I wanted to be as realistic and truthful as I possibly could about what it was like to move my family and everything I owned across the country. Giving myself some time to settle into my new life, has given me good perspective and insight, and I feel it could help others that want to take the plunge and relocate to Florida, or cross country for that matter.
My bride and I have known for close to thirty years that we wanted to end up in Florida. Why did we wait for so long? We had three very good reasons.. our kids. It just never seemed like there was an appropriate time to pull them out of their schools and make them start over somewhere else. This happened to both my wife and I as young children, so we both know how that can adversely affect you as a child. Needless to say, we had tons of time to research central Florida and plan out our move, which we got real resilient with during the last two years.
Plan, plan, and plan some more
The best piece of advice I feel I can give anyone in regards to making a move like this one, is to perform your due diligence with planning and research. My last two years consisted of visiting central Florida on multiple occasions to research areas to live, and to get a feel for the local culture, the job market, schools, cost of living, quality of life, etc.
Even if you can't travel and visit the area as much as you'd like, the internet is an incredible resource if used right, to learn about all of these things. I gained some great information on message boards and blogs, from local folks who were more than happy to help others who were thinking of relocating. I must admit however, there is no substitute for getting your feet on the ground and really getting a feel for where you want to move. Many areas that we were convinced we would love to live, turned out to be places we ended up scratching off of our list once we got the feel for said areas.
We have friends that live in central Florida who we came to visit on multiple occasions over the last two years. Our friends proved to be an invaluable source of information for us. Just look at some of the things we learned about from friends..
- Local under performing schools
- Undesirable areas of town
- Cost of utilities
- Cost of vehicle registration and driver licenses
- Cost of living
- Roads and Highways to avoid
- Hot job markets and local pay scales
- Public services
- Florida house maintenance 101 (it's way different than Colorado)
- Incredible value at local grocery stores
One of the biggest shocks I experienced during my research, was the local hourly pay rates. My wages now, are actually half of what I was making in Colorado. However, the cost of living in many ways is more affordable than Colorado. Our electricity bill is double what we paid in Colorado, but my water, sewer, trash, cable, and internet are all lower. Plus, I no longer have a natural gas bill. Oh yeah, and there is NO state income tax in Florida!
All in all, I would say that I pay less in utilities here in Florida. I make a lot less in wages, but I already knew this was going to be the case. This being said, I made appropriate adjustments in my life so I could still live the same quality of life I lived in Colorado, in fact.. it's now a lot better.
Log what you learn
What personally helped me, was keeping a journal and spread sheets that documented new information I acquired about central Florida. I logged side by side comparisons of living expenses, deposit costs for utilities, the cost of auto and driver licensing, insurance rates, moving truck rates, road trip planning, and basically anything and everything that had to do with the relocation.
Nothing should be overlooked, and no detail is too small. I'm the kind of person who doesn't like surprises, and I very much believe knowledge is power. My sometimes obsessive method of gathering and reviewing information, helped us immensely in our move. I had two years to fully plan my family's move, so I was able to take practically everything into account. While you can't control everything in life, planning greatly improves your chances for success. We hit a couple of bumps along the way while moving, but I was in a good state of mind, and aptly prepared to handle them.
Finally, and maybe the most important thing of all, is to give yourself some kind of a safety net. If you have a good idea what your move is going to cost, increase that number as much as you possibly can. I can almost guarantee that your expenses will surely exceed any number you've come up with, so give yourself a cushion. This is not the type of move you want to make if you are tight on expenses, up to your eyeballs in debt, or living paycheck to paycheck.
Planning and preparation are definitely the key to successfully pulling off a relocation such as this. It took awhile, but I'm finally settling into my new life. This means I'm able to start buying out time once again for hobbies.. one of them being this very blog. I look forward to getting back into the swing of things, and sharing all new Retro rants, musings, and adventures with you all.