Money. You need it, often we feel we don’t have enough of it, and it requires almost constant management. Stir in a PCS and relocation and you’ve got the recipe for some of the unique challenges only members of our community will understand. But like many other things, a shared commiseration gives us the opportunity to share and learn from each other.
Having been through more PCSes than I can count on 2 hands, I’ve learned the best tool we have at our disposal is pre-planning. Good old Uncle Sam pays the movers to come and box everything up and move it, but there are lots of hidden costs that can put a strain on a family budget. Here are 3 hidden costs and strategies for overcoming them.
THE PROBLEM: EVERYDAY HOUSEHOLD SUPPLIES
You can’t move liquids (with the rare exception), chemicals, and open food items. This often means that just before a PCS, we’re tossing all kinds of cleaning supplies and emptying the refrigerator of things like ketchup, mustard and salad dressings.
Talk about feeling like you are literally throwing money in the garbage.
And once we arrive, those items must be replaced in a hurry.
SOLUTION: Plan ahead if you can. If you know you are due for a PCS, even if you don’t have orders, try to anticipate. Plan meals that will use up the last of that bottle of ranch dressing and buy smaller bottles of household cleaners. Yes, it might cost a little bit more than buying the family size, but in the end, you won’t end up having to throw away half a bottle.
Once you arrive, try to shop sales and buy in bulk to lower costs. Also consider easing into replacement items. A solid multi-purpose cleaner can hold you over for a few months to help spread out costs and a little meal planning helps to do the same for those refrigerator staples.
Also, as you get ready to PCS, consider selling items you don’t need or want. Use that extra money to help offset some of these hidden relocation costs.
THE PROBLEM: HOME SALE/RENTAL DEPOSIT
You’ve got to put a down payment or deposit down on your new home, but you haven’t closed on a sale or received your last deposit back.
SOLUTION: This one is a little trickier, but again, the key is to plan ahead if you can. Anticipate the overlap in timing by putting a little money in your savings account each month leading up to a PCS. It is much better to have extra money saved then to be caught between paychecks without the funds you need.
You may want to consider taking a pay advance to help cover those large ticket costs, just make sure you plan your follow-on budget appropriately until the advance is paid back.
THE PROBLEM: THE FURNITURE DOESN’T FIT
You did the research, waited for a sale, and landed the perfect couch or set of curtains. Enter a set of PCS orders and a new temporary home. And of course, nothing fits in your new house.
Solution: We learned this lesson the hard way, so my advice? Buy modular furniture as much as possible.
That doesn’t mean you have to buy cheap, just buy smart. Also, before you pack up all that furniture, take some good measurements. Then when you are checking out potential new digs, take some quick measurements to see if what you have will work.
I’m not saying to pick a house to fit your furniture, but if what you have won’t work at all (ask me about the on-post house that wouldn’t allow for us to get a queen-sized bed upstairs!), the cost of replacing furniture might be worth some consideration.
Don’t be afraid to check out consignment and thrift stores, especially those around military housing areas. You’re not the only one struggling to make that new house feel like a home and chances are you can secure some gently used pieces at a killer price.