Back in August, I moved from my home state of Ohio to Colorado. I had lived in Ohio my entire life. I even had the same address from age 6 until college graduation. Moving to an entirely different state was a big step! A lifestyle change like this has a big effect on your finances, so it’s time to finally share the details.
After graduating college in May 2014, I knew I wanted to do something different. I was in a decent spot already TBH. I had a bachelor’s, a $30,000 internship, and I could spend next to nothing while living indefinitely with Dad. But I wanted to aim for something more.
Right before graduation, my internship Boss told me they had a position available if I wanted to stay. Awesome right? While my recently graduated friends were busy searching for jobs and editing resumes, I’d be earning cold hard cash & receiving benefits.
If I took the position, I’d receive a pay bump of around $9,000. Those making insane six-figure software engineering salaries will laugh, but $39,000 straight out of college in Ohio isn’t something you turn down right away.
I knew if I took this job, I’d be trapped. The town it was located in had a population of 6,000. This company was the area’s largest employer and few other opportunities in IT existed. My boss, without any subtlety, told me that there was no advancement path. I give him a lot of credit for being so candid.
The money was great as long as I lived in my childhood home. My dad wasn’t going to charge me for rent or car insurance or anything else. I knew if I got comfortable in that situation, I might not look very hard for my next job.
Ever since my semester in Europe, I knew I wanted travel to be a big piece of my life. That was the future I wanted. Staying in my hometown, even if it meant paying off my student loans faster, felt like going in reverse.
After turning down that offer in early May, I was extremely fortunate my boss allowed me to continue on as an intern. My pay stayed the same, but that was fine since I had almost zero expenses thanks to Benefactor Dad.
Meanwhile, a close friend was in Denver, Colorado for their own internship. We had semi-seriously talked about me visiting but this was all early stages in May.
By June, I decided I was going to visit as long as my friend was cool with it. I dropped the bomb: “Can I stay longer than you probably expected? I want to try to find a job while I’m there.” My friend is awesome and agreed as soon as I asked.
Now I had a firm date & clear purpose. I gave notice and prepared for the trip.
I started putting my friend’s address on job applications to increase my chances. I figured if I timed things right, they wouldn’t even necessarily have to know I wasn’t a local resident until the interview stage and by then, they’d be more willing to accept an out of stater.
I scored a few Skype interviews and some wishy-washy “Give me a call when you’re actually in Denver.” type responses. Most important, I scheduled 3 real interviews.
I drove 900 miles to my friends’ apartment in late July. I arrived on a weekend, so we spent it drinking, catching up, and checking out the City. I instantly thought “This is a place I want to be!“.
I don’t remember an exact number now but I think I had 6 total interviews. I received 2 full-time offers. I also received 1 part-time-but-maybe-full-time-offer. The guy interviewing me didn’t seem sure, so I noped out of there quick. That situation was odd.
My goal had been to get a job in Denver. I’d done it. Now I had to commit! The money was fine, about 6K higher than my OH offer.
But did I really want to move? Start a new life so far from home? I’d done 4 months in Europe. But that trip always had an expiration date. I knew when I was returning.
My family assured me I could always move back. My friend told me I’d be crazy not to try it out. With their confidence and my own thirst for a new adventure, I accepted a job offer.
Decision made. I was moving.
Once I accepted the offer, I had 7 days to:
- Find a place to live in a city I’d only spent 2 weeks in
- Fly home
- Rent a car
- Drive to Denver…again
- Move in
The clock was ticking….LOUDLY! I was running on adrenaline and started my apartment search. Denver’s rental market is insane. Availability is rare and units are expensive if you don’t keep your expectations in check.
On my last pre-move morning in Denver, I found a tiny studio on Craigslist. Price was affordable and there was no sketchy property management company in the mix. I called to schedule a showing. Voicemail.
It’s hard to describe just how stressed out I was during this process.
The owner of the building called me back an hour later. Could I meet her at 3PM to see the place?
DEFINITELY! I was so excited about the possibility of landing an apartment, I probably would have verbally agreed to a lease over the phone.
I arrived to a walkable neighborhood and genuine landlord. The studio was even tinier than the pictures suggested. Beggars can’t be choosers though. The landlord ran a credit check on site. I passed and immediately wrote a check for the deposit and first month’s rent.
Side note: Credit scores matter even if you don’t borrow money.
6 hours later we met up again for the key hand off. How cool is that?!? This landlord was so willing to work with me they volunteered to come back to give me keys the same evening.
I flew home just a few hours later.
I arrived in Ohio exhausted. I took a day to relax, then started packing. I left after 4 days for my 2nd 18 hour cross-country drive in 2 weeks. If you’ve never done it before, packing up your entire life in a car is a very interesting experience. You notice how little material possessions matter.
Life In Denver & Finances
Since the move, life has been good. The job offers great flexibility and the starting pay is good. I’m enjoying lots of time off to explore a new city and can still visit home for holidays.
Driving down the highway each morning, I remind myself to look west at the mountains. Not everyone gets such an amazing view.
City life suits me well. I drive less than ever. I’ve started to run with an intensity I haven’t had since high school and I’m about to register for my first marathon. Motivation is easy to find when you have great weather and numerous parks just blocks away.
On the finance side, debts are down and assets are up. I’ve paid some serious moving expenses over the past 7 months however:
- Rental deposit – $600
- Pro-rated rent – $400
- Car rental – $600
- Apartment “Stuff” – $200
- Gas – $200
- Car registration – $150
- Renter’s insurance – $130
Without a doubt, I’d have more money and less debt if I had stayed in Ohio. I’m choosing quality of life over money. I knew that going into this and so far, it’s worth the trade. On the career side, I’m taking a calculated risk. My additional Denver salary is going to rent. Over time, I’m betting I’ll make more money & enjoy better job perks in my new city.
The important part is I am paying down debt and increasing investments, just not as fast as I could have. That’s a consequence I had to accept to make moving possible.
I’ll mention now this wasn’t a 100% impulse move. I’d been thinking about moving during my entire senior year. At one point I investigated teaching English in South Korea. That idea didn’t pan out but the goal of moving persisted.
I saved around $5,000 before quitting my internship. A small security blanket relative to the expenses moving can sap but still real cash for a real decision. I’ve read stories of others who move to new states, even countries, with nothing more than some clothes and a few hundred bucks. That’s not my style though.
I didn’t choose my new city by throwing a dart at a map. Denver became a logical choice for a bunch of reasons. I had a free place to stay with while I interviewed, meaning I burnt less cash while job searching. Denver’s weather is great for runners. My industry’s job market is extremely strong.
If you’re looking for a change, don’t be afraid to move. There’s a lot of world out there. The place you grew up may not be the place you thrive.