7 Ways to Save During a PCS


With warmer weather and blooming flowers comes the start of PCS season. A PCS, or permanent change of station, can be an eventful, exciting time. But without proper planning it could also be an expensive time. 

“The military pays for you to move, right?” 

This preconceived notion from civilian family and friends is true…to an extent. But after four moves with the military over ten years, I have learned that many hidden expenses occur with a move across the country. Often hundreds of dollars in moving costs come out of our own pocket. 

From the food in the freezer, to condiments and perishables, to cleaning supplies, to furniture or outdoor activity gear that can’t be used in a new location – tons of things have to be replaced. Then there is the travel itself. We always seem to move cross country, and nights in hotels and food quickly gobble up our Per Diem. Even little mistakes like not keeping receipts or weighing your vehicle can add up quickly. 

But, there are ways to save (and even make) money during a PCS: 

  1. The most common way to save, or even make, money on a move with the military is to do a Personally Procured Move (PPM or formerly DITY). This type of move is where you are responsible for packing, transporting, and unpacking your own belongings to your new location. You handle hiring the moving company or renting a truck, etc. Then you submit the paperwork and weight info and authorized expenses to the military. We have done this type of move once and though it can be very cost effective, it is also a lot of work. A great resource for a PPM move is DITY Mama


But let’s say a PPM move is not for you. Maybe you have acquired too much stuff over the years, or you have pets or small children that would make moving yourself too cumbersome. There are still ways to save money when you move with the military!

  1. Do a partial PPM or DITY move. Rent a small trailer or pack what you’re able into your personal vehicles. Keep track of the weight of the items you are able to move and you’ll be reimbursed for that portion. 
  2. While road tripping to your new duty station – save on lodging by using either Government or AAA rates at hotels, or by utilizing campgrounds (if you have the right gear and weather). 
  3. Utilize freebie or spouse groups on Facebook for other people’s leftover moving boxes and supplies. Pay it forward once you’ve moved by donating your boxes/packing tape to another family once you have moved. 
  4. Freebie and spouse groups are also great for replacing items you had to leave behind. Another military family may be giving away the cleaning supplies they can’t take with them, or the rug you now need for a house with wood floors instead of carpet.  
  5. Keep a box of basic kitchen supplies (pot, pan, set of dishes, oil, basic seasonings) for the window after your household goods have been picked up until you get them again at your new duty station, to save on food and continue cooking at home. 
  6. Do a grocery run before the road trip to your new duty station. We ate almost entirely out of a cooler on our 4-day drive from Fairbanks, Alaska to Tacoma, Washington to save on food. Sandwiches, berries, snap peas, and granola bars are also way easier on the stomach than convenience store grabs. 
  7. Finally, create a PCS binder to help save and organize all receipts, weight tickets, and paperwork. This is also how we keep track of utilities and services we need to cancel at the previous house and what we need to set up or do at the new one.

Moving with the military is inevitable. What doesn’t have to be inevitable is overspending on a move. Good luck!