costs of a move across the country.
While the Service has improved the amount that they reimburse to their personnel for moves, it can often take months for the money to be deposited into a service member’s account. In the meantime, many people often find that they have to pay for deposits, hotel rooms, utility set-up fees, and even that first expensive trip to the grocery out of their own pocket while they wait for the money to come through. Fortunately, there are some ways to save for a PCS that can line up with your overall budgeting goals.
The biggest problem with saving for a move is that it’s almost impossible to know how much it will cost. A move across town can cost next to nothing, while a move across the country could cost thousands. Ironically, moves out of or into the United States often cost less than moves within the United States because of the amount of money that is given for OCONUS PCS.
Nonetheless, it is possible to save for the most likely expenses you’ll incur during a PCS. These expenses include meals and hotel, gas, and utility set-up fees. Fortunately, it is possible to make an accurate guess of how much these things will cost. Start by figuring out how much time it would take to drive to the farthest base from your current station. Consider that you would be traveling with your dependents.
Next, calculate the average cost of a road trip of this length. Think about gas, incidentals, meals, and hotels. While you would eventually be reimbursed for most of these expenses, you will first be required to pay for them out of pocket. Don’t worry about getting specific figures, just make an estimate.
Take a look at your budget. While many civilians are told to save six months of their emergency fund, this typically takes years, and it isn’t a great standard for many people in the military. Instead, make your first savings goal the amount you estimated you TDY expenses to be. Even if you don’t have to spend the money on a move, it gives a good amount to pay for an unexpected car repair or other emergency.