Budgeting for a cross-country move takes preparation and flexibility

Budgeting for a cross-country move takes preparation and flexibility
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The Forlers could see their family of five was growing fast and would soon need a bigger place to live. So they started to think farther afield.

Brandon Forler said he found their dream home in Cochrane, Alta., about 40 kilometres northwest of Calgary and a town he had never been to before. But before the Forlers could leave their split-level house in Paris, Ont., they spent months preparing for the move.

“(We) took that time not just to find the right information but to be comfortable with the idea,” Forler said. “It’s very exciting at first, like a honeymoon period, but when you start doing your research (on) financing and budgeting and if you’re not comfortable with that, it can take you a lot longer.”

Interprovincial migration has been gaining ground in Canada since the pandemic began in 2020 as more people chase home affordability. During the third quarter of 2023, Alberta and New Brunswick gained new residents as British Columbia and Ontario lost them, Statistics Canada reported.

While the migration trend continues upwards, experts say it’s important to plan moves carefully.

Job is No. 1 priority

Forler’s wife was already thinking about changing to a new role in her field, so they began searching for opportunities in Alberta. Forler, who is a mortgage agent, looked into making the shift from Ontario to its Alberta equivalent.

Figuring out a job or source of income should be the top priority when moving provinces, said Andrea Thompson, a financial planner and founder of Modern Cents.

A lack of financial security can make it harder to budget long term or find permanent accommodation and adds stress.

It may be difficult to rent a home without proof of employment, Thompson said. Similarly, those buying a home can run into problems with qualifying for a mortgage.

Account for shifting lifestyle

Once that’s sorted, budgeting for common expenses in your new location should be next on the list for people moving provinces, Thompson said.

“How much is it going to increase or decrease potential lifestyle costs if you’re planning to relocate?” she asked. It is not always easy to estimate changes in the cost of groceries, commuting or electric bills when adjusting to a new lifestyle. A switch between urban and rural settings may make a difference, too.

Then comes the living situation. Some prefer to stay at a short-term rental while finding a permanent place to live, while others look for a new home ready for them when they arrive.

Forler said he bought the Cochrane home sight unseen, except for some FaceTime sessions. He said finding a reliable real estate agent and getting a thorough inspection done gave him the confidence to make such a big purchase. It also made for better planning — what to pack and not to pack — based on the new home. He said he doesn’t regret it.

“(The house) was everything our friends had said, the Realtor had said and the inspector had said — all on point,” he recalled.


The cost of the actual move can put a dent in your plans if not budgeted carefully. Movers should set aside a significant buffer they can access at times of unknowns.

“It’s a big consideration,” Thompson said. She added it is important to go through the list of things and add up the cost — plane tickets or gas for the drive; professional movers or a truck rental; shipping a car. It’s also important to budget for emergency needs.

“If you don’t have an emergency fund, then how much time do you need to be able to save up?” Thompson asked. “We have to prioritize creating the nest egg for you to be able to move comfortably without feeling the money stress.”

You may also need to budget for high-ticket items such as furniture if you didn’t ship it from your old home.

Other expenses to account for include the first and last month’s rent or the closing costs of a home sale.

To take or not to take?

Logistics were one thing, Forler said, but there was something even harder.

“The scary thing is for you to decide if you’re bringing all your stuff or none of it, or what portion are you bringing with you?”

Professional movers can be expensive. For long distances, estimates are often in weight per pound. “We had to be very, very careful,” Forler recalled, adding this part of the move was the hardest to budget for.

Forler compared the cost of moving furniture to buying new items. He and his family looked at their emotional attachment to various items and decided whether it was worth bringing with them.

“My wife has a library and it was extremely important to bring her books — 38 boxes at 30 pounds each, so about $25 per box,” he estimated. “You can start to put dollars to everything you own.”

Thompson said some moving expenses can be tax deductible, helping ease the financial burden.

Day-to-day expenses

Forler said the cost of groceries, schools, daycare, health care, car insurance, gas, and taxes also factored into their decision to leave Ontario.

By the time the family arrived in Alberta, Forler said they already had a daycare, a school, a kindergarten and a family doctor lined up and could budget for those expenses.

Forler said it was fairly easy to estimate childcare and subsidies through official websites and consultations with professionals.

However, Thompson noted that incidental costs, such as driver’s licence, connecting to utility services, changing address on important documents and other logistics, can quickly add up.

While it differs from person to person, Thompson said the financial recovery from the move can take about six to 12 months.

She also suggested a month-long test living situation at the new location instead of relying on the internet.

“Go get a rental for a month and see what it’s like to live there when you move there.”

By Ritika Dubey in Toronto

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 1, 2023.

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