How I Moved to a Big City by Myself With Less Than $900

  • Published on:
    December 21, 2017
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 It was the summer of 2017. I had just graduated high school. I was at a job I hated and had no idea what I wanted to pursue career wise. Everyone expected me to go to college, but I knew without a clear career goal I would end up like a lot of my friends who gathered up unbearable student loan debt with a degree in a field they couldn’t find a job for. All I knew was that I didn’t want to lose my passion. I wanted to be in a place that allowed my creativity to thrive and flow but equally allowed me to grow and change. I fondly recalled my few summers as a child spent in Chicago. The lakeshore days, the beautiful city skyline, the incredible food, and the sense of mystery like something wonderful around the corner constantly waiting to be discovered. I daydreamed about picking up and leaving to start my life in a big city. Little did I know, it would all soon become a reality. I moved to a big city Chicago with roughly $900 and just my clothing. This is how I did it.

Step 1: Who? What? When? Where? Why?

If you’ve been sleeping on the idea of moving away to a new city, then it’s time to wake up and make your decision. This is a big step and it is important that you evaluate the reasons you want to do this. In addition to making a final decision about your move, it is equally important to have a clear and well thought out plan. This will make your move much less stressful for all involved. For me, making my plan was all about communication and preparation.

  • Get your notebook and a pen. Start off by outlining your overall goal of the move. Ask yourself these very basic questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? Pick out exactly where you want to move (Pro Tip: try to pick a place where you have a few friends. This will come in handy in Step 3. Hint: it’ll save you some $$$) Make lists of everything you’ll need. Think about your reasons for this move, write those down. Write out a step-by-step guide for yourself to follow.

This plan will be unique and is probably subject to change throughout this journey for everyone, so don’t be afraid or worry that you aren’t doing it “right.” The truth is, there is no right way to do this. Take some quality time to clearly think and focus on how you will be able to best execute the tasks that will bring you closer to your end result: Starting over in a new city. Use this step to get excited, encouraged and motivated.


Step 2: Communicate

Now that you have a clear plan and an ultimate end goal, it is time to prepare. One of the key components of moving successfully will be communication. When I moved out, I was 18 and still living with my mom. I knew I needed to be open and honest with what I wanted to do. I took some time to sit down with her and pitch her my idea. To my surprise, she was more than supportive and let me know that she would help me in anyway she could. Again, this part will be unique for everyone and their situation. This will depend on age and the kind of people you have in your life. For instance, if you’re younger like me and you still live at home with mom and dad, you will most definitely need to communicate with them what your plans are. This is why step 1 is making a plan. Not only does it make it easier for you, but it also makes it easier for others in your life to clearly see your visions and reasons for leaving.

If you’ve already moved out on your own and you’re just looking for adventure, you may still need to communicate your plans to your parents, but is unlikely you’ll need or feel you need their permission. Some parents will be more supportive than others. Mentally prepare yourself to accept whatever reaction they have. Understand that it’s valid and it belongs to them. There’s nothing you can do to change it, so be armed with a Plan B if their reaction isn’t what you had hoped. Another crucial element of communication will be to reach out to anyone else who is important to you in your life, such as best friends, significant others, and siblings to let them know the leap you’re making. The same principles apply: be open and honest, be prepared with your plan should they have questions, and be accepting of their reaction. Some people will be overjoyed and supportive of you. Others will have a hard time understanding. These reactions are not yours. Do not let them discourage you.


Step 3: Plan

Now that you’ve reached out to those who are important to you and you’re aware of whose support you have it is time to get down to some more specific planning. You will need a place to stay/live. This is perhaps the most important element of moving to a new city and could potentially make or break your success in relocating. Think back to Step 1 when you answered, “Who? What? Where? When? Why?” I mentioned that you could save some money by choosing a place you had some friends in. The reason for this is you can reach out to them and ask if you would be able to stay with them for a short period of time while you get settled. This is ideal because, most likely, they won’t charge you rent to stay for a month or two and, if they do, it is usually much less than the average cost of rent for an apartment. If you get lucky like I did, you can ask if they have an extra room they’re willing to rent out and, if so, how much they would charge you. If you are moving to a place where you haven’t made friends yet or your friends are unable to let you stay with them, don’t worry. Apps like Roomi and Roomster are designed to match you with your perfect roommate based on your lifestyle habits, preferences, and price range.

Once you have your living arrangements sorted out, you should give some thought to how you will make a living once you’ve gotten to your destination. I must admit, this is one of the steps I didn’t give much thought to. For me, I knew it would be easy to find a temporary job that helped me pay the bills until I figured out what I really wanted to do. Although I don’t recommend this, so far it’s working out just fine. I do, however, think it is much wiser to give some genuine thought to the idea of your career. Write out your needs and wants and pick a job that will help with exactly that. Make a résumé beforehand, that way you have it ready to go for when you arrive in your new city and you have no excuses to start looking for work immediately.


Step 4: Save your money!

Although I successfully moved out of state with less money than one would think, that doesn’t mean I didn’t save every penny I had. One of my favorite quotes by Sophia Amarouso, CEO of Nasty Gal fashion and certified #GirlBoss, reads, “Money looks better in the bank than on your feet.” This has turned into my financial mantra; A lingering reminder for me that it always feels better when I’ve got money in the bank, even if that means sacrificing a splurge on some expensive new shoes. Before making my big move to Chicago, I managed to save up roughly $900. For me, personally, this was enough to get me started in my new environment. The amount of money you need to save before depends on your personal needs, so again, take some time to think about your expenses, calculate and write out a rough estimate of how much you’ll need to comfortably get you to your destination. Include things like cost of transportation of yourself and your belongings, food and accommodation, along with an estimate of how much money you’ll want to live off of for the first few months while finding a job. Along with saving money from monthly checks, it is also smart to start earning extra cash on the side. You can do this by going old school and having a yard sale or selling individual clothing items on apps like DePop and Poshmark. This is a good time to go through your stuff and get rid of anything you don’t want to take with you while also earning extra money. Don’t be afraid to let go of the old to make room for the new.


Step 5: Don’t be afraid!

This is perhaps the hardest and most critical step in the process of relocating. A month before I left my old life behind, I was paralyzed by anxiety and fear. I was afraid of the unknown, I couldn’t fathom what was ahead of me. How could anyone mentally prepare for such a thing, I had no idea, so I did what I do best: I listened to a lot of music, I journaled about it, I prayed, and most importantly, I believed in myself. In my heart, I knew this was an opportunity to blossom and become everything I wanted to be. Yes, I was afraid, but I never let my fear overpower my curiosity or my vision of a beautiful new life. Allow this journey to empower you. Know that it’s okay to be afraid. Understand that you hold the power to create your life. Deep breaths. You are right on time and exactly where you need to be. Take everything one step at a time. Plant your seeds. Feed your dreams. There is so much light for you. Go find it!

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