How to financially prepare for a military PCS

April 28, 2023

A permanent change of station (PCS) is an exciting time in a military member’s life, but it also comes with its own set of hurdles that may require financial planning.

You’ve received orders for your first permanent change of station, and it’s understandable if you’re feeling some stress about the move. Moving by itself is a strenuous and taxing event, and military PCS moves come with their own set of unique hurdles to overcome. We’ve put together this list to help you plan your PCS move so you can make the most out of this next chapter in your military career.

 

Start building a military PCS plan

For your own ease and sanity, it’s a good idea to start this process with a plan in place; it’s also smart to act quickly, as waiting until the last minute to book moving assistance could cause complications if there aren’t enough resources left. If your orders are for a summer move, keep in mind that season is the most popular for military PCS moves, so resources rental trucks or professional movers will be limited if you wait too long.

To create your moving plan, you’re going to need to do some research first. Consider all steps of the trip, from packing and transportation to settling into your new home. How long will each step take? How far away is your new base? Where will you be living once you arrive? If you have a family, consider what neighborhood they’ll be comfortable in, as they’ll likely be spending more time at home than you will.

Start your research by contacting your base’s transportation office so they can fill you in on your options. There are also many online resources available, like the U.S. Department of Defense Military Installations site which allows you to browse by location for information about your new duty base, including information on transportation, housing, healthcare and education. To learn about housing options, contact the housing office at your new base. Military housing may be available for your family, but these housing slots fill quickly, so act fast. If your family is intending to buy or rent your home, consider using the online resources that are available such as MilitaryByOwner to help you locate homes near your base. If you plan to buy, talk to a mortgage loan officer to discuss your financing options. There are many different mortgage loans that could be a fit for you, including a VA home loan which is specifically for military members and veterans. Whatever housing you choose, be sure to check it against your budget before making any firm commitments.

 

Choose a PCS moving method: Military vs. PPM

When you are assigned a new base, you have the option of moving yourself or using military resources. Once you’re registered, you’ll be assigned a Transportation Service Provider (TSP). They will work with local moving companies to pack your belongings and relocate them to a warehouse while you are in transit. Then, when your new home is ready to move into, your TSP will work with local movers to unload and unpack your belongings. Storage of your household goods (HHG) does come with limitations, like not exceeding 18,000 lbs. in weight.

Your next option is to move yourself, which is called a Personally Procured Move (PPM), formerly DITY or “do-it-yourself move.” A PPM is going to take more time and effort, but you will also be reimbursed for 95% of what the government would have spent to move you. Hybrid moving options are also available in certain conditions.

The method of moving you choose should be dependent on your resources, including time, money and mental energy. Using military-provided services is convenient and the least amount of financial work. While the military will pay you upfront to move yourself if you opt for a PPM, if you overestimate the cost, you’ll have to return the difference, which can create a lot of extra work on your end.

 

Start saving for your military PCS

As soon as you can, start putting extra money aside for your military PCS move. While you will receive a PCS per diem during travel which will help you cover food and other expenses, it’s wise to prepare yourself for the unexpected. PCS per diem rates differ depending on location, and if you’re traveling with a family, you’ll likely want to have more cash on hand in case of emergency. You’ll also want to consider what life will be like in your new home. Are prices comparable there to where you currently reside, or will you have to adjust your budget? Will your spouse be unemployed when they were previously working? Putting aside extra funds will cushion the transition and make it less stressful for everyone involved.

 

Prepare for moving day

Once you know where you’re going and how you’ll get there, it’s time to start the prep work. Use this time to review your belongings and consider what you could let go of, then purge anything that’s unwanted. You could donate these items or have a yard sale, making a little extra money at the same time.

Once your personal belongings are thinned out, it’s time to catalog them for your records. Valuables like TVs and computers should be photographed, and their approximate value recorded in case they’re damaged during the move, and you need to file a claim. Just as with any move, be sure to set up local services to turn off after you relocate—think utilities and cable.

While packing, moving and traveling, always keep your most important documents with you. This includes papers like birth certificates and copies of your orders. Essentially, anything that’s irreplaceable should be transported by you and not the moving team.  It’s a good idea to keep multiple copies of your military PCS orders as you will likely need quite a few during the transition.

 

We’re committed to helping military members and their families reach their financial goals. Learn more about military benefits available through U.S. Bank.

