How My Budget Got Me Through an Unexpected Move to a New City

Money was tight, and I had to go. Here’s how I did it.

In March, I was taken by surprise when a lingering annoyance with my living situation bloomed into a fully-grown problem—a problem that necessitated a hasty move out of my Fort Lauderdale apartment. I can’t really get into it, but let’s just say that I’m glad I got out of it (the apartment), and fast.

The only snag? In 2017, I’d signed, and intended to make use of, a two-year lease which meant that my runty ‘Moving Fund’ was about a year premature. To make matters, worse, I’d just shelled out some serious bucks in April to cover emergency veterinary care for Will, my cat.

Money was tight, and moving is expensive. But I had no other options. So, like any good YNABer, I headed to my budget and made a plan.

Budgets Make Moving Cash Easier

Now, a lot of people avoid budgeting when money is tight. I know because I review the stories that people share with me about how they found YNAB and why they waited so (painfully) long to start budgeting. There’s this misconception that if you’re barely scraping by, a budget will just make you feel worse.

This couldn’t be further from the truth! For starters, just about everyone who shares their success story with me mentions that they only regret not trying YNAB sooner. And, I can tell you emphatically from personal experience that, when money’s tight, my budget is the one thing that gives me hope.

So, I sat down to whip up an apartment-moving miracle for April. Just how many dollars could I find to pad my moving fund? It turns out, not many. But, I came up with more than I expected—which is one of the best perks of budgeting: when I’m stressed about not having enough, I can set down the weight of my emotions by focusing, instead, on the reality of the numbers. My brain flips from a depressed, reactive mode into problem-solving mode. RIght off the bat, I feel better, and it’s much easier to identify solutions.

Pulling Off My Move

With my moving budget established, it was time to make it happen. Scrawny moving funds are no match for me! Within three days, I found my place and rented a moving truck. I made concessions, but I also did better than I expected. Overall, I think I juggled my money and my desires fairly well. Here are three ways that I cut down on my costs:

Cut All the Moving Corners

So, two things dramatically reduced my costs:

First, I found a lease takeover, which meant significantly lower move-in fees than if I’d started a brand-new lease. (The old tenant needed to move, so I was literally taking over her lease through the apartment management company.) With a new lease in Florida, it’s typical to pay an application fee, first and last month’s rent, a security deposit equal to one month’s rent, and a pet deposit (Will!).

… but, with the takeover, I only had to pay an application fee and the first month’s rent. The previous tenant’s pet deposit rolled over to my lease. Score!

One thing to note: if you takeover a lease, confirm everything that the previous tenant tells you with the management, and put all of it in writing. Account for the number of keys, mailbox keys, parking spaces and gate cards that you should receive. Confirm that the management company has all security and pet deposits. Try to get a copy of the apartment walk-through sheet if you won’t get your own walk-through inspection from management. The process is a little messier than with a new lease, and a lot of it is communicated by the previous tenant.

Second, I rented a U-Haul, enlisted free moving help and saved my receipts because, and I did not know this, you can return the boxes that you don’t use! If I’d had more time, I would have avoided buying boxes altogether.

Move to A Cheaper Area

I spent two full days scouring Trulia, Zillow, ApartmentFinder and even Craigslist for a rental in my budget. In Fort Lauderdale, this is not work for the faint of heart. Luckily, I can work from anywhere with Internet, so I was able to widen my search. My new place is quadruple the size of my old place, costs less and comes with perks, including a gym with free weights and a pool. Not bad.

Now, I know that a portable job offers a unique advantage, but if you live in an area that has a high cost of living and you’re struggling under the weight of significant debt (or have big dreams that require a large nest egg), then it might be worth relocating. It’ll be more complicated, of course, but not impossible. Be sure to weigh both the difference in your cost of living and your earning power (salaries tend to be lower outside of major cities). Also factor in how much your job costs you! You might be surprised that you have more extra cash with a lower salary in a cheaper city, depending on how much it costs you to dress/travel/eat for the lifestyle that your current job requires.

Use New Beginnings to Optimize

Moving is the perfect time to reassess your monthly bills. Some are non-negotiable, like my new utility and water bills. Internet was an interesting one, though. I need it for work, and there are usually limited options, but it’s good to look for a local provider with good reviews—they seem to offer better rates and much better customer service, in my experience.

I also did an Internet speed test at my old apartment before choosing a package with my new provider. It showed me that I’d be just fine with a lower-end package, which saved me some cash. And, when you sign up, also beware of the cheap add-ons for streaming TV channels—the taxes and fees related to the streaming services were triple the cost of the channels themselves!

My new Internet provider, Comcast (the only provider in my area), also mentioned a promotion for a $45 phone line with unlimited voice/text and 20 gigabytes of data—way better than the rate I’d been paying to Verizon! I ended up finding something even better, but more on that in a future post.

Finally, I went through my entire budget, and I scrutinized everything in the context of my current priorities. It seemed like the right time to clean out the budget, a.k.a., make a fresh start, and I was able to tighten my budget up a notch to help me recover from the move.

Plan, Execute and Don’t Worry!

When I first got the news that I had to move quickly, I panicked. I was already in cutback-mode, and my bank account was depleted to unprecedented lows. I can’t tell you how unbelievably reassuring it was to sit down with my budget and work out the exact dollar amount that I had available to pull off my move.

That number made it much easier to reject or consider all of my options (cities, properties, moving companies, truck rentals), and it took the fear out of making decisions. It also saved me from myself because there were a few monthly expenses that I would’ve totally forgotten about in all the madness! But the best part was that, after I consulted with my budget, I didn’t have to worry about cash because everything was accounted for.