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How do I move to Texas?
May 8, 2011 12:43 PM   Subscribe

I am going to "start over" in a new place (eastern texas/Houston/Austin/Huntsville.) How do I prepare to have a successful life there

I am taking a year (maybe more) off of school to start a new life. I don't have much of a choice. What I do know is that I have a little over $1500 in the bank and an idea of where i want to live.

What i don't know is:

How much more money should I have saved before I move?

How do you get a job over a long distance?

Am I more likely to find a cheep life in a city (with high rent/higher wages?) or in a smaller town (less available jobs, lower wages?)

What kinds of certifications should I have to make myself competitive in the jobs market if I don't have a degree? (note: I'm not looking for a major career, i'm looking for a barista type job.)

How much do essentials like tampons/food etc. cost a month? (excluding any car related expenses)

Is there anything really important I'm forgetting to ask?

Thank you so much for helping me with this!
posted by becomingly to Travel & Transportation around Texas (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
When you get there, immediately start finding ways to make friends. Being new somewhere and not knowing anybody is one of the most acute forms of misery you can experience.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:31 PM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying this to discourage you, BTW, but loneliness has a way of making you wish you never left in the first place. Personally, I'd suggest a city, because you're more likely to find people with your interests. But then again, I'm a city boy, so I would say that :)
posted by Afroblanco at 2:34 PM on May 8, 2011


$1500 is a good start and will work fine if you can get a job before the second month. The main initial expenses I see are rent, rent deposit, and power company deposit.

I lived for a few years recently in both Austin and the region north of Huntsville toward Tyler. We ended up moving close to a big city since the social situation was pretty bleak and we have a young kid who needed more opportunities later in life and more friends in the meantime. You can memail me if you need specific advice about either area.

East Texas is somewhat cheap in terms of rent, while Austin is expensive unless you can deal with living in a less desirable part of town. Our rent in Austin was $1200 for a decent 3BR family-type place, comparing with about $800 in east Texas. It will be lower than that for 1 or 2 BR of course.

Job security is probably going to be your biggest concern. Unless you're in health care or prison work, the jobs in east Texas are really pretty scarce. Many that live in the smaller towns know one another and as a result the better jobs are often filled by word of mouth or given to the town's own young adults or one's fellow church members. So it will be tough and you may have better opportunities in the city. In the long run you may be happiest living in the cheapest place you can find in Austin or Houston, somewhere close to where the desirable jobs are (i.e. not necessarily the suburbs), plan for lots of crappy jobs, and stick it out until you move into a job that you love. You'll also be in a good situation should you decide to go back to college.

Being single and without pets is an absolutely excellent position to be in. You should be able to find something very affordable if you can deal with being in or around a slightly sketchy neighborhood. Sometimes small houses turn out to be pretty cheap, so check Craigslist and not just the apartment directory. Your biggest expense besides rent is likely to be air conditioning, so you may want to make sure the place is decently insulated (no single pane windows, for example) or use a window unit in just one key room. As far as food, you may want to write out a meal plan and go down to a supermarket and figure out what the cost works out to... it will not really vary much from place to place in Texas and I think it would be possible to eat on a couple of hundred dollars a month. There are boards that specialize in frugal living... it would be a good idea to Google one up and look through the threads.

Finally, I totally agree with what Afroblanco says. What he says is important. Stay out of the house, be out doing fun stuff, even if it's just random meetup events, stay out of ruts, and you'll find yourself making friends. That of course is not only important for being happy, but even more important it forms your safety net on a rainy day, and chances are one of those friends one day might be able to hook you up with a better job.. this happens a lot.
posted by crapmatic at 3:05 PM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


When you get there, immediately start finding ways to make friends. Being new somewhere and not knowing anybody is one of the most acute forms of misery you can experience.

This is absolutely spot-on.

I don't know anything about the other areas of Texas you mentioned, but I can address what it's like to move to Austin without knowing anyone. I moved to Austin three months ago without knowing anyone here, and I've met a lot of cool people.

Once you get here, post a Metafilter meetup. There are 300 or so Mefites here and the meetups I've been to have been great.

Join Meetup.com. There are several meetup groups devoted to Austin newcomers, and hundreds devoted to other interest topics.

