Many of those who are, or are in the process of being, transferred overseas for a temporary assignment know that living quarters allowances provide an annual stipend for living arrangements. However, many people do not know that living quarters allowances can also be used to rent furniture, which is often a more attractive alternative to moving furniture half way across the globe or even buying locally and waiting up to three months for delivery.
Employees are given a living quarters allowance that is designed to cover the annual cost of "suitable, adequate living quarters for the employee and his/her family." The rates are designed to cover not only rent but also the employee's cost for heat, electricity, gas, water, sewage, taxes levied by the local government, insurance fees required by law and any agent fees required by either custom or law.
In addition, the head of your agency can approve allowances for renting a garage space and furniture, insurance on the rental housing and the rental furniture and garbage disposal among other things. However, since allowance rates are subject to change by the Department of State, it is incumbent upon you to maintain accurate records of expenses (such as receipts) and periodically review your Leave and Earning Statements.
But now for the key question: How much will you get? The Department of State Standardized Regulations bases rates on the location of your assignment, your pay grade, and how many dependents are living with you. You can find more information on how allowances are calculated given your particular circumstances at the U.S. Department of State's website. For specific dollar amounts visit here.
Once you've figured out what your allowance will probably look like, you might decide to spend a $36,000 annual allowance [single? married. First off, of course, is finding a place to live. Let's assume a standard two- bedroom apartment in Germany costs $2,250 per month for rent, including utilities. That comes to a total of $27,000 per year.
Of the $36,000, the Department of State allows you to spend up to 25% on renting or purchasing furniture. Do the math and that leaves you as much as $9,000 to use per year. While purchasing furniture might seem like the obvious first choice, you should probably consider the pros that renting brings with it.
First, purchasing furniture for a standard two-bedroom apartment with a total budget of $9,000 for the first year means that you will most likely be looking at used items. Generally rental furniture is brand new or, at the very least, in such good condition that any wear is not noticeable. Also, rental furniture can be delivered to your door in just a few days so you don't waste time shopping when you could be exploring your new surroundings.
Most furniture rental stores offer a wide variety of styles and colors to match your personal taste. You can rent matched sets - say, a master bedroom suite - or you can pick and choose just which items you would like. Plus, not only can you rent furniture but you can also rent linens, kitchen supplies, appliances and just about anything you need to make your new apartment a true home.
And $9,000 per year can go a long way with rental furniture, especially if you will be on your assignment for more than a year or two. For example, at Furniture Leasing Corporation, $9,000 a year for a 3-year contract would cover living room furniture, two sets of bedroom furniture including sheets, dining room furniture, a washing machine and dryer, a television and other assorted items. Basically, you'd be move in ready without having to lift a figure other than to choose your items on the internet or dial the phone to talk to a representative. Plus, if you truly like your furniture and want to keep it at the end of your lease there are rent-to-buy options that Furniture Leasing Corporation can help you with. You can find us on the web at www.FurnitureLeasing.de.