How to Move to California on a Budget: A Guide

March 19, 2019
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Whether it’s the sunny weather or the innovative culture that is calling your name, California is the kind of place you’ve probably dreamed of moving to. However, the prospect of relocating to a state with one of the highest costs of living can be daunting.

That’s why we’ve outlined how to move to California on a budget. Read on and learn how to reduce your rent, dining, transportation, and moving expenses.

Reduce Your Rent

Living expenses in California aren’t cheap—especially if you choose to live in a densely populated area like Los Angeles or San Francisco. Luckily, there are ways to find low-cost options when you look for a home.

Find roommates. While one-bedroom apartments are affordable for those with significant others, they are often too pricey for singles. However, two-bedroom or three-bedroom apartments are not that expensive with roommates. If your close friends aren’t planning on relocating, reach out through your social media networks to see whether anyone is moving to the same area.

Begin your search right before the off-season. Most people move between May and September, so when apartments open up during the colder months, landlords sometimes lower prices to attract renters. Plan to move during the winter to take advantage of these lower prices. Most of California is relatively warm during the winter, so you won’t freeze as you move in.

Offer an incentive. While it may seem like all the power is in the landlords’ hands, you can negotiate prices with them, especially if you are in good financial standing. For example, you can offer to sign an extended lease for a monthly discount—landlords like to secure renters for as long as possible.

Minimize Your Dining Budget

Dining is another consideration when you’re considering how to move to California on a budget. Even entrees at casual sit-down restaurants can be expensive, which makes cooking for yourself an attractive alternative.

Break out your pots and pans. It’s five times less expensive to cook for yourself than eat out. Sure, cooking meals every day can seem daunting, but by making a meal plan, leaving for the grocery store with a list each time, and cooking in large batches (aka meal prepping), you’ll find that cooking is a manageable task.

Shop at discount grocery stores. You can find discount grocery stores in nearly any town. While they offer lower prices, their products are often good quality; these brands cut costs by featuring generic brands and fewer amenities like in-house bakeries and delis. A popular and widespread choice is Aldi, though your town may have a local option that is just as good.

Search for dining discounts. If you’re a fan of eating out, you can still indulge occasionally and remain within your budget. Look for coupons from sites like Yelp and Groupon to find affordable deals in your area.

Get the Best Deal on Your Car

When moving to California, especially a city like LA which is notorious for having few public transportation options, you’ll need to purchase a car.

Search for the best deals online. Complete extensive research before you head into a dealership. Compare prices on websites like or, then be sure to haggle when you head into the dealership—negotiations are expected by most dealers.

Keep state legislature in mind. If you’re driving your own car to California, you need to purchase a new vehicle registration and get a new driver’s license, just as you would in any state. However, you will also need to ensure your vehicle meets smog requirements, which requires a costly smog test. If your car is old, a new car may be less expensive in the long run.

Lower Moving Costs

Finally, you’ll need to plan the actual move itself. This is probably the most important category when you’re considering how to move to California on a budget. This is a challenge when you’re strategizing a budget-constructed move, but with the right know-how, it can be done.

Purge your belongings. Before you start packing up your belongings, donate, recycle, and throw away those that you don’t want or need anymore. If any pieces of furniture or appliances are functioning poorly, now is the time to leave them behind and order new ones to your home.

Read our blog, “How to Pack for a Move.”

Hire moving labor. Some flexible moving companies allow you to book moving labor alone instead requiring you to commit to an expensive, full-service move. With moving labor, movers manage everything but driving the moving truck. These services offer the convenience of a full-service move without the price—an excellent choice for reducing costs.

After lowering your moving costs and planning for reduced rent, dining, and transportation expenses, moving to California can be the affordable adventure you’ve always dreamed of.

Ready to start your journey to the West Coast? Quote and book your move today.

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