Whenever you meet a new person here, friend them on Facebook and keep in touch. Also, stay in frequent contact with friends and family in other places.

Austinites are friendly, so don't be afraid to start conversations with people, especially at bars. Give and get phone numbers.

Get involved with activities you're interested in. The Austin Chronicle lists numerous things every week.

It took me three months to find a job. Read the book What Color is Your Parachute and follow its advice. Use Craigslist. Tell everyone you meet you are looking for work.

$1500 will last you about a month in Austin IF you find a cheap place. There are numerous shared rentals on Craigslist and if you know how to find them, you can get your own apartment for $400-$600/month. My rent is $539 and I live in South Austin. I'm very happy with my neighborhood; it is in no way "undesirable," though there are certainly hipper, cooler areas of town.

If you'd like more specific advice, shoot me a MeFiMail.
posted by xenophile at 3:34 PM on May 8, 2011


Nth-ing MeetUp. Also, consider living in a group house at first. You will save money on rent and it'll help you get used to the city. People living there will know where to get a good burger or what neighborhoods to avoid. But definitely think of some interests you have and make plans to get involved in them when you move. One of my friends moved here to DC without knowing many people but she knew she liked ultimate frisbee and knitting so she found an ultimate team and a knitting group and they're some of her best friends now.
posted by kat518 at 5:53 PM on May 8, 2011


If it's important to you to live in a place where lots of people share your political views, factor that into your Houston vs. Austin vs. Huntsville/rural decision. Austin is pretty liberal, Houston's kind of a mix depending on the neighborhood, and the Houston suburbs and rural areas tend to be quite conservative. I know it's something I'd think about, so I thought I'd throw it out there.
posted by bluishorange at 6:06 PM on May 8, 2011


For a barista-type job, you don't need special degrees or certs. You need a high school diploma, and to present a clean, responsible demeanor to the hiring manager.

Pay attention to the timing; I don't know when you intend to move, but keep in mind that a lot of the minimum wage retail and food service jobs are being picked up right now by HS and college students as they prepare for summer vacation. That market will stay tight until late August when those kids go back to school.

I agree with those who've said to look for a group house or roommate situation. Someone will already have signed up for the power, water, internet, etc., and you'll just need to pay a security deposit and move in to your room, and pay your share each month to the main tenant. Again, your timing is good on that, since college spring semester is coming to an end and loads of students are moving in/out. June 1 and August 15 are classic start dates for rental agreements, especially near a college.

>> How much do essentials like tampons/food etc. cost a month? (excluding any car related expenses)

If you are living extremely frugally, you can live on < $100 a month for household and food expenses. It all depends on what you consider necessities and what you consider luxuries. I once lived for a whole week on $5 worth of bread and cheese sandwiches in Austin. It wasn't my preference but sometimes you do what you must with the money you have.

Consider that it will cost more up front to set up a household, if you are going out on your own for the first time. There are things like cooking oil, trash bags, salt and pepper, dish soap, cling wrap, toilet plunger, laundry detergent, and so on—which you will need to buy once, up front, but then not again for a long time.

Before you get ready to move, you should go to a grocery store and do some research, with a shopping list and a calculator.

Prepare your shopping list by making three columns: "Need", "Want" and "Other". Then put your specific preferences for each of the following items under one of the three headers. At the store, write down the price for the things on your list, and then you can put together a food budget.

(If you know you really can only drink a certain kind of OJ, put that name brand under "Need". Let's say you really love to have Dove bars as an occasional treat, but you know those are a luxury; put them under "Want." If you aren't sure about whether something is a need or want, put it under "Other." Then you can price-shop at the store to see where those fit on your list.)

• Medicines / health stuff. If you are young and healthy, at the very least you'll need a bottle of ibuprofen, bottle of hydrogen peroxide, some antibiotic ointment and a small first-aid kit. Target sells a little white plastic one in their travel section that contains a couple alcohol wipes, couple bandages, couple pieces of gauze.

• Toiletries: toothpaste, toilet paper, soap, shampoo, cosmetics, razors, feminine products (Generic products are cheaper—but in my experience, even when living frugally, there is small comfort in name brands here. Just depends on your priorities. I don't mind shampoo from the dollar store, but I abhor cheap toilet paper that feels like wiping with a burlap sack, so that's one of my classic trade-offs.)

