Tips for a Successful DITY Military Move Part I: The Preparation

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Ben and I moved from North Dakota to Texas in November 2016. We received orders at the end of July 2016 and moved about three months later – a pretty quick turn around. It also was our first move together in the military.

I divided this topic into a three part series: The Preparation, The Move, and The Aftereffect. This series may be helpful for other military families or it may be helpful if you are moving cross-country. Ultimately, this post is more for my personal reference. We did somethings correctly and we definitely made some mistakes. Fortunately, we did the priority items correctly and made little mistakes. Either way, I can guarantee we will move again so this will serve as a compilation of everything we learned in our first move to make our next one more smooth.

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The Preparation

Initial Decisions:

  • The first thing we did once we received orders was call our family and close friends to tell them the exciting news. We had been praying for a year for God to reveal what direction He wanted us to go. Receiving orders was an answer to prayer!
  • We decided to do a DITY move – Do It Yourself Move. It involves lots of effort on our end but the greatest reimbursement from the military.
  • We then decided where we wanted to live. We decided to live off base so we would receive a stipend for housing (BAH), but we wanted to live close enough to base that Ben would have a short commute.
    • We had some friends that lived in the city we were moving to, so we asked for safe neighborhood recommendations and started our apartment search there. We narrowed it down by the location, rent price, number of bedrooms, and if it was pet-friendly (since we knew we wanted a puppy). We spent one weekend researching and then the following week we had a deposit on our apartment. We did reserve the apartment without physically seeing it first. It actually worked out for us this time. Since we don’t have kids, we weren’t super concerned if it ended up being a dud. We would just finish out our lease then move. If we had kids, we would have been a lot more cautious. But, it ended up being the perfect location – close to base and close to the church we call home.
    • The advantage of having our apartment all lined up was the ability to move in right away. We had made it to the city on a Sunday evening and we were able to move in that Monday morning. This prevented the hassle of sitting on our Uhaul while we tried to find a place to live and the extra expense of hotel days.
    • The military was quite specific about the amount of travel days we were allotted. If we spent extra days in a hotel, we would have been paying for those out of pocket.
  • We decided to sell both our cars. Our truck was costing us in constant maintenance repairs and our other car’s air conditioning didn’t work – not a problem for the three months of North Dakota’s mild summers, but a big problem for eight months of blazing hot Texas summers. We purchased a new vehicle. Selling two vehicles and purchasing another one in three months added a lot of stress. I’m sure this is not a common step in most moves, but it definitely was a stressor for us. The car we have now works perfectly for us and we are very grateful for it.

Logistics:

  • We then had to make decisions about residency. We ultimately decided to keep our North Dakota residency. We changed Ben’s State of Legal Residence to North Dakota because we have everything established there – our car is registered in ND, we have ND drivers licenses, we have voting privileges in ND, we pay our taxes to ND, and our wills were created in ND. We wanted to keep everything consistent. We did our research and found that Texas does not require military personnel stationed in the state to register their vehicles with the Texas DMV. Also the initial registration costs were way more expensive than maintaining our ND registration. We did have to change our auto insurance policy to Texas for obvious reasons, but that was it.
  • Because we will move often in the next fourteen years, it’s important for us to keep everything consistent. It looks sketchy to be paying taxes to one state, voting in another, and have vehicles registered in a different state. It would give the impression that we were taking advantage of the states the military moved us to.
  • Over the past three years I had become very comfortable with the ND system, it was much easier to keep everything that way. Granted, if you are not military and moving out of state, you have to abide by that state’s rules and will have to transfer everything over to that new state. Make sure you budget for these extra hidden costs.
  • We knew we were going to move – whether that be orders or just a new apartment. I started preparing a change of address spreadsheet a year before we moved. For a year, I monitored our mail diligently. If I wanted off a mailing list, I would call right away. If I could receive certain documents electronically versus mail then I signed up for those. That way it limited the amount of important mail we received and I could manage most of it online.
  • The spreadsheet was a compilation of every company/account we needed to change our address with. There were the big priority items – like our bank and the ND DMV – and other not as important ones. Either way, if I wanted to keep that account, I put it on the spreadsheet. I continue to add and subtract from this spreadsheet so it’s all ready to go for a future move.
  • Closer to our actual move date I went into USPS and filled out a change of address card in which they forward all our mail. It’s good for one year. Mail comes to our Texas apartment that was actually addressed to our North Dakota address. When I see this, I then call or go online and make those changes. Then I add that company to the spreadsheet. So essentially a little bit of work everyday helped the mail transition go much smoother.
  • Turns out our bank was not in Texas at all! So we switched everything over to USAA – geared toward military that move a lot. This was another stressor as we were managing the new finances of the move while ensuring that all our bills switched over to our new USAA bank account. We kept our old bank account open for a few months to monitor if anything was still associated with that account. Once we were confident everything had switched over, we canceled that bank account.
  • Granted some of these things may not repeat themselves in our next move: hopefully we won’t have to deal with selling/buying a car, we won’t have to figure out residency, and we won’t have to change our bank. But these three items in addition to actually moving in a three month span made things stressful. On top of that, Ben was sent to multiple trainings during that time. He was gone a lot and physically could not help me with a lot of these moving logistics until the two weeks before our actual move date.

