Monday, July 30, 2012

Single Mom's Moving on a Budget 101

I am in the midst of one of the biggest moves of my life. I've moved more stuff, and further, and on shorter notice, and with little babies... but I have never moved with so little money, so few prospects and so little choice. I am leaving Colorado because my kids are finally big enough for me to admit defeat in its fashion design job market, and I'm following my heart back to the Bay Area.

If you are moving due to unemployment then you know how daunting every expense can seem. Everything is so uncertain that, even if you HAVE some money you're loathe to spend any...because who knows what the future holds.

I've been working crazily to make this all work (the orchestration has been tortuous), but all the while I've been impressing myself with my ingenuity and thought you might be too; so here are some useful tips:

~OVER communicate with your current landlord.
He holds the key to returning your deposit/ working out lower rent payment/ giving you a reference for your new place.
When you're broke giving more than 30 days notice can give you more leeway with your landlord. In the past I've worked out a deal where I wasn't penalized for breaking a lease if I got a new tenant that was accepted.

~Create a "Rental Resume"
This is especially helpful for finding a place in absentia (if you are moving to a new state).
It should include Driver License number, Social Security Number, Income source and contacts, previous addresses, rents paid and landlord contacts.
This is mandatory if you work for yourself and it's hard to prove your income (you can list multiple clients but you don't have to keep filling out those ridiculously over-photo-copied application forms - just say "see attached" and staple it to the back).
Get your credit score ( - NOT that one with the singing Douche Bags on the commercial that will high-jack your credit card when your credit is already screwed).
I filed bankruptcy two years ago, so my credit score is shot...but my rental references are perfect, so on my rental resume I BEGIN by telling them why my credit sucks. Believe it or not a credit score is not the be-all end-all when apartment hunting. I believe showing how organized you are with your information demonstrates to the potential landlord how organized you will be with taking care of the property and paying the rent.

~Start too soon
Once you get started with the moving process the amount of crap that you forgot you had to do last time is insane. Transferring the kids to a new school alone takes 8 million steps (original, STAMPED Immunization records, school records, new school enrollment forms - after you've researched the nearest/ best school, etc....etc).
Not to mention utilities, address change, planning transit, selling crap, packing. And all of this is AFTER you find a place and are accepted.

Purging makes you money two ways: possible cash for the items and less stuff to have to pay to move. If you keep thinking about how much it will cost to replace that chair that the cat peed on twice already you'll get bogged down. Think about how cheap cat-pee free Ikea furniture is instead.
First: Take pictures of anything someone else may buy
Second: List individually on Craig's List or Ebay (if items are shippable).
Third: Have great big huge moving sale for the things that no one was biting (list this on CL with your photos).
Fourth: Schedule a charity pick up for anything left over (this is especially good for furniture).
Fifth: Rent a dumpster and DO NOT MOVE GARBAGE. If you move garbage you are a hoarder. Yes you are. Yes. You. Are. (My dumpster was $140 for a week and was billed to my current utility bill which I'll let Future Kit worry about.)

~Pack like a genius
If you hire big guys to move then you will have a month's less rent. You can do it! Just be smart. Don't pack a box you can't get up a flight of stairs with a hand truck YOURSELF.  Without a dude. There will be a dude...don't you worry. When you're a single woman moving, dudes come out of nowhere (they can't stand to watch a woman move stuff- it's the same when making a campfire). But imagine that there won't be one and pack accordingly.
Some genius tips:
First: wash all curtains, linens and throws. Fold them in a box all together and leave the box open.
Second: as you pack breakable items use the linens as the padding. This saves money (no packing materials to buy), space (because you have to move the linens anyway) and headache (because there's no nasty packing materials left all over your new place after unpacking).

~Break it down
Because you're starting early (and you're imagining there's no dude to help you pack/ unpack) you can break big things down to their smaller components: take off table legs, take apart beds. This will save space in the truck/ pod and make everything more manageable. Wrap your head around the fact that you'll have to put it all back together at the other end and make your peace with it.

~Clean (and repair) as you go
No matter how neat you are once you move stuff your place seems to have been hiding more nastiness than you though you could have been living with. It can be daunting cleaning it all...but don't wait until the end. When you see something that needs to be cleaned, stop and clean it. Most little wear-and-tear issues can be repaired with no one the wiser. For example: replacing a cat-scratched screen in a sliding glass door is cheap and easy with a new screen kit (takes a few minutes)...while your landlord may try taking 4 times as much out of your deposit than the kit costs. Replacing cat-scratched carpet takes more talent and patience - but all you need is a piece of matching carpet squirreled away from a closet corner with an x-acto and some glue.

~Think outside the box truck
The biggest expense when moving long-distance is the transit. Even the smallest Uhaul truck, driven BY you will run you a thousand or more (depending on distance) with the cost of fuel. You can swap the pain of driving for Pods (truck sized boxes delivered to your door and shipped to new door), but they cost more (and you have to account for the extra time it takes for them to be delivered). Another option is using "part" of a truck; you only pay for the square footage you use, and the rest is used by other people. This is cheaper (ABF/ Upack offers this service) but you need to be flexible with timing. I saw one other idea on a moving forum that seemed interesting, if you have the cash: buy a used box truck, use it to move, then sell it at your destination.

Wish me luck! I'll see you on the flip side.

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