My Random Two Cents

I’ve been thinking this for years, but maybe if I write it here there is some chance that it will get the attention of someone who knows someone who might be able to do something about it.

The Kashman family has been moved by the military seven times, three times overseas.  From these experiences, I’ve developed a theory on a great way to save a lot of money, decrease moving stress, and make people happy at the same time.  Sounds great, huh?  And I think it could work.

Every time they PCS, each service member is authorized the move of their household goods, up to the weight limit for their rank and dependent status.  In addition, for certain OCONUS moves, the transportation of a vehicle is authorized.  This entitlement represents a huge cost to the military.    I can’t find statistics anywhere, but you’ve got to guess it is a lot.  The current system does not provide any incentive for military families to decrease the amount of household goods that they move.  You know and I know that there is unnecessary stuff that gets move:  that box of papers that you can’t make time to sort before the move, that ratty old sofa that might work in the basement of the house that you might get after you move, those extra dishes and too-small clothes and the bookcase that you meant to refinish three duty stations ago.  And books.  We all know about the books.

Here’s my proposal:  before each PCS, the transportation people should estimate how much it is going to cost to move your household goods, and POV if appropriate, and offer you a cash incentive to stay below your weight or choose not to ship your car.  Such a scheme would decrease the amount that the services spend on moving unnecessary items.  I would certainly find the time to purge those papers, unused exercise machines and excess holiday decorations if I knew that it was going to mean that I got money when I moved.  And cars?  It is a well known fact that people ship low-value cars all the time.  Sometimes they even do it on purpose, because when you go overseas, you are only allowed to ship a vehicle back if you shipped a vehicle there.  There are people who deliberately buy an old junker to ship so that they can buy a snazzy new sports car in Europe without having to pay the return shipping themselves.

Here’s the most remarkable part about my thoughts:  I’m not alone.  I found a 2000 Press Release from the Armed Forces Press Service that states that there were going to be changes to the car shipment system, and stating that the DoD was “asking Congress to sanction cost avoidance incentives for household goods.”  Well, it is 11 years later and I have seen no move towards these sensible changes.

As our country faces unprecedented budget challenges, cost-cutting is imperative to keeping important defense functions fully operational.  This change could potentially save millions of dollars each year, and I can’t think of one good reason that we shouldn’t do it.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • Kara

    We are stationed in Okinawa. We were not allowed to ship a vehicle, but the military did offer to pay to store one for us. We were also limited on the weight we were allowed. We were only allowed less than half of what we would have had in a CONUS move. Because of this, we took almost no furniture, instead choosing to use the gov’t furniture offered. The rest of our things were put in storage, paid for by the military. When we PCS back to the states, we don’t have a weight restriction. I wonder if this saves the gov’t any money or if it’s just a wash.