Related content

Loud budgeting explained: Amplify your money talk

Military spouse’s guide to navigating your career

How to financially prepare for pet costs

How to Adult: 5 ways to track your spending

Family planning for the LGBTQ+ community

Preparing for adoption and IVF

11 essential things to do before baby comes

Webinar: Uncover the cost: Starting a family

3 tips for saving money when moving to a new home

Pros and cons of a personal line credit

Tips for handling rising costs from an Operation HOPE Financial Wellbeing coach

Tips to earn that A+ in back-to-school savings

Mindset Matters: How to practice mindful spending

Uncover the cost: Wedding

How to manage your finances when you're self-employed

How to save money while helping the environment

Working with an accountability partner can help you reach your goals

7 steps to prepare for the high cost of child care

How to decide when to shop local and when to shop online

How to save for a wedding

Stay on budget — and on the go — with a mobile banking app

Multiple accounts can make it easier to follow a monthly budget

5 things to consider when deciding to take an unplanned trip

5 tips for creating (and sticking to) a holiday budget

How can I help my student manage money?

How to increase your savings

How to use your unexpected windfall to reach financial goals

Good money habits: 6 common money mistakes to avoid

Key components of a financial plan

Don’t underestimate the importance of balancing your checking account

How to gain financial independence from your parents

How to manage money in the military: A veteran weighs in

Are professional movers worth the cost?

Beyond the mortgage: Other costs for homeowners

Spring cleaning checklist for your home: 5 budget-boosting tasks

PCS moving checklist for military spouses and families

Understanding your military GI Bill benefits

Things to know about the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

Should you buy now, pay later?

U.S. Bank asks: Do you know what an overdraft is?

Tips for working in the gig economy

Save time and money with automatic bill pay

Helpful tips for safe and smart charitable giving

Growing your savings by going on a ‘money hunt’

Why a mobile banking app is a ‘must have’ for your next vacation

Tips to raise financially healthy kids at every age

How I kicked my online shopping habit and got my spending under control

How to financially prepare for a military PCS

It's possible: 7 tips for breaking the spending cycle

Financial checklist: Preparing for military deployment

Here’s how to create a budget for yourself

Webinar: Common budget mistakes (and how to avoid them)

Allowance basics for parents and kids

9 simple ways to save

Do you and your fiancé have compatible financial goals?

3 ways to keep costs down at the grocery store (and make meal planning fun)

What military service taught me about money management

6 pandemic money habits to keep for the long term

College budgeting: When to save and splurge

How to save money in college: easy ways to spend less

Costs to consider when starting a business

Adulting 101: How to make a budget plan

You can take these 18 budgeting tips straight to the bank

How I did it: Learned to budget as a single mom

Your 4-step guide to financial planning

Consolidating debts: Pros and cons to keep in mind

Improving your credit score: Truth and myths revealed

Dear Money Mentor: How do I set and track financial goals?

Lost job finance tips: What to do when you lose your job

What I learned from my mom about money

Military finance: How to create a family budget after military service

Managing money as a military spouse during deployment

Financial gifts can be a valuable – and fun – choice for the holidays

What financial advice would you give your younger self?

Essential financial resources and protections for military families

Practical money tips we've learned from our dads

What’s in your emergency fund?

Certificates of deposit: How they work to grow your money

How I did it: Deciding whether to buy an RV

Practical money skills and financial tips for college students

Money management guide to financial independence

Personal finance for teens can empower your child

U.S. Bank asks: Transitioning out of college life? What’s next?

How to track expenses

30-day adulting challenge: Financial wellness tasks to complete in a month

Webinar: Uncover the cost: College diploma

Transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce

Military homeownership: Your guide to resources, financing and more

U.S. Bank asks: Do you know your finances?

Webinar: Uncover the cost: Home renovation

U.S. Bank asks: What do you know about credit?

7 financial questions to consider when changing jobs

How to best handle unexpected expenses

Disclosures

Start of disclosure content

Loan approval is subject to credit approval and program guidelines. Not all loan programs are available in all states for all loan amounts. Interest rates and program terms are subject to change without notice. Mortgage, home equity and credit products are offered by U.S. Bank National Association. Deposit products are offered by U.S. Bank National Association. Member FDIC.