Moving to a Big City?

21 Tips for Moving to a Big City on a Small Budget

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Moving to a Big City?
Create a Moving Budget
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create a moving budget

Surviving a move on a limited budget starts with knowing how much you can reasonably spend. Calculate a preliminary moving budget by considering every expense you can imagine to ensure as few surprises as possible. If the potential cost of the move is more than you can comfortably spend, it's time to think of ways to supplement your funds.

Ask an Employer to Help
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ask an employer to help

In many industries, employers are willing to hire candidates from out of state and help cover moving expenses, although this is rare for less experienced workers. The answer might be "No," but it probably can't hurt to ask for a relocation allowance.

Sell What You Don't Need
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sell what you don't need

The same amount of money typically buys less space in the city than elsewhere, and the less you have to move, the easier and cheaper moving will be. Along with the distance covered, the weight of your belongings can affect moving costs, so decide now what you can do without and begin getting rid of anything you no longer want. Try selling furniture and other items online, or hold a garage sale. Many things can simply be tossed, too.

Sell Your Car

sell your car

Cars are often unnecessary in big cities, particularly those with well-established public transit like San Francisco, New York, and Washington, D.C. Selling your car before moving is an easy way to bolster your finances, and it will also save parking and maintenance fees.

Pick the Right Neighborhood

pick a neighborhood

Places in the heart of the city typically see high demand and steep prices. To find an apartment that's both comfortable and affordable, it's best to consider less-trendy neighborhoods where rent is cheaper. Decide how far from the city center you're willing to live, and then start investigating attractive neighborhoods.

Act Quickly

act quickly

You aren't the only one home hunting in the big city. That's why it's important to act quickly when you see a newly posted ad and arrange a viewing before the listing is gone. If you like a place, don't hesitate to file a rental application immediately after a viewing, or else it may go to someone else that same day.

Visit Before the Move
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visit before moving

Visiting a city before moving can make the process considerably easier. Try staying with a friend in the area or booking a cheap Airbnb room while you arrange home viewings or investigate neighborhoods you like. Finding a place is much easier and safer in person.

Check Out the Neighborhoods

walk the neighborhoods

Sometimes the best place to search for cheap housing isn't online but on the street. Strolling through the city can help you locate available rental properties that might not be posted online, and therefore aren't in such strong demand. Even in the digital age, it's hard to beat canvassing a desired neighborhood by foot.

Which Utilities Would You Need?
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ask about utilities

Be prepared for every impending expense by asking landlords and rental agents about which utilities you'd have to pay. Look into each service to determine whether the added monthly bills will pose problems for your budget.

Avoid Moving Companies
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avoid moving companies

Hiring a moving company is essential for some, but going another route can significantly cut moving costs. Those traveling light may be able to fit everything in a car, and there are additional options including truck rentals, freight shipping services like U-Ship, and portable storage units such as PODS.

Watch for Hidden Moving Fees

watch for hidden moving fees

If the move truly necessitates a professional moving company, watch out for hidden costs, including charges for packing supplies, moving insurance, and long-carry fees, which apply when trucks can't park near your home to unload -- a common occurrence in cities like New York or San Francisco.

Compare Moving Quotes

compare moving quotes

Many moving companies and rental truck companies like U-Haul provide free quotes online, requiring only a few basic details about the size and scope of your move. Compare as many prices as possible, as you may find a company offering a special discount or deal.

Sell Your Moving Boxes
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find free packing supplies

Packing supplies like boxes may seem like a minor expense, but the costs can add up, especially since many moving companies often charge exorbitant prices to provide them. Salvage empty boxes from your office or workplace, ask friends to donate any boxes they have lying around, or ask at a local liquor or grocery store.

Pack Creatively
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pack creatively

You'll also need padding material to protect fragile items from being damaged during transport. Some recommend using clothes and linens for this purpose, but that creates a lot of laundry to be done immediately after moving. Instead try using basket coffee filters, which are soft and cheap but don't leave stains like newspaper.

Mail Your Books

mail your books

The U.S. Postal Service's Media Mail ships media like books and DVDs for cost-effective prices. Boxes can weigh as much as 70 pounds but cost only $36 to ship. The service is especially helpful considering that books are often among the heaviest items being moved.

Double Up
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move during the off-season

If at all possible, try to schedule your moving date during the fall or winter. Most household moves occur between May and September, creating greater demand that drives up relocation costs. You're far more likely to find a good bargain on moving services during the off-peak season. Avoid weekends and the first and last days of the month, as well.

Move Via Train or Bus
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move via train or bus

If you're planning a truly Spartan move without a car or furniture, traveling by train or bus may be the cheapest option. Cross-country tickets go for $139 on Greyhound and $230 on Amtrak, and both allow passengers to bring as much as 125 pounds of baggage for free. Amtrak also ships small packages for affordable prices, although rates vary depending on destination.

Plan Your Route in Advance

plan your route in advance

If you're driving to your new home in the big city, plan your route ahead of time to avoid rush hour and to establish convenient locations to refuel. This will reduce the amount of time you spend in traffic with your car so heavily weighed down and hopefully cut fuel costs.

Furnish on the Cheap
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furnish on the cheap

The best way to furnish a new home on a limited budget is with secondhand items. Check your new neighborhood for a thrift store, or use online sources like Craigslist to find free or inexpensive furniture. Another option is Buy Nothing, an online organization with more than 1,300 independent neighborhood chapters facilitating cash-free exchanges of useful goods between neighbors.

Get a Side Gig
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get a side gig

Your finances may still feel a strain months after moving, but that can be remedied by finding a second stream of income. Flexible part-time jobs are surprisingly easy to find in many cities, with typical positions including Uber driver and personal shopper.

Keep Your Receipts

keep your receipts

If you're moving for work and paying for the move out of your own pocket, save receipts for every moving expense to deduct them from your taxes later. Certain conditions apply, but many expenses are deductible.