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As a military spouse who has moved numerous times—including an international move less than two weeks ago—I can say with confidence that moving is expensive. Even if some of your costs are covered by an employer or split with a partner, money still manages to fly out of your bank accounts faster than you could imagine.
Prioritizing your purchases after moving can help ensure a smooth transition to your new place without throwing too much chaos into your budget. Here are some ways to assess your finances and plan ahead for the purchases following your move.
1. Understand Your Financial Situation
Before you start planning projects or decorations for your new residence, take a quick pause to get a firm grasp on the state of your finances—and to estimate the cost of your move.
First, calculate how much you'll be spending to move into your new place. Factor in costs such as:
- Mortgage down payments and closing costs
- Rent deposits (which sometimes also require first month's, or first and last month's, rent upfront)
- Packers and/or movers
- Activation fees or deposits for new utilities
- Pet relocation services
Add up all of these moving costs, then review your checking and savings accounts to see how much you'll have left after paying them. If the answer is nothing, it's best to build your savings back up until you embark on additional costs on your new home or cut back and explore your other options.
2. Assess Your New Living Space
Despite the stress, moving can also be an exciting time. It provides a fresh start and opportunities to try out new designs, layouts and aesthetics. While it's tempting to start buying everything cute you see, you should assess your true needs before you start shelling out money.
Write down an exhaustive list of anything and everything you want to do for the new house within the first few months after move-in.
Here are some things to consider:
- Are any urgent repairs needed? If you're moving into a home you bought, do any items from your home inspection need to be addressed quickly?
- How will your needs differ at your new home? For example, will you have more rooms, requiring new furnishing? Will you need appliances? (For example, if your last place had a built-in microwave, but the new one doesn't come with one.)
- Do any appliances need servicing or replacing soon?
- Are there cosmetic changes you want quickly, such as repainting or replacing carpet?
- What are some items you want to make your home comfier, such as new bedding, wall art or a new coffee maker?
3. Create Your Priorities List
Now that you have your wish list, it's time to prioritize and figure out the order of execution. It can take willpower to pace yourself, since the more "fun" expenses are typically the least important.
Start with truly urgent needs. Are there any health and safety issues that require fixes immediately, like fall hazards or a leaky old furnace, or holes that leak when it rains?
Next, look for tasks that ensure you have your basic needs met. Things like ensuring you have a bed, a working fridge, curtains that give you necessary privacy and any other daily essentials should be at the top of your list. It might include items that aren't immediately urgent but will be needed soon, like a lawnmower.
Now you can start thinking beyond the essentials into expenses that are low priority but make your home comfortable. This is usually the "fun" stuff, like aesthetic changes and wall art, storage solutions, kitchen gadgets and outdoor leisure.
Somewhere in your priority list, you may also want to add in repairs that might seem minor now, but could help prevent further damage and expense by taking care of them soon.
You've got your list, but before you can see what you can reasonably tackle, you'll need to know the costs. Do some research to establish price estimates for these purchases and begin to see what is realistic and in what timeframe. Learning the true costs may cause you to reshuffle your order of priorities and knock out something sooner, and save up for something else later.
4. Put Your Plan Into Action
Once you have your priority list set, review your budget to see what you can actually afford now, and in the near future. If your highest-priority items are more costly than you can afford, you need to consider how else to pay for expenses.
For example, perhaps a 0% introductory APR credit card, which gives you a window of time to make purchases without having to worry about interest. The downside is, after that time, the APR may become much higher, making the card more expensive to use if you don't pay off your balance each month.
On the other hand, a personal loan won't come with a 0% APR offer, but you can find personal loans online with low APRs for those with excellent credit. Personal loans can be repaid over several years and in fixed installments, which can make budgeting more predictable than when using a credit card.
Here are a few other ways to save:
- Shop around. Once you decide on a project, always gather numerous quotes and comparison-shop to ensure you're getting a good deal. Also, try to avoid impulse shopping that can blow the budget (home goods stores have a magic way of making us part with our money).
- The fun stuff can be a great reward. If you have a sizable budget and can pay outright for the more urgent expenses, you can then assess how much you have leftover for the "fun" stuff. You might also decide to allow yourself to periodically buy some of the less expensive, lower priority items (like new throw pillows) as a reward whenever you finish paying for a more expensive item (like a new garage door).
- Free is cheaper than cheap. If your budget is tight, get creative. Rather than buying everything new, look for gently used items on Facebook marketplace or other online groups, or from local thrift shops.
As you chip away at your list, routinely check in with your budget and adjust your plans and priorities as needed. If one of your purchases costs beyond what you expected, it might mean waiting and saving a little longer before the next one.
Choose Financing Options Carefully
You likely won't be able to do everything you want for your new home at once, so this process requires patience. It's important to stick to your budget and spend within your means to avoid racking up expensive debt.
If you have an urgent need that you can't pay out of pocket, however, there are options for financing. Rather than putting purchases on an existing credit card, consider finding a credit card with an introductory 0% APR with Experian CreditMatch™. Depending on your credit, you might find a card with no interest for a year, 15 months or longer and get a long window to pay off your balance with no interest.
Some retailers also offer free financing, but read the fine print carefully. Deferred interest plans can easily work against your financial method. For example, 24 months of 0% financing on a store credit card may sound like a good deal, but if the card isn't paid off in full by the end of the 24-month period, you'll owe interest retroactively for the entire period.
You've already spent a pretty penny getting moved into a new place, and you've likely already had some unexpected expenses, so read any financing terms carefully to avoid any more surprises.