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The Cost of a Cross Country Move: A Personal Story

I thought it would be fun to look back at my old credit card and bank statements to see how much it actually cost me to move from Philly to Arizona, where I currently live. There were a lot of unique situations I had to think through and research before making this jump. Many of the logistics seemed like a nightmare so I was fortunately able to avoid a lot of them altogether. Some examples of this include:

  • My Philly roommate pretty much furnished our whole apartment, so it was easy to leave the little furniture I had instead of shipping it out to AZ (thanks, Ebass).

  • My mattress was a hand me down from a friend that I didn’t pay for and again, was fine leaving it behind (thanks, Jim).

  • I knew one person in AZ, who happened to be my sister. She could give me temporary housing, show me around, give me a friend to hang out with and help to make new friends, and help to look at apartments with me. Thank you, Allison.

So, it may sound like it was inexpensive for me to make this move! Traveling and the actual move was relatively inexpensive, and my biggest expense was probably getting my cat out here (love you, Quavo).

But what WAS expensive was coming out here with two suitcases and a cat, and rebuying everything to comfortably live by myself. Of course, comfortability is relative and I want to be clear that this blog is solely an example of what one person did and the expenses involved to move across the country. I am not justifying expenses or saying I HAD to buy a king mattress to be comfortable. I am not embarrassed about my decisions, but it is fun to reflect and think about how I could have done some things differently.

Without further ado, here are a lot of my expenses and some explanation around them. I tried to keep it somewhat succinct and think about what was actually an expense as a result of the move, and what expenses I would have had regardless of moving across the country.

Travel Expenses

Like I said, I was an extremely light traveler and I recognize how lucky I am to be able to have been in this situation. My cost of travel included:

They would not allow a hard plastic pet carrier for Quavo so I had to spring for a “traveler” carrying case. It kind of felt ridiculous at the time but has actually been super useful to this day. Quavo loves it and did amazing on the flight - he didn’t cry once!

It is ridiculous to me that my 5-pound cat cost more than half of my plane ticket so that he can sit in a carrier at my feet and not make a single noise...

Living Expenses

The below expenses include the big-ticket items like shelter and transportation that I needed to live and get around. These are items that weren’t needed solely because of where I moved, but they were items that I needed the money upfront for:

I was again lucky that I didn’t have a car in Philly since it is such a walkable city. Public transit in AZ is no good… it is very much a driving city. There are ways around the car purchase, but I wanted to be able to explore and have the freedom to do that. I still negotiated hard for my price and put $2k down in order to have 0% financing - this was a pretty big win for me. Free debt!

This was just the down payment for the car and does not include the ongoing costs of insurance, maintenance and loan payments. Although these were all new to me, those were not upfront costs of moving and could be funded as I was working.

Furniture / Miscellaneous

This set of expenses is about the items I needed in order to live. This is where I could be as flexible as I wanted, and there are definitely some luxuries involved - but I wasn’t exactly pinching pennies at this point in my life. I was fresh off of quitting my job, moving to a brand-new city, and taking a 3-week break before I started my new job.

Take a look around your house - I basically bought everything all in one go, aside from clothes. There are A LOT of things in your house that you don’t think about. But when you are rebuying everything, it feels like it never ends! It definitely took me a lot of trips to make sure I had everything like kitchen spices, utensils, things to cook in and eat on, etc.

On top of that, I wanted to have the typical furniture, especially living by myself - I didn’t want to have an empty apartment. I was trying to make my apartment feel home-y to try to take away from some of the stress of being in a brand-new state / city.

I still got pretty minimal items and lived the full year with only hanging one picture on my wall, which was a gift from a friend (thank you, Zcurl).

I totaled all of my different trips the best that I could to come up with the following:

I splurged on the mattress - this was a king bed.

Kitchenware sounds high - I just totaled my Walmart / Costco / Target trips so I am not really sure what this included but I would bet a lot of it was also all the basics like snacks, drinks, a lot of coffee, etc.

The furniture consisted of standard stuff like a couch, bed frame, coffee table and a dining room table set. I kinda regret the dining room table set and I am not sure who I was trying to impress because I almost never used it.

I added dry cleaning as my miscellaneous - I had to shove all of my dress clothes with the rest of all of my clothes into two suitcases. I basically rolled them all up and hit the dry cleaners with all my dress clothes once they were unpacked. I think that is fair to consider that as an expense as a result of the move.

Finally, Quavo strikes again. I had to make sure he was comfortable in his new living quarters so a new litter box, toys, and most importantly a new cat tree for him to ignore - but he loved the box! Overall, he acclimated to the AZ sun quickly and loved all the windows.

Other Considerations

This brings a grand total of $7,284.60 for upfront costs. This doesn’t include the typical lifestyle expenses or weeks of missed pay that I had to make sure I had available cash for.

I always like to point out things that come to mind or that I didn’t think about in the instance somebody is following this to get a gauge around some of the costs involved. Here are some that I missed or didn’t apply to me:

  • Health Insurance. I forgot about this and took two months off from health insurance. Technically, you have 60 days to start COBRA so if something happened, I could have done that and been covered. But I didn’t, so I had no expenses for health insurance but this could easily be an expense of $1,000+, even for just two months.

  • Roommate - living by yourself can be expensive, and I could have almost cut those expenses in half if I had a roommate (both rent and “house stuff”). I wasn’t willing to take the risk of a random roommate so I lived alone, but something for others to consider.

  • Lost wages - Many don’t talk about the “cost” of lost wages, but I did go three weeks without pay. Additionally, my new company paid on a monthly basis, so my last day at my job was August 19th and my first paycheck at the new job was on September 30th - so making sure there is money available to cover that 42 days of no money coming in (on top of the upfront expenses).

  • Last one, my favorite topic, taxes. I could handle my taxes myself, but for some it may be an added expense to hire someone to do it correctly, or just be able to file multiple states. I know TurboTax charges around $50/state, so a small thing to consider.

Final Thoughts

No doubt I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to make this change. I am not saying it is easy or that I did it in the smartest / cheapest way. I am just sharing one experience and some of the planning and expenses I considered in order to make this happen.

As always, financials are not the only decision in this change and this is likely more of an emotional decision for many. It was hard leaving my family and lifelong friends, but I knew how supportive everybody was and felt that it was time for me to step out of my comfort zone and try something new.

I have loved AZ, but summer is fast approaching so it is time for me to start questioning my ability to live in this state over the next few months :)


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