Growing up in Pennsylvania, I learned to dread the winter months. The cold and snow would leave me feeling depressed and miserable. I dreamed of moving somewhere warmer, but I was afraid of the high cost.
After months of waffling back and forth and saving every dime I could, I finally took the plunge and moved to Florida. And while it was expensive and scary, I’ve never regretted it.
Whether you’re contemplating a job offer in another state or simply want a change of scenery, relocating is a big decision. Before deciding one way or another to move hundreds or even thousands of miles away like I did, ask yourself these questions.
1. What is the cost of living?
If you’re reviewing a job offer or looking for a new job in another state, make sure you keep in mind the cost of living. Even if you earn a higher salary in your new state, you could still end up in worse financial shape than before if living in the area is too expensive.
Depending on your intended location, you could need thousands more dollars to maintain the lifestyle to which you’re accustomed. The cost of everything from housing to groceries can significantly add to your expenses.
Use a cost of living calculator to figure out how much you’d need to earn to afford living in your new city. Say you lived in York County, Pennsylvania and earned $50,000 per year. If you wanted to move to San Diego, where housing costs 160 percent more, you’d need to earn at least $73,673 to keep your same standard of living. (See also: Here’s How Much Life in the Big City Will Cost You)
2. Who will care for family members?
If you have elderly or disabled family members, coming up with a plan for their care should be part of your relocation decision. If you cannot be there with them, you’ll have to find a way to provide for them otherwise. Depending solely on outside care or nursing home facilities can be cost-prohibitive for your relative; a recent study by Lincoln Financial Group found that a private room in a nursing home costs an average $102,911 per year.
If that cost is beyond your family’s budget, and they were depending on you to some extent for help with daily life, moving to a new state may not be practical or financially wise.
3. How will you adjust to the climate?
Although some moves can be beneficial in terms of climate (hello, beaches!), some people struggle adjusting to new weather conditions. If you’re from a state with four seasons, moving to a warmer place can be hard. You might find that you miss the snow and changing seasons. If you move from a sunny place to somewhere with long, gloomy winters or regular rain, it can be a strain on your mental health.
If at all possible, spend some time in town during the state’s poorest weather season to see how you cope. You might find that you can handle the cold better than you expected, or you might discover you hate it and want to stay put.
4. How much will is cost to move?
You know moving is expensive, but until you see the real numbers, it’s hard to get an idea of how much it really will hurt your budget. According to the American Moving and Storage Association, it costs an average $5,360 to move to a new state.
If you have to break a lease or struggle to sell your home, you might need to spend thousands more to make the move possible. (See also: Avoid These 6 Common Mistakes When Moving Across the Country)
5. Is there a state income tax?
If you’re in a state like Florida or Texas, which do not have a state income tax, moving to a place that does can come as a big shock. The raise you carefully negotiated at a new job might be negated by the increased taxes taken out of your paycheck.
6. What college savings programs are available?
If you have children, saving for their education is likely a major priority for you. And with current four-year tuition costs reaching an average $9,650 for in-state schools and $33,480 for private schools, that’s a smart decision. However, where you live can impact your college savings.
All states offer at least some form of a 529 plan, such as a prepaid tuition or a college savings program. However, some states only offer one type, which can limit your child’s educational options.
In addition, some states offer tax benefits for contributing to a 529 plan, while others do not. Switching to a new state could result in losing those benefits, reducing how much you can save each year. (See also: The 9 Best State 529 College Savings Plans)
7. Will you feel isolated?
Beyond financial and logistical issues, moving can be emotionally exhausting and difficult to navigate. If you grew up in one area and became attached to the neighborhood, moving to a place you don’t know, without friends or family, can be lonely and isolating. You might find that even the best job is not worth the move without your loved ones.
However, other people thrive on the unknown and the sense of adventure that comes from entering a new place and meeting new people. Only you can know what works for your situation. By asking yourself these questions and preparing for a move ahead of time, you can ensure you make the best decision for you and your family.