The Hidden (and Not-So-Hidden) Costs of Moving As a Low-Income Young Adult

published Feb 28, 2023
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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. 

Unexpected Expenses

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.

Realistic Expectations

The average cost of moving locally is $1,250, and the average cost of moving long distance is $4,890, according to It’s safe to say that moving is expensive — and so is everything else these days. 

Nationally, rent prices in the second quarter of 2022 were 23 percent higher nationwide compared to the same period in 2019. Add in rising inflation rates and the thousands of dollars it can take to furnish an empty apartment and you are looking at a costly process.

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. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

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.

Impostor syndrome, or when an individual doubts their skills and lives in constant fear of being exposed as a fraud, can be a resulting consequence. A survey of 2,000 people from the firm Moneypenny found that 46 percent of 18 to 24 year olds experience impostor syndrome.

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.