6 Easy Ways to Plan and Budget for Moving to a New City, According to Experts

published Nov 10, 2021
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Some people get lost in the idea of moving to a new city because they expect the process to be easy — all you have to do is pack up your belongings and transport them from A to B, right? If only it was that simple. Moving comes with a lot of unexpected costs and challenges.

Planning and budgeting can make the process less stressful and prevent common mishaps. I spoke with real estate agents, professionals in the moving industry, and a personal finance expert about how individuals can set themselves up for success on the way to their new home.

First, research the cost of living.

Kimberly Palmer, a personal finance expert with NerdWallet, advises researching the expected living and lifestyle costs of your intended city, especially since individuals tend to overlook this step and it’s likely to impact their budget. You can find a cost of living calculator for your new area online, she says, to get a sense of what you’re going to be spending more money on. 

“The other big category that I think most people forget is the tax factor,” Palmer explains. “You might think about checking on income tax and how that differs… but there are also smaller things like sales taxes, so you might end up paying more every time you buy things.” 

Take advantage of other financing options. 

Outside of liquid savings, you can take advantage of other financing options for your move. Palmer suggests checking the credit cards in your wallet and seeing if one of them comes with a low-interest rate or even a 0 percent rate. You can also apply for a new credit card, as some offer 0 percent interest during a 12 to 18 month introductory period. This offers you some security if you need to pay for movers and flexibility if unexpected costs arise. 

Use Google Street View when apartment hunting.

If you’re moving to a city sight unseen, you can use the good ol’ internet to narrow down your desired neighborhood and location. Tanya Gradet, an Avenue 8 agent in Los Angeles, advises not only looking at pictures of apartments online but using Google Street View, too, so you can tool around to get a sense of a neighborhood and what’s nearby.

Credit: Lauren Volo

Team up with a seasoned local agent.

Once you narrow down your location, you should consider working with a local real estate agent. Mark Pages-Oliver, owner of Range Homes in California’s East Bay area, recommends finding a seasoned agent who works with the areas and types of properties you’re looking at, and has recent market activity. (In other words, avoid agents who haven’t rented or sold a place in a while.)

Similarly, Jaclyn Bild of Douglas Elliman in Miami, says an agent who knows the area well can help guide you from start to finish, ensuring you are happy with your new home.

Work directly with a reputable moving company.

It’s always a good idea to comparison shop for quotes from moving companies. But if you’re doing it all online, you might be doing it wrong. Gloria Pugh, the CEO of AMWAT Movers in Tallahassee, Florida, says you should be mindful of moving brokers since they offer cheap quotes without including the actual moving costs. Call moving companies directly to get specific dollar amounts.

Similarly, Alex Erdman, owner of Extra Hands PGH in Pittsburgh, recommends working directly with a company, because a broker will either profit from the customer or the actual moving company. Erdman says your best bet for finding a reputable moving company is to get a recommendation from someone you know. If your only option is to look online, both Pugh and Erdman say you should be wary of companies with hundreds of reviews, and they suggest reading through the comments to ensure they’re real. 

If you can’t afford a full-service move, a moving company might work with you to lower the price. “A lot of reputable moving companies are going to accommodate their clients because we want to do a good service for our customers and work with you,” Pugh says. “They’ll tell you: this is how you can save money and give you options.”

Both Pugh and Erdman recommend renting a truck to drive yourself and hiring a professional moving company to load and unload your truck to save money. Pugh also says to get rid of unnecessary goods because the lower the weight, the lower the price.

Contact your new building manager.

The more details you know about and can plan for, the more seamless the process will be for everyone involved. Erdman and Pugh advise reaching out to your building’s concierge, doorman, or manager to obtain information about when you can move in, if you can have a dedicated elevator, and where the movers can park. 

Depending on the city, you (yes, you specifically!) may need to apply for a parking permit for the moving truck. If you’re moving to an apartment sight unseen, Erdman proposes asking about your apartment’s location, including the floor number and whether it’s near the elevator or down the hall. “The best thing for us is that if we show up, and we’re prepared for your move,” Erdman notes. “It’s gonna go easy for us and easy for you.”