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Moving Tips: A Tale of Two Cities

Some things I learned the hard way, so you don’t have to ...

In May, I landed my dream job working at YNAB and, given that our team is 100% remote, I found myself daydreaming about escaping the high cost of living in San Diego. I’d had my eye on Austin, TX, and now I was finally free to move wherever I wanted! Moving across the country is no easy feat and I want to share some of the moving tips I picked up along the way.

Moving Tips and Lessons Learned

I’m a single mom with a young toddler. Moving all of our stuff, our car and our actual physical bodies from California to Texas wasn’t easy. It was a whirlwind of calling moving companies and tracking down lost packing tape, an avalanche of moving boxes and packing material, a tsunami of screen time and snacks.  (I’m maxed-out on workouts for the rest of the season, purely from all of the mental gymnastics.) And my goal was to move on the cheap.

I knew it’d be tough—how would I, all by myself, pack boxes, load a moving van, hitch a car, and set off on a multi-day road-trip, all while caring for a toddler? After a quick reality check, I decided to get help. I hired a huge, national van line to help facilitate the moving process and a company to ship (haul) my RAV4. I estimated that the costs of moving would come in around $5,000.

Moving Tips: Hire Professionals!

Easy, Right?

So, I hired cross country movers. The moving truck was booked for Saturday and, by Sunday (moving day!), it would be lovingly packed with all of my earthly possessions, leaving us free to hop a plane to Texas. At the Texas airport, we’d rent a car and drive to our new, still empty, rental house, where I figured we’d camp out with our luggage until the moving truck arrived from San Diego. It all sounded pretty simple on paper—but, let’s just say, I learned some things.

Lesson #1: The Little Things Can Really Add Up

So, our moving truck estimate was seven to ten days, and I figured our stuff would, no question, arrive on the shorter end of that timeframe (I mean, that’s reasonable, right?!). I figured I’d sleep on the floor, no bigs. Yeah, well, bigs. Turns out that my back wasn’t having it. Amazon to the rescue—I had an air mattress delivered, stat. Not the worst thing ever, but an unplanned expense, nonetheless.

Reason number deux, that empty houses are more pricey? I had to make some easy meals for my son, and actually live in the house. To get by without our stuff, I needed disposable plates, cups and utensils. We also needed basic supplies, like paper towels, toilet paper, diapers—not to mention all sorts of other things I’d already purchased back home in San Diego! All held prisoner on a truck driving that was driving, ever-so-slowly, across the country. The result? A few, rather expensive, trips to the grocery store and Target.

Cooking meals without any pots or pans presented challenges, too. To get by, we relied on microwave meals (which aren’t terribly cheap) and dining out (which became expensive fast).

Hundreds of dollars in Amazon and restaurant purchases later, I realized that it may have been smarter to stay in a furnished Airbnb instead of trying to ‘rough it’ with a kiddo in an empty house.

Lesson #2: Everything Takes Longer Than You Expect

That seven to ten day estimate? Yeah, it became 11 days. Eleven days of meals out and supplies to get us by. I was also using a baby supply rental company which provided me with a crib, stroller, box of toys and high chair. I had to extend that by several days, which resulted in over $75 in extra charges.

Lesson #3: Don’t Cheap Out On Important Stuff

I thought shipping a car couldn’t be too expensive, but when I started to shop around for quotes it looked like it was likely to set me back about $1,200. I scoured the web searching for something cheaper, and one company was a standout at only $750. Of course, I chose that one, despite some questionable reviews.

Guess what happened? They didn’t show. No call, no nothing. With flights booked, and my moving truck Texas-bound, I had to leave my car behind! At the last minute, I was lucky to find a car-shipping company, which cost $1,300 because of my short timeframe.

The result? More money, a delayed car arrival, and an extended lease on the rental car in Texas. Moving tip: hire professionals that have good reviews. Things tend to be cheap for a reason (and they get more expensive when you’re running out of time!).

Lesson #4: It’s Hard to Shop Rentals From Another State

I wasn’t able to make any scouting trips and my timeline was short, so I ended up using a real estate agent. It was stressful trying to choose a property based on a stranger’s recommendations, and I’d definitely do this differently in the future. I love my new neighborhood, but I’m filled with regret about the home I chose. Now that I’m more familiar with the area (and the market prices), I know I’m overpaying. Plus, it’s just too much house for what the kiddo and I really need.

I look forward to moving in eleven months to cut down on my rent, but don’t look forward to paying for another move so soon.

Lesson #5: Moving is Expensive

It just is. There were a million random things that resulted in extra, unforeseen expenses over the past couple of months. I had to replace my gas dryer vent, which I forgot to pack in San Diego. My last landlord took forever to return my deposit—which I was totally banking on for moving expenses. The water bill at the new place was $200 for the first month (even though it was vacant half of that time!), thanks to a running toilet and overzealous lawn watering system. And then there were things like new window coverings and summer clothes for the 95+ degree heat, that really added up! So yeah, about that $5,000 estimate…it was wrong.

Now That I’m Finally Settled?

Well, I learned a lot and we made it. I’m loving Austin. And now it’s time for some serious budgeting (and possibly a few dog-walking jobs for a little supplementary income on the side!)

Hopefully, if you’re considering a big move, my story can help you set realistic expectations and will inspire some moving hacks of your own as you start packing!

The best moving tip? Building a budget! Try YNAB for free for 34 days to help manage the cost of your upcoming move.

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Moving Tips: A Tale of Two Cities