I always underestimate the cost of a PCS. I tell myself that the Navy moves us so relocating from one military installation to another isn’t expensive. I don’t pay for anything. Right? This is my mental talk 30 days prior to a PCS. Then the whirlwind of the PCS happens and I am reaching for my credit card more than I have in the last 2 years. 60 days later when I am reviewing our credit card bill at our new duty station, I am shocked by the balance. How did we spend ALL this money?
The average service member shells out $1,725 for non-reimbursable moving expenses. That’s nearly $2,000. Let’s say that we move every 2 years during my husband’s 20-year career. That’s a total of $17,250 of MY money to move for the Navy. No thank you.
This year, we will be moving again and I’m committed to reducing our relocation expenses. But how do I cut costs when we are homeless and living out of our car?
Here are 5 tips for reducing relocation expenses when transferring to a new duty station.
- Save for a Sensible Spending Plan.
Call it a budget. Call it a spending plan. It doesn’t matter. But make a plan for how much it will cost to set up your new home. Calculate an estimate for security deposits for housing and utilities. Cut back on eating out in the last 3 months of your current duty station and put that money in to a savings account. You’ll need it when you establish your new home. Do not depend on your Dislocation Allowance to cover all of your expenses. It never does.
- Negotiate and Ask to Speak with a Manager.
Practice saying this phrase “Is that the best price you can give me?” When you set up your Internet and cable, ask for the “best price.” Let them know that you compared prices between different providers and ask if the company offers a military discount. You will never get a discount if you don’t ask for it. If you have a credit score of higher than 600, ask if your landlord will consider reducing the security deposit. Mention that you’re a classy military person who pays your monthly rent on time every month.
- Embrace House Camping.
Hotels are expensive. Even staying at the lodge on base can get expensive after more than 5 days. If you don’t have your household goods, but you have a home, consider house camping. Eat on the floor, sleep on an air mattress, let your kids bounce a ball against the wall and eat food that you prepare out of your microwave. Is it ideal? No. Will it save you money? Absolutely.
- Buy Used –Not New– Whenever Possible.
When we moved to Maryland, for the first time we had a yard. This was great news until I realized a yard means grass which means we needed to mow the yard. We didn’t own a lawnmower. Foolishly we bought a brand-new lawnmower. Now we live in California. We don’t need the lawnmower and it sits, collecting dust in our already-stuffed garage. What’s the lesson? Be patient and buy seasonal items used online. I recommend SargesList and those Facebook Yard Sale groups. For every military installation, there is a military spouse monitoring a Facebook group.
- Take Another Service Member’s Trash.
Through Facebook you can connect with military spouses at your new duty station. Guess what? If you are moving there, I bet someone else is leaving that duty station. Most likely they have cleaning supplies, spices and random other things that they can’t or don’t want to take with them. Offer to take it. Free stuff doesn’t cost you anything.