Tuesday, November 8, 2011

So you're thinking of moving abroad....

Start saving your pennies, because moving ain't cheap.  Especially when there's an ocean involved.  When the Professor and I first found out about the move to Spain,  we anticipated that things would get pricey.  We expected the expense of shipping our belongings overseas, the price of the plane tickets, and even the cost of having to buy all new furniture and home appliances once we arrive.  But there were also a bunch of other things that we didn't think to plan for.  In this post, I want to enumerate the expenses we incurred in our move in order to give you current or future travelers some idea of what you might expect to spend on an overseas move.  But don't despair! In addition to warning you about the cash you'll shell out on your move, I will also give you some tips on how to earn (or recoup) a little money too!

First, here is a list of things we needed to do or buy for the move and what they cost:

1.  Health certificate without health insurance (2):  $200
2.  FBI criminal background check application fee (2):  $36
3.  Apostille Certification on marriage license and background checks (total of 3 documents):  $30.
4.  Visa application fee (2): $280
5.  20 small packing boxes from Home Depot: $20
6.  Professional packing of our 32" flat screen TV (our shippers recommended we get this professionally packed since it's so fragile):  $62
7.  Shipping 30 cubic feet of stuff:  $720
8.  Health Certificate for our cat (including rabies vaccine, microchip, fecal matter exam, office visit): $180

Total spent thus far: $ 1,528

A hefty amount so far, eh? And I'm sure there'll be other unexpected costs along the way. But now for the good news: with a little effort and planning ahead, you can also save a little money on your move.  

1.  Do your research.  A lot of the unpleasant surprises the Professor and I experienced came about because we didn't do our research ahead of time.  If we had known how long our background checks would take or how far in advance to request a visa, we wouldn't have had to spend so much sending documents via Priority mail or paying to expedite things.  

2.  Ask.  You never know what you might get, unless you ask.  The Professor's future employer never mentioned helping to pay for our move or our flights when they first offered him the job.   We asked if they would pay for both of our plane tickets to Spain and they said yes! Then we asked them if we could stay in family housing on campus while we search for a long-term apartment, and again, they said yes!

3.  Sell as much as you can.  When you move anywhere, whether it be across town or across the globe, you will need to get rid of many things.  Fortunately, you can sell a lot of your stuff instead of just donating it to Goodwill (not that there's anything wrong with that!).  Towards that end:

 A) Go through your clothes and accessories.  If you don't wear it and it's in good condition, sell it.  We're fortunate to live near a store called Plato's Closet.  This chain store buys and sells gently used clothing. You just bring a bag of your stuff and they'll buy whatever they can sell.  I've made at least $70 selling my things (although this was over many trips). Don't expect to receive much for your things, but every little bit helps.  It also helps to be persistent.  Just because one store won't buy your jeans, doesn't mean another store won't. 

B) Craigslist.  The Professor and I listed all of our furniture and home appliances and in a week, our apartment was practically empty.  We sold some really nice stuff, like an IKEA Expedit bookshelf (for $80), but we also sold stuff we didn't think ANYBODY would want (including a printer my husband has had since 2000 which we sold for five bucks).  The important thing to remember about Craigslist is that your stuff is only worth what somebody would pay for it.  Don't list an item for how much you bought it for.  Be realistic. This is more or less an online garage sale, so price accordingly.  

C)  Cash in  your pennies.  If you're like us, you've got a few piggy banks loaded with coins sitting around in your house.  If you're moving abroad like us, you don't need these coins anymore.  We took our pennies to the bank, rolled them into tiny paper burritos, and got 50 in cash for them.

D)  If you don't have it yet, download Skype to keep in touch with family and friends back home.  Also consider unlocking your phone so that you can use it overseas. And if you'd like to keep your current phone number, port your number to Google Voice. It's free!

Whew! This post is getting long! I think I'll end it here folks. I really hope that this will help somebody because it sure would have helped us a few months ago.  I'll add additional tips as I think of them. 

P.S. Isn't that chalkboard piggy-bank by Ladies and Gentleman just too adorable?  I have a major crush on everything that store makes.  Check out their other stuff here.  


  1. It also seems like a ton of paperwork! Just keeping on top of that is a full time job.

  2. @ Emma You're right! It's not for the faint of heart!