The Hidden (and Not-So-Hidden) Costs of Moving As a Low-Income Young Adult
In the spring of 2022, after two years of painstakingly applying for jobs, I accepted a position as a housing reporter in Kansas City. At the time, I had moved back in with my parents in my hometown of Columbia, South Carolina, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which began during my senior year of undergrad and came to a head just before my graduation.
Securing a job halfway across the country came with a mix of emotions. I was relieved to have gotten a position in my field, anxious at the thought of living so far from family and friends, and excited at the prospect of starting anew in a different city.
I then began planning for what I thought would be a seamless transition into my new life. Upon moving, however, I quickly learned that this transition would be anything but.
Spreading your wings as a young adult by moving to a new city can be a challenge for anyone, but if you come from a low-income background, such as myself, not having a family that can financially support you in your journey often leads to shortcomings that can easily be internalized as personal failures if left unchecked.
Here is what I have learned about the financial and emotional costs of moving as a low-income young adult.
I am the child of two Sierra Leonean immigrants, and while my parents worked tirelessly to support me and my five siblings, we were raised in a low-income household.
With limited financial support, I worked a slew of jobs after graduating in order to save for the future. However, much of what I saved up was eaten away over time by everyday expenses for myself and my family.
At home I contributed to groceries, bills, family emergencies, and general care of my younger siblings. By the time my move came around, I had acquired more debt than I anticipated. Still, I was left to fix my car, buy gas, storage, lodging, insurance, and other moving expenses. My inability to save up for these things acted as a hidden cost as I prepared for my move.
With a few hundred dollars left to my name, I arrived in Kansas City weary but determined to find my footing. I wasn’t able to secure an apartment prior to my move, so I had to rent a room in an Airbnb for my first few weeks, while keeping all my belongings in my car until I could find a storage unit. The first few weeks in Missouri provided their own challenges, but I had no choice but to keep moving forward.
The average cost of moving locally is $1,250, and the average cost of moving long distance is $4,890, according to Movers.com. It’s safe to say that moving is expensive — and so is everything else these days.
Before moving, I thought I would be able to hit the ground running in ways that I was not able to do until much later.
After leaving my Airbnb, I was still on the hunt for an apartment that I could afford. While I had a tight budget to work with, I did not want to sacrifice on the quality of my new home, so my search took some time. I stayed with a friend until I received my first paycheck and could afford to put a deposit down on the place I had found.
It took me weeks to secure my first apartment, and after securing it, it took me another two months just to afford a couch.
Embracing the Journey
Fast forward nine months later, and I have comfortably settled into my new environment. What it took me so long to realize is that I had failed to consider my financial background when envisioning my new start. I subsequently created unrealistic expectations for myself, leaving me to feel as though I was behind where I should be.
Ultimately, moving took a financial, mental, and physical toll on me. I found myself exhausted from navigating the experience of making way into the future while feeling constricted by the past. And while it has taken me almost a year to settle in, I have learned to embrace the journey along the way.
As a child of a low-income home, I know firsthand how often we fail to give ourselves credit for what we’ve accomplished. In that, we are only doing ourselves a disservice. Moving in itself is a big deal; a feat of its own. Everything else will come with time.