Relocation Considerations

Graduation parties and commencement ceremonies aside, the end of your time as a student means move-out, the beginning of the relocation process, and preparing for new cost of living differences as you start the next chapter of your life. There's a lot to consider when leaving the comfort and familiarity of campus and joining the "real world" as they say, so review the topics below and relocate with confidence!

Your time as a student is coming to a close, and your journey through the rest of adulthood is waiting for you! The transition from the classroom to the workforce is an adjustment of its own, not to mention the new financial realities that come with relocating and leaving the college bubble. In fact, some individuals will begin paying rent, buying groceries, and planning for commuter costs for the first time. 

Planning for experiences you've never had can seem like an impossible task, so Personal Finance @ Duke is here to provide insight into the relocation process. The topics in this section will cover information such as: 

  • Moving expenses 
  • Common to-dos as a new resident 
  • Cost of living considerations

Additional resources can be found at the bottom of the page!

Planning for Moving Expenses

It probably goes without saying that one of the major financial considerations associated with relocation is the cost of moving. Whether it’s trying to plan for expenses related to packing materials and gas or assessing the costs of hiring movers or renting a moving truck, there are a number of expenses to account for when leaving school and settling somewhere new.

While there is no exact approach to determining what your moving costs will be, the factors below can help you start preparing and financially plan for the relocation process:

  • Quantity of Items: Packing up a dorm room compared to packing up a four bedroom home has significantly different cost implications
  • Distance of Move: A local move will not cost nearly as much as a move across the country
  • Assistance with Move: The more you can do yourself or with the help of family and friends, the more you will save as opposed to using a packing or moving company
  • Mode of Transportation: Driving your own vehicle, renting a do-it-yourself moving truck, or utilizing the transporting services of a company can greatly change the estimates of relocating costs

The following price estimates from moving.com emphasize that how much you are bringing, how far you are moving, and how much help you enlist for the process can impact the costs of your move:


Local Move Cost

Studio-1 Bedroom

2-3 Bedroom

4-5 Bedroom

$501 - $985

$966 - $1,733

$1,941 - $2,988


Long Distance Move Costs

# of Miles

Studio-1 Bedroom

2-3 Bedroom

4-5 Bedroom


$1,123 - $2,260

$2,272 - $4,343

$4,137 - $5,553


$1,442 - $3,024

$3,145- $5,958

$6,378 - $10,002


$1,920 - $4,272

$4,236 - $8,546

$9,546 - $14,107


Cost of Movers Per Hour

Home Size

# of Movers

#of Hours

Average Total Cost






















Mode of Transportation

Finally, how you choose to move- packing up your own car, towing a trailer, using a moveable storage unit, or renting a moving truck- is yet another decision that will directly influence the cost of your relocation.

If you are thinking about using your own vehicle, the cost of gas, general maintenance, and wear and tear on your car may add up to be more than you originally anticipated, especially if you have an older or more unreliable vehicle. An oil change could run you $40, one tank of gas ranges from $40-$80, and a set of new tires could be upwards of $1,000. Assessing your car’s health and the distance of your journey can help narrow down if using your own vehicle makes sense for your move. The size of your car and the items you plan on bringing can also impact the ability to move yourself. However, even with a smaller vehicle, you may be able to use your own car to facilitate a move with the help of towing a trailer, many of which can be rented through popular moving services like U-Haul and Budget.

Conversely, using a service to transport your car may be a more appropriate option to assist with your move. While the expense can also be quite costly, with estimates ranging from $650-$1,850 depending on distance and open or enclosed transport, the use of transport services may make sense if your move is far, if the drive would be unsafe, or if the vehicle you have would not be able to withstand the miles of the relocation. If you decide a transport service isn’t right for you, but you aren’t able to drive your own car for the move, you may be able to find a moving truck for rent that allows you to simultaneously tow your own car.

In addition to these modes of transportation, another common way to facilitate the relocation process is through the use of moving containers and portable storage units. Local moves are likely to cost less than $1,000 while regional and long distance moves are closer to $2,000-$4,000. Although moving containers cost substantially more, they often offer an option of storage before delivery, generally up to 1 month, without an extra charge.

