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PCS ninja tricks: How to buy an RV with the money you make on your next move

Jun. 17, 2014 - 02:10PM   |  
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There’s no escaping the headaches of a PCS move. But while it can be a brain drain, it shouldn’t suck you dry financially.

Indeed, some have learned a few secrets about how to actually make some money through their permanent change-of-station moves.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ian Burgess, for example, was able to buy a $13,000 recreational vehicle with all the money he pocketed from his last move from California to Florida. In fact, the RV enabled him to do it.

Here’s what he calls his PCS “ninja tricks” that helped make it happen.

First off, his last duty station in Monterey, California, had a higher Basic Allowance for Housing than his new assignment at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida. “I moved out of base housing as early as I could, took a bunch of leave en route, and checked in as late as I could so that I could pocket the difference in BAH which, came down to about $40 a day,” he says.

And that’s where the RV came in.

For a place to stay through it all, he found a good deal on a used RV that would be big enough for him and his wife and their one child.

So now, instead of paying a landlord during his two-month transition between duty stations, his $3,000 per month BAH was paying for the RV.

The RV, he says, also “came in handy during the move because I didn’t have to spend the lodging money that we are paid on hotels.”

With eight days of funded travel at about $123 per day, he says, “that’s a lot of money.”

And since he was doing a partial DITY, or do-it-yourself move — now formally dubbed a personally procured move — he was able to load more than 2,000 pounds of stuff into the vehicle.

Instead of renting a moving truck, he was able to pocket the nearly $3,000 check he got for the DITY part of his move.

Meanwhile, he was sure to draw the maximum amount of advance pay he was authorized before leaving his last unit.

Not to be confused with advanced travel pay, he says, advance pay during a PCS “is basically a no-interest loan up to three months of your base pay. I always take three months when I PCS,” Burgess says.

“Typically I would use the money to fund my [individual retirement account] but this last time, I used the cash to pay my rent a year in advance at a lower monthly rate than the advertised rate.”

“As the saying goes, cash is king, and the person with the cash has a stronger bargaining position than the person with no cash or who has to borrow money.”

That bargaining power meant Burgess was able to get a month’s free rent, “which represented nearly a 10 percent return on investment, which isn’t as much as the market returned last year but it was a risk-free ROI, which in today’s world is priceless,” Burgess says.

Just as valuable is the stress he’s saved himself.

“I’ve simplified my life because there won’t be any late checks to the landlord and I don’t have to worry about leaving enough funds in the account to cover the checks.”

Of course, it’s nice to have that RV for family vacations and weekend getaways, too. And, he says, it’s standing by for their next move.

“All in all, between the BAH, DITY move money, dislocation allowance and travel pay, the RV was paid for in one PCS.”

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