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How to Move to New City and Not Go Broke

October 29, 2020

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Ten years ago, I moved from the Midwest to Washington, D.C. with no job lined up and no help from my parents. 

How did I do it? With some money-saving smarts and some forward thinking.

Check out these top tips if you’re looking to move to a new city without completely drying up your bank account.

The best money advice for moving to a new city

1. Save before you go

It’s hard to move without some money in your backpocket, so start saving. 

Estimate how much money you’ll need for at least the first three months without a job, in case it takes that long to find something.

Then figure out how much you’ll need to save every month before you go, and stash that amount in your savings account.

Try putting your money in a high-interest savings account to earn a bit back.

2. Watch your money

If you don’t already have a budget, make one before moving. 

Don’t forget to add in how much the move itself will cost. (Hint: it’s always more than you expect.) Add in transportation, a moving truck, an apartment deposit, and new furniture.

Once you move, stick to your money plan as much as you can. 

Hanging out with other people in a similar financial situation makes it easier. That’s not in my budget, is a perfectly valid reason for bowing out of an activity.

3. Live further out

Don’t hunt for apartments in the hottest part of town (if you even know where that is yet). Instead, look further away from the city center where prices are usually lower.

I managed to join a rent-controlled lease in a quiet residential neighborhood. It wasn’t the most exciting area, but I paid hundreds of dollars less than many of my friends for rent.

My commute was 30 to 40 minutes, which is long in a small city like D.C. But the savings was worth the extra time I spent on the metro in the morning.

4. Do free or reduced-price stuff

Channel your inner April and Andy from Parks & Recreation and find as much free stuff as you can. 

Take walks, visit free museums (or go on pay-what-you-can nights), browse open-air markets, or spend time in libraries. 

Also, look up free festivals or events happening in your city. Some of my favorite activities in D.C. cost nothing to enjoy, like the annual National Book Festival.

Also, when you need to spend money, try to get the most bang for your buck. Shop at consignment stores, browse Facebook Marketplace, and try out new bars during happy hour. 

5. Get a temporary job

If you didn’t move to the city with a job in place, try nabbing one that’s easier to get that will help pay the bills in the meantime. Having some income coming your way can keep you from draining your savings account.

Some job ideas to consider:

  • Barista

  • Waitress or hostess

  • Temp agency gigs

  • Dog walker

  • Cashier

These businesses are used to high turnover, so it’ll be simple to transition once you do find a full-time job you like.

6. Volunteer

Volunteering can give you a sense of purpose and expand your network. You might be surprised how doing something you care about for free can allow you to meet new people and potential friends.

Also, volunteering can lead to unexpected opportunities since you never know who you’re going to meet. The organization could suddenly have an opening, and you already have your foot in the door.

Putting yourself out there can help you feel more comfortable in your new home, as well.

7. Be patient

Moving to a new place is exciting but also intimidating. It takes time to get your footing, so if you don’t love it right away, don’t fret. It typically takes about a year to feel settled, so try to stick it out for at least that long.

And if you don’t land that dream job or find that dream apartment right away? That’s normal. Take a deep breath and try to enjoy the journey—without making yourself broke in the process.

Opinions, advice, services, or other information or content expressed or contributed here by customers, users, or others, are those of the respective author(s) or contributor(s) and do not necessarily state or reflect those of Varo Bank, N.A. Member FDIC (“Bank”). Bank is not responsible for the accuracy of any content provided by author(s) or contributor(s).
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Tiffany Verbeck

Tiffany Verbeck

Tiffany Verbeck is a personal finance freelance writer and podcaster. You can find her full portfolio and the latest episodes of The Poor Me Podcast at

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