Preparing for a PCS: Top tips to a successful move

Preparing for a PCS: Top tips to a successful move

(Courtesy photo/Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune)

By Kristine Schellhaas

It’s moving season and many of you have orders to PCS (permanent change of duty station).  I’m on the eve of my sixth duty station and I’ll be turning in my 30 days’ notice tomorrow.  That’s right, even though I live in base housing; I still have let them know that I’m going to be moving.

We applied for a home at our new duty station, but most bases won’t officially put you on the waiting list until you check in, if there’s one. Typically, the housing waiting list is adjusted by the actual arrival date of check-in, not necessarily when you applied.  

People who move across the country a bit faster might have an advantage, but those who are moving from a BAH-rich duty station may want to consider going home for that long vacation to cash in on the extra money.

We happen to be attending a school and students get priority for housing. However this base has very few homes for my husband’s rank, so we decided to start looking off base for a rental. 

One of my favorite websites is www.militarybyowner.com. I wasn’t disappointed and discovered tons of homes available off base. 

It’s obviously been a long time since I had to fill out a rental application; I was blown away with all the information they wanted to know. It seemed as if the application questions asked were as if I were actually buying the buying the home, not just renting it!

Next was the hefty security deposit – over $2,000 including pet deposit that just vanished out of our account which didn’t include first month’s rent! If you’re going to move out in town, start saving your money so you can afford the necessary deposits and rental application fees. 

Next make sure you read your lease. You can amend the lease – I recommend talking to the property management company before you sign anything that locks you in permanently if you have questions.

Of course the expenses don’t end up with rental fees. We also have to ship a vehicle from the West Coast to the East Coast which will set us back another $1,000. We’re still not out of the clear yet, we’ll have to repurchase supplies which the movers won’t ship for us including propane tanks, gas and oil for lawn equipment, yard supplies, laundry soaps and detergents, and food including spices, condiments and more. 

Thankfully, that’s where some allowances come in.  First is DLA or Dislocation Allowance. You can find current rates for 2013 which is based off rank and dependent. Please note there are a few exceptions which do not rate DLA, such as getting out of the service.

We also get a daily per diem. My military member receives one amount, I’ll receive another as his dependent spouse, and our kids will typically receive half of what my husband gets. There’s also mileage reimbursement, which will help pad the bottom line. This is not to be confused with how many miles it actually takes you to get from A to B, the military pays mileage reimbursement based off the shortest distance from one base to the next.  

Lastly, there’s Temporary Lodging Expense (or TLA - Temporary Lodging Allowance, if you’re moving outside CONUS – Continental US) for up to ten days, while we’re waiting to move into our new home to help offset food and hotel costs.

I’m thankful for these allowances, but financial stress is only part of the burden of moving from one duty station to the next.  

Next on my list is making sure the car is tuned-up for a trip across the country, the kids are pre-registered in their new schools, and wellness checks and vaccinations are scheduled prior to the move. 

We all know that it takes months to find good doctors, hairdressers, and dentists each time we move. That’s why I recommend that you get all doctor and dental visits taken care of prior to moving so you don’t have to stress so much in the transition process.

Last, make sure you prep your home and set aside all your valuables you don’t want the movers to pack. I highly recommend that you go through and separate important papers that could potentially get used against you for identity theft. 

There’s so much to do in preparation for your move, but hopefully these tips and understanding your financial allowances will help you get a solid start. Best of luck in your move!

About the author

Kristine Schellhaas is the founder of USMC Life and is a finalist in the 2013 Military Spouse of the Year program. She has spent 16 years together with her Marine; they have two children, several duty stations, and a wealth of life experiences to rely upon. Kristine has endured four wartime deployments, been involved in many volunteer programs, clubs, and more. She founded the website USMC Life tin 2009 and launched Semper Feisty Radio in 2012.