The How and Why of a DITY Move
My husband and I are often told that we're crazy. Why? Because we’re DITY ( "Do It Yourself" Move) advocates.
Most PCS’ing military families are consoled by the simple fact that the military moves them. They pay for professional movers to pack up, move, and unload your household goods without you ever lifting a finger—so why would anyone want to do a DITY?
We’ve chosen to do a DITY move, or what the military refers to as a PPM (Personally Procured Move), for each of our stateside PCS moves--all five of them. That might not sound like a lot, but let me put it in perspective for you. We've made five PCS moves in three years--six, if you count our most recent OCONUS (overseas) move. And when I write it out, I have to agree with everyone, we might be a little crazy.
But before you discredit me, allow me to share our perspective!
Doing a DITY Move: Answering the How and Why
The WHY of a DITY Move
DITY moves, though they’re a tremendous amount of work, offer a lot of benefits.
Those Dollar Bills
You’ve probably heard that you can make a small profit by doing a DITY move and the rumors are true. The military pays you 100% of what they would pay a moving company to do it, for a "member elected PPM". So, if you can move for less than a moving company can, then you’ll likely profit from a DITY.
There are two types of PPMs, per the DoD (updated 2022):
"Member Elected PPM
As an incentive for conducting a PPM, you are authorized to receive 100% of the Government Constructed Cost (GCC) to perform a partial or full PPM. The GCC is the cost the government would have paid in the event the move and/or storage was executed by a government procured TSP, including applicable accessorials. This allows you to receive a one-time payment from the government and keep any money not spent minus taxes. The computation is based on your actual household goods (HHG) weight transported and supported with weight tickets not to exceed your authorized weight entitlement. Your local transportation office is THE BEST resource to obtain an estimate of your incentive. Incentive estimates are based on the estimated weight to be moved and the authorized distance from origin to destination.
Actual Cost Reimbursement PPM
An actual cost reimbursement PPM is when government procured transportation is NOT available and you are approved to conduct a PPM in writing by the transportation office. Reimbursement may be up to the “actual cost,” not to exceed your authorized weight entitlement. Pre-approval is required and mandatory for Actual Cost Reimbursement, in accordance with Service Branch publication."
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!
Getting Rid of Stuff!
“The most humbling part of a PCS is standing in your home with all your stuff exposed. The clutter in your junk drawer sitting out for the world to see. The clothes that ‘you might fit in again someday’ piled in the corner. When it’s all brought out from the depths of your house, it becomes much harder to justify why you still have it all.” - The MILLIE Journal
A PCS move is a great opportunity to sort your stuff to donate, sell, or toss. And when you’re doing a DITY, your motivation skyrockets in an attempt to not move the extra baggage. Ready to get started? Head over to The MILLIE Journal and read through their article The Great PCS Purge.
No One Values Your Stuff as Much as You Do
While we all like to believe that people coming to move our belongings are kind, trustworthy, and gentle, this is not always the case.
That doesn't mean if you use a moving company that you're guaranteed to have something broken or stolen. But the military gives the job of moving your household goods to the company with the lowest bid (they’re looking to save money, too). And, unfortunately, that doesn’t always equal great quality.
Convenience of Control
How many times have you gotten to your new duty station, found a home to move into, and had to wait for the movers to deliver your household goods?
Military movers are in control of your stuff. And since moving companies often wait until they accumulate enough household goods to warrant the trip across the country or to wherever your next duty station is, your stuff might not arrive until weeks after you do.
The HOW of a DITY Move
So, how does one go about a DITY move? Every PCS starts the same, right? With paperwork and errands leading you from office to office around your current duty station. The difference is in the details.
While military movers appear to magically transport your household goods from one home to the next, they have a laundry list of small things they have to do as well. And when you do a DITY, you become painfully aware of these small tasks.
Packing Your Household Goods
Instead of just taking things down from the walls, as you would in a typical military move, you’ll be packing everything yourself. This step in the process can become incredibly overwhelming and lead you to question everything you own.
To help organize, here are a couple methods you can use to pack up the house.
- Pack by item. Go through your home and pack all the frames. Then, go through and pack all the decor. Using this method allows you to make progress long before actual moving day without causing you to miss anything you’ve packed away.
