Are you considering a move to the Bay area with no money or job lined up?
If you’ve ever wanted to just pick up and move without much of a plan, you’re not alone…
For many young people, the idea of starting over in a new place is an alluring one. It’s a great chance to grow as an individual and maybe reinvent yourself a bit along the way.
Even just the process of preparing to move to a new city can help you learn more about what you value and what you’d like your future to look like.
In fact, that desire to move to a new city was what sparked the financial epiphany that motivated me to get my own personal finances in order and eventually start this blog.
I posted a question on Reddit that was something along the lines of:
Is $2,000 enough to move to another state?
Commenters replied with some helpful tactical advice–much of which will be covered in this post–and one user commented asked this question:
“How are you single, earning a comfortable salary, living in a modest apartment… and have zero savings? Several hundred dollars a month are going somewhere, do you know where?”
Up to this point, I hadn’t realized how big of a mess my personal finances were.
Although I’d just graduated from college, I definitely wasn’t managing my money like an adult yet.
I wasn’t necessarily struggling to pay my bills, but all of my money was going toward eating out and traveling. I had nothing saved for a rainy day––much less a move across the country!
At this point, I realized that if I wanted to move to a new city–soon or in the future–I would need to get my personal finances in order.
If you want to know how to move with no money or job, you may be facing a similar realization.
In this post, you’ll learn exactly what it takes to make your big move and how to maximize your chances of a successful relocation to California.
Reasons to move to San Francisco without money
Let’s face it…
Making a big move to a new city or state without money or a job lined up isn’t the ideal situation.
That being said, you may find yourself in this position under a few different circumstances.
Maybe you want to:
- Escape from an unhealthy relationship?
- Enjoy a fresh start and change of scenery?
- Move out of your parents’ house?
- Leave your current town after graduating from university?
- Respond to an unplanned life event such as divorce or the poor health of a loved one?
So is San Francisco a good place to move to?
Maybe you’re not trying to escape from a boring or unhealthy living situation where you’re at now… Perhaps you’re just drawn by what San Francisco has to offer.
There are lots of reasons why people choose to move specifically to the San Francisco area, such as:
- Lots of career opportunities in nearby Silicon Valley
- A progressive culture with lots of food and entertainment options
- Mild weather all year long
So is San Francisco a good place to move to? It all depends on what you’re looking for.
With perhaps a few exceptions, there’s no such thing as a “good place” or “bad place” to live. Every city offers its unique set of advantages and disadvantages.
Whether you living in this part of California works for you will depend on your values, ability to develop relationships and a sense of community, and unique life circumstances.
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Considerations for starting over with no money
If you’ve already shared your decision to move with others–especially if you don’t have a job offer lined up–perhaps you’ve been met with some level of doubt or skepticism.
While you don’t owe others an explanation of your decision, you do owe it to yourself to put yourself in the best situation possible for this exciting next stage of your life.
After asking Reddit if I had saved enough money to move across the country, I discovered there were many factors for moving to a new state that I hadn’t really considered.
Unfortunately, moving to a new city isn’t as easy as just packing up your most vital belongings and driving to your new home. There are lots of factors to consider.
If you haven’t already considered, keep the following in mind:
Cost of living
How much does San Francisco cost in comparison to where you currently live?
If you’re trying to make the move into a big city, you may be shocked by how your rent jumps in comparison to what you’re paying right now (especially if you were living in a college town before).
You can plug your current income into a cost of living calculator to compare how much you’ll need to end up earning to enjoy a similar quality of life in San Francisco.
It isn’t cheap to move all of your possessions across the country.
Depending on how much you own and how far you plan to move, your moving costs could be anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
You’ll need to spend money on:
- Moving supplies like boxes, tape, and bubble wrap
- A rental truck to haul any furniture
- Gasoline (rental trucks only get 10-12 miles per gallon)
- Hotel/Airbnb accommodations for each night of your move
Some employers will cover these moving expenses and even bring in a service to help pack and haul boxes. Unfortunately, when paying for a move on your own dime, you may need to be selective about what you can afford to bring.
Housing security deposit
Moving into a new apartment without a job or much money isn’t an easy process. As San Francisco has some of the most expensive housing in the country, your experience there will be no exception.
First of all, many landlords will require proof of income as part of their rental application process. The monthly income needed to qualify for an apartment will vary by the property, but it’s typically around three times the rent.
Moving into a new apartment also typically requires more cash than just the rent payment.
You’ll likely be required to cover the first month of rent, last month of rent, and a security deposit before you’re allowed to move in. In some cities (this is common in Boston or NYC), you may need to pay an additional broker’s fee as well that’s another 50-100% of one month’s rent.
This means you’re probably looking at 3-4x the rent payment to actually secure a place to live.
Your first paycheck
Let’s say you’re ready to hit the ground running in San Francisco. You’ve got a strong resume and are eager to find work anywhere you can get it.
Realistically, even in the best of scenarios, it can take several weeks to go from submitting your application to starting your first day in your new job.
