By Kate Horrell
Let’s be honest: The process of executing Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders is not fun. It’s chaotic and frustrating and exhausting. It’s also expensive, and it can be tempting to cut corners and choose the cheapest options to save a little money.
After 9 PCS moves, I’ve finally figured out that there are some places that splurging a little can make a big difference in the quality of my life during a move.
1. Good food
Whether you’re frantically purging, exhausted after a day supervising packers, or trying to eat fast to get back into your drive, it’s easy to choose fast foods that aren’t as nutritious. Spend a little more time and money on healthier choices, at least some of the time. Pick up prepared fruit bowls and veggie trays from the grocery store for wholesome snacking, stock up on bottled water so you’ll keep hydrated, and choose higher-quality restaurant meals when you do decide to eat out. Your body is under enough stress during a PCS move- give it a break by keeping hydrated and eating some quality nutrients.
Don’t get me wrong– I’m the first person to love a good burger – but don’t let a move equal bad food choices all the time. It’s hard to bounce with the stresses of moving with a steady diet of junk.
2. Babysitting and pet boarding
When the budget is tight, it’s easy to think that you’ll keep Lassie in her kennel and the kids occupied with videos. Spending some money to get the kids out of the house, or at least supervised by a babysitter at home, will make the process of preparing, packing, and unpacking a LOT easier.
Boarding pets during packout and household goods delivery doesn’t just save your sanity, it also helps keep your pets safe. Thankfully, it isn’t common, but cats do end up in moving trucks, and dogs can be injured in the bustle of movers.
If I could only afford to choose between good food and babysitting, it’d be a hard choice. I’d probably have to do half-and-half, because they’re both sanity-savers.
If there is any way that your budget can manage it, pay to have someone else clean your house after you move out. If you live in housing, they may have a flat fee that you can pay in lieu of cleaning.
If that’s not an option for you, there are tons of cleaning companies that would be glad to do your move-out clean. Not only will you save yourself the pain of taking a toothbrush to the refrigerator seals and scrubbing soap scum off the showers, but they’ll be responsible to re-clean if your house isn’t clean enough when you turn it over. Prices vary dramatically around the country (and around the world), so be sure to get a few quotes before making your decision.
Tip: Unless you have a ton of cleaning supplies to use up, hire cleaners that bring their own items. You don’t want to buy a bunch of new cleaning supplies right before you move.
Every move that we haven’t hired cleaners, I have regretted it, and every move that I have hired cleaners, I have been thrilled with my decision. If I could just remember that awful “the inspector/landlord will be here in 20 minutes” feeling, I would never convince myself to self-clean again.
4. Decent hotels
This one isn’t even a splurge. In almost all cases, you are authorized Temporary Lodging Expense (TLE), Temporary Lodging Allowance (TLA), or both, for a certain number of days.
Don’t sleep on the floor until you’ve used your TLE or TLA allowances for some solid sleep in a safe, clean hotel.
The amount of these allowances is based on a variety of factors, including family size, so you may even be able to get a suite or two rooms so that everyone can be comfortable. Not sure what you’re authorized? Check with your personnel folks or take the moving classes offered at your base family service center.
Even better, many hotels offer free breakfasts, and some business-style chains also offer evening food that can serve as dinner.
For the times you aren’t authorized allowances, consider the value of one or two extra nights in a clean, tidy place with real beds. This is especially true if you are near an Air Force base, whose lodging is often very reasonably priced. $63 for a three bedroom cottage with a kitchen? Definitely worth it for a family to get a good night’s sleep.
5. New stuff
This is an odd one, but it is important. At some point in the moving process, you’ll come across things that aren’t ideal to move, but will be expensive to replace. Cleaning supplies, opened foods, and toiletries can probably be packed and moved, but don’t do it.
Saving $8 by moving your bottle of sesame oil across the world isn’t worth having all your clothes smell when the bottle breaks in your checked luggage.
Use up, give away or throw out the bleach, balsamic vinegar, and body wash. You may save a little bit of money by moving them, but it isn’t worth the stress, the cost of a million zip-top plastic bags to keep them safe, or the space in your (surely already overcrowded) vehicle.
Once you get to your new duty station, a few strategic splurges can really help a house feel like your home.
6. Taking your time
Depending on your situation, this splurge might not even cost any money. If you have a choice, consider stretching your travel and extra day or two. If you’re driving, stop and spend an extra night (free if you have friends or family in the area.) Driving straight through or 16-hour days are hard on your body and your brain. If you’re flying, get that hotel room near the airport the night before. In many cases, your travel allowances will cover the expenses, and you’ll arrive at your new location a little less exhausted and a little more patient – both good things when you’re finding a place to live, accepting delivery of your household goods, and getting settled.
Moving is hard. Make it a little easier with these splurges. They’ll make the process a little less painful, and that’s a good thing for everyone!
Kate Horrell is a financial coach who specializes in helping military families make the most of their pay and benefits. She’s also been married to a sailor for a couple of decades, and has moved around the world with their four girls. You can find her at www.KateHorrell.com, or on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest .