what are the chances of getting relocation help from an employer?

A reader writes:

I live in Southern California, but my family and I yearn to move to small town New England, in particular a certain area of fairly close-knit small towns.

My question concerns the likelihood of relocation assistance. I’m very skeptical that any will be offered to me, much less enough to move us. I read your blog entry advising long-distance job seekers to be sure to state that “no relocation assistance is necessary.” We simply don’t have the resources to move without it, and I should say that at this time, due to personal reasons, I am not at all confident we will be able to save much of anything for the move ourselves in the next few years, save a surprise inheritance from a distant relative.

I have an “adviser” who says that it is worth applying, given how much we want to move. Good things happen. But my chief concerns are twofold: wasting people’s time, and burning bridges. First, wasting people’s time — mine in applying so carefully, crafting my resumes and letters to well-researched positions, and theirs in entering into the interview process only to have it halt once they offer me a position with no relocation assistance. Second, burning bridges. Let’s say I end up going through the hiring process several times, to have it collapse when I can’t afford to move and they can’t help. Not only does this bother me ethically (but I’m told I can be overly-sensitive there), but if we somehow have enough funds to move in a few years, I worry that I’ve ruined my chances of working at these carefully selected organizations (even if I re-apply with the promise of no assistance needed). This is a fairly close-knit community…does such word “get around” or am I being paranoid there? And how likely is it I’ll be “forgiven”/trusted in the future?

I’ve worked for a decade at a mid-sized professional services firm, the lion’s share of those years in the marketing department. My firm is too small to allow for any middle management in my department, so there has never been the opportunity for me to grow into management. (And frankly, an honest self-assessment is that I’m not sure I’m well-suited to most management positions with direct reports. Managing projects: good. But managing people isn’t my forte.) My firm is also too small for me to have “deep” experience in marketing — I’ve learned a little bit of many skills.

My research has told me that relocation assistance is typically only provided for managerial positions, or those that are “key” and/or hard to fill. Is this true? If so, it seems that I need to find something that is a managerial position (but probably not of people…just projects) and/or a difficult to fill position, for which my Jill-of-all-trades-master-of-none-self is just perfect for, and for a company which is willing to hire someone they have not met in person over someone local. Add to this the fact that I’m applying to a bunch of universities and non-profits and small businesses… You see why I was moved to write you, to help me put this in perspective.

One last question: I’ve been advised to wait until the position is offered to bring up relocation assistance, as part of the “bargaining” process. Your take on this?

I wrote back to this reader and asked how much relocation assistance she’ll need — a few thousands dollars or something more substantial? She replied:

More substantial. We don’t have a big living space (small one-room apartment), but it would need to cover moving company for furniture and travel/expenses for us two. I’d like to think we could manage to cover part of expenses, but money is exceedingly tight. We’ve been month-to-month for a long time (again…longer personal explanation). I don’t think a loan is an option either.

Well, it’s not impossible, but the odds aren’t great.

First things first: Start by understanding why employers offer relocation help at all. Generally, employers pay relocation to get the candidate they want … and just like with salary, the more money you’re looking for, the more you have to be able to justify that amount in what they’re getting from you in return, which — for the sort of significant relocation help you’re looking for — usually means senior roles, sought-after skills, and/or jobs that are hard to fill with local candidates. There might still be some free-spending companies around that do it for a broader category of employees, but they’re certainly a lot more scarce than they used to be (and they tend to be in different sectors than you’re looking at; if you were a programmer or an engineer, this might be a different answer).

(Not to rub salt in the wound, but I wouldn’t count on them being willing to hire you without meeting you either — that does happen but it’s pretty rare. You’ll generally be expected to travel there for the interview. Some companies will pay your expenses to do that, and others won’t. The more sought-after and hard-to-find your skill set is, the more likely they are to do that, although there are some that will do it across the board. And the ones that will are probably more likely to offer relocation help, so you might take that as one screening signal.)

As for when to bring it up … On one hand, you’re not under any obligation to take a job offer, and if the total compensation package, including relocation, isn’t enough for you, of course you can turn it down without hard feelings. You don’t go into interviews announcing “if you can’t pay me $X, I’m out of here,” even though everyone understands that’s true. However, on the other hand, when you know that you need something out of the norm for the jobs you’re applying for, it’s courteous to talk about it before either side invests too much time — whether it’s full-time telecommuting, a salary outside the norm for your industry, or significant relocation money.

So I think it really comes down to how much help you’d want. It wouldn’t be at all presumptuous to try to negotiate for a few thousand dollars of moving expenses when you’re negotiating the job offer. But $20,000 is something you don’t spring on a company at the last minute, not at the salary level it sounds like you’re probably at (which I’m assuming is under $100,000, so we’re talking about at least 20% of your salary, if not more). So how much exactly do you want? $6,000? You could maybe try for that, especially coupled with agreeing to take a slightly lower salary. Whether it’s over the top will depend on the employer. (For instance, a small nonprofit? Probably not happening. Larger private company? Maybe.) $15,000? Probably not going to happen at any of the employers you described looking at.

And will you burn bridges by going through the interview process, only to have it collapse at the end because of the relocation issue?  There’s no guarantee, but probably not — unless they feel that you weren’t sufficiently straightforward with them early on. For instance, if they ask about money at some point in the interview process and you don’t mention this at all, that’s more likely to alienate them when it does finally come up. On the other hand, if you answer that you’re interested in the full compensation package and would take a lower salary if relocation help is part of the package, then you’re playing it more straight.

But all of this is to say that there’s no right answer here. It depends on what your salary level will be, how much you want to ask for, how strong a candidate you are, and what the practices of the places you want to work are. Generally speaking, I think you could probably negotiate a few thousand, but more than that is pretty iffy.

The larger issue here to me is this: You’re basically saying that you want to live in a different area of the country and you want an employer to finance that lifestyle change. That might not be very realistic, especially since you’re not able to offer them the sort of key skills that normally secures that help.

After all, even people who are willing to pay their own interview travel expenses and relocations costs are having a terrible time finding work when they search out-of-state because employers have no incentive to deal with the hassles of out-of-town candidates when they have plenty of local ones. You’ll be in those same shoes, but at an even greater disadvantage.

So you’re essentially taking on a very challenging project for yourself. That doesn’t mean that it won’t work out — it might. But you’ve got to go into it realizing that the odds aren’t especially strong.

{ 235 comments… read them below }

  1. tique*

    14 months ago I was able to get relocation from SoCal to a substantially smaller town in the Southeast, and a higher salary to boot. But early on in my operation “Escape from Los Angeles” I had resigned myself to not receiving a higher salary and no relocation. A big part of this windfall was because I made the jump from nonprofit work to a large corporation. I did not ask for relocation and was resigned to the fact that I wouldn’t get it, but I suspect they threw it in to sweeten the deal — they really wanted someone from L.A. to work at their small town-based corporation.

    That said, I don’t think it’s the norm as I was looking to make this move for a couple of years and no others offered assistance and I even paid for a flight into town for another interview that didn’t work out. I’d suggest expecting the worse (no assistance) and hoping for the best (some sort of compromise). Good luck, I know how it feels to feel “trapped” somewhere you don’t want to be.

    1. twentymilehike*

      operation “Escape from Los Angeles”

      Glad I’m not the only one with this plan! How on earth do we get STUCK here so easily!?

      Good luck, OP! I know the feeling and I hope something works out for you :)

      1. Jamie*

        You’re in LA? I totally pictured you in Canada – if you’ve ever seen Ice Road Truckers I thought you lived somewhere remote like Yellowknife.

        Where did I get that from?? I have always read your posts with a Canadian accent in my head. Weird.

        1. Kathryn*

          I was doing the exact same thing. I have no idea where I got that idea, but I don’t think it’s going to change any time soon.

        2. twentymilehike*

          Where did I get that from?? I have always read your posts with a Canadian accent in my head. Weird.

          LMFAO. Really.
          That’s a really hoot, Jamie! Especially funny because half of my family is actually Canadian, and lives in Canada, and I actually have a Canadian citizenship card because my mother is Canadian. And when my coworkers make fun of me they say it’s because I’m Canadian. Which is actually really, really funny because I’ve never even lived there at any point in my life. To confuse you even more, I was born in Scotland and carry a British passport.

          I think Gavin de Becker has taught you to listen to your gut instict …

          1. Jamie*

            I think that’s one of the Top 10 signs you’re reading too much AAM

            #10. You start to intuit the accents of other poster’s mother’s relatives…

            Which is one of the more specific signs. And it wasn’t just me – Kathryn felt your Canadian vibe as well.

            1. twentymilehike*

              Kathryn felt your Canadian vibe as well.

              Comin’ on strong! Haha … and

              I think that’s one of the Top 10 signs you’re reading too much AAM

              I f*cking love you guys.

        3. Canuck*

          I’m Canadian, and I always find it funny when people say we have an accent. Do we really?

          I mean, yes, people from certain regions do have distinctive accents, like people from Quebec or those from Newfoundland. But I liken that to the accents you might find in people from Texas or Boston.

          1. Jamie*

            I’ve never been to Canada so I’m only going off tv, but there are hardcore Canadian accents like you hear on ice road truckers…but there are more subtle ones which I think are cool too. Like Tom Green. The guys on the old Tom Green Show (not the Green Tom Show. Sorry) sound middle American to my ear for the most part but there is still a slight accent that differentiates them. I think it’s cool.

            I love regional accents.

          2. Laura L*

            Well, flip it around. Do you think Americans (generally) have accents? If so, it probably means you have one too! (which only we will hear.)

            Although to be honest, I think the Canadian and American accents are very similar, it’s the regional ones that are noticeable.

            If you say “aboot” for “about” then you DO have one!

            1. Lynne*

              Hee. Canadians don’t actually say “aboot” – we just use the short “ow” sound. (Maybe it sounds like an “oo” to people from some parts of the U.S. though?)

              Canadian and American accents certainly can be very similar. I can generally tell the difference, though, even if I have to listen to the person talk for a few minutes first. It may be subtle, but it always seems to be there.

              1. Lynne*

                (…okay, I guess there could be some Canadian dialects where it is pronounced “aboot,” but not generally.)

                1. twentymilehike*

                  (…okay, I guess there could be some Canadian dialects where it is pronounced “aboot,” but not generally.)

                  hahahaha late reply on this, but I just saw this comment and it made me laugh. A lot of my family is the Canadian version of what we call a “Redneck” in America. They talk like that horrible stereotypical Canadian Accent I think Jamie is thinking of. Its hilarious to me. They also rarely speak English, even though they don’t live in Quebec and their whole (small) town speaks English.

                2. Lynne*

                  I’ve lived in three different provinces and have never actually met someone who pronounced it “aboot” (except ironically), but I felt the need to throw in that belated caveat because I just knew somehow that someone like you would turn up, twentymilehike. :P

  2. Anon*

    Given the precarious nature of your financial situation, I would suggest that you 1)Follow AAM’s advice. 2)Start saving. I don’t know how much money you should have saved when relocating but I’m thinking at least 3 times your monthly bills, just to be on the safe side. You’ll need it to cover the most random of things. Personally, I’d be a little concerned that your desire to get out of Cali is overwhelming everything else. I know it’s super expensive place to live and it’s not a bad goal to want to live/work somewhere else. But I think a solid plan and sticking to it will get you there faster than hoping a company will pay for it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I agree. I’d also say that the OP should probably make some compromises on how she wants this to go. For instance, moving furniture across country is really expensive — why not sell the furniture and buy used stuff when you get there? But I’m worried about anyone doing this kind of move when they’re living month-to-month; moving is expensive and filled with all kinds of unforeseen expenses. Plus you’ll have to put money down for housing, etc. I’m thinking that a move just might not be financially feasible right now.

      1. jmkenrick*

        I used to work for a company in the moving industry, and I would like to second that moving (especially cross-country) is really not something that’s wise to do on a budget. Especially when it comes to hiring movers, you want to beware picking the cheapest company, and be sure to make sure they’re licensed.

        It’s just an expensive endeavor, no two ways about it.

        Also, as someone who’s lived in both SoCal and New England, I’d say that New England (especially come winter) is generally a more expensive place to maintain a good lifestyle. Although that depends a lot on where you are in either region.

