Relocations are a fact of life for military families, but each move is unique and offers its own challenges. It might be your first international move, your first move with a spouse or even your first move with children. No matter the nature of your move or how many you’ve gone through before, there’s a lot to consider and it can be a daunting process. Summer is the most popular time of year for relocations, and if your family is facing one this year, check out these tips to ensure the move goes as smoothly as possible for everyone involved.
- Bolster your savings and plan for the unexpected. Whether you’re new to the game or a seasoned pro, having a family savings account you regularly contribute to can be a great resource to cover any incidentals. It’s always a good idea to save as much as your budget will allow. Set up a savings plan and try your best to stick to it, contributing on a monthly basis. While the goal is to have enough saved to help you through a move, encountering a surprise expense isn’t out of the question. Rather than racking up credit card debt, consider taking out a basic pay loan through the military to cover additional expenses. Just remember that this will need to be paid back and isn’t free money!
- Assess your spending habits and identify any changes. Some expenses, such as clothes and groceries, will be constants no matter where you live. It’s likely that you already have an idea of how much your family needs for these items on a monthly basis, so be sure to factor these into a PCS budget. Conversely, some expenses might not carry over to your new location. For instance, if you are making an overseas move, you may need to change phone or internet providers. Don’t forget to explore what new rates might be available to you and adjust your average expenses accordingly. Finally, see if there are any expenses that can be dropped entirely when moving. This might be a gym membership in your current town or dues for a local activity your children are involved in. It might be worth researching whether or not these types of services are available at your new post, sometimes they can be offered at a discount. Once you have a better idea of how your recurring expenses will change after a move, you can make an informed decision on whether or not you need to consider a loan or adjust your saving plan strategy.
- Learn about where you’ll be moving. If you have young children who might be confused or even nervous about making a big move, this can be a simple way to introduce them to the idea of moving and help them get involved in the process. This might mean going online together to look up photos of the town and researching any famous attractions or fun things to do nearby once you get there. For children who are older and able to grasp the situation better, it’s always a good idea to be open and transparent about a move and what they should expect. For adults, learning about the area also includes getting an idea of the housing market and cost of living so you know what to expect financially when you move.
- Make sure everyone has a role in the move. We can’t overstate the importance of including children in the moving process as much as possible. Allowing them to be more involved in important decisions and tasks may help ease some of their worries about the move. Plus, having additional hands on deck helping can ease the burden on adults. Assign children age-appropriate jobs such as creating packing lists or sorting their toys and clothes to determine what will come on the move. If your family is open to it, older children can even be involved in the house hunting process – it’ll be their house too!
- Tap into military resources. There are countless resources out there designed to help military families transition to new homes easily. The local housing office offers resources and typically will provide you with a list of military-friendly realtors who can help you in the house hunt. You can also look into sites like GoMillie and MilHousing Network, which help connect military families with realtors, lenders and on-base contacts. When considering the emotional and lifestyle changes that come with a move, you can explore the wider network of military family support resources. In this day and age, there are dozens of blogs, websites and Facebook groups available where military children and spouses can reach out to others who have gone through the same experiences. Some sites, like SpouseLink, even create base-specific groups that are run by on-base spouses to help local spouses connect. Don’t be afraid to come to these groups to chat about anything – from where to shop near your new base to local job leads for military spouses.
Preparing for a PCS can be exhausting for spouses, servicemember and children alike. Even if you’ve done it before, there is a lot to consider and stress over certain aspects of a move can impact all members of the family. Utilize the tips above to tackle your next relocation with ease!
Charlene Wilde is a veteran and military spouse. She is currently the Assistant Secretary of AAFMAA, our nation’s longest standing military financial services non-profit and a contributor to Spouselink, a site that informs and connects Military Spouses. Charlene has managed relocations both alone and with her family, including seven moves in the past 15 years with her husband and two sons.