Ben Franklin said it best when he stated: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” There is a reason that advice is still so relevant. PCSing is a juggling act of planning and coordination. It’s easy to drop some balls, especially in the budget department, when you are in transition. There are unexpected expenses, times when buying something is easier, and all sorts of things that just happen. Start with these ideas and make sure going way out of the budget isn’t one of the things that just happen to you.
1. Review your existing budget.
You don’t need to have a spreadsheet to be on top of your expenses and your budget (although it is a useful tool), but you do need to be aware. You can use an app or write it down, but you need to have a solid grip on what your normal operating budget is. You should also use this review time to take a look at savings. Many people have little to none, but anything you can put away is a little less stress if you need it while PCSing.
2. Know your options and costs.
Carefully consider how you plan on moving and the logistics that work best for you both for the movement of your stuff and the journey you and your family will take to get there. Don’t forget to include costs for pets! Many swear by DITY moves as a way to save (some even claim to make money!) but, at the end of the day, you have to find what works for your situation and your family. Compare costs, talk to friends, and find the best way to move for you.
3. Consider new opportunities to save money.
A move is a perfect time to price check things like utilities and services in your new area. You’ll also need to reassess your needs with insurance and banking. If you think you were paying too much for something, use the move as an opportunity to find a better deal at your next duty station. You might find more affordable insurance or decide that switching to an online bank is a better option for you. Pro Tip: when you are canceling utilities in your current duty station, make sure to find out about any deposit refunds you may be eligible for and make sure they have a forwarding address for you on file.
4. Save during the actual move.
A little planning can make a HUGE difference during the traveling part of PCSing. Have family across the country that you would like to see? Maybe they can give you a place to stay for the night. As easy as it is to rely on fast food while traveling, your wallet and your waistline will be grateful if you make sure to have healthy snacks on hand or even a cooler with stuff for sandwiches and other “on-the-road” type meals. If you have a multi-day trip, try to book some efficiency type motels that you could heat food up or even cook a simple dinner, all for way less than a meal out for you or your family.
Do you have any tips or tricks for staying in budget while relocating? What advice would you give someone who is PCSing for the first time? Let us know in the comments!