        1. Anonymous*

          It’s funny you said that because I was thinking the same thing about future expenses. If you really want a less expensive lifestyle, I wouldn’t move to one of the most expensive areas on the east coast. I’d shoot for one of the nicer cheap cities like Pittsburgh.

          1. Jamie*

            I’d move to Scranton. But that’s probably because I secretly really hope a Dwight Schrute actually exists.

      2. BW*

        Had a friend move cross country after trying a long time to land a job on the east coast to be close to family. Companies were not willing to even consider her. What she did was get permission from her current employer to transfer offices. They did not pay any relocation assistance for this.

        She sold everything but a futon mattress and an antique bookcase, rented one of those uhaul trailers for the rest of her things (which was mostly 20+ boxes if beloved books she wasn’t parting with), and drove it cross country. She bought whatever furniture she needed when she arrived, mostly from Ikea. She managed to get some freebies as well.

        When her mom moved up from the south, she hired a moving company because she had so many antiques she wanted for herself and to pass on to her children. That was something of a disaster. It was a month before she had her things, and some of them came damaged. At one point she only had 1/2 of her things while the company located the other truck. These interstate movers don’t load your things up and drive the same truck straight up to your place. It goes onto other trucks with other things, and makes the rounds before it finally gets to you.

      3. Anonymous*

        In the past, I have also been overwhelmed with bills and obsessed with changing my job and living situation, only to jump blindly into a different, but not necessarily better, situation. At that time, I certainly would have felt like it was an option to get my new employer to pay for my moving costs, because it was a way out. I would have daydreamed about that the way people daydream about winning the lottery. But that’s the problem…daydreams are not usually realistic solutions.

        OP, save your money, live frugally, and move when you can afford it. And if you can find an employer to foot the bill for your move, more power to you.

        1. kristinyc*

          I moved from Indianapolis to NYC a few years ago, and it was RIDICULOUSLY expensive. My bf (now husband) and I saved up money for a year, and the move completely wiped it all out (and then some – it took a year or so to pay off everything relating to the move). I don’t know what city the OP is looking in, but in NYC, most places won’t even give you an interview if you’d have to relocate, let alone hire you and pay for relocation.

          If I could re-do it, I totally would have sold all of my furniture and bought new stuff here – most of it is waayyyy too big for my tiny apartment!

  3. Nancypie*

    I have seen people be given relocation packages when one wasn’t offered (at lower than manager position jobs) during the negotiation process. I also think you could try to negotiate a sign-on bonus to help with relocation costs (which the company doesn’t have to classify under relocation)..

    During interviews, you can stress that you live in an apartment, which makes a relocation much easier than if you had a house to sell

    If you impress them enough, I think the right employer will find a way to not lose a good candidate.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The problem is that in this economy, there are generally lots of good local candidates, and it sounds like the OP doesn’t have an especially sought-after skill set that might ameliorate that. She’s probably going to be one of dozens/hundreds good candidates, unfortunately.

      (And because she’s applying at universities, nonprofits, and small businesses, there’s an additional strike against it.)

    2. Lisa*

      Search job boards for ‘sign-on bonus’ / ‘relocation’ just like you would search for ‘marketing’. You could also deal with a recruiter, and they can tell you who does relocation assistance and sign-on bonuses.

  4. LA*

    You should begin looking for companies who have their benefits packages publicly posted. Not all companies do this, but there are quite a few that I’ve found that do tell you what their vacation and holiday schedule is as well as any other perks that you can expect while working there. I’ve found a couple companies that list relocation assistance in this section on their website. I’m not saying that they ALWAYS give you assistance to relocate (or even as much as you’d need), but it is an option if it’s listed on their website. That way you feel less awkward about “wasting” anyone’s time only to have things fall apart at the last minute because of this issue. It might make you feel more comfortable knowing it’s an option on the table when you’re spending time writing your cover letters and interviewing – especially if you have to pay your own costs to get there.

    Good luck! It’s difficult, I know. But definitely try and go for it with jobs you see where you want to live – you’ll never know if you could get relocation assistance if you never even apply to these places for fear of potentially burning bridges!

  5. fposte*

    I’m trying to assess where you were going with the concern about wasting your own time on these applications. Do you mean that you only want to prepare these applications if there’s a reasonable chance of getting what you want? Because I think the chance is much smaller than anything I’d consider “reasonable”; if you’re going to do this I think you have to consider your own time as the one thing you can afford to spend without expectation of return to try to make this happen.

  6. Jubilance*

    This is just my experience – YMMV of course.

    My first 2 jobs both required relocations, and both included relocation packages. My first move was only abt 400 miles & I was offered a lump sum. I didn’t negotiate this because really I didn’t know I could or I should. This was an entry-level position. My second move took me from the Southeast to the Midwest & for this move, I had a full relocation package – professional packing of my apt, shipping my car, a lump sum for me to live on before I got my first paycheck, paying to break my lease, etc. This wasn’t a management role, it was a experienced professional level position.

    Especially for the 2nd move, I knew that I wanted to relocate so I only applied to positions that noted that relocation assistance was available. That meant that I generally stuck to large (Fortune 100 or 500 ) companies, who tend to have the funds available to pay for a relocation. Most large companies, when they list positions on their websites, will note whether or not relocation assistance is available for the position.

    It may also be possible that certain industries/in-demand fields are more likely to pay for relocations. In my case, I was working as a chemist & I’d guess that technical fields may be more apt to pay for relocations given the lower number of people in those fields. Anyone got any thoughts on that point?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      “It may also be possible that certain industries/in-demand fields are more likely to pay for relocations. In my case, I was working as a chemist & I’d guess that technical fields may be more apt to pay for relocations given the lower number of people in those fields.”

      This, exactly. Marketing, unfortunately, has much different hiring norms than chemistry, especially when you’re not targeting large for-profit companies.

      1. Stephanie*

        Yeah, technical skill sets make a difference. Granted, this was when the economy was way better (in 2007) and with a F100 company, but I got a relocation package even as an engineering intern.

        1. Stephanie*

          Oh ack, that came across as totally bragging. OP, not sure of your particular skill set, but the more specialized skill set required for a position, the better!

          1. EM*

            It didn’t come off as bragging at all!

            FWIW, we moved across several states in 2006, and my husband’s large aerospace manufacturing company paid for our move in its entirety. We even had a “relocation coordinator”, and thank goodness for that, because the airport closed at our destination due to a huge blizzard just as our cars were being loaded onto the moving truck. Our coordinator found us a hotel room for 2 adults, one baby, and 2 cats at the last minute, but I digress.

            My husband’s company paid for pretty much everything, including closing costs on our house and the real-estate agent’s fee! From what we heard, the monetary value of the relocation assistance was $60k. No idea if they offer that kind of assistance anymore, as this was before the economy collapsed. He’s a mid-career engineer, in an in-demand field.

            1. Wilton Businessman*

              He’s a mid-career engineer, in an in-demand field.
              ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!

              Supply and demand.

            2. Je*

              Em I know this thread is super old, but was wondering if you’d be willing if you saw this to talk to me at all about your relocation. My husband may be offered a position at anaerospace manufacturing company, and I was hoping to get more info.


        2. p14*

          Yes, I got a relocation package as an intern as well. I was beginning my career in the sports industry as an event planner. This was back in the early 2000s when the economy was much better.

          The last time I got a relocation package was from California to New England for an entry level position paying $28,000 a year. A few years later, when the snowy weathers proved too daunting for this Cali girl, I moved to GA and was on my own for relocation. I wouldn’t expect it now anyway.

      2. Aimee*

        Even Marketing in the large, for-profit companies often won’t offer relocation assistance either (even for internal employees who are moving from one position to another. I tried for a while; I am another who would eventually like to get out of SoCal, although for the time being, I’m in the ‘love’ stage of my love-hate relationship with this place. I used to work for a gigantic telecommunications company, and every single internal marketing job they had posted specified that there would be no relocation assistance. And that was at the mid-management level).

  7. A Bug!*

    This is a tough situation to be in and I sympathize, but AAM is right on with her advice. Your needs aren’t a bargaining chip; your skills, your experience, and your potential value are.

    You wouldn’t go to your boss and support a request for a raise by saying “My husband’s hours got cut and I need to make up the shortfall.” That may be the reason you’re pressing for a raise, but employers don’t generally operate on a “needs-based” compensation system*. You need to show the employer why you’re worth the extra money.

    *Can you imagine the bitterness in a workplace like that? One need only look at the recent stuff on favoring parents for holiday time to get a pretty good idea.

  8. Mela*

    Unless the furniture is heirloom, it makes way way more sense to move yourself and your stuff via the USPS and a car, and can be done for well under $2,000 without big furniture. Travel and expenses are included in that. So I’m on the “move cheaper and more sensibly” and also “figure out how to economize and save money” bus.

    1. fishy*

      Agreed. You can rent a good-sized moving truck (up to 26′) through a number of companies and move yourself. Maybe ask some family or friends to help you?

      We moved a two bedroom house twice in the last 2 years across large sections of the country and spent around $2000 each time (all travel expenses and fuel included). Any furniture you sell is stuff you don’t have to move.

      1. Stephanie*

        Also, I’ll do a plug for Amtrak Express. You can ship your stuff pretty cheaply cross country via train stations. Moving is sort of pricey, but you don’t automatically have to go the giant moving company route.

    2. Andrea*

      Also agreed, but I would caution the OP against even making a cheaper DIY move without a cushion. For instance, I personally know two people who drove cross-country with a trailer full of boxes only to have their reliable cars poop out and die once they arrived (or on the way there, as with one). Something like that, especially in conjunction with an expensive move, can be devastating.

      1. Jamie*

        This. And moving is like a construction project. Assume it will take longer and cost more than your initial estimates.

        1. Katie*

          Right. I obsessively planned my cross country move, but shit happened that I just didn’t anticipate (like my cell phone getting shut off because I had used too many minutes calling up apartment prospects… followed by some ungodly bill). These things are a minor nuisance when you have the money, but when you don’t, it’s like another finger slipping off the edge into the abyss. Not a great feeling when you are starting a new life in a new state with a new job.

  9. Brett*

    I was offered $5k for relocation for a non-managerial job this summer. Mid professional level as an engineer. I wouldn’t say it’s common, but it happens. You could also propose a signing bonus, which also could be tough in this market but may be something the hiring manager or the HR manager can grant from their own budget on a discretionary basis.

    I’d also try to get a really good estimate of what it would cost you to move. If you’re going to negotiate this after getting an offer you’ll need to know what the minimum you can accept will be. Do it yourself with a one-way truck rental and even coast to coast might be possible for $2-3k.

    1. fposte*

      That’s the other thing–even the places that do provide relocation assistance aren’t likely to be providing much. So, OP, you may want to think about whether you’d rather stay where you are than accept an offer that includes assistance that doesn’t cover your costs.

    2. Dana*

      I was also offered $5k, for a non-managerial marketing position. Again, large company, and we were only in a 1-bdrm apartment, so our costs only came to half that. But we were also living paycheque to paycheque – we just put the moving expenses on the credit card and paid them with the assistance when it came. Not the most fiscally sound plan, for sure, but to escape a toxic workplace and join a solid company with a great work environment in a city I love? Totally worth it.

      Also, I don’t think I have any super specialized skills, but the position wanted a marcom writer and that’s what I am, so it was a good fit. I think it is possible to make this kind of move, but it seems like a lot of stars have to be aligned for it to happen (I can’t even count the number of positions I applied for before this offer came). Good luck in your search, OP!

    3. Andrea*

      My husband was offered a $6k signing bonus and $3500 relocation assistance in early 2011. Not sure why they did it separately like that. We were only moving from 2.5 hours away, though, but we had a lot to move, so we hired movers to load and unload trucks (we drove the trucks ourselves). He’s an IT consultant, specializing in storage and virtualization, and he has a decade of experience and several sought-after certifications.

      My unsolicited suggestion for the OP is that maybe she should determine if there are any other areas, perhaps not so far from where she is now, which might appeal to her. The move would be cheaper and she could still get out of southern California. But that only works if there isn’t a specific reason why she was looking at this particular area in New England, like locating near family or something.

