6 Simple Steps to Plan a Cross-Country Move
If you take the time to plan your move well in advance, you can keep both your money and your sanity intact. Here's how!
Moving isn’t fun, and doing so all the way across the country sure as heck isn’t anybody’s idea of a grand time. I should know: I’ve moved across the North American continent twice – from the Lower 48 to Alaska and back again.
My husband will be graduating from college next year, and we’re already considering the possibility of moving somewhere else.
We’ve got how to plan a move down pat by now, but the financial aspect of paying for a cross-country move has always eluded us.
That is, until now. So if you’ve ever wondered how to plan a move across the country and make the process as cheap as possible, here are some helpful tips:
1. Start the Planning Process Early
This time, we’re planning our finances well ahead of our (potential) move. If we decided to make the schlep, we’d probably do it at least 14 months from now. Extreme? Maybe. But stick with me.
Of course, you won’t always have a 14-month lead on planning your move. But if you even have an inkling that you might move in the future, it doesn’t hurt to start making a plan and budget for moving as soon as possible in order to cut some costs along the way.
2. Squirrel Away Packing Materials
There are some easy ways to save money when moving, such as finding materials for cheap. U-Haul tells me that I should expect to pay $317.41 for moving supplies for my apartment. But while I may have to purchase some supplies, I’m betting that I can get most or all of them for free. Boxes are likely to be the largest cost, and I can get those for free by asking friends, family members, and employers. Craigslist is also a great resource – people are always trying to get rid of moving boxes there.
Get creative with your packing materials, as well. You can use towels, blankets, and other clothing in place of bubble wrap. Just make sure that you don’t leave your skivvies in the rice cooker!
3. Master the Decluttering Process
Get rid of as much stuff as you can. This will serve four benefits: it’ll reduce stress from carting around stuff you don’t care about anymore; you’ll get more cash back in your pocket to fund the move; your move will be cheaper; and you can declutter your life.
We made about $2,000 from selling things when we moved away from Alaska, and we saved about $2,200 by not having to rent a larger moving truck.
4. List Costs
Moving is expensive – but how much does it really cost? There are ways to figure out the potential cost, so don’t be caught unprepared. Each move is different, so you’ll need to put on your thinking cap and draft a list of costs. Set aside 10 minutes and just brain dump all of the costs that you’re likely to incur. Some examples:
- Truck rental: Use a reputable company that allows you to drop off at distant locations, like Budget Truck Rentals
- Hotels and meals: Best Western has locations across the country, and you can always save money by using Groupon to find a cheap dinner location.
- Utility hookup fees
- First month’s rent
- Rental fee and security deposit
Add up all of these costs and multiply it by 1.10 in order to add a 10 percent buffer.
If Murphy’s Law taught us anything, it’s that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.
We decided to budget for moving to western Washington because it’s the farthest we’d be likely to move (and because it’s cool). I calculated that we’d spend a maximum of $3,264.80 in restarting our new life there.
5. Start Saving Now
Now that we know how much money we’ll need to move, we need to actually start saving up for it. The simplest way to figure out how much you should save each month is to divide your total moving costs by the number of months you have to move. For me, it’d look like this:
$3,264.80 ÷ 14 = $233.20
If I saved $233.20 per month for the next 14 months, I’d have a fully stocked moving fund.
Sometimes you need to move on short notice, though, and you won’t be able to save up for it. In that case, you’ll need to figure out another way to finance it by taking on debt (unless you want to start a GoFundMe page and beg people for donations).
The two easiest ways to finance a move are with credit cards or personal loans. Credit cards carry super high interest rates, though. I funded my last move with credit cards and it took me two years and hundreds of dollars in interest charges to pay it off.
I’m kicking myself now – it would’ve been far cheaper to get a personal loan instead. I’d have paid less in interest and probably paid it off much sooner. If there were any leftover funds, I could have just put them right back toward the loan.
Make sure you compare rates for personal loan companies, as often times you’ll be able to finance with low payments and flexible payoff options. For example, we’ve found that Honest Loans can offer quick turnaround on loans (as little as one day) to help cover emergency expenses or last minute cost overruns.
The Bottom Line
Moving is stressful enough. Don’t complicate it any further by not properly planning or setting a budget. There are ways to save money while planning a move across the country, but preparation is key. As long as you follow these tips for how to plan a move, the only thing you’ll have to worry about is not breaking Nana’s family heirlooms.