Words of Advice from a Military Spouse – “Start a PCS Budget”

By D’Antrese McNeil

Ok, let’s face it, PCSing can be the most stress-filled, anxious and exciting times of our military lives! But with it comes the aspect of money, and you can’t move or travel without it. To add to the stress, PCSing is different for everyone. I’ve learned that it’s not one size fits all when it comes to PCSing and money. Each branch has a specific way of handling it, and in this post, I will do my best to help you navigate and budget for it, even with the differences.

How do I start a PCS budget?

Well, for starters… breathe. Then sit down with your spouse and plan based on your income. You should anticipate every single cost that can occur before, during and after the moving process and formulate a budget that works for your family.

For example, estimate your costs to drive if CONUS during the move, any lodging fees, and all other expenses during the move that you feel are important. You may be surprised with the total you come up with. Make sure you are also budgeting for miscellaneous expenses that occur after your move, like buying new things for your home and stocking it with groceries.

We all have a general idea of when we will PCS to our next home, so I advise a year out to start with what my good friend Michelle calls a PCS account. Each month she deposits money into this account to ensure they have a cushion. We are currently implementing this method for our upcoming PCS to who knows where.  I also will be taking her advice and have a designated credit card specifically for moving since the Navy hasn’t authorized a GTC (Government Travel Card – more on that in a few) for PCSing service wide. We will pay off the charges with the reimbursement we receive, and anything over that amount is paid using the money from our “PCS account.”

What is a Government Travel Charge Card (GTCC)?

The official definition per http://www.defensetravel.dod.mil, states the following: The Government Travel Charge Card Program (GTCC) provides travelers with a safe, effective, convenient, and commercially available method to pay for expenses associated with official travel. The GTCC includes Individually Billed Accounts (IBAs) and Centrally Billed Accounts (CBAs).

Currently, the Navy is the ONLY branch which has not authorized usage of the GTC for PCSing. The Navy still does advancements and entitlements. For most, that method is easier because there are essentially no receipts to turn in unless you’ve opted to receive it on the back end. It also becomes a completely different scenario when PCSing OCONUS (overseas – more on that as well).

How much should I save?

That is a great question. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a one size fits all answer. My best advice, after finalizing your expenses, decide the total amount you need to have in savings to cover you, and then work towards getting as close to that amount as possible.  Know your entitlements as well and STAY within your budget!

When traveling, eat in if possible, most TFL’s have mini or full kitchens (so hit up your commissary) or find restaurants that have kids eat free options and military discounts.  Also, remember not all Gov’t rates are good deals.  My lovely friend LaKesha PCS’ed from Okinawa to North Carolina and unfortunately had to live in hotels for a little over a month until her home was ready.

Instead of using the government rate, they used Expedia and spent no more than $49 bucks a night at places like the Marriot whose government rate was double or triple that amount.  So, research ALL your options. My friend Jamie also pointed out if you’re traveling during the PCS season of the summer, and you’re an outdoorsy type of family, make it a vacation! She mentioned how they camped at the national parks along the way at $25 per night! As a bonus, the military gets a free pass for the national parks (entrance can be $24-$50 per car, per day).

Lastly, don’t stress! Start getting rid of the things you don’t need. Do you already know you’re moving to a place with a smaller home than you currently have? Hold a yard sale! Extra on-hand cash never hurt anyone. I know this list doesn’t cover all areas of a PCS, but I sure hope it helps ease the stress and burden of being financially equipped to head to your next home. And don’t forget, head over to www.PCSgrades.com to review your old and soon to be new neighborhoods!

Look for our detailed list of PCS expenses coming next month!

Author: D’Antrese McNeil is a proud Mil Spouse whose husband is currently in his 8th year of naval service. She is a stay at home mom, as well as a photographer and vlogger/blogger. Her Facebook followers are always entertained as she talks about everything from military life to life in general and all that’s in between. Although her husband is currently stationed on the east coast, D’Antrese is a proud Houston, Texas Native. She enjoys Hip Hop, R and B and country music and is a big Foodie! Check her out on YouTube: D’Antrese Le’Chelle and FaceBook: D’Antrese Le’Chelle.

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