Packing:

  • I went into crazy lady mode one day and was determined to pack up our whole apartment – making us live out of boxes for two months. I mean how hard could it be? Ben came home that day to see crazy lady Megan and lots of boxes packed up. Let’s just say after that I was put on a – one box a day- restriction.
  • As I packed my box a day, I would go through those items and decide if it was a “keep,” a “throw-away,” or a “donate.”
  • We moved our bedroom into our living room, so that our bedroom was completely empty. We put all our moving supplies and packed boxes in there. It worked well because it enabled us to just close the door and not see the moving mess. Yes, it looked a little funny having a mattress in our living room, but it worked!
  • This was Ben’s 17th big move in his lifetime – he claims not to count the smaller moves within the same town. So this man has moved over 17 times in his 26 year old life! I, on the other hand, have moved four times. 1. From Florida to California when I was five – don’t remember. 2. From my hometown to my college town – only 1.5 hours away. 3. Then from California to North Dakota. 4. Then from North Dakota to Texas. All that to say, I have very little physical packing experience. I found I don’t mind doing the logistics – phone calls, paperwork, and research, but I do very much mind the actual packing process. I dreaded my one box a day. I could never seem to fit everything in the box or it ended up being too heavy, etc. What I don’t recommend and this is the mistake I made – do not wrap everything in five layers of bubble wrap, then five layers of tape. While it will keep your items safe – we only broke one cheap, empty mason jar during our move – it will make unpacking a nightmare.

Finances:

  • We created a rough new budget for what our finances would look like when we got settled. We knew our new rent amount and I called around to find general utility bill prices. However, I did fail to get an estimate on what our auto insurance premium would look like. Being that we moved from a small town to a large city, our auto insurance jumped significantly. What we pay for auto insurance for one car here in Texas is almost double the amount we were paying for two cars in North Dakota.
  • Expect out of pocket costs up front. Our big expenses upfront were purchasing all the moving supplies and putting the deposit on our apartment. (And the new car purchase plus initial vehicle registration with ND). We made sure to keep our receipts for everything and anything moving related.
  • Ben did all the paperwork for the move with the military. We received a specific financial number that indicated what we could expect to receive in reimbursement from the move. This number was based on the number of people that we were moving, the apartment size we were moving, how many miles we were moving, and how many days we were allotted to travel. Because we saved the military money by moving ourselves, the military essentially pays us 95% of what they would pay a contractor to move us. We received a portion of that reimbursement two days before our move – to cover the U-haul, lodging, and food expenses during the actual move. Then after we got settled, Ben submitted all our receipts, a few weeks afterwards we received our final reimbursement.

