Moving Cross Country for School or a Job

If you’re moving cross country after graduating from college it’s probably for an exciting reason. You snagged your first “big” job (yay!) or you’re starting graduate school (yay!)… Either way, you have to pack up and haul yourself, and all your stuff, across hundreds or thousands of miles. Moving to college might have been complicated, but you had fewer things, and maybe even your parents’ help. But now you have to do it on your own. So what’s the cheapest and easiest way to make that big move after college? As always, just like life, it’s choose your own adventure.

Do you already have a place to live?

  • Yes

    First of all, congrats. That’s a huge step and you’ve taken it. Knowing where you’ll need to be every day will help you narrow down the places where you can reasonably live. If you’re not a local, or haven’t spent a lot of time in your future hometown, make sure you get as much information you can about things like traffic, public transportation, rush hour, etc. For example, a 10-mile commute in Oklahoma is very different than a 10-mile commute in Los Angeles. When you look for places to live, keep all these things in mind so that you don’t end up with an endless or expensive commute. If you’ve got your job and housing situation all sorted out, you’ll have the luxury of more moving options because you can truly gauge the cost of moving with your things or re-purchasing your household items.

  • No

    You’ve always wanted to live in Miami and you’re just going to do it and figure the rest out later? Gutsy move. If your living and work/school arrangements are TBD at the moment, traveling light is key if you’ll be using a friend’s home or a short-term rental as your home base.

How attached are you to your things?


  • Very - Gotta have them all!

    If you’re still living in campus housing or a dorm, odds are you haven’t accumulated too many bulky items. But if you live in an apartment, you probably have larger furniture, kitchen items, books, art, etc. As you start thinking about your move, even if you’re able to move everything, this is a good time to declutter and shed some things you’ve been hanging onto. That said, if you’re very attached to your furniture and large items, your move is going to almost certainly require renting a van or truck from a national company, which is the most expensive option, or renting a storage cube that’s moved for you, which can also get pricey. You’ll save the most money by moving with as few things as possible. Renting a moving truck is much more than just the cost of the rental — gas, staying somewhere overnight for extra-long trips, and meals on the road can add up to thousands of dollars. Is your furniture worth that much?

  • Somewhat - I’d like to keep some things.

    Great. Get out your sorting hat and sort your things into must-haves, maybes, and toss/donate columns. If you can whittle your items down to “things that will fit in boxes”, you have tons of cheaper options available to you. You can buy sturdy boxes and ship them using UPS, FedEx, or the United States Postal Service (use ground shipping for lowest rates). Other options: U-Haul offers a smaller shipping cube that they’ll haul for you. You fill it and they ship it. You can also use Amtrak (yes, the train) to ship boxes, including some oversize items like bicycles.

  • Not at all - Minimalism all the way!

    The absolute cheapest way to move anywhere is to pack only what you can carry with both hands: a couple of suitcases with your clothes and a few favorite items. This means your only expense is your transportation to your new home. Keeping things minimal, at least at first, also gives you a ton of flexibility when it comes to finding apartments, roommates, etc.

Will you be moving with your car?


  • Nope

    If you have a car and will be in a position to keep it in your new city, moving in your own car or with your own car and a rented trailer can be much less expensive than renting a moving van or even than shipping your items.

  • Yes

    Depending on how much stuff you want to keep, you can always fill your car to the brim or hook up a rented trailer to save money.

Willing to do some (light) math?


  • Give it to me

    Look around at the bigger, bulkier items in your apartment: Are your couch, desk, bookcase, and pots and pans irreplaceable? How much would it cost you to replace every single item versus the cost of getting everything from where you are to your destination? You’ll often find that it’s much cheaper to sell or donate almost all your things and buy brand new ones than it is to haul your college futon 1,200 miles.

  • Please don’t make me

    Refer to the previous answer. It’s worth it to do the math, if only to make yourself feel better about that futon.

Other Essential Tips

  1. Start saving money for your move today. Whenever you’re reading this, now is a good time to start or keep saving up for your post-college move. You’re going to incur some expenses, either to fly or drive to your new home, to do a reconnaissance mission before moving, or for things like security deposits, first month’s rent, utility deposits, and more.
  2. Got a great new job? Ask about relocation expenses. Did you know that many companies will offer you some money toward your move? If your new career is in especially high demand, employers will often sweeten your offer with the option to reimburse your moving expenses. It doesn’t hurt to ask, even if you’re a new grad.