How Much Does It Cost to PCS?
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How Much Does It Cost to PCS?

December 20, 2019 | 3 min. read

You’ve got orders, but now what? Here are some financial planning basics for military families about to PCS.

Getting to a new duty station can be expensive, but the cost varies. Will you be hiring cross-town movers to get you from DC to Baltimore, or driving a U-Haul from Key West to Whidbey Island, Washington? How many grand pianos and motorcycles do you have? How many kids?

There are a lot of factors that determine how much it will cost to get you to your next duty station, many specific to you and your family. That said, there are some general guidelines that can give you a head start on staying within budget.

Weight limits and other basics – Trying to move more than the government will pay for is a sure way to rack up the cost of relocation, so the best place to begin is the DOD’s official customer moving platform. This site gives you weight entitlement guidelines (these are based on military rank), a tool that estimates the weight of common household goods, information on shipping your vehicle overseas and much more.

The website above also has very helpful moving tips for military families, and could prove invaluable if this is your first family move. This site is worth checking out as well.

Cost of living (especially housing) – A higher cost of living can wreak havoc on a family budget, especially when we’re talking about real estate. Keep in mind that your BAH is designed to cover the total cost of housing – not just rent or a mortgage – so make sure you factor in parking, home maintenance, utilities, HOA membership and other expenses as you budget for your next place.

In addition to Zillow and other search engines, you can check out, a website that specializes in linking military personnel with close-to-base housing rentals. Social media groups and sites like can be a great way to scout out neighborhoods before you commit. If you’re interested in comparing costs of living between places there are online calculators like this one, and if you want to see 2019 allowances for BAH and COLA click here, here, and here.

Incidentals – If you’re PCSing from one spot in the continental U.S. to another, you are responsible for moving your personal vehicles. In some cases this might mean a cross-country trip, which could add up to a lot of additional expenses like food, lodging, emergency car repairs (let’s hope not) and any roadside souvenirs you pick up. You’ll likely get per diem and mileage reimbursement, but it’s a good idea to hit the road with enough money to deal with the unexpected. For more on travel reimbursements of all types, click here.

Get ready to roll - A big PCS move probably won’t be easy or stress-free, but with thoughtful planning you can eliminate a lot of the common financial pain points. You might even get to your next duty station without a ding on your furniture or your finances.

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At First Command we’ve spent over 60 years helping newly commissioned officers plan their financial futures. In fact, four out of five of our Financial Advisors are veterans or military spouses, and we offer complimentary financial plans to active duty military. To speak with a Financial Advisor near you, visit our Get Started page.

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