The PCS Budget Reset

PCS.  Three letters that can strike fear in the hearts and wallets of military families around the world.  It is true, PCSing can be expensive, but it can also be a wonderful chance to reset the fixed expenses in your budget.  Every time we move, we have the opportunity to choose housing that is a little less expensive, or live in an area where the children can go to public schools, or live somewhere that doesn't have a hugely gas-guzzling commute. 

Obviously, each new home has its own set of pros and cons.  For example, when we lived outside Washington, D.C., we chose to live pretty far away from my husband's work.  The house was less expensive (and larger!) and the public schools were excellent.  However, we spent quite a lot of money on gas, parking and Metro fare that tour.  The option of living closer to his work would have meant less transportation costs but more housing expenses and quite possibly private school tuition (which really isn't an option with four kids.)

Looking ahead, we expect to be PCSing overseas this summer.  We are in the discussion stages of what is most important to us: location, cost, size, etc.  I'm leaning towards a smaller place so that we still have money to explore the area around us.  Of course, the first concern is safety, and then we'll have to look at proximity to his work, and whether the DOD school bus comes to that area, and it needs to be a good place for our family.  There are so many things to consider!

There are sometimes other costs that can be adjusted as part of a PCS move.  If you need to buy a car when you arrive at your new home, a less expensive choice will pay financial benefits for quite a while.  The same is true for furnishings or electronics.  You can't always avoid making purchases, but making your old things last just a little bit longer can help keep your budget in check.

Setting up a new home is expensive, and having to do it every few years is a fact of military life (for most of us.)  With some consideration, however, it can also be an opportunity to shed some higher fixed expenses and reset your budget.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • we’re PCS’ing to Ft Lewis (WA State) from the DC area. I’m looking forward to downgrading on the house and saving a lil money. I KNOW that area is not cheap but it won’t compare to NoVA’s outrageous living…
    Bring on WA!!

  • Eelia

    Hey there….boy could I use some advice! My husband deployed a month after we got married and is still deployed for another 8 months. He reinlisted and supposadly his (our)PCS is going to be overseas! I am not sure were to start! I am about 2500 miles from his base right now and wanted to have our place all set for his home coming. Now I have no idea how to start….I am pretty sure we will be there at least a few months before going overseas. I just need help wrapping everything I have to do around my head and find a starting point! We did not get most of the paper work done before he left…mainly the bank…I have general POA, my id, and am in DEERS.
    No clue …I need boot camp for spouses! :O LOL true!
    Thanks in advanced E

  • Kate

    Eelia, it is overwhelming but you can do it. I would suggest you start at and read all you can. The readers and authors there are pretty excellent (I write there as well.) Once you’ve gotten a basic understanding of how stuff sort of works, it will be easier to know what you don’t know.
    You can do it and we’ll all help you along the way!

  • Eelia

    Thanks so much for your help and support!
    Happy Holidays,