Other Cost Factors:

Along with these financial considerations, the timing of your move may impact how you plan for relocation. Nearly 70% of moves take place between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and for many students, it’s common to have more than one move to plan for: the move from school to back home, and the move to your new place or location. If you are moving by yourself or with the help of friends and family, you will want to make a packing and moving timeline, and coordinate with those that are planning to help you. If you will be using the services of a packing, moving, or hauling company, you will want to make arrangements several weeks to a few months in advance, especially if you are embarking on a long distance move.

Though not universal, additional factors in the moving process that could impact your overall costs include:

  • Availability of parking- Is there free parking or easy access to leave your belongings, vehicle, or moving transportation while you unload? Do you have to pay, or will you need to shuttle your things from another location?
  • Access to elevators- Does your new home have access to an elevator or will you need to use a substantial amount of stairs? Be mindful that certain moving companies may charge an additional fee if their movers do not have access to an escalator.
  • Need for a storage unit- Will you need to rent a storage unit before you can get in to your new place? If the ending of your current lease and the beginning of your new one do not align, you may need to pay for a temporary place to keep your things.
  • Moving fragile, large, or specialty items- Will any of your items require a special process for moving? Oversized furniture, antiques, or fragile items that necessitate extra care or expertise in moving could result in additional fees.

Salary & Cost of Living Comparisons

Along with planning for the actual costs of relocation, you will also want to start preparing for the financial realities and cost of living differences for the areas you are considering moving to. One of the most significant financial variances you will encounter are the salary ranges in a given city or region. It may come as a surprise to learn that your salary isn’t just dependent on the type of field you go into or your years of experience in the industry- geography can be a major factor in how much you’ll earn, as certain places deemed to have a higher cost of living generally adjust their pay to account for the more expensive price norms. Acknowledging these costs of living differences and their impact on salary ranges is critical in the relocation process, especially as you try to determine the most competitive job offer and how far your dollar will actually stretch.

The following considerations may help in your research and reflection process as you try to determine the competitiveness of salary within different cost of living comparisons:

  • State Taxes: Currently, there are eight states that do not have a state income tax- Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. Working and living in one of these states could put money back into your pocket given the savings you may see on your overall tax obligation.
  • Remote/Telecommuting Work: The increase in remote work positions available have greatly expanded the options one has in relocating, and as you look to enter the workforce through a remote or telecommuting role, you may be able to live in a state or area with a lower cost of living. Keep in mind that certain companies, while based in a high cost of living area with higher salary standards, may not compensate their remote employees at the same rate as their local/in-person workers.  
  • Insurance: Whether it’s mandatory health insurance, or living in an area prone to certain natural disasters, where you live may impact what kind of insurance you buy and how high your monthly rates are. For example, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington D.C. require individuals to have health insurance. Coastal areas that are prone to hurricanes typically require additional policy coverage for homeowners to protect against water and wind damage caused by major storms.
  • Cost of Transportation: Urban areas and major city centers tend to have more robust transit and public transportation systems. While these locations may have higher housing, utility, and food costs, you may be able to save on areas like gas, automobile maintenance, and annual registration fees. On the other hand, high cost cities that rely on traditional auto means are likely to have much higher costs regarding fuel, annual registration, and other taxes and fees.
  • Cost of Food: Food costs are also highly susceptible to influx and increase based on larger cost of living factors. Cities that are isolated, like Honolulu, HI and Anchorage, Alaska, will have higher costs due to the increased shipping and transport costs. While other areas, like the Bay Area in California, will be impacted by local factors, like higher labor costs and more expensive rent.
  • Cost of Housing: When it comes to the impact that cost of living norms can have on your finances, the cost of housing is arguably the most well-known expense in terms of how the price can vary from region to region, and city to city.


