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Today, I will be embarking on a new adventure. I have accepted a full time position at a local university and I start in my position this morning! I’ve been a stay-at-home / work-at-home mom for the past 2 years but felt it was time to get back to a more traditional career path for a number of reasons. This new adventure has got me thinking about the path that we have taken to get here and I’ve got some tips for moving to a new city and settling in.
For those of you that have been following me for sometime, you know that we moved to Alabama from Utah almost 2 years ago. I had never even visited Birmingham, AL before we moved and we did it quick, in 3 weeks! It has been an adventure. We had been thinking that we would probably still move further south, closer to the gulf coast to be closer to my husband’s parents but as things have worked out, we have really fallen in love with this area and as job things have worked out it’s time to really settle in here. It’s been hard feeling so in limbo here. Had we known that we would be staying here for longer than our first thought of about a year, I would have probably done things a little differently but it’s all worked out and I have some ideas on how to really get settled into a new city.
1 – Live some where you are comfortable
We’ve been in a tiny apartment that was very close to my husband’s work and allowed us to stay a one car family as he walked to work (only a 3 minute walk!) most days and I could use the car for appointments and outings as needed. He also came home for lunch everyday so it’s been a great place and was plenty of room when it was just the 3 of us but since my daughter has been born and is now a toddler, it would be really nice to have something bigger. I loved living in this apartment because of the flexibility it offered; we could get out of our lease at anytime with a little notice and an extra month of rent payment, much less of a commitment than buying. It has also been great to be maintenance free; if something doesn’t work, we just put in a work order and it is magically fixed. Also, not being familiar with the area, I am so glad we rented first, it has really allowed me to get a greater understanding of the best areas, schools, desired neighborhoods etc. I would highly recommend doing something short term if you are moving to an area you don’t know well and then when it’s time, get settled more permanently.
We have a contract on a house and if everything goes right, we will be moved in about a month! Which means lots of fun DIY home posts will be coming. The house is only a few years old but it’s kind of plain and builder grade basic, which means it’s a nice clean slate for me to make some fun personalizations to and my head is already swirling with fun ideas that I can’t wait to bring to life. Buying this house has really solidified that we are settling in here and really making it home! It’s a great feeling.
2 – Get the lay of the land
Ask your apartment manager, realtor or landlord where the closest grocery store is, good restaurant recommendations, etc. Or just get in your car and drive around. You want to know where the necessities are right off the bat. You can branch out further as you get more comfortable but get started with the basics first. Our apartment manager told me about the closest grocery stores, urgent cares, hospitals, etc. She gave some good information about the main streets and restaurants to help us branch out. Once you get that down, get in your car and just start getting to know the area. Things will start to get more familiar and then you’ll branch out more and more. Our GPS has been our best friend here. I use it ALL. THE. TIME. I am super impressed with myself when I can find a place without it because it means I am getting more used to the area.
3- Keep up with your hobbies
Keeping connected to things you love, helps you to feel comfortable and familiar. I love crafting and blogging. I made sure to keep up on some projects and frequented the craft and home improvement stores near my new place. I did a couple of events as a vendor to sell some of my crafts and connect with people around me. They weren’t great for making money but I sure got to see more of the area and meet some new people with similar interests. I also looked online for bloggers in Birmingham and found a great group of bloggers and a network called Birmingham Bloggers and they meet monthly, have a great Facebook group and it has been invaluable for me socially as well as the professional side of blogging. Speaking of Facebook, I also searched for groups in my area and found some amazing mom groups as well as groups that share similar interests and beliefs. It has been invaluable to use these connections, especially in the absence of work connections.
4 – Don’t be afraid to try new things
In Utah, we were pretty well settled in our routine. I had grown up there and most all of my family and friends were there. It was easy to become stagnant in a way. Moving to a new place is exciting but a little scary. When we first got here, we were on one income and I wasn’t doing much of my side stuff yet so we were really limited on funds. I just looked up the websites of our city and the cities around us and found where there were free events. We checked out festivals, parks, the farmer’s market, libraries, etc. A lot of it was geared to what would be fun for our kids but it was a great way to get to know where things were and get to know the area. It is so beautiful here, in a way that is very different than the beautiful mountains of Utah. When we eat out, which isn’t very often, we try really hard to pick something local that we have never had before. It keeps it fun even a couple years later.