U-Haul:

  • If you are not dropping of the U-haul at the same location, then you pay for the entire U-haul reservation upfront. Something to budget for. Our cross-country, five day reservation was upwards of $2,000.
  • Make sure your vehicle actually fits on the auto-transport. I called numerous times to verify with Uhaul that our truck would fit the auto-transport. We were transporting our truck to Missouri – where we left the truck with my father-in-law to sell for us. Even after being assured multiple times by Uhaul, the truck did not fit the largest auto-transport. We put our new car on the auto-transport instead, then I drove the truck to Missouri while Ben drove the Uhaul. We had to make this decision the day before the move. Fortunately, we had the truck looked at a month before to make sure it was ready for a road trip just in case we had to drive it.
  • This was the most frustrating part. It was two days before our move date. We received a phone call from Uhaul saying that our small town did not have the auto-transport we needed and that we would have to drive three hours to pick one up in another town. Ben drove and picked up the Uhaul and auto-transport a day early. Uhaul did compensate us for this – we received a few hundred more miles for the Uhaul reservation, we were not charged for the earlier pick up day, and we received a free upgrade to the 15′ Uhaul. This worked out perfectly because the 12′ Uhaul we originally reserved would not have fit all the furniture we picked up from Ben’s grandma in Missouri. Next time, we will probably do a 17″ Uhaul.
  • We also added an appliance dolly, six furniture pads, and insurance to the Uhaul and the auto-transport. Fortunately, we did not get in an accident, but the insurance made us feel better. The appliance dolly was necessary, since we had to unload the entire Uhaul to make room for our new furniture. And we moved ourselves into our apartment so the dolly saved us a few trips. Next time we will probably pick up more furniture pads.

Days before the Move:

  • About a week before the move, I cancelled our ND utilities and set up our Texas utilities. I scheduled our Internet provider to install the modem/router the day after we moved in. That way we had internet right away and could avoid using data on our phones.
  • As mentioned in the “Uhaul” section, we picked up the Uhaul two days before our move date.
  • We allowed one entire day before our move date to pack up the Uhaul and make weight.
    • We made our weight limit – the military gave us a weight limit. We wanted to be as close to that number as possible for the maximum reimbursement.
    • You have to weigh the Uhaul empty and then full and obtain receipts with the weight number before and after. We had to make sure Ben’s rank and last four of his SS were on each receipt. This process took a full day. We were learning how the Uhaul and auto-transport attachment worked, we had a few final boxes to pack up, and we were waiting for a few high schoolers to be available to help load up the Uhaul. We were exhausted after this day.
    • The highschoolers were a great help. Ben had two guys help load the Uhaul. I stayed in the apartment and told them what boxes to pick up next. Ben stayed in the Uhaul and rearranged the boxes, and the boys transported the boxes. They did it in less than an hour. Kinda wished we had that help when we unloaded the Uhaul in Texas.
  • We made multiple copies of Ben’s orders and put them in a few locations. I put a few copies in my purse and Ben’s backpack.
  • We printed out two sets of paper copies of the directions. One for the Uhaul and one set for the truck in case we got separated.
  • We also purchased walkie talkies (and back-up batteries) to communicate on the way down to Missouri. That way we didn’t have to rely on phones. In Missouri, we left the truck, kept our new car on the auto-transport, then I joined Ben in the Uhaul for the rest of the way down to Texas. But we kept the walkie talkies for pit stops. Since one of us would watch the Uhaul and the other would go to the bathroom, it was a way of making sure Ben knew I was safe.
  • We downloaded a few audiobooks as well to pass the time on the drive.
  • We went out to dinner that night and got a good night’s rest before the big MOVE day!

Check out Part II: The Move and Part III: The Aftereffect.

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4 thoughts on “Tips for a Successful DITY Military Move Part I: The Preparation

  1. Teelier Wilson

    Don’t you just love moving?!! 😉 I packed up our apartment and did the Uhaul thing while Daniel was at tech school but my little sister came with me. We made it a mini vacation since they didn’t have our apartment ready and a week in hotels. We finally found a different apartment and moved in the same day! What a lengthy adventure! Was supposed to be 4 days turned into almost 2 weeks! So much learning! 🙂 lol
    It’s fun to hear about others’ moves! It really is an adventure!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Tips for a Successful DITY Military Move Part III: The Aftereffect – Hungry for Authenticity | Megan Johnson

  3. Pingback: Tips for a Successful DITY Military Move Part II: The Move – Hungry for Authenticity | Megan Johnson

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