How I Moved Cross Country without Going Broke

girl moving cross country move

Moving cross country can be an exciting but also stressful experience that can be quite costly if you don’t have much cash. Going broke is very common among those who want to move from one state to the next state cross country. Maybe my story will help you save money and also make your move a bit more enjoyable.

It all began when I wanted to move out of a small town and into the big city. With a goal of moving out of the city from my small state and into Los Angeles, I knew that the best way to do that was to travel cross country. It would take a few days to drive down, but doing so would save me heaps amount of cash.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The easiest part of a cross country move is just being able to pack everything and start driving. If you’re all alone like I was, it’s easy to get around and not worry about another person not being comfortable. In terms of what was difficult, it’s definitely hard to save up for this new place you want to live in. Whether it’s paying for the new lease, putting a down payment, or buying a moving truck to transfer everything, there is serious effort required. I learned this and several other lessons along the way:

Prepare In Advance

Do not think of this as a spur of the moment experience, as this won’t be an overnight process. Instead, have a plan and know exactly where you plan on going at least four to eight weeks or so in advance. Have a job lined up (or at least several interviews), begin the apartment hunt before you arrive, and check the cost of living. The more prepared you are, the better equipped you’ll be to estimate the cost of living in the new area and therefore avoid unsettling surprises.

Save Money

You should have, at the very least, several thousand dollars before attempting a cross country move. I took the money from my job and any side income I had and saved a decent portion of it every single week for about nearly two months or so. In terms of making money and getting a job, I landed a job before I ever moved down. You don’t want to move to a place if you don’t have the money to sustain you for the long run.

Keep Costs Low

When traveling, I didn’t rent out any moving truck. When you have very minimal things to bring, stay within your own car and don’t spend money on things you don’t need. Eat when you have to eat, but don’t eat at a high profile restaurant at every stop. Avoid using hotels when driving down and instead either use a motel or try couch surfing when you reach a certain destination if you’re too tired to drive. Couch surfing is also great if you want to move down to another city and keep costs down before you head into an apartment.

Sell Useless Items

I found that selling whatever I had that I didn’t need would only help with the costs. I made sure that I sold everything that wouldn’t fit into my car for when I drove down. It was easy making another couple thousand just selling my old items. On the flip side, avoid selling things that you’ll just have to re-buy once you arrive.

Start Small

I didn’t go broke when I moved cross country simply because I didn’t move into the most expensive place within the city. I made sure that my apartment was in a good neighborhood but still had a realistically affordable monthly payment. It’s a new city with new opportunities, but start small. Spend the first year getting settled in to the area. After the lease is up on your first year, then you can consider relocating to a more ideal and long-term residence.

The one thing I would do differently is probably asked for some kind of help when it came down to packing everything and organizing the drive. Your friends shouldn’t have to suffer for your plan to move, but they also probably wouldn’t mind helping out for an afternoon. Next time, I’ll swallow my pride and make a few last memories by having friends help. I also realized that making friends in the new city I moved to would have also been beneficial. For my next move, I’ll be more proactive with meeting new people, rather than waiting for them to meet me.

So, that’s my story. What’s yours? What have you learned from moving cross country, and what will you do differently next time?

Jennifer is a writer based in Los Angeles, California.

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