      1. Movin' Right Along*

        That was my thought too. Early on (but not during a booming economy) my husband and I moved from one small city where we were living paycheck-to-paycheck to a slightly larger one in an adjacent state. We didn’t get much relocation assistance, but we were able to use a moving company that only went to adjacent states, so that was cheaper.

        We lived there for a while and saved our money, and both of us built up our resumes, and then when a job came up in a place we liked better, we were in a better place to move (and also, we got better relocation assistance on the next move, because the position my husband got was at a higher level).

        The OP might consider moving someplace not quite so far away, but cheaper than Southern California, and spending a few years building up experience and savings. And also: furniture is easy to find. Dump any that you don’t totally love. TWICE I have arrived in a distant city and thought, “Why on EARTH did I pay to move that ugly sofa?”

        1. Movin' Right Along*

          Oh, I left out this part: in the first city, jobs were scarce, and we made hardly any money. The reason we moved that first time was because the larger city had better job opportunities and really cheap housing in lovely, charming, crime-ridden parts of town we would NEVER live in now that we’re old and have offspring. :-)

  10. Wilton Businessman*

    Relo packages are more and more scarce. You could ask for some assistance in the $2000- $3000 range, but it’s very unlikely you will be getting a $15K package for anything less than a C level position, IMHO. The companies that look at you are going to understand you might need some relo assistance. If they’re not ready to provide it, they probably won’t look at you.

    The fact of the matter is you’re going to need some working capital. When you move you will have new rent deposits, new fees, insurance, and everything else that goes along with life changes. The move itself is something that can be put on a credit card, but that’s going to only be about half your expenses.

    Even sign-on bonuses have catches, they don’t hand you a check when you show up. One company I worked for held your sign-on bonus until you finished your 90-day probationary period. I once got a sign-on bonus to repay a previous employer for education related expenses, but it came after about 30 days.

    I sympathize with your situation. Moving is not easy, especially on a tight budget. But that’s why there’s credit cards!

    1. EM*

      Yeah, when my husband got his first job, he had a nice signing bonus, but it didn’t show up until at least a month after he started. Meanwhile, we had to set up an apartment with zero money. Hello credit card debt. That was fun. :/

  11. Chinook*

    I don’t know how taxes work in the US, but in Canada, any move over a certain kilometre so that you are closer to your place is tax deductible in regards to the expenses you cover (and that includes mileage, hotels, cost of selling/buying and a lot of other things). I have had to move a lot for DH’s job and sometimes the cost to move me was covered and sometimes it wasn’t (i.e. they would pay to move communal items and his hotel room (where I would sleep) but I had to pay for my own food and to ship/drive my car). While it was always tight the year of a move, it was a relief to get a sizeable chunk of change back the following spring – especially since we would file as soon as we were eligible and often got our tax refund before the end of March.

    While this may or may not be helpful for the OP, it is something to think about for my fellow Canadian readers.

    That and, if you are willing to move at the whim of the federal government (and risk being shot at), there are sometimes national jobs like military, RCMP, border guard, etc. that cover your first move after training. But then it comes down to whether you would prefer to move away from where you are or work in the field of your choice.

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      There would be parts to a coast-to-coast move in the US that would be tax deductible. But you have to have the money up front to spend.

  12. Heather*

    Make a plan, get a mint.com account, do whatever you need to get your finances in order and start saving. Also, all of Alison’s advice is good… you can definitely move for a few thousand dollars if you really want to make it happen by selling furniture and such.

  13. KayDay*

    Do you get paid out for your vacation when you leave (I think someone said you had to in Cali)? If so, saving up those vacation days can be a way to “save” when money is tight. And I think in California you need to receive your final paycheck really promptly too!

    Large companies are more likely, in my limited experience to offer relocation, so if that’s something you could consider, I would look into it. Many large companies also clearly state when relocation is and isn’t offered.

    Some universities offer great benefits, which might include relocation–there’s no guarantee, but it’s worth looking into. A university is likely to have a policy about relocation, so you might even be able to find it online (google site:university website + employee manual, benefits handbook, etc.).

    A small company (or non-profit) on the other hand is more likely to offer relocation if and only if you are the perfect fit. If your lucky, you might be able to find a job that is the perfect match for your jill-of-all-trades skill set.

    BTW, and this is a genuine question–how much does it cost to move across country? $15-20K sounds extreme to me, but all my moves have been in the 2-5 mile range.

    1. Jamie*

      The last time I moved cross country I think it was close to 15K. That was including first and last months rent on a house and a truck big enough to move a family of four, plus all the expenses along the way.

      Whether you move furniture or sell and buy used when you get there really depends on the size of your household. If it were just me – sure – I could sleep on a mattress on the floor until I saved some money…but with my kids I wanted to keep as much normalcy as possible and it wouldn’t have been cost effective to sell off and rebuy three beds, three dressers, etc – not to mention my stuff.

      I think it also depends on what stage in your life you’re at. In my early twenties I could have left everything without a second thought. Now? I’ve accumulated some things I love which hold memories of my family. Sure, I could live with new end tables (heck, could use some now and I’m not moving) but my china cabinet? My mom’s piano? Mt gramma’s bookshelves? It wouldn’t be as easy to make that call now.

      1. Sasha*

        If the OP does have stuff like antique furniture or things not willing to part with, could she possibly move them into someone’s garage or get cheap storage for a while, until she saves up the money to bring them out? I could certainly understand not wanting to sell off everything – I have 3 guitars I just can’t part with and I rarely use them, but by god, I’m keeping those guitars.

    2. Wilton Businessman*

      I moved a 3BR house from the deep south to New England for $5K, but that was just the move (13 years ago). Tack on another $5K for first/last month’s rent, paying 6 mos of Auto insurance, a year’s worth of renter’s insurance, etc, etc. It can add up.

      BUT, the OP is talking about a 1BR. You could pack a 1 BR in a UHaul trailer and hook it to your Camray and drive across the country in 4 days for $1500. You still have the startup costs in the other location, though.

      1. Rana*

        Or hire a Pod, which is what one friend of ours did, and pay local people to load and unload it.

        I have to admit I’m a little puzzled by what the costs are coming from here. We’ve moved several times in the past decade – the equivalent of a two-bedroom apartment completely crammed with furniture and books – and it’s never cost us more than $4,000, and that’s with full moving service by national companies like Bekin. (We’ve only moved half-way across the continent in a single move, however, so YMMV, literally.)

        That said, if you don’t have the money, you don’t have the money, but my experience has been that while it’s expensive, it’s not outrageously so.

        1. Jamie*

          I think it depends on how one is defining costs of “the move.”

          When I think of the cost to move I’m throwing in the kitchen sink from (when I was renting) first/last/pet deposit on a new place (which was $4500 right there) to paying off balances on old utilities, swapping over insurance and paying up on new premiums, the travel expenses and overnights, extra misc. stuff like extra cleaning stuff on both ends, more meals out until settled, school fees, etc.

          Which is probably excessive on my part as I’d need to pay some of these things anyway, but they all went into my bucket of money I’d need to move until I was settled.

          Personally I’d rather pad my expenses and spend less than I thought than under budget and come up short of money.

  14. Maria*

    Where in New England are you hoping to relocate to? Massachusetts? Vermont? New Hampshire?

    In Massachusetts, competition from locals is fierce. (Specifically the 128 belt – Burlington to Waltham). There are a ton of highly qualified unemployed people here out of a job and looking for work. Unless if you have some sort of a unique skill, I doubt anyone would pay to relocate you here. sorry.

    1. Anonymous*

      What Maria said. And winter is dark and long. And the whole ‘tight knit small town’ does not sound like NE, we can be very ‘reserved’ here in NE.

    2. I wrote this letter*

      Dang. Our aim is Massachusetts…the Berkshires, or slightly east of them (but NOT Boston or its suburbs). Or coastal Maine. We have our good reasons. :) But thank you for mentioning this, Maria, and thanks to all for the small town discussions in the comments below.

  15. moss*

    I’m more curious about why the OP wants to live in the small tight-knit New England area. I think the Greater Boston area is ridiculously expensive and full of long commutes. Have you considered carefully what you will do when you get there? Could you survive even if you managed to get there?

    1. BW*

      Well, it does look all very quaint and inviting on TV and movies. :)

      The Boston area is ridiculously expensive, getting more urban sprawly, full of long commutes, and people are reserved and a bit brusk. I think it’s the cold dark winters.

      On the other hand it has its perks that may be decent trade-offs. I found the LA area reaaally unappealing – expensive, even worse commutes, even more sprawl, and the occasional earthquake (these are creepy!). I sat in 80 miles of traffic backed up between Long Beach and someplace east of there (on I-10). It wasn’t a special day or anything, just a random Friday afternoon in February. I’d think almost anything is an improvement over that. The only thing I really enjoyed was the weather! The weather in the NE is *not* an improvement over SoCal. :)

    2. Laura L*

      I would assume she’s not moving to Boston, since Boston is a city and not a small town. But I may have different definitions of those terms than others do? Do people in Boston consider it a small town that’s tightly knit?

  16. Joey*

    Couple of things:
    1.relocation expenses are generally reimbursed( at least that’s how I’ve always done it and every colleague I know) so even if you do find someone willing to offer it you’ll still need to front the money.

    2.Here’s what I’d do first. Look at the job postings in the area and keep track of how long they are posted. Also look at local professional organization job boards. If you see jobs posted for a long time especially on the professional boards there is at least a chance that the job is difficult to fill. Also, look for jobs with unique required or preferred qualifications. The more specific the better. Those are all a bit anecdotal so lastly look at the states labor board website. They’ll frequently show how the local job market in a particular profession compares to the national average.

    1. some1*

      “1.relocation expenses are generally reimbursed( at least that’s how I’ve always done it and every colleague I know) so even if you do find someone willing to offer it you’ll still need to front the money.”

      This is the way my old employer did it, and they only did it for executives.

  17. Holly*

    As Alison says, “You’re basically saying that you want to live in a different area of the country and you want an employer to finance that lifestyle change.” I think that’s REALLY presumptuous of you, especially considering the job market. I mean this in the best way possible, and I don’t mean to be rude. You’re going to have to be WAY better (read: out of this galaxy) than any of their other candidates for them to consider financing your relocation, unless they’re a huge company or unless you have such an amazing skill set they can’t find it elsewhere.

    I think you’re better off planning to move there on your own dime, and either saving up for it, or moving cheaply. Can you sell furniture and then buy cheap IKEA-style furniture once you move?

    I move internationally every few years, and I never take more than what can fit into a few suitcases. I get rid of just about everything, and leave behind a small amount of things that I can pick up on return trips.

  18. KarenT*

    Are relocation packages typically a lump cash payment? My understanding (which is limited to my cousin’s crazy relocation) is that you pay for everything yourself and submit receipts.

    1. Judy*

      I think that is an “it depends”. 2 of my 3 relocations were with F100 companies, and they had a contract with a moving company, so that was paid directly by invoice. They then gave me a check on/about the first day for estimated other expenses, that I would submit receipts against. The first relocation just gave me $4000 on my first day and had said after the offer was accepted “see you on X day”, handle everything yourself.

      1. fposte*

        Though even “on your first day” means that you have to front the expenses. I wonder if any assistance funding (rather than direct contracting with movers) is available in advance of the move.

        I’m pretty sure that it won’t be available before the move to somebody they’ve never met, though. They’re not going to send money sight unseen to somebody on the other side of the country. That’s another reason why the OP needs to be realistic about traveling for interviews.

      2. Jubilance*

        That’s my experience as well. Some things, like the movers & shipping my car, were paid for directly by my employer. Other things, like the penalty to break my lease, I had to pay for upfront & then submitted a receipt to be reimbursed.

    2. Wilton Businessman*

      Depends, it could be a budget or it could be a lump sum. If it’s a lump sum, you will get taxed on it, so keep that in mind.

    3. Stephanie*

      It varies. Some companies do a lump sum upfront, some have specialists who arrange movers, payment for breaking leases, etc., and some reimburse.

