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Relocation is a normal part of military life, but it’s hardly something that any military family would call easy. “Adapt and overcome” is our motto, right? And when it comes to moving, most military families have figured out a system that works well for them.
Whether you’re the type to proactively purge your belongings each time a new set of orders comes through or you’re more reactive and let everything happen, because at the end of the day, you know you’re going to get from point A to point B, there are options when you move with the military. While the results are the same, generally speaking, there are a handful of ways to make it all happen—mainly two. You can either have professional movers move you or you can do it yourself.
While the government will pay for and provide packers and movers, you also have the option to choose a Do-It-Yourself (DITY) or a Personally Procured Move (PPM).
If you’re ambitious, you can choose to do a full DITY, moving all of your worldly possessions by yourself from start to finish. Or you can opt for what’s known as a partial DITY or PPM, moving only a portion of your household goods and letting the movers handle the rest.
Note: the DoD doesn’t recommend PPM moves for overseas moves and probably will not approve it. See Military OneSource for more info.
There are also some options that are a mix of the two choices, which we’ll cover later on.
Why Do a Personally Procured Move (PPM)?
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Why would you want to do something crazy like this, you ask? Good question. For those new to the DITY idea, there are some advantages to moving yourself.
1. You may make a little money.
First, and most importantly, it can be financially rewarding. The government pays you 100 percent of what it would cost them to pay a contracted mover to move your household goods (within the authorized weight, if you're making a "Member Elected PPM" vs. an Actual Cost PPM—see the DPMO fact sheet for more info). Meaning, if you can do it more economically, the difference between what the government pays you and what it costs you is yours to keep.
“However, you can expect the margin of gain to fluctuate move to move depending on variables like location, the distance between duty stations, number of dependents, the weight of household goods, and stops. We’ve been able to make a small fortune with each of our DITY moves!” — The How and Why of a DITY Move
But there’s more. The government will also reimburse you for items such as:
- Rental expenses: truck, trailer, moving services
- Rental equipment: dollies, furniture pads, packing blankets
- Packing materials: boxes, paper, packing tape, etc.
- Gasoline and any tolls paid along your route
- Weighing fees
So as expensive as it might seem to do a DITY move, it’s really not. You’re bargaining with your labor here. We’re talking about time and effort. How much is that worth to you?
The best place to get an estimate of how much you'd be reimbursed for your PPM move is at your local transportation office.
2. You have a measure of control over your move.
Another advantage of a DITY move is control. Hello, type A’s! We all have horror stories of items that were lost or damaged in a move. There is no better way to ensure the safety of your goods than to transport them yourself. If you’re not on board for a full DITY move, then consider a partial DITY where you can opt to pack and transport only those items that are irreplaceable.
And it’s not just about keeping your stuff safe. Since you're the only one handling your household goods, you're in control of when they arrive at your new home, with no need to schedule or wait on your mover's availability to deliver your stuff.
Tips for a Successful PPM/DITY Move
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Start at the Transportation Office
To begin the process, you must meet with a representative at your installation’s Transportation Office to apply for a PPM and get approved. The representative will walk you through the process, supplying you with all of the necessary details and documents you need.
Ask for an Advanced Operating Allowance
When you apply for a PPM, you may also request an Advanced Operating Allowance. This can help ensure that you see money upfront for the expenses involved in executing your move yourself. Even though you’ll get reimbursed, paying for a truck, refueling, lodging, and even a security deposit for your next home adds up. And there’s no sense in depleting your account if you don’t have to.
Gather and File All Documents
While there are several documents you must submit and keep track of, none is more important than your Certified Weight Tickets. You will need one ticket for your Tare (empty weight) and one for your Gross (loaded weight). The government will not pay claims without these tickets, so be sure to keep all of your documents and receipts together and organized to prevent misplacing or losing them while you make your way across the country to your next duty station.
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Embrace the Adventure!
Time is on your side when you procure your move. You’re allotted travel time during your PCS and if you choose to do a DITY move, you’ll receive additional permissive TDY to make it happen. This might just be the perfect opportunity to take a leisurely trip across the country and pay a visit to family or friends along the way. Just be mindful of your truck rental (the longer you have it, the more money it costs) and your report date!
Size Up Your Stuff
Whether you rent a full-size truck, attach a trailer to your car, or pack your car to its gills, it’s a good idea to survey the items you plan to transport and estimate the space you will need for packing. Speaking from experience, there is nothing worse than packing up your U-Haul and realizing you don't have enough room to transport all your boxes.
Submit Your Moving Claim
Once you arrive at your new duty station, you must submit your claim to the transportation office within 45 days of completing your move.
Your claim should include:
- DD1351-2- Completed and signed by Reviewing official
- PCS Travel Orders
- DD2278- Calculated by the Transportation Office*
- Copies of Certified Weight tickets including Gross (full) weight and one for Tare (empty) weight
- Operating Expense (OPE) worksheet- if attempting to reduce your taxable income
- Copy of Paid Rental Agreement
- Copy of vehicle registration when utilizing POV and/or boat/trailer move (See JTR for details)
- *Weight Allowances are based on rank and type of move
*Reimbursement for personal travel (food and lodging), pay, and allowances is completely separate from the claim for a DITY move. See the complete list of what's required for your claim: Personally Procured Move (PPM) via Defense Finance and Accounting Service.
Variations on a DITY Move
There are a couple of additional variations for PPM/DITY moves (beyond full and partial) such as you load/they drive option and utilizing a self-packing portable storage container.
1) You load; they drive.
If the idea of packing your items into organized, clearly labeled boxes appeals to you, then choosing the "You Load; They Drive" option may be the perfect answer. Some commercial movers offer this option, which allows you to do your packing, loading, and unloading, and they provide the truck and driver.
2) Portable storage containers.
Another relatively new option is the use of portable storage containers. You choose from a variety of sizes, have it delivered right to your driveway, and pack it at your leisure. This eliminates the need to drive that bulky U-Haul across the country or having your POV so packed you aren't sure if you will have room for the kids.
Plus, if you decide to take an extended trip across the country or your home isn't ready when you arrive at your destination, you can opt to have your box stored for you without risk of your Uhaul truck getting broken into. Once you’re ready to unpack your belongings, just call and have the box delivered to your new home. The only downside? It might cost more money than renting a moving truck.
Portable storage container companies that offer a military discount: PODS, Moving Containers by United Mayflower, U-Pack, and CubeSmart. Note: Many national truck rental companies such as Penske and Budget offer military discounts as well.
Should You DITY?
Only you can answer if a DITY move is right for you and your military family. While there are some perks to handling the entire process yourself, it comes down to how much work you’re willing to put into it. Does it warrant the potential pay-off? For our stateside moves, the answer is usually yes. However, most relocating families let the movers take care of everything, because it offers fewer headaches and far more freedom.
Not sure where you stand? Ask yourself:
- Do you have the time?
- Do you have the means to pay for everything upfront should your advanced operating allowance not come in time?
- Do you have the patience?
However you choose to embark on your next PCS move, we hope that it will be an organized and easy transition. And who knows? Maybe you’ll even have a little extra money to pocket when you get to your next duty station!