How to Plan a Move Across the Country

Move Across the Country

Have you ever thought about packing up and relocating to a new city or state?

A lot of people do (on average 7,628,000 move to a different state each year). They do it for many reasons which may include pursuing job opportunities, moving closer to family and friends, or simply a change in lifestyle.

Relocation can be fun, a growing experience for your family and certainly full of learning opportunities.

Just over a year ago my wife and I moved to Southern California to pursue a dream to live closer to the coast and enjoy all the beauty and nice weather SoCal has to offer. We spent about a year planning and praying about the move.

There was much to be considered. California has a lot higher cost of living than Texas. Our extended family was moderately close to us in Louisiana and Missouri. Our kids had established friendships and we had also become a part of a great community in North Dallas. I certainly had to consider income and if I would have to find a new job too.

Amazingly, one thing led to another and our plan became real. I received approval from my employer to transition my job to California, we sold our house, visited California and found a place to live, scheduled movers, packed up the house and drove our two cars, kids and cats to SoCal.

The learning experience has been more than I could have ever imagined. It’s been challenging, yet rewarding for our entire family. We've met great friends through our church and community and we certainly love being close to the beach as well as the mountains. We love that we made this giant leap of faith and haven’t looked back sense.

Okay, enough about me. Have you ever thought about pursuing a relocation dream? It can happen if you’re willing to plan well, persevere and work hard to get there. Of course, there were many things I learned, but I wanted to share just a few tips that might help those of you interested evaluate whether or not a relocation decision is right for you.

1. Job and Income Considerations

If your move isn't part of a work related relocation, you'll obviously have to decide how you're going to earn income once you're there. Will you be able to find a new job before you move, or will you have to search for one after you move? Most people will need a job before making the location change.

Many large companies will let employees transfer to new locations assuming there is a local office or if there is business in the area. It could even mean taking a new position with the same company. Don't rule out any options if you're serious about relocating. Consider raising the idea to your employer as a personal desire, but in such a way that it might also help fulfill company goals.

2. Research Moving Expenses

Moving expenses are definitely a big cost to consider. Long distance moves will require much more planning, so you'll need to reach out to 2 or 3 moving companies to get high level estimates for the move well in advance. You might decide the move is unaffordable, or that you need to save more money.

Obviously, moving expenses can be decreased by moving with fewer things. If you know for sure you're going to move, start cleaning out and perhaps have a yard sales or donate items. Are there any major pieces of furniture you could sell to make the move easier? You might also consider temporary storage for some items until you get your feet on the ground in the new location. I can tell you that we sold and donated a lot of furniture that helped decrease expenses. It was also nice to lighten our load and do a major clean out.

3. Renting versus Buying a Home

You'll certainly want to compare cost of living in your current area with the new location. Does it make more sense to rent or buy? People moving to the Northeast or to the West coast will often consider renting as it's typically more affordable. However, drops in real estate prices as well as low interest rates can make it possible to buy in these areas.

Personally, I think renting is a good idea if you don't know the new area very well. You might rent for a few years, assure yourself the move was the right decision and learn more about other areas before making a longer term decision to buy property. Buy when you've found the right area without any doubts.

We decided to rent. Obviously SoCal is expensive real estate, but we also didn’t want to over complicate what was already a challenging move for us. I couldn’t have imagined taking on the additional financial stress as well as coordinating the timing of buying a house. A lease made the most sense for us.

4. Lifestyle Requirements

The lifestyle you desire will be a main factor of your decision to relocate. Does your family enjoy the outdoors, beach and a lot of sunshine? There are plenty of locations you can find year around with nice weather. However, if you like the seasons, and perhaps enjoy a white Christmas from time to time, that lifestyle will lead to a different decision.

People and culture can be a lot different from state to state. Overall, you have to decide the lifestyle you think your family will enjoy most.

Personally, I believe if you're a friendly, an outgoing family and stay true to your values, you'll find people anywhere who you can relate to and that will welcome you to their community.

