How to Calculate the Costs of Relocation

Adding up relocation costs is essential before making a move.

How to Calculate the Costs of Relocating
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Making a move may be necessary if you want to take the next step up the career ladder. Relocation can also be appealing if you're ready to make a fresh start personally or simply need a change of scenery.

But before you hire movers and start house or apartment hunting, it's important to take time to consider relocation costs. Here's how to make sure you're financially prepared for a move.

Start With a Relocation Costs Budget

A budget is essential for managing day to day expenses and you can apply the same concept when a move is in the cards. You can divide relocation costs into two broad categories: the costs of moving and your cost of living once you've settled in to your new place.

Costs of Moving

This category covers all the expenses you may need to pay to go from Point A to Point B. That may include:

  • Boxes and packing materials
  • Moving van rental if you plan to move yourself
  • Hiring professional movers
  • Utility deposits at your new place
  • Remaining utility balances at your old one
  • Storage unit rental
  • Professional cleaning services if you're moving out of a rental
  • Airfare if relocating long distance means flying versus driving
  • Shipping fees (including fees for transporting pets)
  • Moving insurance
  • Security deposit for your new apartment if you're renting
  • Temporary short-term housing if you're planning to buy

If you want to buy versus rent, you'll also need to add home-buying costs in to your relocation costs. That includes things like your down payment, earnest money and closing costs.

So how much should you budget for the costs of moving? The amount can vary, based on the distance you're moving, how much stuff you have to move and whether you want to go pro with a move or choose a DIY approach.

According to HomeAdvisor, the cost of moving nationwide ranges from $200 at the low end, to $8,800 at the high end. The average cost is $905 but to be on the safe side, you should budget at least $1,000 to cover your move to start. Comparing individual moving costs and services can help you fine-tune your budget further.

Costs of Living After You Relocate

The other side of moving is figure out what relocation costs after the fact. The expenses you should be most concerned with here include:

  • Mortgage or rent payment for your new home
  • Monthly utility costs
  • Transportation
  • New furniture and decorations
  • Repairs and ongoing maintenance, if you're buying a home
  • Groceries
  • Car, renter's and/or homeowner's insurance
  • Property taxes

These are the most essential expenses to consider when relocating for a new job, but there are costs to consider as well. Health care, for example, is something to think about. You may be young and healthy but if you get sick or injured, you need to know how much a doctor visit would cost if you're waiting for your insurance to kick in or you haven't met your deductible year.

Beyond that, think about things like dining out, entertainment and hobbies. In a bigger city, going to a restaurant or a movie may be more expensive compared to where you're living now.

You need to consider carefully how your budget after a move may increase or decrease, and how your new income will accommodate your spending. If you're moving to an area with a higher cost of living, that may mean having to cut back on some of the non-essentials, like clothes shopping or lunches out.

A tighter budget could also curtail how often you're able to travel back to your old hometown. That might matter to you if you're leaving family or close friends behind and you'd like to plan regular visits.

Calculating Relocation Return on Investment

As you assess relocation costs, remember to think about the bigger picture. Specifically, ask yourself what the return on investment is likely to be, both financially and emotionally, in moving to a new city.

If you're moving to start your career, is your new destination a place you can see yourself staying put for the next few years? Do you see yourself potentially starting a family here if you haven't already? Is there opportunity for professional advancement if you plan to stay for the long haul? Do you already have a job available or will you be starting your search from scratch?

If you're looking for a job and don't have an offer yet, evaluate what the job market is like. Moving to a city with a larger population doesn't necessarily guarantee that job openings will be plentiful. And even if they are, you might be up against stiff competition if hundreds or even thousands of other job seekers are relocating for the same reason.

Think carefully about salary expectations as well. Looking at the median and entry-level salaries for workers in your industry in a given city can give you a better idea of where you're likely to fall on the payscale once you get hired. Plugging your projected income into a cost of living calculator for the city you're interested in can help determine how affordable it truly is.

Finally, look past the financial considerations and think about the overall quality of life a city has to offer. It may not impact your relocation costs budget, but knowing whether there are other people your age that you can connect with or whether a city offers the kind of hobbies or lifestyle you're seeking can play a big part in your decision-making. Relocating -- even if it means getting ahead on the job -- can leave you miserable if your quality of life suffers.