    4. KarenT*

      Interesting. Thanks, everyone. I guess in the OP’s case this might be tricky–even if she gets a lump sum it sounds like that wouldn’t happen until she actually starts. Having movers invoice would help, but she would still likely have to front for plane tickets, first/last rent, etc.

  19. KarenT*

    Also, I don’t know much about New England, having only ever been there as a tourist, but I picture the job market as saturated. For some reason I picture New England as filled with Ivy League grads.

    1. Stephanie*

      I have a coworker from Western MA who came here (DC area) because she said there are no jobs up there. She was renting a place during the week here and going back to Springfield on weekends.

      Boston’s job market is pretty good relative to the rest of the country, but I’d imagine there are a lot of strong local candidates. It’s not even just Ivy League grads up there, there are just a ton of schools in general. When I was job hunting, I interviewed for a few positions there. I was in Arizona at the time and definitely got a lot of “Er, you know the cost of living’s high up here, right?” or “You can handle the winters, right?”

      1. fposte*

        Even if the OP isn’t talking MA, the post mentioned applying to a bunch of universities–and anywhere there is a bunch of universities, there is a bunch of people who graduated from them who need jobs, so they tend to be pretty competitive areas.

        1. Stephanie*

          Haha, true. I meant it as separate anecdotes. However, my coworker was saying that Boston was the hub of a lot of the jobs in New England.

  20. Jamie*

    If it were me, I’d try to get a local job in a company which has branches out where I’d like to move.

    Then work really hard to earn a reputation as a top performer to make a plan for a cross country transfer in a couple of years. People are a lot more likely to pick up expenses for a known commodity if they are the ones who want you out there.

    Ideally it would be a place where the branch is where you are and HQ is where you want to be.

    Then again, I don’t know why you’re targeting universities and non-profits…so I don’t know if this would work for you.

    1. KarenT*

      I find this idea to be genius! You do have a much greater chance of being able to transfer locations for a company you are already working for.

    2. Meg Murry*

      I think Jamie’s advice is good, or look at the opposite possibility – look for a position at a large corporation on the East Coast that might be more likely to offer relocation assistance, then in a few years you can try to find a position in the specific area you were shooting for.

    3. Stephanie*

      As someone who’s interviewed for several university staff positions, they’re pretty tough eggs to crack as a long-distance candidate. Unless you’re a real rock star or you’re interviewing for the head of the department, most won’t bother with relocation (even really well-endowed ones). University jobs can be pretty sweet benefit wise (such as with tuition benefits, relative stability if you’re at a more solvent state system, etc.), so there’s pretty fierce competition. Plus, some universities are pretty big on hiring alums. At least with university jobs, I wouldn’t count on relocation.

      1. Data Monkey*

        I think it depends on the staff position at the university. I interviewed for several university positions and got offers from out of state. I also got 3K in relocation expenses for the position I did take which was entry-level.

          1. Dang*

            I got a job for big state u 600 miles away. Most of ,y colleagues come from out of state too. No relocation though.

    4. twentymilehike*

      If it were me, I’d try to get a local job in a company which has branches out where I’d like to move.

      That’s SO my plan!! And since I want to live in BFE, I’m hoping that will make it easier … my favoriate places are the places most people hate. Hellooooo, Mojave Desert!

    5. I wrote this letter*

      If it were me, I’d try to get a local job in a company which has branches out where I’d like to move.
      This. And it’s totally part of my efforts. But you’re right…not many companies have branches where I want to be. Like, none so far. Rats. But I’m looking!

  21. N.*

    OP please don’t take offense at this, (everyone has a dream) unless you are confident you could find a way to make it without assistence, don’t waste your time applying. I say this because I have found personally that you have to develop a somewhat tough mindset when relocating… you need to be prepared for snags and have a book of plan B’s to consult because regardless of what you are paid or whether or not you get relocation, you need to have your ducks lined up as best as possible to help you. I am going to tell you right now NOTHING ever goes right when embarking on such an endeavor, and there is NOTHING you can do to prepare yourself for every eventuality (because you cannot know what they will be) so you have to prepare yourself to be tough enough to take it or you may not succeed.

    If you believe in good faith that if you were offered a position by a company in the area that you would try to take it, then apply. If it comes up that you cannot take the position because you cannot move, well I don’t think it is the end of the world, you can always tell them that circumstances have changed barring you from taking the job. Considering however the time it takes to hire someone, your personal circumstances may have changed by then and you could move to take it. Keep in mind though that many may not give you a second look anyway because you are NOT yet a local candidate regardless of what you put in the cover letter, that is just how it goes sometimes. They may have already anticipated that you want to hit them up for moving expenses whether you really are or not and in which case you won’t hear from them if they aren’t interested in helping you make it work.

    I don’t know your situation, but you cannot take one of your cars and just move there alone and bring your things and family later? I know I make it sound easy, but if you really want it that is what you might have to do. My husband and I have had to do that twice in the same state (because they did not care how qualified you were, you didn’t live there, and they had plenty of people promise they would move and then didn’t), once he had to camp for a month before he found us a place and before I followed him.

    Bottom line prepare yourself no matter what. You could be offered relocation to find out it is a reimbursement program where you still have to fork out the money yourself upfront, you could be offered relocation to find out once there that “oops we were not authorized to offer you this after all sorry.”

    Before you think it is far fetched, this has happened to me and acquaintences of mine. If you want it go for it. DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT count on outside sources to get you what you want, be prepared always to get it yourself. It may mean waiting, but always stack the deck the best you can before proceeding.

    Best of Luck in whatever you decide.

    1. Kate*

      “I don’t know your situation, but you cannot take one of your cars and just move there alone and bring your things and family later? ”

      THIS. I wanted to move to a big city about a 3 hour drive from my hometown after graduating college, but did have issues in interviews and in getting interviews since I wasn’t a “local” candidate. When I was asked my start date and would say “immediately” they would be very confused as to how I was going to manage that–even though I assured them I knew people in the area who had already offered to let me stay with them until I found an apartment, they did not seem to understand that (seriously, I was 23, it would not have killed me to sleep on a couch for a week or two). Maybe they were worried I wanted relocation assistance? Who knows. Anyway, I ended up just signing a lease for an apartment and moving there with no job. I had a decent amount of money in my savings account though and had already met with a temp agency with plans to work as a temp upon my arrival. Most people, including my mother, did not think it was the wisest thing to do, but I was called for an interview a few of weeks before my move-in date, got a second interview the same week I moved, and then was offered the job about a week later (a staff position at a university no less). In this case being local apparently didn’t really matter, but I do not think that is the norm, so moving without a job might not be a bad idea. That said, it might also be easier if you try somewhere closer. Is there anywhere maybe a 5 hour drive or closer that, while not your dream town, may be a better place to live than where you live currently? If not, I would say definitely consider the Midwest–it’s so much cheaper than either coast, and people here are so friendly. If you like large bodies of water, just try to live near one of the Great Lakes :)

      1. Jamie*

        consider the Midwest–it’s so much cheaper than either coast, and people here are so friendly.

        We just seem that way because for much of the year our hands are covered in mittens so you can’t see how often we’re giving each other the finger. :)

        Just kidding – I love it here.

        I really do, actually. When I was a kid I wanted to live anywhere but here, somewhere glamorous which was definitely not suburban Chicago. I’ve since lived in Florida, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania (former Navy wife – not itinerant) so I’ve had a sampling of other places and all have their benefits…but no where else ever really felt like home.

        So I went from the red brick house on a tree lined street in a quiet suburb of my childhood to the red brick house on a tree lined street in a different suburb of my adult life. Where my kids dream of escaping into a more glamorous world…

        Funny – I hear the theme from the Lion King in my head…circle of life and all that.

        1. Stephanie*

          OP, or maybe Texas? I grew up there and will concede its faults. And yeah, I definitely wanted to get out when I was a kid to somewhere more glamorous (i.e., some coastal city). Cut to a few years ahead and I find myself getting weary of having to drop a bunch of cash on rent for a tiny place.

          True, this is the exact opposite of a small New England town, but enough large companies are headquartered in Dallas/Austin/Houston that if you worked there a couple of years, you could probably get a transfer to the Burlington, VT office (or wherever it is exactly you’d like to end up; not sure how small you’re talking here). Also, cost of living is lower and your SO could probably find something a bit easier.

          1. Anonymous*

            And many of the cities are really just tightly grouped “small towns”. I live in Houston, and let me tell you we take our neighborhood identities very seriously!

        2. Anonymous*

          Not really, but sorta like the midwest: WESTERN NEW YORK. It’s dirt cheap there. If you are one of the lucky few people to find a job, you can buy a huge house in a great school district for about $400K (or a modest starter home for about $100K). Yes, the winters are cold, but they toughen you up and give you street-cred. Then you can make fun of everyone else in the country for not knowing how to drive in the snow. Which is a whole lot of fun. Also, the summers are really pleasant. And the Fingerlakes! The Adirondacks! Wegmans!

          1. Kate*

            100K for a starter home!? As my father would say to the people on House Hunters, you need to look at Indiana. Here is a home in Lafayette, a nice town with lots of jobs and a major university, for only $50,000–and it’s probably larger than your average starter home. http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/528-N-18th-St-Lafayette-IN-47904/50643667_zpid/

            I will give you, upstate NY is a beautiful place, but some places in the Midwest are just unbelievably inexpensive places to live.

            1. Chinook*

              And here in outer Calgary (i.e. town north of there by a few minutes), $115,000 bought me a 2 bedroom condo in a bad neighbourhood that started as an apartment bldg in the 70’s. How bad is the neighbourhood? Notes in condo report highlight there are heavy pot smokers in the building and a vandalism problem.

              Location is everything when it comes to COL.

            2. Nichole*

              I’m also a Hoosier, and I second that Indiana’s not a bad place to be as far as small town hospitality and decent cost of living. An unfortunate truth that can be someone’s gain is that many areas of Indiana are undereducated. I live in a town with 5 colleges, but we have a massive brain drain issue. That means that outside candidates have a real shot at because the local pickings are so slim. We’ve had several people relocated in from all over the place within the past few years, even with enrollment down, because the right fit is so important here and there are so few qualified local applicants. One of my co-workers moved from SoCal, and she says she would never have been able to afford her house there. For about what she was paying for a good-enough home there, she lives in one of the nicest neighbohoods in town.

              1. L.A.*

                In Michigan, $400k will pretty much get you a mini mansion – in a good neighborhood!

                And the state is also suffering from a brain drain – so it might be a place to consider.

                1. Dana*

                  Except in the part of Michigan where I live, apparently! Everyone told me it would be soo much cheaper out here (I’m from New England) but I’m not convinced at all. Wages are lower and cost of living is really not that much different.

        3. Laura L*

          I don’t know… I think Chicago is pretty glamorous! (Although no the suburbs. Suburbs are never glamorous.)

          Also, Chicago is more expensive than most other midwestern cities and towns. But, otherwise, I agree.

            1. Stephanie*

              Or Winnetka or Glencoe. My best friend from college is from Winnetka. Good Lord, I think the only chain store in that town is a Panera Bread.

  22. Aaron*

    Sorry you’re dealing with this! One more thought–you might be able to negotiate a salary advance instead of straight-up relocation reimbursement–or a salary advance on top of a reimbursement if the reimbursement isn’t high enough. Depending on why you’re month-to-month, this might help solve the problem (i.e. if the problem is just that you’re not good with money, bills are tight, etc., as opposed to really needing the cash for some specific purpose).

    1. Jamie*

      I really can’t imagine a salary advance to someone they haven’t even met – she said in the letter about needing a company who would hire her without having met her in person.

      I can’t imagine hiring someone without an in person interview. Our process is to narrow down candidates during the phone screens and then fly people out for in person interviews.

      I would think any new hire asking for a salary advance would risk getting an offer pulled – in most companies. I just can’t even imagine that conversation – it’s so outside the box of how most places handle relocation expenses.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It would give me serious pause too. I’d think, “If they can’t get by without the salary advance, how prepared are they for all the financial disruption of a move? Are they going to end up needing another advance / asking for a raise / moving back / some other bad outcome down the road?” You really want to look like you’re on top of this stuff when a company hires you long-distance; they’re already at least a little bit wary about having you move in case it doesn’t work out.