- Pack by room. This works better for short-notice moves and it’s the method we’ve always used. Instead of going through your home collecting specific items, just pack up a room as a whole. Not only will this keep your belongings organized, but it will help disperse the weight and make unpacking a little easier. But, do your kitchen last!
As far as supplies go, there are a couple tricks to save money and make the most out of your DITY move.
- Ask around for gently used boxes from newly relocated PCS'ers. All it takes is perusing the local Facebook pages to find a family drowning in their moving boxes. No one wants to see all those boxes go to waste, and you’ll find most people willing to share!
- Start saving newspapers and your Amazon packaging now. Every little bit counts, so if you can start collecting packing material now, do it. However, Lowe's and Home Depot are fantastic options to buy rolls of bubble wrap and large saran wrap for furniture and larger items—plus they offer a military discount!
Rent a Truck
Negotiate with the rental truck company. Find a couple of reputable truck companies with decent rates.
U-Haul and Budget will often flex their rates to win your business. Call each of them to get the lowest rates they’ll offer. If there’s a company that you’d rather work with, then use the lowest quote from the other company and ask the one you want to do business with to match their low price.
Get the Weight Tickets
You’ll need a weight ticket for your vehicles, both empty and fully loaded, at your current duty station and your new one. Both tickets, before and after the move, should be made at the same weigh station.
Military.com shares that getting your weight tickets is extremely important, as your PPM payment will be based on this weight ticket. To calculate the weight of your shipment, follow this formula:
- Loaded Weight = Your vehicle with a full tank of gas + all of your property loaded + no drivers or passengers inside
- Empty Weight = Your vehicle with a full tank of gas + no drivers or passengers inside
- Loaded Weight - Empty Weight = Net Weight of Property
Each weight ticket should have the following information:
- Name, grade, Social Security number
- Name/location of scales
- Vehicle/trailer identification
- Date of weighing
- Weigh Master's signature
Load up the Truck
The worst thing you can do is start loading the truck only to realize that you don’t have enough space for all your things. So, don’t rush the process. Take your time loading your boxes, tubs, and furniture. Pack it high and use tie-downs to ensure things don't move when you make turns and hit bumps along the way.
Tip: Load strategically. Don’t load your bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen stuff first, as you’ll be looking to unpack these areas of your new home first.
Hit the Road
The military gives you an allotted number of days to make your PCS move. Some people take extra time to make fun stops along the way. (Start here with Plan Your Epic PCS Roadtrip!) But, if you’re hoping to make the most out of your per diem, you’ll want to spend as few days on the road as possible.
So, plan your stops strategically. Save your per diem and try to stay with friends and family or camp along the way if you can. Or, drive longer days to avoid frequent stops.
You should also expect to move a little slower than you would on your average road trip. Though their speedometers read high enough to reach the speed limit, not all moving trucks can function at 70 mph for hours at a time. You may find yourself trailing behind the semis (especially if you’re towing a car behind).
Military.com also shares that all costs associated with the move are not taxable and will be deducted from the allowance you receive from the move to determine your actual financial profit. Only your profit will be taxed, so be sure to keep track of everything to maximize your profit. Authorized expenses include:
- Payment for rental vehicles/trailer
- Packing materials
- Moving equipment (including hand trucks and dollies)
- Gas and oil expenses
- Highway tolls, weight tickets, and any other transportation expense directly related to the PPM move.
Submit the paperwork for reimbursement.
You have 45 days after your PCS to submit a claim for your move expenses. According to the DFAS, you’ll need to 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)
For a list of PPM requirements, common expenses, and incentive pay for authorized reimbursement, visit Defense Financing and Accounting Service (DFAS).
There’s no denying that DITY moves are a lot of work. From start to finish they can induce headaches, physically exhaust you, and make you question your choices. I’ll be honest, we had one rough DITY move (Florida to California) where our UHaul barely made it, sickness got the best of each of us, and our motivation plummeted. In that particular scenario, it would’ve been worth letting the military movers take care of us. However, when we signed the lease on our house and were fully unpacked two days after arriving, our faith in DITY’s was restored.
Have you ever tried a DITY move? Would you do it again or will you forever use movers? Share your experience!