Did you just graduate from college? Are you contemplating everything that comes next? If so, you stand at a crossroads in one of the most exciting chapters of your life. Whether you’re relocating to pursue work, like 11 percent of Americans over the last decade, or you’re merely hoping to spread your wings in new surroundings, here are some can’t-miss tips for new grads looking to make a change.
Save for as Long as You Can
There are lots of reasons younger folks continue living with their parents after graduation. Some of these are concessions made due to a high cost of living or a lack of job opportunities. For others, remaining at home a bit longer is more about centering ourselves before a significant life change and saving up some money.
When you have settled down someplace, conventional wisdom says to keep about three months of rent saved up. But if you’re changing cities — especially if your job situation is less than clear — you should think about saving even more than that before leaving the nest. Be prepared for as much financial uncertainty as possible.
Learn About the Cost of Living and Make a Budget
The cost of living varies wildly between countries, states and cities. Before you decide if you’re ready to relocate, find out everything you can about the cost of living in the areas you’re considering. Research the following:
- Where will you shop for groceries?
- How do the prices of necessities compare to other areas?
- What’s the cost of gas?
- Can you ditch your car? If so, what’s the going rate for public transportation?
- Do you need renter’s insurance? Does your rent include any utilities?
Use a cost-of-living calculator to see what life will cost in your new city.
From there, you need to make a budget. Not a half-budget or a “kind of” budget — you need a brutally honest, adult-sized budget that factors in each of your expenses, plus a discretionary “allowance” for fun and games. Get this done long before you think about relocating.
Find a Local Bank
Our financial lives are becoming more digital by the day, but there are benefits to taking your business to a local institution — or at least one with local branches. Cash isn’t dead yet — and paying to withdraw your money from somebody else’s ATM sucks. Plus, it’s good to know you have somebody you can visit in person to talk about personal finances, loans and other matters.
Find Friends — and Friends of Friends — in the Area
It’s called social “networking” for a reason. If you’re on your way to a new city, or narrowing down a region to relocate to, take a stroll through your digital Rolodex first. Do you have friends there, or friends of friends, who can show you around town or lend you a couch to crash on while your plans come together? You won’t believe how much more confident you’ll feel about relocating once you know friendly faces are waiting there for you.
Downsize as Much as You Can
There are three main reasons to downsize as you’re making relocation plans. The first two are that you’ll have less stuff to move and learn a valuable lesson about how much clutter we humans allow to accumulate around us. The third reason is to earn some extra cash to fund your move and pad your bank account. Use an online marketplace to sell things you don’t need anymore or join a community yard sale.
Find a Roommate
It’s tempting to think you can strike out and make it totally on your own. But that’s not always the case. And sometimes you don’t want to wait around in your hometown until you’re financially stable enough to rent an apartment by yourself. The good news is, there are always folks out there on roommate-matching websites who’re looking for help with life’s many expenses — or just because life is more fun with like-minded people by our side. Avoid culture clash by learning about each other’s habits, cleanliness, pet preferences and other potential deal-breakers before committing to anything.
Ask Yourself These Questions
Are you excited and optimistic about moving? Do you have work lined up or know how to find it reasonably quickly? Are you headed to a region with lots of opportunities? Does your new employer offer relocation assistance? Does this move make sense for your five-year plan, or is it a lateral move? Can you afford to furnish an empty apartment? Do you like the area you’ll be calling home? If you’re not sure, explore it the way a tourist would before you sign on any dotted lines.
None of us can see the future with perfect clarity, and some life changes are just too weighty to account for every variable. If there’s one takeaway here, it’s to practice honesty: Be honest about your current and future financial realities, and be sincere about why you’re making a move. Be realistic about your motivations, your prospects and your expectations. If you do that, the rest of it will only get easier.
Bio: Nathan Sykes is a business and technology writer and a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh. To stay up to date on all things tech and business read his blog, Finding an Outlet, or follow him @nathansykestech.