Moving – for a job, a partner or just for the adventure – is a whirlwind, and it can feel like there are a million things on your to-do list. Here’s everything you need to know to find necessities and create a new city budget when you land in a new place for the first time.
And yes, that includes things like “finding a gym that isn’t always packed” and “figuring out whether you need a car or not.” Hey, those things are almost as important as finding a dentist, OK?
Get the lay of your new neighbourhood, stat
First things first, you need to know where to find the essentials: groceries, band-aids, good beer, those kinds of things. Google Maps is a great first stop, and can give you a list of places to hit nearby for just about any category of purchase, but it can only give you so much information.
The best way to figure out which places are going to be the building blocks of your daily or weekly routine is to leave your apartment and try them. Maybe that one grocery store you thought would be great is perpetually crowded, but that coffee shop that didn’t even have a website makes the best coffee you’ve ever had. If you don’t try them out, you’ll never know!
Plus, you might find hidden gems that weren’t even on your list.
Find reputable services in your new city
Unless something goes seriously wrong, you’ll have a bit more time to nail down services like a doctor or a dentist than you did to find a grocery store. The same goes for a lot of your other Big Deal Services, including everything from a mechanic to a handyman.
Since these are proportionally bigger decisions than where you buy your coffee (yes, even if you’re a coffee snob) you’ll want to go beyond a simple Google search to find ones that are right for you.
Your first step is simple: ask people. Even if you don’t know anyone in your new city or your new neighborhood, put a call out on social media to see if anyone in your network has advice. You’ll be surprised at who pops out of the woodwork with advice from when they lived there, and you might get some great referrals.
If you do know people in your city, you can obviously ask them for referrals, but don’t be shy to ask if they know anyone in your neighborhood who might have more local recommendations, too. Everyone likes to help, and telling someone you like your dentist gives you all the warm fuzzies of helping, with just about zero effort.
If none of your referrals yield any usable results, it’s time to take matters into your own hands. Head back to Google and make a list of local service providers you need, and then book initial meetings or consultations with the ones you think might be a fit. You can also use services like Zocdoc, which provide crowdsourced reviews and recommendations, not to mention insurance information.
Don’t commit to anything ahead of time, and make sure to put in the leg work to check out more than one professional before you commit. And pro tip: for medical stuff, always, always, always ask if they take your insurance before you commit.
Make the most of free – or low cost – trials
Then, there are the things you commit to on a month-by-month basis. Other than your apartment, you should aim to try these things out before you really commit to them, for the sake of your sanity and your budget. Groceries and doctors aren’t optional, but having a car or a membership at the bougie gym definitely fall under the “optional” category.
Luckily, there are ways to try out almost every single thing you think might be a good addition to your new life in insert-dream-city-here. If you think a car might suit your lifestyle, rent one for a few weeks. You might find out that parking is hard af in every neighborhood you want to visit, and revert back to public transportation as your default.
If you’re thinking you might want to be a Crossfit Person in your new city, sign up for a few free intro classes at gyms (ahem, “boxes”) around town before you commit to a hundreds-of-dollars-a-month membership fee.
While you’re in the process of trying these things out, pay attention to the whole experience too, not just the price. If you love a specific yoga studio, but it’s an hour out of your way, it’s probably not worth buying an unlimited membership.
Figure out how all this works with your money
Now that you’ve got a fairly good idea of where your basics are, secured the services you need to continue being a functional human with decent teeth, and figured out some of your bigger monthly costs, it’s time to check in with the Dread Pirate Budgets.
Before you lock in any of these decisions, take a look at how it’ll impact your monthly money situation. If the nearest grocery store is Whole Foods, it might be worth checking in with yourself and your paycheck to see if all-organic, all-the-time is a priority for you. If not, keep looking for a regular, everyday grocery store so you have money to spend on literally anything else.
The same goes for everything from your transportation decisions to your fitness choices. These monthly costs add up quickly, so while you’re in the honeymoon phase with your new city, make sure you don’t commit to too many of them and saddle future-you with a problematic budget situation.
And yes, fun is a necessity too
While you’re in the middle of figuring out all this life stuff, remember that your actual life is important too, and that interviewing dentists and shopping for groceries does not a life make.
If you have other hobbies you enjoy, whether it’s crafting or craft-beer-drinking, make sure to give yourself time – and room in your budget – to have fun. You’ll probably make a few friends while you’re at it, and hey, you never know which one of them might have the referral to a doctor for which you’ve been looking.
To keep your fun costs reasonable, check out Meetup.com for groups that are into the same stuff you are, and go back to Google one last time to check out “free things to do in insert-dream-city-here.”
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Header image: Adobestock