(Slams Head On Desk) Planning A Cross Country Move On A Budget

August 8, 2012


Last night, my roomie and I sat up til about 1 a.m. attempting to plot the most economical way to move me, my pug and my small amount of stuff across country from Chicago to California.  Truth be told, I haven’t found one. 


I’m selling off my furniture, donated about 6 bags and two boxes of my stuff and downsized thus far, as much as I thought I could.  I don’t have enough stuff to warrant a UHaul (or the budget, getting into that later.)  and with a pug in tow, taking a train or plane is out of the question.  Sure, I’ve saved money over the long haul by not having a car, but dang, it would be nice to have one right now!


The Problem With PODS & Shipping Containers:

They cost about $1,000+ and guess what? They don’t even deliver to my neighborhood!  Not an option…that is unless I want to rent a truck and drive my not-even-worthy-of-a-POD amount of stuff to the drop-off location an hour away.  PODS are great if you have a decent amount of stuff, your neighborhood allows them (many don’t, not even for immediate loading/unloading),  need to rent them for long periods of time to sort through things and don’t have to rent a car in addition to the expense of the container itself. Oh ya, and if you don’t even flinch at the idea of paying at LEAST $1k to ship your crap.   Sadly, none of that applies for me.


The Problem With UHauls:

Even with the smallest size, they cost about $1,800 to rent.  A trailer is still about $495.  Those things are also terrible on gas and I really don’t need all *that* space since I’m selling my furniture.


The Problem With Air Or Train:

Amtrak doesn’t allow pets. Period.  (only service dogs under certain circumstances.)  Many airlines don’t take short-snouted dogs (pugs, bulldogs, boston terriers) in cargo because of health risks & Ralph might be slightly too big to fit under the seat on Southwest Air.


The Problem With Renting An SUV:

Renting an SUV will cost about $1300-1700, takes more gas and there’s no guarantee it will fit my crap.  If you look on HotWire, they often will tell you how much stuff you can fit in it- it amazes me that for practically double, sometimes triple the price of a car, you really can’t fit much more inside an SUV, even with a roof rack bag.


The Problem With Renting A Car:

The cost is lower- around $700, but there’s really no way of knowing even my small amount of stuff will fit with a friend going with me.  I can buy a roof rack bag for $50 on Amazon and ship a few things via Amtrak for about $67 per 100 lbs… no guarantee about this though since I haven’t called.

What is equally annoying is that after this move, when I’m in California I’m going to have to buy a car anyway.  Renting a car now seems silly when I really want to just buy a car, load it up and call it done.  Problem with that is that there’s this annoying thing called financing and my dad is way better than me at finding a deal.  He explained that if he has some time he can find a really great deal on a car that will probably save me $800+ so I didn’t really lose money.  If I go ahead and buy a car as a newb right now, they will probably smell my fear and jack up the price, so I guess I break even. Ha.


The Problem With Driving In General With A Dog:

I don’t own my own car, so I must rent.  I will also need at least 2 nights in a hotel for sleeping unless I find a legal stimulant that can actually keep me alert for longer periods of time.  Oh, and then there’s the high cost of gas and eating junk food via drive-thru on the road since I can’t leave Ralphie in the hot car by himself.  Oh, and of course, I just remembered that some hotels are not dog friendly… and that’s going to be a pain.  (SMUGGLIN PUGS!)

I’m trying not to be sad that I won’t be able to sad that I can’t stop into the Big Texan since I won’t know where to put Ralphie unless we stay in a nearby hotel.  If anyone has moved with pets before, any tips?


The Best Solution I’ve Made Up So Far:

I’m selling off all of my furniture for about $900.  That will pay for the car and gas.  As mentioned, I’m also hoping that I can find a beverage or something that will keep me up for long periods of time so I can do the 18 hour drive days…or that roomie will be able to drive since she’s a night owl.  Hotels on the road are nasty and overpriced, and when I have to stay- can I smuggle Ralphie?  That seems so sketchy, but I can vouch for his good behavior (and I’m sure you’ve picked up on the fact that I don’t want to pay any more than I have to for this move.)


