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Bottom Line Up Front

  • As soon as you receive your PCS paperwork, take steps to prepare your finances. 
  • Careful documentation is critical in ensuring you’re properly reimbursed after a move. 
  • Spousal unemployment can be tricky to navigate, but is a top priority for your income. 

Time to Read

3 minutes

November 13, 2023

Relocating as a civilian can be complex—but doing so as an Active Duty servicemember can be even harder. Permanent change of station (PCS) moves typically happen about every 2 to 4 years, and are often expensive, even with the military covering some of those costs. Temporary lodging, meals, boarding pets and other fees can be especially hard on your budget. Many families find themselves spending up to $2,000 out of pocket for various expenses.

Once you’ve settled into your new duty station, however, the work isn’t over. Establishing your finances after a PCS involves getting your reimbursements, signing up for spousal unemployment compensation and creating a PCS fund for the next move. Here are our best tips to help you manage your post-PCS finances.

Apply for Reimbursements

Your reimbursement is calculated using the standard CONUS per diem expense rate. Depending on where you’re assigned, you may be reimbursed for your travel expenses, including lodging, meals and incidentals, but not always. Your reimbursement for lodging can’t exceed the actual lodging cost (up to the maximum allowed reimbursement), and if you’re staying with family or friends, you won’t receive the lodging allowance. Fortunately, meals and incidental expenses (M&IE) are often payable without itemized expenses and receipts.

And, transportation reimbursement can be used for commercial vehicles (planes, trains and buses, and taxis to and from terminals), as well as a mileage allowance for privately owned vehicles (POV) on a direct route.

Once you’ve arrived in your new home and collected your travel receipts, submit a travel voucher or sub-voucher form, along with a detailed itinerary of your daily travel and where you were lodging. You’ll also need 3 copies of your travel orders, including amendments, and the original plus 3 copies of your lodging receipts. Submit these requests for reimbursement as soon as possible—they’ll help rebuild your finances and help you prepare for the next PCS move.

Seek Unemployment Compensation for Your Spouse

If your spouse was employed prior to your PCS move, that can be a major blow to your household finances. Fortunately, in most states, your spouse is eligible for unemployment compensation after trailing you to the new duty station. The states that allow this—all except Idaho, Louisiana, North Dakota and Ohio—make exceptions for “voluntarily” quitting a job as a military spouse. It’s important to remember that when you apply for unemployment, your claim should be made in your former state, not the new one. 

Depending on what kind of profession your spouse is pursuing, they may be subject to state-specific licensing. This can contribute to extended reemployment delays. For example, lawyers have state-specific licenses and the Bar exam is only offered twice per year. Until they’re licensed, they cannot practice law in the new state. Situations like these often lead to spouses not practicing in their chosen professions, and can affect your monthly budget if their salary helped cover monthly expenses. 

If you know that your spouse will need to be relicensed or certified in their new state, it’s important to add these fees—plus, about 6 months of their contributions to living expenses—to your PCS fund. 

Additionally, you can inquire with your new state as to whether they’ll accommodate your spouse’s licensing issues and employment gap. Some states will provide temporary licenses or allow them to practice with active licenses in another state. Some states have reciprocity agreements or allow professionals to practice under the tutelage of someone in the new state. This can help you bridge the gap between old and new employment, without damaging your finances too much.

Create a New Monthly Budget

Because the cost of living can fluctuate so much between states, you’ll also need to create a new monthly budget. In some states, your money may go further and you can pay off debt or contribute more to your retirement and savings. While in other states, you may have to readjust your budget and cut back on expenses.

If your spouse is between jobs, they may want to consider working part-time. Many states will allow you to collect unemployment while working part-time, but be sure to do your research to make sure their benefits won’t be jeopardized.

Create or Contribute to a PCS Fund

Finally, once you’ve unpacked, applied for any reimbursements or benefits and budgeted for your new living situation, be sure to create or contribute to your existing PCS fund. The earlier you start saving, the easier it will be to create a healthy financial buffer for your next move. Don’t forget to add any reimbursements back into your PCS fund.

Discover Navy Federal Credit Union’s Banking Solutions

We understand budgeting for and going through PCS moves can be stressful for you and your budget. Preparation is key and will give you more time to enjoy your new home and all your new location has to offer. With Navy Federal, you have a partner to help you manage your money, save for PCS moves and reestablish your finances once you get to your new station. When you need assistance with accounts, loans and more, let us help

Next Steps Next Steps

  1. Check to see if the state you’re moving to allows unemployment compensation for your spouse as part of a PCS relocation. If it does, make sure to file for unemployment as soon as possible. 
  2. Review and follow a thorough PCS checklist to make sure you’re accounting for all expenditure reimbursement policies. It’s also a great way to make sure you’re not forgetting anything during the move!
  3. Don’t forget to switch your insurance! Different states have different insurance policies and premiums, and you’ll need to adjust your policy and budget for any changes in monthly premiums. 


This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.