      2. K*

        I did it (sort of) – my law firm offered a signing bonus. I asked if it was paid ahead of time to help with moving expenses and they said not usually but offered to give it to me anyway with the understanding that I’d pay it back if I didn’t actually start work with them. However, they (a) were used to hiring people right out of law school, like I was, who were clearly going to be low on funds so it was an expected issue, so to speak, and (b) I had spent the summer with them so I wasn’t an unknown quantity.

          1. K*

            Not at all, actually – I suspect that in practice they were following the “you can’t get blood from a stone” theory of legal work. I.e., suing a broke recent graduate is pointless regardless of what’s been signed. (That said, I work here now years later, so it’s irrelevant.)

      3. fposte*

        I think in general it’s unlikely that you could convince an employer to send you a check before starting if you haven’t even met them. It sounds downright scammy.

      4. I wrote this letter*

        I should say that my phrasing here: “without having met me in person” — was hasty and ill informed. I honestly wasn’t expecting that flying people out for an interview would be common at all (or expecting them to fly in). I’ve had two friends recently who interviewed via skype, so for some reason I was assuming that was “the way”… Again…this has been *really* informative for me!

  23. Not So NewReader*

    OP, I don’t know how realistic this is- but if you could find work online- even part time- you might be able to keep that job while you make your move. It might help out in a small way to provide a continued income stream and some extra cash. Again, not sure how realistic this is for your setting, so am just throwing that out there.

    Additionally, there are community activities such as time banking and alternative economies cropping up everywhere. You might be able to find creative ways to support you move with something like this. Yeah, a little off-the-wall type of idea, however some times thinking out side the box is exactly what is needed.

    If you are coming to the East Coast I hope you can be strategic about the state you chose. If you have an area that you are aiming for definitely bookmark sites for that area- the newspaper, town or county site, etc.

  24. N.*

    By the way I would also reconsider taking the relocation expenses not necessary out completely. YOU don’t want to bring the fact that you do not live there to their attention in your first contact with them, assume in good faith that they presume you you would not apply if you could not make it work. I know they will notice on your resumé where you live, but if you do not act like its a big deal, chances are they won’t, and it might help you get your foot in the door. Sorry if this runs contrary to the advice of others, but I have had more luck leaving this off than not; you do not even want them to even imagine that having to move might be an obstacle especially from the get go or they may not even consider you. Get the offer and worry about the details later, don’t let the details prevent you from scoring the job.

  25. EB*

    Has the OP ever lived in a “small town New England, in particular a certain area of fairly close-knit small towns” or has close friends or family members who live in such a place? As someone who grew up in a small western town (400 people) I have to say, these types of places are not what they appear to be on TV. All over the internet you will hear tales of people who moved to these places and find themselves labeled outsiders because “close knit” only applies if you grew up there or have lived there a long time.

    Furthermore, if it’s really small (and not just a town in something like the greater Boston area where you commute in to work to Boston) then the economy can be pretty tough. The OP may find a job, but the OP’s spouse may not. Furthermore, where I grew up (a county full of very small towns) young people have to move away for economic opportunities.

    My parents were only able to relocated from a major city to the countryside by joining a large company that had outposts everywhere (It took my parents a long time to become locals, and included activities like joining the lions club). People I see who relocate to very small communities where I live usually know someone who hires them, go for employment in an industry (wine, skiing) that is around the area, start their own business, or work for a company that has a office there.

    1. Stephanie*

      I mentioned this upthread, but I have a coworker here (in the DC area) that relocated from Springfield, MA because the jobs were so scarce there.

    2. N.*

      Enthusiastic +1! Thank you for bringing this up, many people who do not grow up like this, are simply unaware of this type of dynamic and it often comes as an unpleasent shock.

    3. Rana*

      That’s a really good point. I relocated with my husband to a small Midwestern town for a couple of years, and it was dire. The first year there was nothing for me to do, work-wise (the only employers were the local college, where I eventually got a part-time job, and the local Walmart, which wasn’t hiring even if I was willing to work there – and the local economy was in the toilet) and because it was a small, insular place, there was nothing much to do for fun on my own, and if you didn’t belong to the local church or have kids in the local school, there was no way to get “in” with the community (and even then, you were always the “new” person). My husband’s colleagues were the extent of our social circle, but it didn’t really extend to spouses on their own. It was miserable, and I never want to live in such a small place ever again.

      1. Jamie*

        Even with kids it can be brutal. I did the small town thing for a couple of years and I was very stuck by the difference in mindset. I’m from the Chicago suburbs – you may know some of your neighbors but you don’t have to. This was different.

        And this may be colored by my fairly significant introversion coupled with the fact that I was freshly divorced with three kids under 8 and alone for the first time in my life…so with that in mind…

        It just felt cliquish. I’d go to a thing at my kids’ school and it seemed like all the other parents grew up together. I live in a suburb of Chicago now and not the one in which I was raised – as is common. One of the Harry Potter movies had come out and I was so happy to have the money to take the kids (it was VERY tight at the time) and I asked someone where the movie theatre was and was told it was in the next town. 17 miles away. The mall – 42 miles. And said like it was nothing, oh of course we drive a freaking hour to the mall. (I still don’t know where teenagers hang out in that town – I was out long before my kids hit that age.)

        The point is, there is nothing wrong with that life, but small town life can be distinctive in a way that can be hard to navigate if you’re used to a more urban/suburban way of life.

        I think I just really like autonomy and options and both of those I found lacking. The one hair salon in town sucked – imo. But since there was ONE I could opt to waste gas to drive 17 miles each way to another small town where there would be ONE more option.

        So I just lived in barrettes until I got out of there.

        1. Rana*

          Boy does that sound familiar. It got bad enough that we decided that every Friday was drive-an-hour-to-the-nearest-big-city-to-eat-something-other-than-pizza night. It kept us sane, but ugh!

        2. Not So NewReader*

          OP, all these comments about rural life are so true- it is a whole life style change. I made the change and am very happy with it. It is not for everyone. No pizza, no malls, okay, no police force.
          And what they say about being an outsider is true times 100. The work-around for that is to try to find other “transplants.” The old families stick together in one group and the transplants hang out together in another group. So part of moving to an area such as this is deciding no matter what curve balls come up you are just going to find work-arounds. It took me YEARS to work through that one.

          Yes, definitely find something that you join- if not a church then become a scout leader or something. That will make a difference for you.
          Having lived this life- my major concerns would be taxes and heating bills. I am in the north east. In my opinion those were two things that can blind-side people.

          If I made a move I would seriously look at Burlington, VT. Colder, and more north, which is craziness on my part. But what I have seen of the town has made a huge positive impression on me.

    4. EngineerGirl*

      This!!! The communities are very supportive of one of their own, which you are not. It takes a long time to integrate yourself into one of these communities – mainly because so many others have tried what you want to try and then abandoned the place in a huff a few years later. Small communities expect you to be **very** independent and self supporting. They’ll help you in a pinch, but that pinch is pretty hard. And you **will** get negative points just because you are from California.

      I hate to say it, but this plan has a lot of problems. The OP doesn’t have a marketable skill set, is wanting to go to a high cost area, and into a low paying industry (non-profit). Not a good combination. I think it would be wisest to get your ducks in order in So Cal first then reconsider a few years out:
      * Develop skills that are in demand. If that means going to school to get them, then do that.
      * As stated above, consider changing to a position with branch offices in the place you want to live.
      * Pay down debt and get a next egg. It’s really hard in SoCal, where the rent can eat your entire paycheck. But hard isn’t impossible with some strict lifestyle changes. I really love this website for money saving techniques:
      * Learn to be happy where you are at and your dreams become more accessable.

  26. nuqotw*

    It’s unclear from the OP’s letter if it’s more that she wants to live small town NE, or she wants to live somewhere that is not SoCal. If it’s the latter, or even if not SoCal but not NE is better than SoCal, she might consider looking for a job somewhere else, with better salaries and/or relocation assistance that might cover a shorter move. Moving to NE sounds like it’s probably unrealistic right now, but it could become possible over a period of years. That does have the drawback of uprooting yourselves multiple times, but might be a more feasible path.

    1. E*

      This is precisely what I was thinking. If what the OP wants is just a change of pace, why not look a little closer to home. New England is just about as far away as you can get (while still in the U.S.), but I’m sure you’d still find a different lifestyle/economy/community/whatever is you are looking for in other states in the west.

    2. Ellie H.*

      I’m sure this is an irritating suggestion because doubtless the OP is aware of various cities in the United States and knows more than I do about whether or not she’d like to live there, but I can’t help but suggest Austin. I lived there for a year and the cost of living is practically half that of the Boston area (where I live now). There are also a lot of small towns in the southeast where you can get the “small town” experience with a much lower cost of living, and it’s not nearly as expensive a relocation.

      1. Ellie H.*

        I meant that Austin wasn’t as expensive a relocation (because you can definitely drive, though I realize it’s still a pretty far way) . . . the southeast wouldn’t be much of an improvement I guess.

        1. Stephanie*

          +1 for Austin! Well, if it the COL is lower overall, you might not have to drop $4000 for a security deposit/first month’s rent like you would in some of the coastal cities. That being said, there’s still going to be expensive whether you move 3 or 3000 mi away.

          OP, maybe figure out what appeals to you about this part of New England? If it’s just a small-town feel, you can definitely get that in cheaper, closer parts of the country where your start-up costs would be less and the market might be better. If it’s something like family, that might be harder.

          1. TL*

            You can get an apartment with about $700-$1000 upfront in Austin (this is for the nicer end of cheap apartments).

        1. Elise*

          But, if you are willing to commute into work from one of the many smaller neighboring communities it’s much more affordable (and less crime). And then the OP gets more of the small town feel they wanted and the communities are generally very welcoming.

      2. Steve G*

        Yes, my sister moved from our expensive NYC area after college where we are from to Kansas City and really lived well on the equivalent of $40K today. I stayed in NYC and made the equivalent of $50K today and had to get a roommate and lived in the hood paycheck to paycheck.

        She really loved Kansas City and made friends with a bunch of people from big cities from across the country who moved there for high paying corporate jobs and cheap living.

        If you are looking for a “small town” feel and aren’t particularly tied to NE I wouldn’t gamble you’ll get the lifestyle you imagine there. You may have to move twice + to find THE town.

        1. Andrea*

          I love KC, but I don’t know how well one can live for $40k (then again that’s not my income). Cost of living is much lower here than in other large cities, though, which reminds me—-if the OP hasn’t researched cost of living, she needs to. It may surprise her. If she has never lived in New England, the costs associated with the harsh winters may surprise her as well (heating bills, winter gear and clothing, seasonal car and home maintenance, etc.).

          But if we are recommending favorite cities, I vote for KC. We bought a lovely large home with a big yard in a nice midtown neighborhood, and we like to do things like go to concerts and shows and we support the arts, but it is certainly possible to live on less, and I know that many people do. Some of the ‘burbs in the area are cheaper (but also, they’re suburbs, so …. there’s that). We do love it here, though. Lots of great and exciting things are happening here. I’m getting Google Fiber in a few months, for example.

          People are really nice, but it is hard to make friends, and I feel lonely sometimes. We knew some locals before we came, so that’s good. And Midwestern friendliness is a well-known thing, but it can be difficult to really get to know KC people (there was even an article about this phenomenon recently in our alt paper). My point is that if it’s difficult to make friends and meet people in an area known for being friendly, then it must be so much more difficult in NE, where people do tend to be more reserved (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it has been my experience), or in a small area, where they may be less enthusiastic about welcoming newcomers. But again, the OP may have specific reasons why she wants to move to this particular place. (I admit that I am curious about that.)

  27. kasey*

    Ugh, tricky situation. You’ve probably done this or aspects of it, but…audit where your money is going- daily, monthly. And be ready to change what you are currently doing, but still not enough to finance a move.
    But, I would shelf the move until I had a few grand liquid- just in case, that’s tablestakes, you got to have that. I know too simplistic. Like others have said before, something will go wrong and you’ll need to be able to cover that.

