How to PCS on a Budget

Receiving orders from the military stating that you have to pack up your family and move can be an extremely daunting event. Is your bank account ready for it? Do you know how to PCS on a budget?

It doesn’t matter if you’re moving across the state or across the country, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg doing so!

In fact, this article is only one concept in my series, so make sure to check out my post on how to save money when you’re in the military!

Getting a grip on your PCS orders

If you’re expecting a PCS to be on the horizon for your family, then there are a few things to consider. How long do you believe you have before you move? Do you have any idea of whether you’ll be moving across the state or across the country? Would you rather the military move your items, or do you want to take them yourself?

How long do you have before you move?

The department of defense suggested that over 65% of military moves happen between the months of May and August. Someone please explain to me why in the world we have to move during the heat of the earth!

If you have a little bit of time before you move, then you’re in luck! Start by using all the food in your freezers and pantry and limiting grocery runs. You don’t want to waste a bunch of money discarding groceries. During this time you should also consider setting aside some money to cashflow your moving expenses. For more advice, you need to read my post on 10 important things to do before you PCS.

Designate a spot in your home for things you need during your travel or within the first few weeks at your new duty station. Label the area clearly if you have military movers coming because they’ll pack most anything that isn’t tied down.

How far from your current station are you moving?


If you’re moving out of the country, then you unfortunately have to move part of your belongings by yourself. To save the money on the cost of flights, book them six weeks in advance. I would recommend calling to reserve your tickets and discussing what the airline’s requirements are for proving that you are on military orders for travel. If you’re traveling for a PCS, military members and each dependent are allowed to check 5 bags each for free. (On most airlines) There are a few airlines that even offer military discounts for transporting family pets!

To save money at the airport, take yourself a water bottle and snacks. You can take food through the airport security, but your bag will more than likely stopped to verify the food. Mothers can also take milk for infants through security.

Moving within the USA

The big decision on moving yourself within the states is how many days are you willing to spend stuck in the car? The military considers 350 miles a day’s worth of travel. My husband and I moved from NC to GA with our dog, and that was totally achievable.. But I would really have to think about things if I needed to move from NC to WA.

While you stand to make money moving yourself, are you going to lose your mind? If you’re moving with children, then you have to stop more often for bathroom breaks. Pack snacks and plan out your drive ahead of time. Avoid stopping at every fast food restaurant. Not only are you going to rack up the bills, but you’re not going to feel good.

If you have any family or friends on the way to your next duty station, then stop in for a visit! Staying with family saves you a little bit of money on the cost of hotels. If you do stay at a hotel, then check and see if they offer a continental breakfast. Multiple hotels offer military discounts. Some hotels have loyalty programs where you can earn a free night after staying at one of their locations for a certain number of nights.

Suggested Post: Life as a Dual Military Couple

How are you going to move?

Do you want to move yourself or would you rather have the military pack you up?

Moving yourself

If you’re going to move yourself, then you need to gather packing supplies and a moving truck. Check with local grocery stores and liquor stores for boxes. If you want to buy boxes, I recommend using the boxes that are offered by Lowes, Home Depot or Uhaul.

Lowes and Home Depot both offer military discounts, but you have to sign up for them. Any boxes you get from U-haul that you don’t end up using can be returned for your money back. U-haul also offers an incredible price match policy as well as offering a military discount. Unless you find an individual selling their moving blankets, consider renting versus buying them. You can rent them when you rent your moving truck.

When you move yourself you have to keep up with all of your receipts for expenses incurred, so that you can prove them and get at least a partial return. The military has set allowances for what they will pay per mile for driving distance as well as what they’ll pay per day for any food or hotels. When the military reimburses you for the allowance per mile, they determine the official distance.

Having the military move you

If you want the military to do everything for you, then your next step is organizing your home and donating things you no longer want. When the military movers arrive they bring boxes and packing supplies. Who knows what all will be thrown in a box together, but beggars can’t be choosers!

There are a number of large things that you may be surprised to learn that the military will move. They’ll pack up your empty hot tub, your children’s play-set, or your piano! You have to decide what you’re willing to risk having broken. You offered compensation for damaged or missing items, but some things just don’t have a price.

The expenses of choosing military movers comes in on the back end of things. There are a number of items, like liquids, that military movers can’t pack for you, so you will need to get rid of them or transport them yourself. Is your car large enough for that, or will you need to rent a trailer? There is always a wait time between when you arrive at your new base and when your stuff will be delivered. Depending on the time of year and the number of people moving with the military, wait times can be months.

How to PCS on a budget when you don't have the money for your military move. Tips for deciding if the military should move you, or if a DITY move is the better option!

Moving expenses that aren’t covered

Unfortunately, there are a few cost factors of PCSing that aren’t necessarily reimbursed. If you decide to have the military move you, you still have to find transportation for yourself and your family.

  • Wear and tear on your car (Ex tires & decrease in overall value due to mileage)
  • Family or friends that help you move are not considered dependents, so their expenses are not paid.
  • Any expenses incurred from trips outside of the direct route from previous duty station to new duty station.
  • Any charges resulting from exceeding the set weight for household goods.

Moving requires some planning if you want to want to PCS on a budget, but it will simplify your life in the long run!

How many times has your family had to PCS with the military?

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My little corner of the internet where motherhood & military mix. Full-time wife & boy mama. Part-time content developer & social media strategist. All the time chatty Camille.

One Comment

  • Caitlyn Miller

    My husband and I moved from NC to GA with our two dogs. That was stressful enough in itself. I can’t imagine how stressful it would be if we were to move across the country! I think driving might be fun though, because then you could see all the different states on your way to your destination.

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