5. Consider Affordability

It's unfortunate, but some places just cost more than others. Do you want to live by the ocean? If so, you'll pay for it. Do you like mountain views? You'll pay for those too! Don't forget about taxes. Some states, such as Florida and Texas don't have state tax.

Move to California and many other states and you'll have to consider state taxes coming out of your paycheck each month. With some locations, gas, food and entertainment cost more too. If you want to make sure you can absolutely afford your relocation, consider creating a budget based on the cost of living research you conduct.

Keep in mind, it’s only an estimate and you’ll really never know for sure until you get there. For instance, we’ve found that our utilities are a lot less in California than they were in Texas. The weather is much milder so we don’t have to run our AC or heat very often.

6. Family and Friends and Reverse Vacations

There are many opportunities in life and as an adult, you have to make a decision you think is going to be best for you family as well as based on your lifestyle, or other goals. Leaving or moving away from family and friends is always difficult. It doesn't mean you love them less, but it may mean you have to make other arrangements to see them.

If you move to a beach destination, your vacation may get reversed. Instead of traveling to the ocean for vacation, you might travel to see family. Years ago my wife and I made a decision to move to a new location. We left our families behind because we both wanted to pursue our personal interests and dreams. It's worked out fine, although, we miss family a lot of the time. Overall, we're happy we made the decisions we did, and have since enjoyed many experiences we would never have had if we stayed in our home towns.

There is obviously a lot to consider when thinking about a relocation and I certainly haven’t touched on everything. Overall, I think it's best to make a list of everything you need to do to make sure it's the right decision. In other words, create a plan to help you reach your decision.

The plan may include research, talking to people, getting estimates, etc. and even making trips to visit potential relocation spots. Our family visited California for vacation and my wife and I made 2 additional trips before making the final decision. Try to assign time frames to the steps so you can make sure you have goals and can make forward progress.

A relocation can be a lot of fun and the most exciting experience of your life. Just be patient and know that you can pursue such a dream if you want to. Our family has proved it.

Have you ever thought about relocating? What’s stopping you?

Photo by John-Mark Kuznietsov on Unsplash

Want My Free 31-Step Money Guide*?

Subscribe for free. Get my guide *31 Days to Improve Your Financial Life, welcome series, and regular Five Things digest. Join 30,000+ other followers.

Powered by ConvertKit


  1. You really have to look into the affordability of a place and of course, you’ve got to have all your options laid out. As well as understand what you want in a house before finally deciding.

  2. Great tips in this! My family and I had discussed moving somewhere new, but it is obviously more of a process than finding a good location and going. There’s a lot financially you have to deal with. Thanks for posting this, and I’ll keep this in mind while we’re discussing our potential move!

  3. Great post, every time I’ve moved across the country it’s been a process of just slamming everything into a couple vehicles and slamming on the gas. It was during the military actually. I wish I’d come across your article back when I was going back and forth moving from the east to west and then west to east coast. I think the most important thing to consider when you’re on a shoe string budget is planning the cost of gas, hotels, and food. Today people like us, in our mid thirties with a decent budget obviously wouldn’t need to consider that, but the younger crowd might.

  4. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life says:

    I’ve lived in or within 1 hour of the NYC area my entire life but I’ve often fantasized about moving cross country to SoCal. I was thinking about it seriously until I realized how bad the water crisis is out there. Dreams foiled 🙁

  5. Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

    My husband and I have moved five times in the last 8 years and we plan to move again in a few years. We found that once we got over our initial fears and concerns with our first move, each subsequent move was much easier.

    We’ve always moved for jobs, so our main consideration has been whether to buy or rent since we haven’t been sure how long we’d be in each location. We did decide to buy our current home when we moved to Cambridge, MA 2.5 years ago and it was a great decision–primarily because we’ll be able to rent it out when we next move.

    Moving is definitely stressful, but on the whole, I’ve enjoyed all the different opportunities it has opened up for us.

  6. We are currently preparing to move a little over 1,000 miles away. A lot of thought went into the process, but I’m still a little nervous haha!