A year after graduating college, I quit my job, packed up my belongings, and flew cross country from Virginia to Colorado on a one way ticket. In the moments leading up to my departure, my feelings teetered-tottered between anxiousness and excitement. Comforted by familiar faces and surroundings, I was that girl who didn’t venture outside of her hometown for college. Moving was a way for me to be bold and adventurous. However, make no mistake that even the bold need a plan, and moving is one of those things that requires a lot of planning. Whether you’re considering moving cross country or already in the planning stages, I’ve created a practical guide full of tips and advice on how to plan your move.
Phase 1: Before The Move
Set a date
Once you have it in your mind that you’re going to move, you become obsessed with it. I know I did. Setting a date made it even more real. This is your deadline for when you need to reach your savings goal, figure out your housing situation, find a job (optional), and have your logistics plan ready to go. I started toying with the idea of moving in March and hastily set my date for early June.
The general rule of thumb is to save enough money to support yourself for 6 months. Take all of your expenses into account to determine your magic number and then some. Remember, everyone’s situation is different. It may take you more or less time to reach your savings goal, but it is important to be intentional when it comes to sticking with a budget.
In my case, I was making $32,000 at my first job out of college and lived at home with my parents. My only bills were student loans, credit cards, cellphone, and car insurance, so I was able to put away roughly $1,000 each month into my savings account. In the beginning, I wasn’t saving for any real reason, it just felt good to finally be able to put money away after having a zero balance throughout my struggle college years. I also took this as an opportunity to pay off my high interest credit cards which cleared up extra income. After 10 months of working, I managed to save over $10,000. Since I was never able to get any time off, I also received an $1,800 PTO payout when I left my job. This was enough to get me started on my journey.
How are you going to get to your new home? Will you pack a few large suitcases and fly there? This is a good option if you have very few belongings and moving to big city with a public transportation system. If that’s the case, can you sell your car? Or maybe you’ll pack up said car and take the scenic route. A friend of mine recently made her move to California an epic road trip by stopping at landmarks along the way.
Will you need to sell off your belongings? This is a great way to purge your closet and put the earnings towards furnishing your new home. Don’t pack anything you don’t need. Use platforms like Craigslist to sell things locally. Will you need to arrange a U-haul? Tow your car? Hire movers? I ask a lot of questions because there’s a lot that needs to be figured out. Weigh the pros and cons, get quotes and do the math to figure out what is most feasible and cost-effective for you.
You will need to secure a place to stay before you arrive in your new city. If possible, arrange a trip to apartment hunt if it is within your budget. Some people also search remotely for an apartment. I didn’t have to do this but I can imagine it would be very stressful. My tip is to request lots of pictures and ask the landlord for a virtual tour. As a third option, consider temporary arrangements such as staying with a friend or relative in the area or even house sitting (which is what I did – more on that in phase 2).
Apply for jobs
For those of you who are just following your gut instinct cross country without a real plan, start applying for jobs 2-3 months in advance. Include your intended move date in your cover letter. Update your résumé using a local address if you have friends or family in your new city. Why? Simply put, HR professionals tend to favor local candidates, especially for entry level positions. Hiring someone from out of state can be a gamble. What if the person decides not to move or it just doesn’t work out?
Keep in mind that flexibility is key. If you get an interview, you need to be ready to board a plane within a few days. At this point, your savings account should be pretty hefty by now so it shouldn’t be a problem. If you get a job, that’s great – one less thing to worry about. If not, know that patience is the other key. Your savings account is there to hold you over until you land a job. In the next stage, I’ll discuss working odd jobs while you search for a full-time employment gig.
Spend some time in your new location networking if possible. Ask your friends if they have any connections in the industry you’re interested in. If you’re a member of a nationwide organization, send a message introducing yourself and your intended move. LinkedIn is a great way to do this. If you have a hobby, join a local group to meet others.
Phase 2: After The Move
If you can’t find work, try working odd jobs
I moved without what many would consider a “real job.” Instead, I had secured a gig house and pet sitting for a quirky French woman for just under 3 months. The gig was unpaid (which I later realized after some research that I could have negotiated wages), but provided a roof over my head no cost to me. My responsibilities were to water the garden, collect the mail, make the house look lived in, and take care of a cute but crazy French bulldog named Tchoupe. In return, I had very comfortable place to live while I continued my job search.
In addition to house sitting, I started working in operations for a start-up subscription box company. The pay was low and the benefits package nonexistent, but there was a lot of flexibility and experience to benefit from. Another gig (notice a trend here?) was working as a brand ambassador/shoe model for a local apparel company. All I had to do was wear high heels for a few hours and got paid for it! I also worked with my uncle sitting as an art model for his workshops to make some extra cash (or sometimes just to score free meals).
It’s okay to struggle. If you don’t get a job before your move, do what you can. When I wasn’t working odd jobs, I drafted up cover letters and spent hours sending out my résumé. 3 months after my move, my very expensive marketing degree was finally put to use as I started a full-time job in my dream field.
Continue to network
I mentioned this in phase 1, but I’ve added it again just to emphasize its importance. The networking never really stops. Some of the things I did was frequent my aunt’s church, join a graduate chapter of my sorority, and attend events of well connected individuals. Networking is how I secured the house sitting gig, how I worked briefly for a start-up, and how I became a weekend shoe model. You never know where your connections will lead you.
Spend a lot of time familiarizing yourself with your new city. Make walking your primary mode of transportation. Get lost. Smile a lot. Hang out downtown. Say hi to people. If you made it this far, you’re can let out a sigh of relief because you’re finally where you wanted to be.
After the initial sadness wears off, starting over in a new place is so liberating. You’ll face challenges. You’ll grow. But chance are you won’t be the same person you were when you left. Even though I’ve since moved back (by way of a cross country road trip), I now have the know-how under my belt for when I’m ready to plan my next big move and hopefully you do too!