How to Afford Relocating to Another State for a Job

The following is a guest post from Dominique over at MoneyGoody.com where he writes about money and budgeting from the perspective of a millennial living in the city. Dominique had to relocate from the East Coast to Chicago for a job and wanted to share his experience affording such an expensive journey. I’m glad he did, because he offers some great tips in here. Read on! 

Earlier this year I made a major life change. I was offered an amazing job working for a successful tech startup. The gig came with tons of perks like free lunch, all the snacks you could want, unlimited vacation, a beautiful office downtown and so much more. But there was one downside. I had to move over 700 miles away to Chicago. Oh yea, and I had to cover all the costs of the move myself.

A lot of you are probably thinking the same thing I was when I first received the offer. How in the world am I going to afford this?

To give a little background, I’m in my mid-twenties and prior to accepting this position I wasn’t making big money. So I wasn’t exactly swimming in cash.

I was faced with two decisions:

  • Decline the job offer.
  • Figure out a way to afford the move.

As you probably guessed from the title of this article, I chose the latter. So how did I afford it?

I Asked for the Salary I Needed

Since I knew I would have to pay for all my moving costs, when it came time to negotiate my salary I was honest about how much I wanted. This was huge because I knew even after saving as much as I could (I’ll talk about this later) I probably wouldn’t be able to afford all the expenses out of pocket.

So I made a plan to use my credit card to pay for a certain amount of the moving costs, and pay it off with my first paycheck. I used a salary calculator I found online to get a rough idea of what my take home pay would be in Illinois after taxes. I wanted to be able to pay off anything I charged within one month of moving. That way I wouldn’t end up in a mountain of credit card debt I couldn’t pay off.

Moving to a new city is a big deal, so make sure the decision makes sense for you financially. If I didn’t get the salary I wanted, I was prepared to walk away.

Adjust my income for the move: Check!

I Found a Modestly Priced Apartment

Before moving, I lived with my brother so I was only paying for half of everything. Since I’d be moving out solo, I knew my living expenses were about to go up. I kept that in mind when I started looking for my new apartment. If you’re familiar with Chicago, it’s made up of a ton of different neighborhoods. My first priority was finding one that was safe but not too expensive.

After doing some research, I settled on a place on the north side. I saw some apartments that were “nicer” but I had to be realistic. That meant lowering my expectations a bit. As long as the place was safe and well kept, I was happy.

Find an apartment: Check!

I Researched Moving Options

I grew up in the same area for most of my life. So the concept of moving to a different state was completely foreign to me. A ton of questions ran through my mind:

  • Should I just buy new stuff when I get there?
  • How much will it cost to hire a mover?
  • Should I rent a moving truck?

So like any millennial, I went to the best resource I know. No, not my mom, Google. I searched for things like “what’s the cheapest way to move to a new state?” and “interstate moving.” After my research I found three main options:

  • Rent a moving truck and make the 12-hour drive
  • Hire an interstate moving company
  • Use a pod/container service

I eliminated the interstate moving company idea almost immediately after getting quotes. Even though it probably would’ve been the most convenient option, the costs were way too high. Just to give you an idea of the quotes I was receiving, they were all in the ballpark of around $1,000. If you’re moving a lot of stuff, this might work better for you. But I only had about one-bedroom worth of stuff.

So it was between renting a moving truck and using a pod/container service. Surprisingly, the prices were pretty comparable and significantly less than the interstate moving companies. Since I decided not to bring my car with me, I started to lean towards getting a moving truck. But then I realized I overlooked one important cost—gas.

After factoring the cost of gas for a 700-mile trip, the container service started to look a lot more appealing.

For those of you like me who weren’t super knowledgeable about container services, here’s how they work. They come and drop off a storage container at your house. You load up all your stuff (or pay them to do it). Then they come back to pick it up and move it to your new location. Then you can unload it yourself or pay them to do it for you. There are a few companies that do this like POD, U-Box and U-Pack (the one I went with).

Unfortunately, since I moved to a city area, the company wouldn’t drop the container outside my new apartment. Which is understandable since there’s basically nowhere to put it. I ended up having to get it delivered to their holding center and paid a moving company to take my stuff from there to my apartment, which was an added cost.

Find a moving company: Check!

I Tried to Get a Discount

Even though the cost of the moving container was the lowest of the three options, I wanted to try to get the price even lower. So I looked up coupons for the company I chose and found some.

Then I called to see if I could get an even deeper discount. Maybe it was my lucky day but the rep gave me a better discount than I got online. I highly recommend calling any moving companies you’re interested in working with before agreeing to anything online. You never know when you’ll get lucky.

Save money on moving costs: Check!

I Made a List of Everything I Would Need

One thing I forgot to mention is the container was only 5ft x 7ft. Although I didn’t have too much stuff, I knew I wouldn’t be able to fit everything. I made a list of the items I would take with me and stuff I would have to buy new.

Most of the stuff I decided to get new was large furniture items like my computer desk, couches, and a new bed I was really excited about! I saved a lot of money on furniture by buying most of it from Ikea and Walmart.

With my list made, I took a couple trips to Ikea and Walmart to price out everything I needed.

Make a list of what I need to buy: Check!

I Saved Extra Money

I haven’t historically been the best at saving money. Needless to say, I didn’t have the cash in the bank to cover the costs. But the good thing is I had about two months to prepare for the move which gave me some time to figure it out.

At this point I knew exactly how much I needed to save, so that gave me a goal. Now I just had to buckle down and start saving.

In addition to cutting back on as many expenses as possible, I was able to take on some freelance writing jobs. If it wasn’t for that side hustle, I would’ve had to pay for a big chunk of this move with credit cards.

I also got my family to get me some of the little things I needed like dishes and pots. Just because you’re moving out-of-state doesn’t mean you can’t still get housewarming gifts!

If you’re in a position where you really can’t afford to pay for everything out of pocket, try putting together a wish list on Amazon and let your friends and family help you.

Save extra money: Check!

My Biggest Lessons Learned

Overall I’d say I did pretty good with the move. I didn’t go into a spiraling circle of debt, and I’m actually in a much better financial position now than I was before moving.

But if I had to go back and do it again, here are some things I’d do differently:

  • Saved more: Like I mentioned, up until recently I wasn’t much of a saver. If I would’ve had more money saved up before accepting the job, I probably wouldn’t have needed to use a credit card at all.
  • Spent more time apartment hunting: One of the biggest expenses I haven’t mentioned yet was the costs to fly to Chicago twice to find an apartment. Instead of doing one trip for 3-5 days, I went two times, one day each. That was a pretty bad decision that cost me a few hundred dollars. If you plan on moving to a new city, I’d highly recommend spending at least a few days looking for a place. And definitely do it all in one trip.
  • Waited for my lease to end: I ended up moving one month before my lease was up, so for a month I had to pay rent in two places, one of which I wasn’t even living in. I probably could’ve asked the new company to push my start date back a bit, which would’ve saved me several hundred dollars.
  • All things considered, this was a great learning experience, albeit an expensive one. If you’re questioning relocating for a new job, my biggest piece of advice would be to plan ahead and be 100% sure you can afford it. Otherwise you might regret your decision.

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