Here’s another practical post. Many readers have written in asking what the real costs of moving abroad are. It’s a great question. So let’s do it. Let’s talk about the nitty gritty of how much money it took the Blairs to move to another country. Spoiler: it wasn’t free, but it likely wasn’t as much as you’d guess.
Also, I’m going to write this using a tone that assumes you’re interested in moving abroad. If you’re not, no stress. Feel free to skip this post.
Our rent for La Cressonnierre is almost exactly the same as the rent we paid on our modest home in Denver (around $1500/mo). It’s actually slightly less or slightly more depending on the Euro exchange rate. If the house was closer to Paris, I’m sure it would be much more expensive, but because it’s almost 2 hours away, the price is very reasonable. After some research, we can see that our daily expenses and utilities in France will be quite similar to what they were in Denver. Which means that really, our monthly family budget won’t change much at all. So the good news is: if you can afford to live wherever you’re living right now, you can probably also afford to live abroad — assuming you’re flexible about location. In fact, if you move to a country with a lower cost of living, your monthly budget costs could even go down.
But, there are real costs leading up to the move.
1) Passports. If you or your kids need one, they are about $100 each to apply for.
2) Visas. Some countries require them. Some don’t. It depends on where you’re headed and for how long. Our visa applications were about $125 each. If there are less of you, costs would obviously go down. : )
3) Travel for visa application. My sister had no travel costs for her visa application, because her assigned consulate is in San Francisco, where she lived. But we had to fly everyone over 6 years old to Los Angeles. The flights were about $115 each. We went back and forth the same day, so there were no hotel costs.
4) Luggage. You may already have what you need, but if not you’ll have to go shopping. We found our luggage for $90 per person.
5) Plane tickets. This was by far our biggest expense. We found our plane tickets for less than $600 each, which was a good price, but they added up fast.
6) Rental security deposit on your Home in Another Country. Of course, any time you rent a home, a security deposit (usually at least 1 month’s rent) is required up front. In our case, assuming we receive a refund of the security deposit on our rental in Denver, this should be close to net zero expense.
7) Moving service. If you need to move your stuff out of the house you’re leaving behind, you’ll need to recruit friends and neighbors to help, or hire a moving company. This cost might be eliminated if you decide to rent out or sub-lease your current home as a furnished property.
8) Storage unit. Our storage unit is about $140 per month. If you have fewer people in your house, I’m guessing you might own fewer beds and less furniture and might need less space — which means a better deal per month. Or, you might have a parent’s garage you could move things into. Or, you might not need a storage unit at all if you’re renting out your house as a furnished space while you’re away.
9) Storing your car. We actually don’t have a cost here, because we were able to turn in our lease with only a small additional fee. (We drive a Honda Pilot and it’s held it’s value so well, Honda was delighted to buy it back. Nice!) Happily, we only drive one car, so that was easy. Instead of storing your car, you could also sell it. (Here in France, we’ll arrange for another car to lease for the year — but again, that really won’t change our monthly car budget at all.)
Conclusion. Are there extra expenses associated with a move abroad? For sure. The truth is, there are extra expenses associated with any move, any where. But it’s definitely less than we expected when we started our planning. Could we have done it a few years ago, back when I started Design Mom? Hmmm. Probably not. Ben Blair was a graduate student and we lived in New York with 5 kids — a very expensive proposition — it was hard to set aside money. But we’ve both been fully employed for the past couple of years so we’re in a different situation now. I’d guess, if you’re a family of 4, your moving expenses could probably be less than $5000. That’s not chump change, but it’s also not a down payment on the average American house.
Really it’s all about whether you want to do something like this or not. And I totally get that it doesn’t appeal to everyone. It wouldn’t always have appealed to me. We’ve only been here a week, and maybe I’ll feel different in the future, but at this point, the hours of research, preparation and stress leading up to the move were far more of a challenge than the funding.
What do you think? Are you a pay-for-an-adventure sort of person, or do you prefer your money securely in the bank?
P.S. — I’m really, truly no sort of financial person. So I will feel just awful if you make any plans based on what I’ve written here without doing your own research or seeking expert advise. : )