Some points from my posting Outcan
-You get around half your weight allowance to take overseas. If you want to you can furnish your house with your own furniture. Even lighting, just change the plugs.
-Electronics, leave them here or sell them. You can pick up what you need from the US PX, just make sure it is multi-voltage, AND multi-system and you can bring it back with you
-You will receive a Vacation Travel Allowance that varies depending on family size. For my wife and I (no kids) it was around 10k. Your spouse has to take at least 5 days leave on the first claim, after that you can take less. This should be given up front, and you simply fill out a pro-forma at the end of the posting detailing where you spent the money. Be prepared to be audited if required (keep all receipts for x years, I think 5)
-Vehicles: I arranged to buy the beater from the guy I was taking over from. When that died, I bought another beater (actually a nice 2003 Ford Mondeo) and sold that to my replacement. As someone else said, you can buy a new car or cars tax free over there and have them shipped back. A friend came back with a brand new Volvo and some sort of minivan, all North American spec.
-Fuel: Unless you get it from a NATO source, I was able to claim back approximately 1/2 of my fuel costs, up to I believe 250 litres per month so fuel is comparable or cheaper than Canada. I think you could claim up to two vehicles at 250 litres per month.
-Pay: You get allowances, and your pay is converted to local funds at bank rate, much better than you get at any bank or currency exchange. I cleared in UK pounds approximately what I cleared in CA dollars (number wise) per month (note that I still had money going into CA savings, etc so it that was net of tax, savings, etc).
-If in the UK you (the non-military member) can get a work permit, without a problem. Not sure about Germany, Italy, etc
-Brit military housing is cheap. I paid 80 pounds (160-170 dollars) a month. The house was nice. This is not always the case. A friend was posted to the UK as well, the same summer, different base. They turned down all the PMQs offered, substantiated it, and got a subsidized house. There is programme which you can opt in or out of that is basically rent/utility sharing. If you opt in, you pay fixed amount every month depending on your area (it was around $400 for me) and anything above that for rent/heat/power/appliance rental is paid for you. If you opt in and purchase the appliances you can claim a portion of that as well. I did not opt in (given my low rent) and bought my appliances from my predecessor.
-Food, you can shop at the US PX nearby, so if you have a craving for Kraft Dinner it can be fulfilled. Another bonus is the cheap steaks. Spend $30 on some nice steaks and you can be the hero feeding the entire block at a BBQ.
If you get offered an Outcan posting in Europe take it. It is a great experience. You will have the opportunity to travel tons as a family and the work is interesting. That being said I have encountered people who were completely miserable over there. They stayed in their house, went back to Canada or the States with their
travel allowance. We did France (north and south), Italy, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Portugal, Malta, Greece, Switzerland, Ireland, and Austria and my wife went home for her son's wedding.
It is very hard (but not impossible) to lose money Outcan. Apply a modicum of financial planning and prudence and you will live very comfortably and enjoy your two or three years.