It takes time for companies to complete each round of interviews, decide on a candidate who’s the right fit, process the paperwork, and prepare for a new hire to start work.
Even after starting a new job, most employers may every other week or twice per month which means you’ll be waiting for a couple of weeks after you start until you see any of the money you’ve earned.
The main expenses of moving–a moving truck, packing supplies, and a place to stay when you arrive–are pretty obvious.
However, there are lots of little expenses that are often overlooked and these can really start to add up when you’re trying to move without much money or without a job lined up.
These little expenses will vary based on where you’re moving to and what your new living arrangement looks like, but here are a few examples of what you might encounter:
- Fees for a parking permit application
- Paying for help or renting a truck to deliver new furniture you buy
- Freeway tolls as you drive across the country
- Fees for changing your car registration or driver’s license to a new state
- Replacing household items that shared with past roommates that you couldn’t take with you (internet router, vacuum)
- Replacing the many little household items you chose to leave behind to save space
Is it time for you to pick up and move?
So you’ve made up your mind on California and you know more about some of the hidden costs of moving… what next?
You may be ready to start a new life in San Francisco as soon as possible, but before making this major decision, make sure you take some time to ask yourself:
Do you really need to make the move right now?
While making the move immediately may sound like an exciting adventure, starting over with a new city with no money is going to be a difficult life challenge.
Waiting even just a few months can make a huge difference in building a financial safety cushion that will give you the emotional peace of mind to better transition this big life change.
Rather than just up-and-moving now, if your current situation allows it, consider setting a “target date” down the road that will let you build your savings or find a job first.
How to move with no money or job
Alright, you’re still asking yourself, “How can I move with no money?”
Here are 10 tips that will help you move to a new city–whether you end up in San Francisco or somewhere else. You can take action on many of these ideas immediately. A few may have to wait until after you make the move.
While your personal circumstances may not allow you to have a completely “easy move,” implementing as many of these strategies as possible will enable you to make your big move a reality.
Take care of your debt
Moving to a new city is a great way to enjoy a fresh perspective on life.
Unfortunately, unless you’ve been lucky enough to avoid debt or pay it off already, then credit card debt and student loans are something that will follow you around no matter where you call home.
If you’re planning to move without a job lined up, realize that you’re still going to be accountable for your monthly payments. Missing your monthly payments can incur late fees, hurt your credit score, and rack up additional interest.
Preferably, you’ll pay off all of your debt before making the financially risky decision to move without a job. At the very least, you’ll want to plan ahead so you’ve saved up several months’ worth of payments so you can stay current on your debt.
Save as much money as possible
Moving to a new city is a great reason to start saving more money.
Ideally, you’ll have saved at least six months’ worth of your projected living expenses to help fund your move.
You want to have enough money in the bank that you can move many/all of your belongings, find a place to live, and have a few months to line up a job without worrying about your next meal will come from or if you’re going to have a roof over your head.
The most reliable way to save?
Automatically deposit a percentage of your current paycheck into a savings or checking account dedicated specifically to the move. If you’re working with an aggressive timeline, you’ll need to be saving 30%, 40%, or even more from each paycheck to stockpile cash for your move.
Really in a bind?
Your tax refund, performance bonus from your current employer, birthday or holiday gifts, or some gig economy income can all help boost your savings.
Sell your stuff
If you’re preparing to make a move, the benefits of selling some of your existing possessions are two-fold:
- You’ll have fewer items to pack and haul with you
- You can collect some additional money to boost your moving fund
A lot of your extra items–clothing, furniture, and electronics–can be quickly sold through a yard sale, classified ads, or Facebook Marketplace (as long as you don’t mind putting up with some hagglers).
Many short-term rentals (one of the safest options for making a move with no job) are fully furnished rooms or apartments. If you’re going to be staying in furnished housing for the first few months, you won’t have room to bring your current furniture with you anyway. It may also make the difference between needing to rent a truck or just hauling what you own in your car.
Speaking of which… You may have a moment of realization before your move when you ask yourself, “Do I need to take your car with me?”
This can be a complex decision based on where you’re moving, whether you own the car or have payments, etc. However, in some large cities with reliable public transportation, ditching your vehicle may be an effective way to reduce your expenses or give your savings a big boost.
Update your resume
Finding a job in your target city is the simplest, most financially stable way to relocate.
As soon as moving to a new city or state becomes your priority, you’ll want to make finding a job (if you can’t transfer offices or work remotely) your #1 goal.
It might be easier to find a new job after you’ve relocated as you’ll be able to do in-person interviews and recruiters won’t question whether you’re serious about the move.
However, that shouldn’t stop you from taking what action you can right now.
Minimize your expenses
If your budget looks like most people’s, about half of your living expenses will probably fall under these big three categories: housing, transportation, and food.
Nailing down those three main expenses will be your “big wins” in creating a budget that works for your move.
Outside of those areas, your spending consists of dozens of small transactions throughout the month where you may need to trim until you get settled into your new home.
Take a look at your checking account and credit card statements to see where you can cut back.
- Do you need that music or video streaming subscription right now?