The list below, compiled in an article featured on Kiplinger, highlights differences in housing costs in 11 of the most expensive cities in the U.S. compared to the national averages:

1-Bedroom Apartment- $1,169

2- Bedroom Apartment- $1,339

Average Home Price- $348,079

  • Arlington, VA- 2.3 times greater than national average
  • Oakland, CA- Total housing-related expenses are nearly three times higher than the national average
  • Seattle, WA- Housing-related costs for renters and homeowners are triple the U.S. average
  • Boston, MA- Average apartment rents for $3,396 a month
  • Los Angeles, CA- Housing-related expenses, including rents and mortgages, run 134% above the national average
  • Orange County, CA- At an average of $2,564 a month, apartment rents are about twice the national rate
  • District of Columbia- Average price of a home in D.C. stands at $1.1 million. Meanwhile, the average apartment rents for $3,085 a month
  • New York City (Brooklyn), NY- Housing-related expenses, including rents and mortgages, are almost four times higher than the national average
  • San Francisco, CA- Average home price is $1.4 million; average rent for an apartment is $3,718
  • Honolulu, HI- Housing-related costs are more than four times the national average
  • New York City (Manhattan), NY- Typical rent for an apartment averages $4,604 a month; average home price is $2.4 million

In addition to acknowledging these cost of living factors, it can also be helpful to create sample budgets and spending scenarios with the salary findings and cost of living norms for the cities and regions you are contemplating to relocate to. The example below compares two salary offers and potential cost of living expenses for Raleigh, North Carolina and Oakland, California for an entry level marketing consultant position:

Raleigh, NC

Gross Salary- $51,500

Monthly Net Salary- $2,918 (after taxes, healthcare premiums, retirement savings)

Monthly Budget- 

  • Rent- $1,400
  • Groceries- $400
  • Transportation (Auto Costs)- $130
  • Student Loan- $450
  • Utilities- $150
  • Streaming Services- $25
  • Social/ Entertainment Spending- $110
  • Savings- $250
    • Remaining Balance: $3

Sample budget in NC

Oakland, CA

Gross Salary- $72,700 

Net Salary- $3,783 (after taxes, healthcare premiums, retirement savings) 

Monthly Budget- 

  • Rent- $2,000 (Roommate)
  • Groceries- $550
  • Transportation (BART & Rideshare)- $150
  • Student Loans- $450
  • Utilities- $200
  • Streaming Services- $25
  • Social/Entertainment Spending- $150
  • Savings- $250
    • Remaining Balance- $8

Sample budget in CA


New Resident Procedures & Fees

If you’re moving to a new state, you’ll need to officially establish residency, and this aspect of relocation can add even more expenses to the relocation process.    

One of the most common new resident fees you will encounter is transitioning your state issued identification over. This can include a driver’s license and title/registration of a vehicle. While a driver’s license is typically a low cost expense, registering a vehicle for the first time in a new state can cost hundreds of dollars. Keep in mind you will also want to switch over your voter registration, but there is not a cost associated with that process.  

Generally speaking, new residents must transition their information over within 60 days of moving to their new state.

Other new resident processes that can incur an added fee or expense include:

  • Establishing utilities
  • Opening up a new bank account
  • Fees for toll roads, parking permits, etc.
  • Fees for driving certain cars (Ex. Non-efficient vehicles; hybrid cars)
  • Different or increased local taxes (generally applicable to homeowner’s)
  • Different home-owner expenses (HOA fees, trash service, water, etc.)

New resident fees vary significantly from state to state and can also be dependent on your living accommodations as homeowners are usually subject to added expenses from local and city services.

To ensure you have accounted for the expenses you will encounter as a new resident, check out your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles site and your town or county’s resident site.

Additional Cost of Living Resources


10 tips to help you find the perfect apartment after college

Looking for practical advice on the dos and don'ts of apartment hunting post-graduation? Check out these recommendations from recent college grads on and ace your upcoming apartment search! 

Link to Article

Moving To-Do Timeline & Checklist

A budget-friendly and stress-free relocation process takes thoughtful and intentional planning. Check out this guide for suggested planning tips and a proposed timeline for moving preparation!

Link to Move Planner

Cost of Living Calculator

Planning a move across the country? Looking to go to a major city center? Costs can vary widely across the U.S., so use this cost of living calculator to get a sense of price differences for things like housing, food, and transportation.

Link to Cost of Living Calculator