How I Moved Across Canada on a Shoestring Budget

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York University offers a professional writing undergraduate degree, which is relatively rare. When I was offered admission, I felt like it would be a waste of valuable entry-fee money not to go. I expected to face a lot of changes. I had moved cities before, and was used to seeing less of loved ones, rebuilding social structure, and learning about a new area. What I didn’t expect, however, was how much harder it is to move long-distance! Especially when moving on a budget! All in, I spent only $500 moving to Toronto.

I spent my life accumulating furniture and household items that I loved and was proud of. But I got quotes from a couple of different moving companies, both resulting in well over $2,000. That doesn’t even count travel fare. Unfortunately, it looked like I would have to basically start all over. Not only was I moving to attend school, but I was also moving to the most expensive city in Canada. I really couldn’t spare any money on the way there!

This big of a move when I wasn’t necessarily stable beforehand was a risk, but this degree is worth it. It was certainly a learning experience, but I was able to take a couple shortcuts to save some money. Hopefully some of these tips can save you from unnecessary moving expenses!

When moving on a budget, you might have to start fresh

As mentioned, my furniture and home décor collection had grown a lot in the couple years prior to moving. As a 35-year-old homebody trapped in a 20-year-old’s body, I loved my house items deeply. I had proudly set up an apartment that felt like home. Unfortunately, I had to realize that I would not be able to take these things with me.

Try to sell items you’re leaving behind

In an attempt to make the most out of the situation, I decided to sell most of my furniture, as I wouldn’t have anywhere to store it. Although difficult, this actually let me make some money in the process of my move!


Unfortunately, it proved to be impossible to sell everything I owned. Most of my home décor and personal items were given away to friends and family. I took any books I thought might be needed for school, and left the rest shoved into my mother’s bookshelf.

In essence, I was forced into a minimalist lifestyle. I desperately wanted to defy it, kicking and screaming, gripping my real-wood cast iron coffee table for dear life.

But in retrospect, I should have waited longer before stocking up on household items! Most of these things were purchased at 18. It was probably smarter to accept minimalism until I had graduated, and maybe until after I had any sense of stable income. Moving for cheap is near impossible if you’re lugging all your possessions along with you.

Pack light when moving on a budget!

The next step to a long-distance move on a budget is to make sure you’re bringing as little as possible with you. When looking for living space criteria, I made sure to find a room that was furnished. Although “furnished” in this case meant a mattress on the floor and a second-hand child’s desk, it was still necessary things that I didn’t have to pay for myself! Unfortunately there was no way for me to fit my bed frame into my suitcase. 

I had also cut out any food I owned, any general kitchen items, and all of my art supplies to name a few. Some things I would buy once I move, others I would have to do without. I’ve said this before, but it’s key – if you’re in school, you need to accept that your lifestyle will not be what you want it to be for a while. Be patient!

Keep overweight fees in mind!

After deciding what I could sell or give away, I then had to decide what I could bring and what I would shove into my mom’s storage room. I managed to pack everything I would use for the next several months in three suitcases and a backpack. All were just barely under the weight restrictions the airline had in place, which is important, as the over-limit fees are enough to cause a stress-induced heart attack. If your move involves a flight, be sure check the weight restrictions! 

But don’t torture yourself

However, you also have to learn to know the situations in which the savings aren’t worth it! Manoeuvring all this luggage by myself was terrible, I was barely able to make it the few feet to the airport front doors. Although transit is usually my go to option, there was no way I would be able to manage. Luckily, my new place was close to the airport, so I figured an Uber was well worth the $25! Moving on a budget doesn’t mean taking on the impossible! 

Plan ahead when moving on a budget

Looking far into the future was crucial in order to move for cheap. Because I had decided on flying quite a while before the moving date, I was able to scout for a deal on flights. I managed to score a one-way ticket to Toronto for $350 by obsessively scouring travel sites!

Beyond that, the only reason I was able I was able to make arrangements for my belongings was thanks to being proactive. It took more time than I expected to sell my furniture! If I hadn’t listed the items a couple months before moving, I wouldn’t have sold them in time, or at all.

Setting up the bare minimums

The room I had moved into had no closet and only a bed for furniture. I needed to buy a couple of things in order to make this place liveable for the next year, but I had planned for that.

I managed to spend under $100 to set up my room. In one trip to Wal-Mart, I bought a clothing rack, hangers, a six-cubed organizer, and fabric cube storage containers, as well as some utensils for the kitchen. It took some creativity and a long afternoon in order to fit everything in this amount of storage. But I suppose that’s one perk of bringing so little belongings with me! 

All in all, it cost me around $500 to pick up my life and move it 3,238 km away! A cheap flight, baggage fees, an Uber, and a trip to Wal-Mart, and viola! I’m a Torontonian. Although difficult, and a little more time-consuming, moving for cheap isn’t an impossible goal! 

I wish I could do more, and live more comfortably. But as we’ve said before, my last couple years in university are focused on just scraping by. Besides, I just couldn’t afford to pay over $2,000 to have someone drive all my things across the country (who can!?), so this will have to do. 


About Author

A professional writing student at York University, Toronto. A newbie in the world of personal finance, but writing with MAG I've got the perfect teacher! Literary nerd, writer, and coffee enthusiast.

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