- Can you find free exercise alternatives to that monthly gym membership?
- Are there other recurring or frequent expenses you can cut back on?
If you’re serious about moving, now is the time to challenge your current spending habits and practice living on a lean budget.
Minimizing your expenses will help you save more money before you move, and help your savings last longer after you make the jump.
Find an affordable place to stay
If you’re moving with no money or job, then paying a large security deposit and locking yourself into a 12-month lease is a huge gamble (and one that most landlord or property management companies aren’t willing to take).
Consider alternative housing options that provide a more affordable place for you to stay while you settle into your new city.
One of the easiest options would be to stay with a family member or friend. This type of arrangement may depend on the relationship, but you can:
- Make it clear that it’s only a short-term solution
- Be willing to pay what you can afford
- Offer to help out with chores, food, or household supplies
If staying with family or friends for free (or reduced rent) isn’t an option, your best bet is to find a short-term rental for a furnished room. Look for month-to-month contract options or book a room for 2-3 months on Airbnb.
This gives you time to find a stable income, better research the neighborhoods where you may like to live, or if needed, change your relocations plans and pivot in a new direction.
Have a backup plan
You’ve sold your extra belongings, found a cheap room for rent, and already starting applying for jobs in your new city. For now, it looks like your move is off to an okay start…
But what if things don’t go according to plan?
Having a clear backup plan can provide you with peace of mind even when faced with the prospects that your move might not work out.
This backup plan will not only bail you out if the move goes poorly but also help provide an anchor of emotional support if you face difficult times during the move.
A few options to consider:
- Mark a specific “check-in date” to evaluate your new situation and explore your options
- Set aside enough money to make a return drive or flight back home
- Determine what amount of debt you’d be comfortable taking on to fund the move (should be a short-term last resort!)
Create a budget
Budgeting like an adult will play a key role in whether your move is a financially successful one.
If you have a few weeks before making your move, then budgeting carefully can help you pay down your debt and build up your savings.
If you’ve been mindlessly spending on food or entertainment, now is the time to tighten up and start making more intentional decisions with your money.
Creating–and following–a budget will be especially critical after you arrive in San Francisco.
Regardless of how much money you were able to save before making the move, it’s your job to make that money last until you find a steady income. Build a budget, and give every dollar a purpose in making your move a successful one.
Live within your means
You’ve moved to your dream city of San Francisco looking for a fresh start.
You decide to rent your own apartment in the center of downtown.
You buy a brand new wardrobe and spend your days and evenings at coffee shops, restaurants, and bars trying to meet new people.
You’ve taken a big risk in moving… Now is the time to live the life you’ve always dreamed of, right?
Unfortunately, if this is your mindset, your big move is at for an abrupt and costly end and it may not be long before your crashing on the couch at your friend’s or parents’ house.
Now is the time to live within your means.
To make the most of every dollar, you may need to settle for renting a room instead of an apartment, trading your car for a bike or bus pass, and choosing to meal prep at home rather than eating out frequently.
These don’t have to be permanent lifestyle decisions but don’t underestimate the power of a few short-term sacrifices to reach your long-term goal.
Find work immediately
No matter how much you’ve saved in preparation for your move, you’ll find that your money drains quickly out of your checking account if you don’t have a source of income.
Moving supplies… Security deposits… Professional attire for job interviews…
It all adds up.
One of the keys to successfully moving to a new city is to find work immediately. Until you accept an offer, searching for employment needs to be your full-time job.
If you’ve accepted the risk of moving to a new city without a job, you may not have the luxury of waiting until you find “the perfect job.”
Part-time or temporary work can help keep your finances afloat until you’re able to find a better long-term opportunity.
Even a small source of steady income–working as a barista, bartender, or retail associate–can help extend how long your savings will last and buy you time to find the right fit.
Making the most of San Francisco without much money
Of course, moving to your new city doesn’t have to be a total drag. Finding cheap or free ways to enjoy your time in San Francisco will help you maintain a positive attitude, develop new relationships, and create amazing memories.
Here are a few popular free or cheap attractions you’ll want to check out when you’re looking for cheap things to do in San Francisco and nearby parts of California.
- Alcatraz Island: Take a tour of this historic high-security prison that was “home” to notorious gangster Al Capone.
- Cable Cars: Ride one of the iconic trolleys that San Fransisco is known for. There will be lots of beautiful architecture and people-watching to enjoy along the way!
- Japanese Tea Garden: Look no further for a serene escape from the busy hustle and bustle of San Francisco streets.
So should you move with no money or job lined up?
If you have a choice, your smartest move is to postpone the move for as long as possible. You can begin taking action right now to improve your situation and increase your chances of a successful move.
Start searching for a job immediately. Build up your savings. Pay down your debt. Develop the habit of living on a budget.
If life circumstances force you into moving immediately, it’s important to keep your expenses low, accept help from family and friends if you can, and have a backup plan in place.
Moving to a new city like San Francisco without a job is difficult… But not impossible!
Have you ever moved to a new city with little or no money? What was your experience, and what advice do you have for others considering a similar move?