I’ve lived in DC for a total of eight years, four in college and four since. At the end of each of those post-college years I have contemplated my next steps – do I stay where I’m at, move to a new local apartment , or make an even bigger move back to my home state of Texas? As I’ve noted before, moves are expensive  even when they’re just a few miles (or even blocks) away. So the decision to move across the country is certainly not one that is financially simple – especially depending on the costs of any new job that might come with the move.
A Little Background
In early April, I made one of my semi-regular trips home to Texas. As always, it was difficult to leave my family and friends, even though I had a great life to get back to in DC. This return, though, was different – when I returned, I found out that my company had an opportunity for me to transfer to our offices in my hometown. Basically, I could just say the word and I would be relocated to Texas.
I’ve been wanting to move back to Texas pretty much since I left (I understand this is pretty common among my fellow Texans!). Even still, the decision was a little complicated: I would have to leave a very good life here and move over 1,000 miles away from my college friends. Additionally, I would be leaving an office with 500 employees to one with roughly 5 – a very different professional environment, and one with different challenges (but also different opportunities). I would have to break my apartment lease a few months early. I would have to buy a car when I got to Texas. And finally, I would have to find a way to move myself and my entire life’s possessions across the country!
From the second I first found out I had the chance to move, I think I knew in my gut that I would ultimately do it. Even still, though, I ran through a list of considerations. They included:
- How will my income change? Because I can keep my job, my income will stay the same – and since Texas has no state income tax , I will actually see an increase in take-home pay.
- How will my expenses change? It’s no secret that Texas is much cheaper than the east coast. In fact, some cost of living calculators  tell me it is over 50% cheaper to live in my hometown versus the DC area! However, I don’t own a car here – which means I will have to buy a car AND get used to gas, parking and insurance costs.
- What costs will I incur by leaving? Obviously the physical cost of moving is the largest consideration here. But I also had to think about the cost of breaking my lease (my entire security deposit, unless my landlords fill the spot within a month).
- How badly do I want to move? The answer – very badly. I’m blessed to have a large family (my parents, brother, four grandparents and about 50 aunts, uncles and cousins on both sides of the family live in or near where I will settle) as well as a solid group of friends. I’ve always known that Texas is where I would raise my own family.
- If I don’t do it now, when will I? I think this was the thing that ultimately made me take the leap. I’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this to come up basically since I started working. In fact, I took this job after graduation because I knew the Texas office was opening, and that I could ultimately move there. My friends are starting to get married, and more than a couple have already left the area, or will do so soon. There was basically no reason to stay in DC now that wouldn’t exist a year or more from now – and I didn’t have a guarantee that the same opportunity with work would be available to me later if I passed it up now.
In addition, I spent some time talking with the people I am closest to, both in my personal life and at work. In the end everyone agreed that the situation was kind of a confluence of events that resulted in a pretty easy decision…I’m going home!
Making the Move Cost Effective
In order to make my move cost-effective, I tried to really do my research on options. In the end, I decided to ditch my furniture, fly home with a few extra checked bags, and ship the rest of my belongings. It turns out that shipping a 50 pound box  by either FedEx Ground or via the postal service is about $35 – so I could take 10 boxes worth for $350. Taking things in a UHaul would cost over $1300 plus gas – and since I didn’t want to drive for two days alone, I would have had to also pay for a one way flight for one of my parents or a friend, as well as a hotel room for at least one night. Hiring professional movers was $1800 and up. And a pod or similar mechanism was about the same price. If I had a car, my calculations would undoubtedly be different – but since I don’t, it will take me about 5 hours and a few hundred dollars in shipping costs to make the big move. In fact, by the time you read this, I may already be in Texas!
If you are thinking about making a cross-country move, I would recommend a few things:
- First, do a serious assessment of your future income and expenses. Changing jobs might entail costs you hadn’t thought of, and every home comes with a flurry of new expenses .
- Next, do your homework on moving options – I learned that shipping is not nearly as expensive as I might have thought, and that a UHaul is not nearly as cost-effective as I might have thought!
- Finally, really analyze your possessions to decide what is worth bringing with you. As I told my cousin earlier tonight, each pound of things I am shipping home costs me roughly 70 cents. So if a 10 lb item would cost less than $7.00 to replace, I’m leaving it behind! Moving is a great time to up your charitable contributions for the year…or make a few dollars selling unwanted items on Craigslist or in a yard sale .
- A bonus tip: if you really want to do it, and you can afford it  – make the leap. At the end of the day, your gut is often your best indicator of the right decision.
Have you moved cross country? What drove you to make the decision? And how did you do it on the cheap?