  28. Anonymous*

    Based on the info from the OP (and as a marketing person in small town New England), I put the odds of a company paying for relocation at 0…I don’t mean that harshly, just reality check-wise. A candidate would need to have skills that weren’t available locally in order for it to make sense for any company to pay for relocation and based on the OP’s description, I don’t think it’s reasonable to think a company couldn’t find those skills locally. That is NOT a negative reflection on the OP, just that there are many qualified local candidate.

    As a hiring manager, if I got an application from someone in CA for a job here and their cover letter didn’t include an explanation of why they were applying for a job 3,000 miles away, I’d eliminate them: The job is here, you live there and if you were serious about the job, I’d expect you to acknowledge and address that.

    1. N.*

      You make a good point, but I also know hiring managers that won’t hire out of area full-stop regardless of what the cover letter says. Places around here, there is no reasonable explanation that won’t get you dismissed from the outset if you live elsewhere. They also seem to get tired of people trying to move here, and get more incensed the longer the explanation. Of course no one on the outside is going to know this trap, hence my advice to find a way to just move if they really want to so they don’t have to explain anything.

      A bird in the hand, IS worth two in bush, if you are into that sorta thing.

    2. Anonymous*

      This varies wildly among job types. I just moved cross country for a job in a science field, from the East Coast to the West Coast.

      No one batted an eye at the fact that I was applying for a job cross-country because there are absolutely no local sources of people in my profession. The nearest colleges that they could hire similar entry-level people from would be at least two states (14 hour drive!) away, and there isn’t really a big cost difference at that point to grabbing someone from anywhere in the US.

      1. Anonymous*

        I agree it varies – in this case, because it’s a marketing position the OP seeks (and not at a senior-level or in a highly specialized field), there just is not a need to go outside the local area.

    3. I wrote this letter*

      Thanks for this, Anonymous marketing person in New England. No offense taken at all. I totally get it, and it’s precisely what worries me. I’m also applying for some development type positions, some sales, even some administrative. But certainly with those, the same situation applies…

  29. Chris*

    Here’s my take on this. If you want to move, then just move. If you can’t afford to, then you can’t afford to. I think what I’ve read above is right. You want to move, but want someone to foot the bill.

    …and for the “more substantial than a few thousand…” Ever hear of U-Haul? You have a one-bedroom apartment. Figure four days across the country. Three nights in cheap hotels and gas. A couple hundred for boxes and you do the rest. You should be able to do it for $1000.

    1. Chris*

      Whoa. There’s no chance of doing a long-distance move for $1,000.

      I just went to Uhaul.com. To move from LA to Portland, Maine (chosen because that’s my personal chuck-it-all-and-move dream location), the smallest truck rental alone will cost around $3,000.

      That truck gets 12 mpg (empty, btw, but we’ll ignore that). The distance from LA to Portland is around 3,100 miles. That’s 258 gallons of gas. At the current average of $3.42/gallon, that’s another $880 or so for gas. Plus tolls.

      Say four nights at hotels? Probably another $400+. Restaurant and road food for five days? $200, minimum?

      We’re already close to $5,000, and we haven’t touched anything like security deposits, contract cancellations, moving supplies, etc.

      1. Chinook*

        That’s where you have to look at your stuff and seriously ask yourself what it would cost to replace it and how attached are you to it? I once did a move across Canada at my own expense and was able to pack all non-furniture in my little hatchback (along with a dog). I then shipped some furniture at whatever pace was cheapest. This cost me a grand total of $3,000, and that included taking the long way around the great lakes (otherwise known as “no radio” country) and 3 nights in a hotel. It wasn’t a fun drive but, if you are cheap, you would be surprised at ways you can cut corners. Driving only to stop for 8 hours of sleep wasn’t fun but it sured save on hotel rooms.

        1. Natalie*

          “That’s where you have to look at your stuff and seriously ask yourself what it would cost to replace it and how attached are you to it? ”

          Unless you live pretty ascetically or are possibly right out of college, chances are replacing your stuff is going to be more expensive than transporting it. That doesn’t mean it’s not an option, but it’s not going to be a good deal.

          1. Rana*

            Agreed. Plus the effort of selling your stuff (for 50% of what you paid for it and what it will cost to replace it) is a bigger pain than a lot of people realize.

            1. Natalie*

              50% of what you paid if you’re lucky.

              My partner and I furnished our current apartment very nicely off Craigslist, by purchasing high end castoffs for around 25% of retail.

      2. TL*

        If there’re two people moving, you can drive in shifts and sleep in the car while the other person is driving. One person can sleep at rest stops at least one or two nights (making more mileage/day and ditching hotel costs). and if you brings a cooler with sandwich makings and granola bars or the like for food, the food costs decrease significantly.

        You can also decide that you’re only taking what will fit in your car and sell the rest, doing the same thing but no longer paying for a U-Haul.

        These aren’t ideal conditions, of course, but they can be done and will greatly decrease costs.

        And I don’t know about all of the US, but where I live, you have to have a free alternative to taking the toll roads. So it would also be worthwhile to see if the time+gas savings would be equal to the toll costs. (And I would look into the potential savings for renting a diesel vehicle instead of gas as well.)

  30. Lana*

    If you’ve been employed for years and are still in such a tough financial situation, you must have been doing something wrong. It’d be interesting to know what kind of mess and trouble you’ve gotten yourself into. What have you never tried to move up the ladder or found a better-paying job? But if you’re still working, just save as much as you can, sell your stuff and simply move. If you have no sought-for skills, why is a medium-sized company supposed to pay for you to get out of your situation? It just doesn’t make sense. Perhaps you can just move first, take any job where you move to and then apply for your desired job later. If your situation is really bad, perhaps you’re eligible for government assistance, food stamps, etc. Try that avenue. Reach out to some organizations in your area which help people in difficult situations, etc.
    But job-wise I don’t think you have a chance unless you move there first and look for a job then.

    1. KellyK*

      If you’ve been employed for years and are still in such a tough financial situation, you must have been doing something wrong.

      Seriously? I don’t think I can respond to that in a way that isn’t inappropriately snarky, so let me just say you may want to ratchet the judgment down a notch or six.

      1. Stephanie*

        Agreed. Especially living in a high COL area like Southern California, it’s not entirely unfeasible. A layoff/reduction in hours, health crisis, etc. could have easily happened. It’s not fair to judge the OP without knowing the full story.

        1. fposte*

          Even if we do know the whole story, I don’t think judging the past is useful here. It’s not like the OP is insisting she’s entitled to this–she says right up front she’s really skeptical that it could happen.

          1. Jamie*

            This is a really good point. I’m the first one to bridle at entitlement, but there isn’t even a whiff of it here.

            She’s asking a question. Not making a demand, nor whining that it’s not fair that it’s unlikely. She’s just asking a question.

      2. Lana*

        Well if you can’t, then don’t. Sorry folks but the purpose of employment is to bring financial security, improve living conditions, etc. OP doesn’t indicate any issues with her/his employment but says that it’s been steady employment for a decade. There are a lot of red flags in the story and the biggest one is that he/she wants a potential employer to foot the bill for her lifestyle change while there is no skill set to sell. I’m not judging her/him but it’s hard to believe that if you work hard in this country and are smart with your money, you’d be so screwed one day out of nowhere.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Just one example — medical bills can bankrupt people who have been fully responsible with their money, who had savings, etc. You really can’t assume someone did “something wrong.”

          1. Stephanie*

            ^This. A friend who worked for a collection agency once said that the majority of the cases were in regard to unpaid medical or health insurance bills.

          2. Jamie*

            This – and it’s literally just one example.

            My mom had great insurance and when she lost her battle with cancer we still had to settle up over 30K. I can’t even imagine what people without good insurance go through.

            Not to mention the million and one other reasons someone can have steady employment and have financial difficulties.


            1. Lana*

              I’m sorry if I hurt anyone’s feelings but this is how I understood the OP and how I interpreted it. I moved to the United States from a far less fortunate country several years ago and I have been making money since day 1 of my arrival here. I’ve been fortunate but this is how I view things and the opportunity in the U.S.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                The U.S. is a very fortunate county, especially compared to many others, but there are still many people here who do all the right things (work hard, save, etc.) and still struggle. (I’m defining “struggle” by U.S. standards, of course.)

              2. Natalie*

                “I’ve been fortunate”

                Exactly: “fortunate”, not “right”. Someone else having been unfortunate does not mean they’ve done something wrong.

        2. fposte*

          Lana, there are numerous people in this country who work hard and are smart with their money but have no savings. I’m glad for your sake that you haven’t been one of them, but I hope you’ll try to understand that opportunity isn’t simply a matter of virtue.

        3. Anonymous*

          LOL! Um seriously, what country / planet / era are you living in? The quaint notion that working hard is all it takes to be financially secure is becoming a thing of the past along with the idea of a middle class. You sound ignorant and laughably unaware of what many people in the country are going through right now.

          1. Natalie*

            “The quaint notion that working hard is all it takes to be financially secure is becoming a thing of the past”

            And it was nothing more than a notion then.

          2. Lana*

            @Anon – Well, I suppose our notions are different. I find it very quaint though that you are surprised that working hard still works for someone, and that middle class is an idea in the U.S.
            Anyway, it would still be interesting to find out more details about OP’s circumstance.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Lana, Anon wasn’t surprised it works for some; she was saying it doesn’t work for all. Of course hard work often pays off. Of course there is still a middle class. But none of that changes the fact that some people end up with very bad finances even though they did everything right.

              1. Lana*

                Alison, thanks for the comments and the feedback. It’s nice that you do it emotion-free and focus on the issue here. I don’t want to go on with my opinions about OP’s situation but I agree with you on the red flag and for me it links this particular outlook on the situation to possible past events when OP may have been similar, then something didn’t work out, etc. I hope there’ll be a happy end to this story and OP successfully relocates to New England with a new job.

                1. Stephanie*

                  On a side note, can I just say how much I love the commenters on this site? I feel like on many other sites, this would have devolved into a serious flame war.

                2. Not So NewReader*

                  This is for Stephanie- but there is no reply button.

                  Ditto for me. I have learned so much here because people are willing to put their thoughts out there. Sometimes I read and do not comment but I go away from the blog knowing that I have sharpened or more closely refined my own ideas on a subject because of reading so many perspectives on that subject.

                  Colleges should make this blog mandatory reading. Just my opinion, though.

            2. Jamie*

              Anyway, it would still be interesting to find out more details about OP’s circumstance.

              I don’t think the details matter as it pertains to the question. The specifics won’t change the likelihood of a company offering relocation expenses.

              I personally think I work very hard. And I do – in a sense…for someone who sits behind a bank of monitors and does something I love for a living. There are a lot of people people in this world who work much harder for much less.

              I don’t kid myself that I carved my circumstances out of whole cloth alone (wow – mixed metaphor – sorry). Some of whatever I’ve achieved is attributable to my hard work and effort, absolutely. Just as certainly a (probably larger) portion is due to luck, circumstances of birth, and the good fortune that my family has been healthy and we haven’t been devastated by medical bills – none of which I can take any credit for whatsoever.

              Other people have made the point more eloquently so I’ll drop it, I guess the judgmental tone bothers me because I’d hate to think of people reading this who are in a bad situation feeling even worse about themselves. And even people who have made mistakes – it’s okay, a lot of us have…it’s all about looking forward.

              1. Andrea*

                +1 to all, but especially to your last paragraph. Moving forward is all you can do.

                OP, if you’re reading, at one point in my life, I was so overwhelmed and stuck and frustrated, in part because of short-sighted decisions I had made (some out of desperation). I couldn’t see a way out; things that should have been in my power felt like they weren’t; my work wasn’t paying off, and I felt that past mistakes were going to ruin my future, too. I was finally able to turn things around and find a better situation, but it took luck, work, time, and even help from a few other people.

                One of those important people was a dear, dear friend who listened to me worry about mistakes. And then she helped me change my perspective. She asked me why these mistakes and missteps had to hold be back and ruin my future—why couldn’t they just be learning experiences? Experiences that shaped my past and helped me learn, but that couldn’t stop me from moving forward. I know it might sound simplistic, but that really did help me start to change things, and when I face a difficult situation now, I always ask myself if I can find a better, different perspective. OP, maybe a different perspective will help you discover other possible solutions to your problem and new, easier-to-attain ways to get to where you need to be. Good luck.