I’m going to call Amtrak today to see if I can ship a few boxes back and perhaps a bicycle that a former professor wants to ship (don’t ask!) so hopefully that won’t break the bank!   After my now-roomie and I get to California we’re going to do some sight seeing and leave Ralphie with my dad and his soon-to-be puggie sisters (oh yes, wait til I blog about the “pack” of pugs we have back home… get ready.)

The easiest thing would be to ship my stuff and fly/train home but that’s not an option with a small dog.  As I crowd sourced some of this info on Twitter, it seems that there’s many ideas on how to do a move like this successfully, and many of us, (myself formerly included) have no idea how much it really costs to move.  (Ya, you’d think Uhaul would be cheap, but alas, it is not.)

Renting anything is not the frugal-ist of options, but I’m trying to tell myself that’s okay to spend money now since I saved money by not having a car at all for 2 years (no car payments, no maintenance, no parking fees or registration.)  so that’s the what I’m telling myself so I don’t snap like a day-old churro.


Moving with a small dog and just-enough-stuff to be annoying is a true hassle, but I just look over at Ralphie and I’m like “YUP, made the right call.”  I couldn’t ever part with the little guy…even if this move is über stressful,  I’m glad to have a friend and a pug by my side to see the country with!


So, do you have any tips moving/road tripping with pets or moving on a budget?



19 comments so far.

19 responses to “(Slams Head On Desk) Planning A Cross Country Move On A Budget”

  1. Laural says:

    okay – maybe you’ve thought of this, but …
    When I worked in footwear (ages ago) we used to ship packages on buses – like greyhound, etc. It had to be a direct route but it was cheaper than the train, often. Keep in mind I’m in Canada so sometimes things are different, but it was an affordable and relatively fast option. Obviously it was the cargo hold under the bus, so it wasn’t huge stuff.
    I wish I had more suggestions for you.
    And, I totally support your dog smuggling plan at hotels.

  2. Michelle says:

    Ugh, this is such a tough one! It sounds like you’ve really thought about all the options that exist! The only thing I could add as a suggestion is to pre-pack some cheap, healthy snacks for the road. This will give you energy for the ride and not make you feel like crap, as you will start to feel if you eat fast food for each meal! It’s also worth researching some dog friendly hotels– they’re really not too bad in my experience. My husband and I have stayed at Howard Johnson a bunch of times when we travel with our hound dog. Take advantage of free continental bfast and take some bagels/yogurts for the road!

  3. Tiffany says:

    I don’t have a lot of suggestions for the moving of stuff or the smuggling of pets, but…

    Nick and I just drove to NY and back from Georgia. We wanted to take a road trip and we broke it up so that we spent a total of 4 nights in hotels while on the road. We used Priceline’s name your own price service to book the hotels blindly once we were ready to stop for the night. We stayed in 2 and 2.5 star hotels (a Best Western, a Best Western Plus, a Fairfield Inn and Suites and a Quality Inn) for roughly $55 a night. They were all very clean (though I think the Best Western could have been better vacuumed), check in was easy and we easily saved $250 or more off the retail cost of the rooms over 4 nights. If we had stayed outside of bigger city areas, I am pretty certain we could have saved a little more. Perhaps using a service like this would allow you to spend at least one night in a hotel for some rest?

  4. I also recently moved cross-country with my little Murray nugget. I blogged about it on MoneyTree https://wp.me/p2hiCc-o

    I used a shipping service, all told to ship six pieces of furniture and 30 boxes was about 1300 bucks. They do it by weight-so it may make more sense to ship the stuff if you have an abundance (I’m not sure how many boxes you are taking with you).

    If I had it to do over again I would have sold my furniture and just shipped the personal effects. Then Murray and I boarded the plane.

