In these times of cutbacks and uncertainty, it is even more important when you get orders to PCS, you approach your move with a smart financial strategy.
A little planning with good resources can mean the difference between building a savings account or draining it.
Not sure where to start? Here are 5 strategies for keeping money in your account during your next duty tour.
1. Know Your BAH
For most Marines, the biggest factor in housing decisions is the amount of BAH for a particular duty station. But did you know that BAH is intended to cover more than just your rent? Over the last decade or so, the Defense community worked to bring BAH levels up to a point that they covered 100% of the cost of rent, utilities and renter’s insurance.
How do you know how much of your BAH should go for utilities? Using a tool like AHRN.com, you can enter your upcoming installation and have immediate access to the BAH for that assignment and the projected utility cost. Avoiding the need to pay out of pocket for utilities, means a more flexible budget after your PCS.
Current events impacting BAH: The proposed Defense budget released in early March of 2014 heralded significant changes in BAH for fiscal year 2015. Instead of 100% coverage of housing costs (rent, utilities and renter’s insurance), DOD has proposed a formula change that would make service members responsible for 5% of their housing costs and remove renter’s insurance from the formula. The Budget has not yet been approved, but it’s an evolving issue that service members should keep an eye on. When you’re moving, aim to rent under your BAH just in case the BAH changes and not in your favor (remember that you are grandfathered in if you currently are stationed somewhere, but would be subject to changes when you move).
Military Rental Tip: AHRN.com not only provides you with your BAH breakdown, it also performs automatic BAH housing searches so that you can see what kind of home fits your allowance.
2. Determine Your Commute: Fuel Your Wallet, Not Gas Companies
Aside from the cost of rent and utilities, build the cost of your commute into your budget. It is vital to know what you can afford to pay for gas, so you can weigh that cost against the rest of your living expenses. In some cases, living a little further from the installation may save money on the rent, but that commute increases your fuel costs.
Military Rental Tip: AHRN allows you to search for bed, bath count, along with budget rent amount within a radius of your next duty station.
3. Establish Priorities
Every Marine or family has their own set of priorities when hunting for their next home. Someone who enjoys woodworking may need a generously sized garage. Parents may have specific school requirements. A spouse whose an avid baker might make ample kitchen storage and counter space a deal breaker. If you have family members of the furry and four-legged variety, then a suitable pet policy is a must.
It’s important to take a few minutes early in your PCS planning to define what is most important (and where your money should be spent) so you can build a profile of the home you want.
Military Rental Tip: Enter your dream home on AHRN.com’s housing profile (even how many garage spaces you’d like!) and then let AHRN.com deliver listings to you that meet that criteria. This ensures that you don’t miss out on homes that fit you and family (if applicable) that may otherwise come and go without you knowing it.
4. Plan Ahead for Deposits
Marine Corps families are well acquainted with the costs of moving. While many PCS costs are covered by the DoD, it can still get expensive. Deposits at your new installation can quickly eat into the PCS budget. You may be paying a security deposit on your home, pet deposits and, in some places, utility deposits (not to mention all the sundry items you need to replenish in your home and other moving costs).
Military Rental Tip: When searching for homes in AHRN.com, you can discover listings which offer military discounts with waived deposits, fees, etc. Some areas call it the Rental Partnership Program (RPP) or Waiver Deposit Program.
5. Everything in Life is Negotiable — Even Rent!
Does this surprise you? As a young adult, someone turned me on to a book with the title “Everything in Life is Negotiable.” What a gift that was my entire life! The biggest surprise to me then was even retail items are negotiable. (I’ve used this several times at Office Depot and Video Only to snag some killer electronic deals. Key: always talk with manager.)
At one duty station, I actually negotiated the rent in our current house, by negotiating it down $150 a month by signing a 2 year lease and paying/taking the key that day. At another assignment, I negotiated the rent down $250 a month because it didn’t have window coverings.
Find the common benefit in order to negotiate a deal. In this instance — YOU: you’ve found your dream home and need to pay less than what the landlord is asking. LANDLORD: Times can be uncertain and a landlord wants to get their vacancies filled. The longer the rental sits on the market, the greater your negotiating power. It can take a landlord 2 years to recoup one month of missed rent. Your bargaining power goes up if you have great credit. Use this knowledge to negotiate rent down, waive deposits, and other fees.
Excited and Ready to Start Searching for Your Next Home?
Use all the financial smarts you’ve just gained above and start searching for housing at Marine bases on AHRN.com on the following links:
- Arlington ‘Headquarters’
- 29 Palms
- Beaufort/ MCRD Parris Island
- Camp Pendleton
- Camp Lejeune
- Cherry Point
- Marine Corps Mobilization Command
- MCRD San Diego
- Navy housing listings on AHRN.com
With 10 years as the #1 trusted military housing resource, AHRN.com is rolling out new features and tools in 2014. For more military moving advice, visit http://blog.ahrn.com.