This post is part of the Short and Feisty Finance Series.
Three years ago this summer, I packed up my worldly goods and moved 3,000 miles west. There were only a handful of naysayers that bemoaned the cost of such a move for someone so freshly out of college (2 years at that point). Everyone else was incredibly supportive of my Oregon Trail-esque (or, really, Route 66) journey. Moving solo put another hurdle in the path to the finish line because I was working on one person’s worth of savings–which at 24 years old, wasn’t much.
I should say that what I did was not the cheapest way to do it. Hibs (the BFF I recruited for the trip) and I took about 5 days to make the journey and we stopped at several free or inexpensive tourist attractions.
If you’re rich, purchase a moving service and fly your butt out there.
I’ll share some helpful tips for anyone hoping to make the jump on a dime.
- PLAN. A cross-country move takes a lot of it! So my usual off-the-cuff travel plans (exhibited here and here) just weren’t going to cut it. You’ve got to have a travel route, reservations at places to stay, and a time-line for starters.
- If you can, travel to your destination city a couple of months ahead of time. Scout potential neighborhoods to live in, connect with any people that you may know who already live there and ask their advice, troll craigslist to look for apartment price ranges. Rent a car as cheaply as possible and drive around for hours checking things out. This was hands-down the most valuable reconnaissance job.
- MONEY. I hadn’t saved very much money before my move. I had been working two jobs, 12 hours a day, 6 days a week but it was mostly going to my car payment, gas, student loans, and rent. The first thing I did when I resigned from my jobs was to put my student loans on deferral. I had mostly subsidized loans, so that worked in my favor as far as accruing interest.
I then took out a personal loan from my bank for about $5k. In the end, I only used about $500 of it, so I immediately paid the $4,500 back when I got settled in LA. Now that I’m committed to living debt-free, I sometimes cringe when I remember doing this BUT it was absolutely what I needed to do at the time to start living’ the dream…or the restless sleep before the dream because sometimes this whole waiting to break-in is less dreamy than I imagined.
- BUDDY. Find a friend that you like to travel with and con them into doing to trip with you. Promise lots of inside jokes and fun memories because you know you can’t pay their way entirely.
- DESTINATION. Have a landing place in mind. For me, Hibs’ Aunt and Uncle live in Orange County and very graciously let this traveling nomad crash at their house until I could get up to Los Angeles.
- TRANSPORTATION. Make sure your car is road ready.
- PACK LIGHT. I took whatever could fit in my back seat and my trunk. In fact, there was barely any room to fit Hibs’ travel stuff (sorry, Hibs). When I got to LA and found an apartment (the same building I’m in today) I unpacked and bought a bunch of new, yet inexpensive, furniture on credit. Yes, credit. Something I don’t do anymore, but it was completely necessary! I found a store that offered free financing for the first 18 months and paid the debt off in about 14 months so no interest!
That’s it! Those are the most important things to remember. If you want to sight-see, find free or inexpensive places. If you need some on-the-road entertainment, bring an MP# player and an AUX cord or do the old fashioned thing and burn a CD. Good luck on your move!
*SIDE NOTE* My 5 year old nanny kid didn’t know what a CD was until she saw me pull one out and stick it in the CD player…