  5. Office boxes are amazing for books – you know the ones that come with reams of paper in them? I fill them with books and ship them across the country at the media mail rate. It takes a couple weeks, but the price is right and the boxes are sturdy enough to hold even the heaviest books.

    There also used to be companies that you could work with for 1-way car transportation. I forget what it’s called, but the basic idea was if someone wanted to move their car from Chicago to CA, but didn’t want to drive it – the company would find people to do that. If you were on a flexible schedule it was great as the car owner usually paid for all the expenses. I don’t know if those are around much anymore since the last time I looked into it was about 6 years ago. Also don’t know if they would allow a dog, but it’s worth a shot!

  6. La Quinta and Red Roof Inn allow dogs. Aside from that, afraid I won’t be much help :/ Looks like everyone else has some great ideas though!

    Also – are you really going through Amarillo?

  7. Melissa says:

    Hi Shannyn –
    Being a cross-country moving expert, I have tried a few different things. The one that was most cost effective and honestly, the least stressful was as follows (and this was the move from NYC to San Diego):
    – Sell off all furniture via Craigslist
    – I shipping my “stuff” after a good purge via DHL (they were the cheapest and it was an extremely easy process – they picked up at my door and dropped off at my door – awesomeness)
    – I flew with my pet on a one-way ticket (I may have purchased a round-trip one and just didn’t fly the second leg if that was cheaper, I honestly can’t remember, but I have done that before)

    And tada – done! I spent less than $1000 on everything, which was completely paid for by the selling of the furniture. On the other side, since I had to buy the basics again (bed, tv, couch), I stayed in a pet-friendly motel for two nights until my new stuff was delivered – again, paid for almost in full, by the selling of stuff. I bought everything at one place and did a no-interest for 2 years deal, to help ease any money pains.

    Hope that helps!!! Good luck!

  8. Sam says:

    Welcome to California!

    It’ll be all worth it!

  9. I don’t know much about moving cross country, but I do know how to find hotels and other dog friendly places as you travel- https://www.gopetfriendly.com/
    You can search for dog friendly hotels and other places along your route.

  10. Jenny McDonald says:

    Alas, I really don’t have advice for you…. but I’m trying to figure out my inter-continental move and that’s proving challenging enough! Please share whatever new information you uncover! 🙂

  11. Sarah says:

    I’m sorry, I have absolutely no words or wisdom or advice for you. I just had to say that your aside about SMUGGLIN PUGS made me laugh out loud!

  12. […] Frugal Beautiful – Planning A Cross Country Move On A Budget […]

  13. Jennifer M. says:

    Okay this answers my other question on your other post. Lol. One idea I have (which doesn’t matter now since you’ve already moved) is to buy a small trailer to tow behind your car. I would think you could get one pretty cheaply on Craigslist, which would cost less than renting one from U-Haul. Then when you get to where you’re going, sell it to someone else.

    My cat hates to drive too, so I will have that added awesomeness to deal with when I move cross-country. I wonder if there’s any way to get a cat used to driving?? Dogs seem to like it, but my cat sure doesn’t. Lol.

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  15. Hi Shannyn, sorry to hear about your moving troubles. No matter how you break it down, (unless you don’t have pets or furniture), moving is expensive and hard. I feel your pain, because I’ve moved across the country 3 times in my life on different budgets, and the time without a car was by far the hardest. I hope you made everything work out and your dog didn’t freak out too much during the ride. Best of luck!

  16. Kaysen Zaire says:

    Sometimes it is not possible to hire the moving company. Because moving company budget is so high and not possible to pay the moving company. But i read your blog and i get the some ideas for moving. I am happy with your blog. Thanks for such post and please keep it up.

  17. Amanda says:

    Another option could be doing some research to find affordable and reliable movers in your area.

  18. Kim Terry says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this for free!
    The best thing to consider all of the possible factors that could be involved in your long-distance or interstate move when choosing your mover is asking for moving quotes. It saved my budget.


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