                1. Jamie*

                  +1 back atcha. Mistakes suck, but some of the most important learning experiences can’t happen without them.

                  For good and bad we’re all sum totals of our experiences. Take out all the mistakes, errors, mis-steps, all the bad luck, the crap other people have put us through…the crap we’ve put other people though.

                  Erase everything except the cupcake eating unicorns riding rainbows and I bet we’d all be pretty bland. And pretty stupid.

                  And this is rhetorical so I don’t expect anyone to out themselves – but raise your hands (so to speak) if you’ve ever really f*cked up.

                  -Screwed up a relationship?
                  -Hurt someone you love by being mean or thoughtless?
                  -Made the wrong turn with your career at any point?
                  -Made a mess of your finances because you just had to learn the importance of an emergency fund the hard way?
                  – Followed your heart into disaster even though every one of your little gray cells was screaming at you to not jump off that cliff.

                  Personally – guilty on all counts, at one time or another. And I’m sure I’m not done with the mistake thing…although I really hope I’ve gotten the big ones out of the way by now.

                  No time machines so all you can do is move forward. That’s pretty freeing when you think about it.

        4. Andrea*

          If you find that hard to believe, then you have been lucky. I sincerely hope your luck continues, but I also hope you gain some understanding. In the past two years, a dozen of my loved ones were hit hard by a natural disaster and/or medical emergencies/illnesses. Some were unlucky enough to be seriously injured in the same tornado that destroyed their homes, belongings, and cars, as well as much of their city. All of my loved ones were fortunate enough to have insurance, which did not come close to covering everything. Many more people could not afford insurance or adequate insurance and were far worse off. (And let’s remember that those companies do everything they can to avoid paying for the benefits people are entitled to.) Those with savings fared better, but not always by much. Disasters, accidents, illness, disability—these can strike virtually anywhere or anyone, and they can devastate finances for years, even decades. Salary cuts, layoffs—these can seriously undermine a working person’s ability to save for emergencies.

          And sometimes smaller things add up, even if you’re prepared. My husband and I are savers who earn good money and spend wisely, but in the past four months, we have had several unforseen, major emergency repairs and medical issues that have eaten up a nice chunk of our emergency fund, including car repairs, emergency medical treatment and follow-up, veterinary expenses, furnace repair, and removal of most of a large tree that threatened to fall on our house after some uninsured, drunk idiot hit it with his truck. We are fine, and remain grateful for our good fortune, but I find myself getting nervous about our smaller emergency fund, and I imagine I’d be even more stressed if I had no money saved, despite doing everything right.

          Again, if you have not had the misfortune that so many hard workers in this country have had, then you are fortunate. If you are also hardworking, that’s great—but that’s not enough to ensure success. Never forget that. I am grateful for my good fortune even as I feel somewhat guilty for it (and desperately hope it lasts). I hope you continue to be well. But please don’t repeat long-defunct ideals about how hard work equals success. It’s just not that simple, unfortunately.

          1. Jessica*

            ^^This. My parents were hard workers their entire lives. Suddenly, my dad’s job moved overseas and my mom’s plant closed and moved to Mexico. Within a year, the job my dad had had since before I was even born was completely kaput (almost 30 years at the same job), and my mom’s job of almost 20 years went the same direction. They live in a small, rural town and only my dad has been able to find a part-time, low-wage job. My dad was in a card accident that placed limits on what he can lift, my mom has a multitude of health issues that I won’t even begin to go into, neither have health insurance (was always tied to employment and now they can’t afford even emergency insurance), and their entire life savings has disappeared to pay for food/shelter. The lack of gainful employment is not for lack of trying, but for lack of there even being gainful employment in their area. It’s ridiculous, and my dad has been one of the best role models for a hardworking, model employee that I’ve ever seen in my life. (And I’m not just saying that because he’s my dad. I’ve heard it from many of his coworkers and bosses in the past.)

            Andrea, I totally understand feeling the guilt for doing okay in life when so many others are struggling. I’m not well off by any means, but I know that I won’t wonder where my next meal will come from this month. Our savings, too, has decreased due to some crappy life situations and misfortunes, but my husband always reminds me that this is why we built up our savings in the first place. (That doesn’t necessarily make me feel any better, but I understand what he means.)

            1. Jessica*

              Erm, he was in a CAR accident, not a card accident. I’m not even sure what that would look like, but I have a suspicion it would involve some kind of devious magician’s deck.

            2. Andrea*

              I’m sorry to hear about your parents’ situation, Jessica, and I sincerely hope things turn around for them—and for others in similar situations—soon.

              Pretending that bad things happen to people who were stupid or who somehow deserved it is a nice fantasy because it can allow people to feel immune from suffering and disaster that plague our fellow humans. You know, “nothing bad will happen to me because I work hard and save my money and make all the right choices” or whatever. But in truth, none of us is immune, and tragedy and disaster can strike at any time, sometimes all at once and sometimes one thing after another. Once you have seen it happen to loved ones (or had it happen to you), you no longer have the luxury of believing that fantasy.

              1. Jessica*

                Thanks, Andrea. And I think you are very right in what you’ve said here. I no longer take my savings for granted, and I think this is why I have such a hard time seeing it shrink EVER, even in true emergency situations. I can’t bury my head in the sand when it’s in my face all the time now.

                Thank you.

    2. Wilton Businessman*

      If you’ve been employed for years and are still in such a tough financial situation, you must have been doing something wrong.
      I don’t know about that. As my cliche’ challenged colleague says: Never walk a mile in shoes until you’ve worn them for six months.

      1. Jamie*

        I don’t know about challenged…I really like that one.

        And with the exception of sneakers, it’s excellent practical advice as well. Works on two levels.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Jamie, very thoughtful comments above, nice job.
          People such as myself that have had to pay out $20K in out of pocket medical for a three month period, really appreciate what you said. I was lucky to be able to do that-it took most of what I had. So now I live on a shoestring. There is an ebb and flow to money. Money comes and money goes.

          OP, I would bet there are at least a few people reading these comments, not saying anything but taking down numerous notes. Because they have the same question themselves.

          1. I wrote this letter*

            I wasn’t sure where to reply, I just wanted to say this is a wonderful thread. So many great comments and stories. Thanks, Jessica, Andrea, Jamie, Stephanie, Not So New Reader, and all others.

            And yes, NSNR, on two counts…
            One, Jamie’s replies were particularly thoughtful. I keep wanting to “Like” her comments (FB shame).
            Two, I’ll bet there are a lot of people taking notes. I’m fairly well educated and intelligent and have a lot of friends, but I find it very difficult to talk frankly about these things for whatever slew of reasons, so I feel like I know little about “how the world works.” Like I’m much younger than I am. I’m thankful to have found a place with such astute, frank advice, both from Alison’s answers and her frequent commenters.

  31. Greg*

    I don’t get the obsession with relocation packages. It’s not special, magical money that’s somehow different than the money you get for your monthly salary, it’s just cash. And like all cash, it’s fungible.

    Now, I understand that, from a cash-flow perspective, re-lo has a big advantage in that it’s available immediately (although in that sense, it’s no different from a signing bonus). Still, my advice would be to avoid all discussion of it during the interview process, and then, if someone makes you an offer, tell them, “Here are my needs in terms of compensation “, at which point you can discuss the amount, the timing, etc. If they have a policy against re-lo, ask for a signing bonus, or a bump in your base salary, or an advance on your first couple months. Get creative.

    I’ve just never understood why it’s always treated as this separate issue. It would be like a recruiter asking during an initial phone screen how big of a bonus you’re looking for (independent of salary), or whether you need 401k matching, or if you’re going to need to take the day after Thanksgiving off. They’re all part of the package, and everything has a price.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s because some employers simply don’t do it or don’t do it for some positions, and in the OP’s case, it’s the only way she could accept the job. Her cash flow doesn’t allow her to simply take a larger salary instead. It sounds like she literally couldn’t show up for work without it, so it’s very relevant in her context.

      1. Greg*

        Agreed, but if that’s the case, that means her compensation requirements are too high. Let’s say, using your math from above, that she’s looking to make $100K in salary, and is able to find an employer who is willing to pay her that. However, she also needs $20K to move, and they won’t pay re-lo. That means she really needs $120K, at least for the first year. If she can’t find an employer who’s willing to pay that, then by definition her requirements are too high. So if she still wants to move, she needs to find a way to adjust at least one of those numbers. Maybe she can sell all her furniture and get the moving costs down. Maybe she can get an advance on her first few months’ salary to help front the moving costs (though if that leaves her with no money to pay the bills once she arrives in her new city, obviously that just creates a whole new set of problems.) Or maybe, as you and others have suggested, she needs to rethink the whole moving plan.

        My point is, re-lo is one solution to her problem, but it’s not the only one. I just think it’s more helpful in situations like this to focus on needs rather than specific forms of compensation.

        [All that said, OP, if you’re reading this, I’m not passing judgment on the merits of your decision, since obviously I don’t know all the details, and I wish you the best of luck in pursuing your move. Relocating has become very difficult in this economy, but it still does happen, and I hope you are able to find an opportunity that meets your needs.]

  32. k.m.n.*

    If you’re physically able to go the DIY route, you’ll save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. On my most recent move, I saved about $1,000 dollars following these tips. And I only moved 600 miles!

    1. Sell anything you really don’t need/don’t care enough about. Especially furniture. Only keep the furniture you absolutely can’t part with.
    2. Ship books, music, and the like media mail — you can get away with a few more things in these boxes that aren’t media. So cheap!
    3. Enlist friends and family to help you move your stuff. Pay them in love, pizza and beer. If you can’t find help, it really, really, really, doesn’t take that long for two people to move a one bedroom apartment. If you’re prepared, it could take you just a few hours. And it’s great exercise!
    4. Ship your stuff via freight. The cheapest way to move.
    5. If you’re driving, pack food from the grocery store, or go to grocery stores along the way. Don’t eat at restaurants.
    6. Stay at motels. NOT hotels. Ever. Easily $40+/night in savings right there, and not that much worse than a hotel. Or, hell, don’t stay in hotels at all, sleep at rest stops/take turns sleeping in the car. Stay with friends along the way, if you can.
    7. If you’re flying, research ticket prices in advance. Pro tip: it’s sometimes cheaper to purchasing individual tickets instead of having connecting flights. I saved $800 on a trip to Asia that way. That’s just one of several ways to save on airline tickets.
    8. You might be able to find a kind landlord who would let you split your deposit into two or even three months.
    9. Skip Ikea. You can usually find better quality (and sturdier!) furniture at thrift stores or Craigslist for a fraction of the price.

    1. Jamie*

      Oh my gosh yes to #9. We went to a thrift store to pick up a cheap couch for the family room. Paid $19.99 for a full sized couch covered in a gramma type slipcover. In perfect shape just not the most stylish cover but comfy and perfect for watching tv.

      Months later I took the cover off to wash it and underneath is an Ethan Allen couch in absolutely perfect condition, like brand new (I don’t think the previous owner ever had the cover off).

      There are amazing little finds out there if you have the time to hunt.

      1. Steve G*

        Or if you’re in NYC go to Broadway in Bushwick and there are a bunch of stores that sell really nice furniture for about as cheap as I’ve ever seen it – fully assembled (of course) at Ikea prices, and sturdier. I guess the low pricing is due from the fact that Bushwick was hood for so long that rent there was low so prices could be as well…

        1. Anonymous*

          On the east coast, and especially in NYC, one has to be aware of the bed bug issue if one is going to do thrift furniture shopping.

          It’s not an insurmountable problem, and it shouldn’t scare anyone off of used furniture, but it is something everyone should be aware of and check for.

          1. Natalie*

            You can expand that PSA to all larger urban areas with regular college and/or traveling populations. I live in the middle of the country and had bedbugs last year. (Successfully eradicated.)

          2. Heather*

            I’m totally thinking of the Big Bang Theory episode where Penny buys the used chair and Sheldon freaks out.

      2. Katie*

        I currently write this comment from the most comfortable couch in the world, purchased for $25 off of craigslist.

        I’m really, really anti-Ikea.

