How to Fund a Surprise PCS

Military man and son talking

If you’re part of the one-third of active servicemembers receiving PCS (permanent change of station) notices, this could end up being a financially stressful time. Yes, the military pays for a significant part of your move, but, on average, military families spend $1,725 in non-reimbursed expenses. Add to that the fact that the military can take its time reimbursing you for any expenses they will pay, which can lead to a huge out-of-pocket expense at move time. These expenses can catch you off-guard if you’re not prepared.

If you’re surprised by a PCS notice or concerned that you will be soon, there are a few things you can do to prepare financially.

Emergency Fund

A surprise PCS is one of the many reasons to make sure you always have an emergency fund. In addition to helping you out with unexpected medical, auto, and household expenses, it can come in handy if you receive a PCS notice. Not only will you face unreimbursed expenses, but your reimbursed expenses can also take some time coming back to you. And those can add up to more than $10,000. Even though you’ll eventually get it back, your move will be a lot easier if you don’t have to drain your bank account or max out your credit cards to do it.

Don’t Pack Essentials

Make sure you hold on to some of your essential items to take yourself instead of sending them with the movers. For instance, a pot and pan, cooking utensils, bedding and towels, and an air mattress. These things can take their time getting to you so you may have to purchase new items to get by until then. If you bring some or all of these things yourself, you won’t need to make new purchases.

Know Your Budget

If you’re hit with a surprise PCS, you need to take a moment to figure out your current financial situation. It’s better to know how much money you have to work with than blindly start spending and try to dig yourself out of debt later. Take a look at your emergency fund, available lines of credit, and available limits on your credit cards. It’s a good idea to take a look at your current expenses to see where you can cut back and save as well.

For instance, if you currently have a car loan, your loan company may allow you to defer your payment for a few months to give you access to more cash. Beware though; this doesn’t mean you don’t owe the money; it just means that those payments are moved to the end of your loan, extending your loan period.


This is a good time to start getting rid of things you don’t need. Not only will you not have to pay to transport them, but they can also help you earn some extra cash. Have a yard sale, sell items on eBay, or post them for sale on Facebook. Get rid of heavy furniture you no longer want or need, electronics, and anything else that can earn you a few bucks.

Research Your Options

This is especially important if you’re going overseas. What are your best options for exchange currency? How much will it cost to move your pet? Will your electronics work with a transformer or will you need to buy a replacement? These are all things to consider and knowing your options can help you save money and cut expenses.

A surprise PCS doesn’t have to hurt you financially. Chances are, it will happen to you sometime in your military career. If you create an emergency fund and do your research instead of making hasty decisions, it can help you save the money you need to make it happen.

Tagged in Military familes, Budget tips, Navigating change

Emilie writes about overcoming debt, while balancing trying to eat healthy, stay fit, and have a little fun along the way. You can find more of her work at

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.