Transitioning between homes is a frequent reality for military families. With each move comes the decision to buy or rent a new residence. Often, renting becomes the most feasible option due to the transient nature of military life, and it's important to understand your finances before you start the rental process. Here are some tips to keep in mind when renting during your next PCS move.
Decoding Your Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH)
One of the essential financial benefits for military individuals and their families is the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). This non-taxable allowance is provided to military members to help cover the cost of housing when government quarters are not provided. BAH rates are determined by geographic duty location, pay grade, and dependency status. Understanding your BAH will help you budget for your rental expenses.
Create a Spending and Savings Plan
Before starting your search for a rental home, create a Spending and Savings Plan aka a "budget," (if you don’t have one) that helps you get a clear view of your finances at any given time. Your spending and savings plan will also help you to understand where you can save, plan for upcoming events associated with your move, set financial goals, and feel more in control of your money. This will ensure that you don't overspend on rent, leaving you with enough funds for other expenses.
As a general rule of thumb, your rent should not exceed 30% of your total income. Factor in your BAH to see how much you can afford to pay for rent.
Be Rent Ready
Being prepared before you start house hunting can save you both time and money. Here are things to keep in mind:
- Credit Check: Landlords or property management companies often conduct credit checks to ensure potential tenants can pay rent. A good credit score can increase your chances of securing a rental and even reduce the deposit amount.
The FINRA Foundation provides free FICO® credit scores and reports to active duty service members and their spouses through military financial educators. Contact your nearest Personal Financial Management Program office for assistance in accessing your free credit score.
- Rental History: Some landlords may ask for rental history. If you've been a responsible tenant in the past, this can work in your favor.
- Documentation: Have all necessary documentation, like your military ID, proof of income, and references, ready to speed up the application process.
Consider Renters Insurance
Renters insurance is an often overlooked but important part of renting. It covers the cost of replacing your belongings in case of damage or theft. Some insurance companies offer discounts to military members, so be sure to shop around for the best deal.
Saving Money While Renting
- Energy Efficiency: Lower your utility bills by using energy-efficient appliances and being mindful of energy usage.
- DIY Maintenance: Small repairs and maintenance can often be done yourself, saving you money on repair costs. Make sure your DIY efforts align with your lease agreement and have the approval of your landlord.
- Split Costs: If possible, consider sharing your rental with a roommate to split costs.
With the right information and financial planning, you can make smart decisions that suit your needs and budget.
Plan before your next PCS! Take the Military Saves Pledge today, the first step in creating your personal savings plan. We’ll send you tips, resources, and information that will help you reach your saving goals.