Minimizing the Stress of a Big Move

How to reprioritize your budget based on your immediate goals.

Written by Erin Lowell  |  on


After a few years of house hunting in my very tight housing market, I am finally moving. Hooray!  The day I thought might never come is finally here. While I’m thrilled to get over this hurdle, as the last few weeks have unfolded, I felt something I hadn’t felt in a while—financial stress.

When you buy a house, you are spending a lot of money all at once. Spending seemed to be coming at me from different directions:

  • Down Payment
  • Cash to Close
  • Moving Costs
  • Septic Inspection
  • Building Inspection

And of course, there are things I want to do once I move in and all the things I can’t even think of right now.

Yet my budget had one single category for all of this: New House.

I did not find this comforting. It was the vagueness of it. I started to feel uneasy. And then suddenly, I realized what I needed to do.

I needed a category group for the move. All those things I listed? They’re categories. They’re jobs I need my dollars to do.

It’s interesting to me how I let a few stressful weeks march by before realizing this. I’ve been budgeting now for over ten years. Why did it take so long? Perhaps it’s because my budget is pretty set at this point, or perhaps it’s because a lot of these categories are temporary, I’m not sure. But after 20 minutes of organizing in the budget, I had this:

The sense of relief was immediate. I wish I’d done it sooner. My favorite category is that last one—I’ve moved before—I know how this goes. Stuff will come up. Every house is different and needs different things.

The unknown category is a holding ground right now. I can move money from there as things come up.

It’s so comforting to see the money sitting there in each category ready to get me over this move. The clarity is empowering.

When the move is over, if there’s any money left in any of these categories, I will move those dollars to a different part of the budget and then hide the group.

Remember friends, budgeting is about taking control of your money. You can’t do that in the dark. This process shed a light on what was going on and gave me awareness. With awareness comes clarity and control.

Now maybe you hate temporary categories and the idea of hiding them. I think about it like this:  

First, my budget should be a reflection of my life. I want to look at my budget and see my priorities. Life changes and with it, priorities. Right now my priority is getting over this move. When it’s no longer a priority, it will no longer be visible in my budget.

Remember friends, budgeting is about taking control of your money. You can’t do that in the dark. This process shed a light on what was going on and gave me awareness. With awareness comes clarity and control.

When in doubt, remember this as a mantra: There’s no wrong way to organize your budget. In fact the right way is the way that works best for you right now, at this exact moment in time.

Second, my budget is a tool I use to take and maintain control over my financial decisions.  Tools aren’t static—they are meant to be used. We use them as needed for the job at hand.

And finally, changing your budget isn’t just about moving money around to cover overspending. It can be about changing the structure itself to keep you in the driver’s seat.

Your Next Step

Budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. So what do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress?