Moving On Your Own Advice

How to Move to Boston On Your Own

Recently I came across a young man looking for advice on moving to Boston without any family support.

Moving To Boston Without Support

His situation wasn’t far off from my own when I moved here. 20 years old, wanting to move here for the startup scene, knew only one person (a student) in the city. Many of the others who replied to this young man talked about the challenges: the high cost of living, the time it takes to find a job, the logistics of moving… but none of those mean you can’t do it. Here’s how to move to Boston if you’re young, with limited resources, and doing it on your own.

#1) Save.

In this, the young man I was giving advice to was ahead of the game: he planned on having $15k saved up by the end of the summer. I think I moved up here with less than $4k, giving me a little under 3 months to find a job. I was counting on the retail experience I had to make me an easy hire at a store somewhere if I couldn’t find a job in tech right away.

If you’re planning on making a big move from far away, you’re doing great on guts and ambition. Just exercise a little patience & preparation before pulling the trigger, so you can make sure you land on your feet. Create a budget with all your monthly expenses, figure out exactly how much it’s going to cost you to move in the first place, budget some ‘move-in cash’ for your initial expenses upon arriving, and make sure to budget a little extra. Think about what you don’t need to move that you could sell instead. Figure out what it all adds up to, and start saving.

#2) Find an affordable place by sacrificing just a little accessibility.

MBTA North Suburbs Map

First of all, accept that you’re going to have roommates (housemates, technically). For the vast majority of young people in Boston, living with others in a shared apartment is a fact of life — necessary for affordability, and so commonplace that it’s totally normal (this can stand out as unusual if you’re moving from a more rural area).

Craigslist will be your best friend when searching for apartments, but first you’ll want to learn where to look by studying where public transit will get you, and where rent prices are lower from being close enough that bus lines are still accessible, but not so close that you’re steps from the subway.

Even if you bring a car to Boston (more on that later), you’ll find it much more affordable if you use public transit instead of driving everywhere. So plan around that. I recommend Medford, Arlington, Malden, or Everett as more affordable areas accessible by bus but not quite by the subway, but there are others that fit the bill.

If you’re wondering how to find a place in Boston when you don’t live here yet, there are a couple of tips you may find helpful:

  1. You’ll probably have the best luck finding an available room in an apartment that already has others living in it. When there are people already there, it should be much easier to get photos of the place (everyone has a cameraphone).
  2. Ask potential housemates if you can video chat with them through Skype or Gchat. This will give you both a better sense of each other, and you can ask if they could give you a quick tour of the place.
  3. Don’t try and make the place you’re moving to initially the place you’re going to stay long-term. Find a short-term sublet or a place with a month-to-month lease. Once you’re here, you’ll have an easier time adjusting your feel for which part of town you want to live, and be able to tour places in person.

#3) Do what you can to prepare for the job search.

Don’t waste precious time paying Boston’s rent during your job search doing things that you could have done where you are now. Get your resume in order, and your LinkedIn profile setup or updated. If you’re a professional, get some basic business cards.

Find out if anyone in your extended family has a friend who lives here, if people who graduated from your high school went to any of the (huge number of) colleges here, etc. Figure out who’s will make a good reference for you when applying to jobs and make sure they’re willing. If you’re leaving a job to move here, make sure you’re finishing on a good note.

#4) Make the move.

If you’re moving from far away, it may be cheaper to simply buy a plane ticket (or a bus ticket) and bring only a few bags of essentials with you. You can pack up what doesn’t fit in boxes, and ship them before you go. Any big items you need (like a bed), buy once you arrive.

Desks I made from my moving boxes at my first place in Boston.


#5) Network, network, network.

Once you’re in town with a local address you’ll have a much easier time applying for jobs. But keep in mind that many people get hired through someone they know — not by being a random applicant. If you’re a professional you should be going to meetups, checking eventbrite for relevant events, reaching out to people on LinkedIn to see if they’ll meet you for coffee, etc. from the first week on.

If you’re not applying for office jobs, you need to pound the pavement and show your face at whatever businesses you’d like to work for — ask them if they’re hiring, ask them if they know anyone who is.

Make the most of “I just moved here from _____” — people want to help. I hope this post helped you.