Inside: Moving is expensive. Moving across the country can be astronomically expensive—unless you find the cheapest way to move across the country. We’re planning our third cross-country move, and this time we’re doing it debt-free. I’ll show you how we’re saving up for it, and how we’re going to do it cheaply.
Me and Zach currently live in Colorado.
I know what you’re thinking. Endless snowcapped mountains, weed- and craft-beer fueled hippies, and beautiful vistas everywhere, right?
I hate it here.
Mostly because Alaska—where we met—ruined everything for me.
There’s too many goddamn people here, there’s no good forests and big, lush trees for privacy, and it’s drier than Tutankhamun’s tomb. The houses are packed tighter together than a horde lined up for Black Friday at Walmart.
It’s sunny every. single. DAY. Which you think would be nice, but by day 279, all I really want is a dreary, gloomy day so I can pop on a monocle and read some good ol’ Edgar Allan Poe and Lovecraft by the fire.
But mostly, for the past four years since we’ve been here, it’s felt like I’ve been chugging along, but with one cog in the wheel that’s been out-of-sync, and it’s affecting everything else. That’s why we’re heading out of Colorado to the rainy Pacific Northwest—to Washington state, to be specific.
To be fair, there are other good reasons for moving there. It’s a halfway compromise between here and Alaska (which Zach equally despised). We’ve got family and friends in the area, and Zach has a lot better job prospects as an entry-level code monkey. Plus, I’m all about that seafood, and I can harvest it my own damn grownup self there if I want (and I do!).
This won’t be my first big cross-country move. When I was but a newly-minted 18-year-old, I moved from northern Michigan to Alaska. Then, in 2014, we moved from Alaska to Colorado.
I relied on my parents or my credit card to fund both of those moves. That’s not an option this time. If we’re gonna do it, we’re gonna do it with cash. We’re at T-minus three months till our move right now, and this week I thought I’d lift the curtain back and show you guys what we’re doing to plan our cross-country move so we won’t take out a single cent of debt.
- 1 Get Your Shit Together: The Pre-Planning Phase
- 2 Save Dat Money: The Savings Phase
- 3 Find the least expensive ways to move across the country
Get Your Shit Together: The Pre-Planning Phase
We decided we were going to move in March 2017, after visiting Seattle. To be fair, I also hate the busyness of Seattle. But, luckily for us, I know that there’s a lot of other more peaceful locations we could eventually end up. Like the place we’re looking now: Puyallup (pronounced poo-’yall-up. Just kidding. It’s pronounced “pyew-all-up”).
Once we decided we were going to move, I drafted up an estimate of costs. Here’s what I estimated:
- Deposits and other move-in costs for a new apartment
- U-haul rental
To get the estimates for apartment deposits, I just googled three different apartment complexes in the area and took an average of the costs. I figured this was a reasonable way to calculate the ridiculous fees that apartments charge (pet rent? WTF?).
Save Dat Money: The Savings Phase
I tallied up each of the individual estimates to get a total ($2,968). Then, I multiplied it by 1.10 to get our target savings goal ($3,265).
Why multiply it by 1.10? That gives us a 10% buffer in moving costs. If there’s anything I’ve ever learned when saving up for a goal, it’s that shit will go wrong, and never in your favor. Just ask me about my last house. Adding in the 10% buffer adds a bit of insurance, and if we don’t need it, then we’ll throw it towards our debt.
Back in March 2017, we thought that June 2018 would be a reasonable timeframe for a move. That gave us 15 months to save, so we divided our target savings goal—$3,265—by 15 to get a monthly savings goal of $217.67. We just decided to round it up to $220 because that’s how we roll.
Related: Need help with budgeting, even if you think you suck at it? Try Adam Hagerman’s Budgeting for Budget Haters e-course.
It’s now one year later, and we’ve saved up a total of $2,860 towards our move. We save it up as a line item in our YNAB program. That line is called the “GTFOCO Fund” because swear words are also how we roll.
Find the least expensive ways to move across the country
The final pillar in our plan to move across the country cheaply rests on finding low-cost ways to move our stuff from Point A to Point B. Here’s what we’re planning on doing:
Uhaul charges $75.84 for a set of boxes to pack up an apartment.
It’s only March in Fort Collins and there’s already plenty of people on Craigslist trying to offload moving boxes for free. It’s another benefit to moving in the warmer months, when everyone else is!
Getting a U-Haul and moving our stuff ourselves
We’re estimating the cost of renting a 6’x12’ Uhaul trailer to be $516 for a week to move from Colorado to Washington. Moving.com estimates that to have professional movers haul our stuff (not even pack) the same distance, it’ll cost between $3,979 and $5,568.
You tell me which one you’d choose.
The benefit of choosing the budget Uhaul option is that it gives you a fanTASTIC excuse to purge your unused shit so that you don’t have to shlep around so much stuff. We’re currently going through everything we own and getting rid of copious amounts of shit, like DVDs, unread books, unworn clothing, and more.
It’s a very liberating feeling, and I look forward to it each time I move across the country.
Related: Decluttr is a great service I recommend where you can sell back all the stuff you’re not using anymore in one fell swoop. If you use my coupon code LindsayVS5, they’ll give you an extra $5 when you send in your old shit! Because who really wants to set up endless appointments to sell all your old DVDs and books for $2 a pop? Better to get all the little stuff done in one go.
Move in the warmer months
We’ve already been contacting apartments to find out which ones will allow us to bring our three pets. Don’t even get me started on apartment pet policies or I will punch you in the throat. BUT, we’ve heard from many of them that the warmer months are more popular moving times, which boosts our chances of finding an apartment that’ll work for us within our price range.
Another benefit of moving across the country in the warmer months is that you can CAMP! We love camping. Even though we’ve budgeted for a hotel, if the weather’s nice we’re planning on taking full advantage of that and camping out. Bonus: Many campgrounds have pull-through sites designed for RVs, which will work perfect for our truck towing a trailer.
Use stuff you already own for padding
You can buy bubble wrap and have a grand ‘ol time popping them all later.
But, a more budget-friendly option for protecting your plates and dishes while you move across the country is to wrap them in soft things you already have. T-shirts, towels, and bedsheets all make fantastic padding for your delicates. We used them when we moved from Alaska to Colorado and didn’t have a single broken item.
What other ways do you use to plan a cross-country move on a budget?
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