Nailing Down the Details: Tips to Reduce PCS Stress

PCS Tips (Livingstone-Hoyte)_Image.docx“PCSing”—the colloquial term for enduring a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move—hasn’t officially made its way into the Webster dictionary, but it is keenly known in the military community as a way of life. The process can induce a bit of muffled enthusiasm, layered with the possible burden of added financial costs and uncertainties that can change the dynamic of a military household. As we enter peak PCS season, consider a few simple steps to help minimize stress when navigating your next move.

Budgeting and the Cost of Moving

It has been reported that service members spend an average of $1725 in non-reimbursable costs during a PCS move[1]. To help you exercise Predictability to be better prepared for the financial commitment of moving, consider the following:

  • Establish and maintain a moving fund. Account for potential travel expenses and household set-up costs including utility and rental deposits, which are oftentimes the most expensive. Consider resources that may help you save money, such as borrowing versus buying certain household items using a family service agency relocation kit. While some costs may be reimbursable, keep in mind that those monies will need to be accounted for in your budget until reimbursement is processed.
  • Decide how you will execute your move. Will the government assume full responsibility of packing, shipping, cost of moving etc., or will you take the reins through a do-it-yourself Personally Procured Move (PPM)? To help you make your final decision, realistically assess whether your family can execute the move without significant burdens (financial, physical, mental and/or emotional) which can easily lead to a stressful situation. The installation transportation office, family assistance centers and Military OneSource are just a few useful resources to gather information in order to make the best decisions.

Old Business/New Business

Leaving old relationships and forming new ones is inherent to any move, but this doesn’t just apply to personal bonds. Be sure you’re leaving your professional and financial relationships (i.e. creditors) on good terms by:

  • Providing timely notices of intent to vacate rental property;
  • Rendering all final account payments (utilities, cable, etc.); and
  • Returning any leased equipment like cable television boxes or rented washing machines and dryers.

Most importantly, be sure to obtain written confirmation that each account has had a proper disposition. Failing to do so can negatively impact establishing new services at the new location.

Love it or List it?

Relocating homeowners are confronted with decisions involving selling or renting their property. While some families may opt to have their Sailor PCS alone—since financially supporting two households in separate geographical locations can cause financial hardship—others may decide to move everyone and keep their property for rental income. There are several advantages to this, including additional cash flow, tax benefits, and flexibility to sell later. But the uncertainties, particularly around nightmarish tenants, can add stress during (and after) your move. To that end, here are some basics you’ll want to understand before you drive that “For Rent” sign in the yard:

  • What are properties currently renting for in your area? It’s good to check going rates, current demand and the state of the market. At minimum, you’ll want to be able to cover your monthly note on the mortgage.
  • Check out your potential tenants! Don’t just go by a nice personality and great smile when deciding to whom to rent your family’s home. Obtain permission to conduct background checks into the lessee’s credit history, criminal history and rental history. To minimize difficulty enforcing your lease, encourage your trusted tenant to purchase renter’s insurance, and weigh the pros and cons of renting to friends or family.
  • Go by the book. You’ll want to be familiar with investment property tax codes and housing laws at the federal, state and local levels.

If you intend on selling a home due to PCS orders, have a limited timeline and need to know what your options are, here are just a few of your resources to reach out to:

Other PCS to do’s include obtaining and updating insurance coverages; putting mail on hold, forwarding and/or submitting a change of address; obtaining school and medical records, acquiring housing and school district information and many more. Military OneSource’s Plan My Move tool has several useful resources tailored to your upcoming location and move dates, including a timeline-based check sheet.

Whether this is move one or 100 for your family, preparing for what you can predict can help you maintain a sense of control and navigate stress. Even with the challenges of a PCS move, strive to make it a positive process where new adventures await!

For additional resources, check out Navy’s Relocation Assistance Program, Military Saves,, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, AFC®, is an experienced financial counselor who has worked extensively with U.S. Armed Forces members and families. She is a long-time volunteer blogger for and previously served at the Fleet and Family Support Center, Millington, Tenn. as a financial counselor. As a military spouse, Ms. Livingstone-Hoyte knows firsthand of the financial challenges and opportunities that face military families across the globe. To that end, she embraces a steadfast belief that financial success can be simple, just not easy.

[1] Financial Tips for Permanent Change of Station. Retrieved from

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