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What is TLE, and How Does it Work with My PCS Budget?

by Rebecca Alwine - May 24th, 2022

What is TLE, and How Does it Work with My PCS Budget?

You may think you had a handle on all the acronyms the military uses, but there are even more when it comes to PCSing. When you're planning for your move, you'll hear terms like DLA, TLF and TLE – and they are similar enough that even seasoned spouses get them mixed up.

What is TLE?

The "T" in all of these means temporary, which is helpful. You have Temporary Lodging Assistance (TLA), Temporary Lodging Expense (TLE) and Temporary Lodging Facility (TLF). Let's get TLF out of the way first because it's the easiest. TLF is the place you stay before moving into your permanent – kind of – house. So, it's the hotel you stay in or the short-term rental before you move into base housing or your off-base accommodations.

TLA and TLE are allowances designed to help cover the cost of lodging and meal expenses while moving. TLA is for overseas moves, and TLE is for moves within the continental US.

TLE partially reimburses the service member and their family for lodging and meal expenses while staying in TLF during a PCS. It hardly ever covers all of your costs, but it offsets them. If you focus on ways to stretch your dollars and save money on food when PCSing, then TLE will be an important part of your PCS budget.

Another amount of money often thrown in with TLA and TLE is per diem, specifically PCS per diem: the amount of money you receive each day of your authorized travel leave. Here's the difference: TLE is awarded for the days before or after your PCS leave when you're at the losing or gaining duty station. PCS per diem is for the days you're traveling. All of the details about per diem, including how much you get, are available online here

How does TLE help my PCS budget?

Now that we clearly understand TLE and TLA, let's talk budgeting. Knowing what you should receive before starting the PCS process is key to a successful budget and an accurate reimbursement.

There are many variables involved in calculating the TLE amount for your family, but a calculator is also available.

Step 1: Figure out the daily lodging ceiling amount and meals and incidentals rate. Then multiply this by the percentage for each person.

Step 2: Determine the lodging cost, compare it to the cost ceiling in step 1 and use the lower amount.

Step 3: Add the results from steps 1 (meals and incidentals) and 2 (lodging).

Step 4: Compare the result from step 3 to the maximum allowed daily rate of $290 and use the lower amount.

Clear as mud, right? No? Let's use my family as an example: one service member, spouse, two dependents over the age of 12 and one under the age of 12. And we're PCSing to Fort Gordon, Georgia, so that's where we'll calculate the TLE. We'll use the online calculator to get the TLE rates.

Lodging Amount - $107 Meals - $54 Incidentals - $5 Maximum TLE amount per day - $166

Since there are two adults, we start with 100% of the amount. (A service member without another adult is only calculated at 65%). Then we add 35% (twice) for the teens and an additional 25% for the child under age 12.

$166 + $58.10 + $58.10 + $41.50 = $323.70

$323.70: the amount calculated is more than the maximum daily TLE allowed, so we'll be getting the standard cap of $290 a day.

Family PCS budgeting pro-tip – if you have more than one kid, you're likely to max out at $290, so that's a good number to consider when budgeting for a PCS move.

What you should know about TLE and your PCS budget

You'll be shocked to know it's not as simple as this. There are a few other things to keep in mind. The full details of how TLE works are available online, but here are the top things to remember:

  • TLE is authorized for 5 to 10 days, depending on the location of the new duty station

  • You can use TLE on both ends of your PCS-- a few days before you start PCS leave and a few days when you're waiting for household goods to be delivered

  • Keep your receipts, they are a requirement for reimbursement

  • You cannot receive TLE and PCS per diem for the same day

  • If you stay with family or friends, you can get the meal portion of TLE but not the lodging portion

Calculate your TLE, double-check it, talk to the finance office if you have questions, and budget accordingly. It can be hard to house and feed a family in temporary lodging on the TLE amount, but it is possible if you consider a few of the tips other military families have shared.

Rebecca Alwine

Rebecca Alwine is an Army wife, mother of three and lover of her adorable pirate dog. Over the past 15 years, she’s discovered she enjoys coffee, lifting weights and most of the menial tasks of motherhood. Her days consist of working out in her garage gym, audiobooks and pretending to cook while her Instant Pot and Air Fryer do all the work. Her motto: work smarter, not harder.