• Cooking staples: oil, spices, flour, sugar, dried rice and pastas

• Canned and packaged foods. These can be affordable, filling and nutritious; think about beans, soups, ramen.

• Breakfast, lunch and dinner foods. Frozen foods can be very expensive unless you are buying in bulk. Fresh meats, specialty cheeses and produce can be pricey unless you shop carefully.

• Beverages (Water is free and tea and coffee are cheap. Colas, juices, energy drinks can be very expensive.)

• Definite luxuries are items like sweets, alcohol, cigarettes, and so on. You can save loads of cash by skipping all these things.

Learn how to use coupons. I don't have a good website to recommend for you to read more on this topic, but others might; couponing is a serious lifestyle for some people and you can save a ton of money doing it. If you don't already have a set of household items like furniture, dry goods, and so on, consider visiting garage sales and Goodwill to pick up items like dishes, silverware. A futon will double as a couch and a bed till you can afford something else.

You should plan to live like an absolute pauper until you find a job. Get a library card and use the free internet there instead of paying for it in cafés. Take the bus when you can to avoid spending gas money. Wear your clothes gently and learn how to hand-wash and line-dry things to avoid laundry expenses.

Once you start working, you need to set up a nest egg of at least three months of expenses: rent, utilities, food, emergency fund (enough to cover a trip to an urgent-care clinic, a new tire, or some other minor calamity). Only once you have that much saved, you can start spending a little more money each month on wants and needs.
posted by pineapple at 8:56 PM on May 8, 2011


If you live anywhere other than Austin or Houston, be prepared for a population that doesn't even know what a "barista" is. Seriously. I've spent 3 years working in one of the eastern suburbs of Houston, and I'll guarantee you that not more than one of my immediate co-workers would know what it means. It becomes incredibly unsophisticated very quickly once you leave the city. Actually, I've had lots of coworkers in the heart of Houston who couldn't define it, either. As bluishorange said, it totally depends on the neighborhood.

I have honestly had a co-worker say to me, in all seriousness, "He needed killin'."* And this was in an upscale, Galleria-area, high rise office building.

*Translation - "He deserved to die, just on general principle."
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:03 PM on May 8, 2011


There are over 200 Starbucks in the greater Houston area (and that's not including the many other coffee shops) so a barista job is not unheard of here. If you might also wait tables, we have over 6,000 restaurants (not including fast food and food carts) so there are plenty of those jobs, too. You might consider looking at the grocery store flyers to get an idea of food costs: HEB, Kroger, Randalls. And, apartment listings for an idea of apartment costs.
posted by Houstonian at 5:18 AM on May 9, 2011


I'm biased but I think Austin is a winner.

I'd also join reddit as they have a very active Austin contingent. I'm sure you would find plenty of friends/connections at a reddit meetup and the meetups are a bit more frequent than mefi meetups.

Austin is also a student town so shared housing is the norm in many areas. Roommates can be great or they can be not great but it's definitely a cheaper way to live and make your money go farther. You should be able to find a room in a shared house for less than $500 including bills if you start looking. Also you are coming in when a lot of students are moving out so there's quite a few folks looking to fill an empty space.

This will also help you in the job area. I suspect that getting a job delivering pizzas, sandwiches, barista, counter service, etc. is a lot easier in late May/early June when the students move out

Regarding starting a household on the cheap (buying stuff like shower curtains, dishes, etc.), I strongly suggest hitting thrift stores and dollar stores (Dollar Tree is probably a good bet here) as well as Big Lots (a discount store) to get your basics instead of Walmart or Target. Hell...if you get here soon, the all time cheapest way to furnish a household in Austin is to rent a truck and hit the alleys around campus around the end of finals for some of the most target-rich dumpster diving EVER!

memail if you have any Austin or central Texas questions and I'll do my best to help you.
posted by screamingnotlaughing at 3:36 PM on May 9, 2011


As an update: I am getting a live in nanny job which will cover both job, rent and food. However, all of this information was VERY useful (for example, I never thought about how lonely it might be until you brought it up) and I can make plans to make sure that bad things don't happen. That and the list of essentials was VERY awesome.

Thank you all!
posted by becomingly at 8:33 AM on May 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


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