        Thrifting might take you a while, but if you’re patient, you can find miracles. My problem always is after a month I lose interest in decorating a place, and it largely stays the same from that point forward.

        1. Stephanie*

          Me too! On many counts. My bathroom cabinet I was supposed to repaint and put new knobs (I’ve put one knob on). Read Cheap by Ellen Ruppel Shell. She takes IKEA to task in a chapter.

  33. Beth Robinson*

    The relocation question aside, I have two points.

    You make what you do sound so wimpy. Jill of all trades master of none. Bull. Versatile professional who is able to oversee and interact with… Go look up some personal branding stuff.

    If you are managing projects, then surely you are managing people after a fashion? Multiple people are doing the work and you must be interacting with them. Think about it. Just because they don’t report to you doesn’t mean you don’t have the skills to work with them if they did.

  34. Jen at ModernHypatia*

    I moved from Minneapolis to rural Maine about 15 months ago for a new job (with the UMaine system). I’d been unemployed for a year before that, so had no spare cash, but I did the move for under $2000. (Rental car, mailed boxes, hotel for 3 nights while moving, food for me + friend helping me drive, friend’s other travel expenses to get home, gas, and the bare minimum to get me up and running once I arrived.) I did get a small relocation amount from my new job, but useful tips from my experience:

    – If you are looking at university jobs (but possibly other ‘large employer for the area’ jobs) check and see if there are any loan deals from the area credit unions. I bank now through University Credit Union, who are primarily tied to the University of Maine.

    As a new employee of the system, I qualified for a 90 day no-interest moving loan, that helped me spread out the new expenses. That helped me bridge the gap with other moving expenses and until my first paycheck.

    – I did not move anything I did not absolutely adore, and that I could not feasibly replace if I guessed wrong. I moved my folk harp, my cat, and my other key possessions in a rented car (not truck), mailed 10 boxes of books, and got rid of *everything* else. (Some to friends, some to charities in Minneapolis, etc.) Selling off things (Craigslist) may net you a reasonable chunk to buy replacements, but the money you save not moving it is pretty substantial itself.

    (If there’s heirloom pieces you aren’t sure about, could you store them in a storage place/friend’s house/etc. for a year, and then fly back out and deal with them when your finances were in better shape?)

    It was an enormously freeing experience to start fresh. Plus, everything I brought into my new home, I love. When I arrived, I bought the bare minimum (futon mattress, with the plan to eventually turn it into a couch when I got a frame, comfy chair to sit in the computer at, laptop desk) and didn’t buy stuff until I a) had money and b) decided what I really wanted. (I also knew I was likely to move when my first lease was up, so didn’t really want to move more stuff. Again.) In my new apartment, I am sitting on a couch that one of my co-workers was going to give away for free anyway.

    – Mailing books at the bulk print rate is really really cheap compared to other moving options – I’d fit 50ish books in a small book box and mail at the print rate for $15-20 a box. There’s some limits on how you can ship, but much cheaper than renting a larger moving vehicle.

    – Now that I’m here – cost of living calculators say that what I make here is roughly equivalent to what I made in Minneapolis. The reality is that I’m able to live on half my income (which is *not* huge – I’m a librarian) and house prices are such I could reasonably afford to buy one on my own salary in the area in a few years (not true in the Boston metro, where I’m originally from. By a longshot!). And then I have money for savings, travel, etc. that I wouldn’t have had in Minneapolis. Better quality of living for less money, by far.

    And while it’s a long way (45 minutes) from me to anywhere that is larger than the town I live in, the stuff *here* is really close and convenient. Plus, I get to go “OMG, Maine is gorgeous.” whenever I drive anywhere else, which you don’t get most places. I’m so glad I made the move. (And so glad for Alison, because her advice definitely helped!)

    1. Zed*

      “If there’s heirloom pieces you aren’t sure about, could you store them in a storage place/friend’s house/etc. for a year, and then fly back out and deal with them when your finances were in better shape?”

      OP, this is a really important question. Not just if you have heirloom or antique furniture, but because you really need to sit down and think about whether or not your finances WILL be in better shape after a reasonable amount of time in your hypothetical new job. You describe your current financial situation as living month-to-month – is there something about moving to New England that will enable you to change that? I don’t know that you can count on a higher salary, either, particularly because the cost of living is high in the Northeast and winters are expensive.

      I guess what I’m really wondering is this: even if you get a new position sight-unseen, and even if they give you relocation assistance (or you are able to save some money), are you going to end up living month-to-month in small town New England? Because if so, the move is not going to be emotionally satisfying or financially smart, and you really might be better off targeting one of the many areas of the country that are less expensive than the East Coast.

  35. snuck*

    “The larger issue here to me is this: You’re basically saying that you want to live in a different area of the country and you want an employer to finance that lifestyle change. “

    As a person who has been on the hiring end of this (in an IT dominated electrical engineering field) I will say that the applicant who while technically had most of the skills we were looking for was actually really just looking for a lifestyle change was deemed unsuitable over a person with less obvious experience but who was willing to learn and not expecting me to shift their entire family halfway around the country just because they wanted more sunshine.

    Part of the reasoning was that a little like a counter offer to stop a person leaving… offering to relocate a person who isn’t in love with the role and just applying to get a job in a new location isn’t necessarily going to ensure loyalty or good work habits.

    The relocation costs of the applicant were going to be very substantial, and while we had it in budget, it amounted to nearly a year’s salary for the person we actually chose. As it turned out the person we hired wound up being on my short list (possibly at the top) of “best hires ever” and I have no issues with choosing a slightly less qualified but inevitably more suitable candidate – and a large chunk of that suitability was around reason for applying/motivation. I did have to field an angry call and complaint from the unsuccessful candidate (this was an internally advertised position in a large corporate) but basically just because he was working in a similar position (other applicant wasn’t at the time) didn’t mean he was a better fit for the role. Now if he’d been willing to self relocate we might have had to think harder, but he wanted us to pay close to $50k including sale of house costs, purchase of new house costs, school fees swap overs, flights, car and furniture relocations etc. I’ve moved three time with the same company interstate (far greater distances than this person) and always managed to keep my relocation costs between $10k -$20k. It’s not the employers role to fund your lifestyle change, it’s their role to find the best fit, and part of that includes motivation to be in the job, cost of hire and likely retention.

  36. Anonymous*

    Wait wait wait. You have a 1-room apartment. You live month-to-month. But you hold your furniture too dear to part with it to follow your dream?

    Are you using antique furniture? Can you even fit enough furniture in your home to be worth this relocation cost? You do realize that there are furniture stores on the East Coast, right? Is the junk that you own – and it IS junk, because you are living at the very end of your means here – worth your dreams?

    Take what you really need, get rid of the rest (for money, if possible) and go start your new job. Ship your stuff rather than having someone move it for you. If you own a car, whether you will want to drive or sell that and get a comparable one in your new town also varies. Also consider taking the train or bus if there are stops near your destination – it might let you bring more luggage, though it takes much longer than a flight.

    1. Jamie*

      Fwiw it’s not fair to assume because someone is living tight financially that they don’t have nice things.

      I learned what it meant to squeeze a nickel until it begged for mercy after my divorce – where I went from a pretty comfortable life to one which was…less so…but that didn’t turn my furniture into stuff you’d see in Fred Sandford’s house.

      1. Heather*

        I’m just going to +1 this because I was on the verge of writing a response that was much less polite than Jamie’s.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I took Anonymous’s statement as meaning “it shouldn’t have so much value to you because it’s holding you back from moving forward out of a tough situation,” not that it’s literally junk.

    1. Heather*

      This was supposed to be in response to Alison at 10:24, but apparently I have issues clicking on the right Reply button…

  37. Laura L*

    I know you said you didn’t want to take out a loan and, normally, I wouldn’t recommend taking out a loan for moving. BUT, it’s something to consider if you REALLY want to relocate.

  38. Ashley*

    Most large companies will provide relocation to you for a regular full-time role provided it’s not a temporary or contract position. I’m at recruiter at EA and we provide full service relo on almost every RFT opening, including international relocation. If we find the right candidate, we bring them to us!

    1. I wrote this letter*

      Ashley…oh, to work for EA! My slightly geeky/gaming self would be thrilled. Do you have locations in small town New England? ;)
      (I know you don’t…)
      This is encouraging though, thank you for posting.

  39. N.*

    I wonder if the OP realizes that this public comment forum exists, because we haven’t heard from ’em at all, and though I’d be interested in their thoughts about this mælström of comments, I guess I am not suprised. S/he seemed (with all due respect) a wee bit self – conscious in the letter and I wonder if the sheer volume of response didn’t frighten ‘er from writing again… (I guess Jill of all trades is indicative of gender). I hope she writes back and tells us what she decided to do (and that I won’t miss it) but I also wonder that she wasn’t mortified that her letter would elicit such a response.

  40. I wrote this letter*

    Hello AMA commenters! My sincere apologies for delay in responding here (my web time is limited). I’ve been reading AAM for some time now but I hadn’t even peeked at the comments, simply out of habit – comments typically being pretty atrocious, here on the interwebs. So yes – I was surprised at both the number and thoughtfulness, and frankly I just haven’t been able to spare the time to read through them, or comment myself.

    I must also apologize that I’m not prepared to provide much more detail about my situation. This is partly to keep myself anonymous, and partly because some details (for instance, about my financial situation and why/what/how/where we plan to move) aren’t germane to my original question to AAM. I’m certainly not offended by any of the advice in these areas, and many of the discussions held “a-ha” moments for me. It’s just not my focus here.

    That said, I’m probably going to sprinkle a few comments of my own. I *don’t* mean this in a narcissistic “go find ‘em!” kind of way…I’m just acknowledging this bit of inconsistency.

    I’m also moved to clarify: I am in no way *expecting* the universe or any potential employer to deliver me this move. I’m only asking the question about what to expect in my scenario. Just the question, no presumptions (quite the opposite in fact).

    Thank you again for sharing so many of your stories! I do feel a bit at sea, and hearing other’s stories and advice sharpens my perspective. AAM really has a pretty awesome group of followers here. Jamie in particular, if I may.

    1. I wrote this letter*

      *AAM* commenters. Sheesh.
      Also, I’ll be soon offline again for a few days, so apologies if anyone posts something requesting a reply. I’ll be back next week.

  41. Another Anonymous*

    I know this post is quite old, but in case the original letter writer is still considering a move, or incase someone in a similar situation ends up on this thread, I thought I’d throw out one more piece of advice.

    The letter writer indicated that her experience from her position/company made her a “Jill of all trades, master of none”. I work in non-profit administration and was with an organization for six years that was VERY specialized. I was promoted within the company, but because the work was so specific I felt like I had really maxed out on job growth (a title change and salary increase is great, but if I’m bored every day it’s time to try to move on). The nature of the company meant that I wasn’t really getting experience in some key areas that are typical in non-profit administration, and I found that this really limited my marketability with other organizations. During my six years there I was volunteering with a couple of very small, new organizations that dealt with a topic that I would ultimately like to work with. I was able to gain some of the experience (and fulfillment) I was missing at my job, and I included that information on my resume.

    Last year I decided I was ready to move on, and ideally I wished to relocate out of state. I did have a couple of phone interviews for out of state jobs, but I was also interviewing in my current city. I ended up accepting a position where I already lived and took a small pay cut (although other benefits were improved) in order to gain formal experience in the areas that I had been doing volunteer work. Just recently I’ve started casually looking out of state again and am able to apply for higher level positions because of the additional experience and skills. I actually have an interview coming up for a position that would be a major promotion to a senior management position, for what is really my dream job at my almost dream organization, in a dream location. I’m not sure that I’ll get it (I’m sure they have even more highly qualified candidates than myself), and being non-profit I highly doubt that they would offer a relocation package, but I am convinced that without the formal experience of the last year and a half I would not even have been considered.

    My point is that maybe you could consider ways to make yourself more marketable. I know it’s hard when you want to leave the place you’re at, whether that’s a company, a city, or both, but maybe try to think of your goal of moving as a long term one, and create a strategic plan for how to do that. It may be worth it to consider volunteering or changing jobs in your current location and sticking it out for a couple of years to gain the experience (and savings) to help you reach your ultimate goal.

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