By Ayesha Haider, BA, MBA, AFC Candidate
Relocation is a challenging time for even the most seasoned service members who have experienced numerous PCS moves. In addition to the emotional difficulties of leaving friends and familiar surroundings behind is the burden of starting from scratch in a foreign location. While finances may be the last thing on your mind during this hectic time, the following tips are sure to ensure a smoother, less stressful relocation for you and your family:
- Really know what your expenses are: On the surface, the expenses associated with relocation may seem fairly obvious but there are many other “hidden” costs of relocation that are often overlooked and may result in a stressful relocation experience. Basic examples include, fuel (if you are driving to your new location), furniture/appliance replacement (for damaged items not covered by insurance), and costs associated with buying/selling a house or car. Some less obvious examples include the costs of living “on the go” such as eating out more. Keep track of your expenses by creating a list of potential expenditures associated with the move. This can even be a brainstorming activity for the whole family and a great way to introduce your children to the basics of financial management.
- Have an emergency fund: It is important to have an emergency fund that covers 3-6 months of expenses regardless of if you are relocating or not. However, during relocation an emergency fund can provide you with an unprecedented level of financial security. Many of the costs associated with relocation are reimbursed but you are not likely to receive reimbursement for many weeks after they have been incurred. Knowing that you have a cushion to cover any short term financial needs associated with the move can give you the peace of mind to focus on other important matters such as finding accommodation or researching school districts.
- Update your bank and utility accounts: it is crucial that your banking institutions and credit card companies are aware of your move and have your new address as soon as possible. This prevents them from sending sensitive information to an older address that may be occupied by another tenant now. It also prevents credit card companies from freezing your account due to transactions you make while on the move. In addition to your financial accounts, remember to close any utility accounts under your name that you will no longer be using. To avoid penalty fees for early termination of contracts, refer to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).
- Create a new budget for your new life: A new living situation is most likely going to have an effect on your financial situation as well. You may be paying more or less rent, have a higher or lower BAH, and may have less disposable income as a result of one spouse having to resign from their job as a result of the move. Once you’re settled into your new home, be sure to create a new budget to reflect these changes and to see how they affect your saving and investment goals.
- Make use of your resources: Knowledge is power – and knowledge is also the most important tool you have at your disposal when PCSing. Conduct research on the new location you are moving to and shop around for the best deals on housing, cars and other purchases early on in the moving process. The internet is a great source of information on both your new location and any obstacles you might be facing while planning your move. It’s also a good idea to tap into your network of friends and family to get first-hand information from anyone who has lived at this location in the past or currently resides there. There are also numerous organizations on base to help with your transition, such as the Airman & Family Readiness Center that offers a Plan My Move tool.
Following the tips listed above and staying positive and focused throughout the PCS process is sure to make your relocation experience less stressful and virtually hassle-free. Treat relocation as a valuable life lesson that allows you to practice your flexibility and planning skills and remember to share best practices of your moving experience with those around you to help them in their time of transition.