5 – Don’t be afraid to meet new people
Before we moved here, I knew no one. My husband had an old college friend that he actually dated for a little while. She lived here with her cute little family. I had emailed her right before we moved to ask a couple of questions but other than that, I didn’t know her. She has been so great to introduce me to a couple of people who in turn have also introduced me to other people and provided great ideas of things to do in the area. It can be really scary! I was a little nervous about the dynamic of making friends with someone my husband dated but she is great. You could try reaching out to people in your new office, if you are moving for a new job. If you are involved in church or some sort of specific activity, reaching out to local groups that have similar interests as you, either before you move to ask questions about the area and introduce yourself or when you get to your new place. You may not make great friends right away but being open to new things and people can really open some doors to great things.
It was hard for me being at home for the first time. A lot of my friends have been made at work. It was really kind of shocking how alone being at home can feel, especially in a new place. But a great thing about kids is they are a built in topic with other parents. Getting out with them to go to the library, science museum, zoo, etc, opened doors for me to meet all sorts of people and have some adult conversations and connections.
I’ll admit it’s really hard to do when you are more introverted like myself but it is possible and it is not as bad as it may seem.
6 – Get a local phone number
Okay so this isn’t entirely necessary. People are used to different area codes and such but this for me has been the singular sign that I am really settling here. I’ve had my same number since I was 15 years old!!! It’s the only cell phone number I’ve ever had. And for some reason I have this emotional connection to keeping my old area code. But alas, since I accepted this new job and we are buying a home, I feel like it’s really time to get a local number. It’s just easier and for me, it’s a symbol of me being at home. I haven’t shopped for a cell phone or a plan in a long time. I recently got out of a contract and my phone is not running very well anymore – it’s probably got a whole cracker stuck inside it and been dropped by my kids a couple times. Since it’s tax return time, I thought what better time to shop for a device I need and put our refund to good and reasonable use.
Walmart has a new family mobile plan out. I was a little apprehensive about shopping for cell phone service at Walmart verses a specific carrier store but I have to say, I am totally impressed. First, their plans are so affordable! I was blown away that I could get the Walmart Family Mobile PLUS plan – Unlimited Talk, Text and Data including 10GB 4G LTE Data plus a free movie on VUDU every month, per line for $49.88 a month. That’s crazy! Then came the phones. I was a little worried they would be either really expensive or low quality. There weren’t a huge number of options but they were all smart phones and had a good range of prices, all under $200. It’s all contract free, so if I change my mind, I just cancel and move on or if my cell phone breaks, I can go and pick a new one up and not worry about when I’m eligible for an upgrade. It’s just super flexible and I’m excited about it. Disclaimer: All prices for phones and plans included in this post are accurate as of the date of posting; however, these prices are subject to change. Please refer to http://cbi.as/2n6q6 or your local Walmart for current pricing.
I had this great employee, Chris, who helped me. My local Walmart has a cell phone shop at the front of the store but Chris was explaining that not all stores have that and they used to actually only have their cell phones in the electronic department so yours might be there if it’s not in front of the registers like mine. When I first walked up, another woman came in from the service area and asked if I needed help and then called Chris up because she wasn’t trained on the phones. Chris was so knowledgeable and anyone working in that department should be trained the same as well. I told him that I like to use my phone a lot for taking pictures, especially of my kids and I hate that my old phone would out of memory all the time. He described the differences of the phones and made a recommendation. I picked the LG G Stylo – $179.00 (was $199.00). It was the highest priced phone they had but I’m glad I went with his recommendation. So far, I’ve really loved the phone. The screen is huge and I like the photo quality. He also told me about the service plan and that he uses it himself. I was worried about coverage issues but he assured me the coverage is great. I still can’t believe I’ve been paying almost double the amount for a lot less data.
Since I am still relatively new to the area, I use my GPS A LOT! I conserve when I can but having 10 GB of data is going to be awesome for that, as well as the times when I am running errands with my kids and they need a little distraction at the last stretch. Yep, I’m one of those parents that uses technology to distract my kids. My son loves the rare treat of watching one of his show on my phone and it comes in handy when I just have to go somewhere. My kids aren’t old enough for their own phones yet but it’s nice to have such a cost effective option to add them on easily when that time comes.
Also, the free movie on VUDU every month is great. I’ve mentioned before how important our weekly late night date nights are and we are excited to add a new movie release to one of those, each month. It’s great because we can just pick a movie and watch it through our ROKU on our big screen TV. A fun way to mix it up. Plus with little ones we don’t make it to the movie theater much anymore so new releases are kind of a splurge and rarity around here – not anymore!
So I did it. I’m now a 205 area code and it’s really official now! As you can see, we are still settling in, it’s an on-going process.
That wraps up my biggest tips on moving to a new city and settling in. Overall the biggest thing I’ve learned in this process is it’s really not as scary as I thought it would be and if you don’t like it, you can always go somewhere else but I wouldn’t trade this adventure for anything! Have you made a big move? What would you add to the list?