So you're planning on relocating to another area -- very exciting! Unfortunately, these days you can't just pack up the car and take off. You will need to settle all of your old business before starting fresh in a new community. Here are a few simple steps you can take to make the transition to your new home and new life a bit easier.
Changing Accounts And Addresses
Shutting off your old utilities and turning on the new ones is a lot easier these days than it was in the past. You no longer have to waste half your day making trips to the gas department, the water department, the electric, phone, and cable companies. Websites like ConnectUtilities will take care of this for you at no charge. Just use their online forms to choose the services you need and to submit cancellation orders for the ones you're leaving behind -- you can even pay deposits and set up regular billing (directly with your providers) at the same time. These services are free to you because they are getting a commission from the utility companies -- just do a search for "transfer utilities" and you'll come up with a half dozen relocation assistance websites.
Of course, you will also want to arrange the transfer of your financial accounts to your new area -- plan to do this at least one month before your move date. This kind of transfer is easy if you are simply switching branches or have a web-only internet bank account. But you might be relocating to a different city or state where your bank doesn't exist and you have to find a new financial institution altogether. Go ahead and open your account and order checks with your new address -- but don't close out the old account until all of your other checks have cleared (be sure leave enough in the account to cover all outstanding liabilities!) And don't forget to transfer the contents of your safety deposit box to your new bank.
And finally, you need to take a second and change your address with all the folks who send you mail -- the IRS, magazine subscriptions, organizations with whom you have a membership, you name it. The easiest way to update your information with everyone at once is to grab one fo those free change of address packets at the post office. This will include cards that you can send out to friends and family, as well as a form that you fill out and turn back in to your postmaster -- allow at least 30 days for the change to go into affect. If each member of your household shares the same last name, you can simply fill out one form for the entire family. But if your household contains several different last names, fill out a separate form for each person. The postal service will generally continue to forward letters for 12 months after you change your address (6 months for periodicals). So if you receive any items bearing the yellow "forwarding sticker," that's your cue to let the sender know of your new address.
Transferring Important Records
In this day and age, you can't accomplish anything without proper documentation, so it's crucial that your family's vital records follow you to your new home. A delay in transferring school, employment, homeownership, insurance, or legal paperwork can cause innumerable frustrations as you try to establish yourself in a new community. Start collecting copies of originals and requesting transfers of important records at least a month before your move date -- at work, at school, and for all of your financial accounts. And don't forget to your property, auto, and medical insurance policies -- you need to not only change your mailing address, but also adjust your coverage and premiums as necessary.
Health care is another important issue when you move. and your new doctors need to know your medical history. Send a letter to each of your family's physicians, specialists, dentists, chiropractors, etc. -- asking for copies of your records (including x-rays, prescriptions, and test results). But have them sent to you rather than the new doctor's office -- many places charge for each records transfer, so keep your own permanent file and photocopy as needed.
Also ask yourself what would happen to your filing system if disaster strikes while you are en route to your new home. Moving is a time of great vulnerability -- all your most important papers and prized possessions are loaded in boxes and sitting in a truck for days or even weeks at a time. Do yourself a favor as you pack -- take a moment to separate out any documents whose loss would cause you inconvenience or hardship during your move. That includes:
- school records and pet documents
- home purchase/sale papers
- wills, marriage, and divorce papers
- financial records and stock certificates
- credit card records, banking records, and tax returns
- birth certificates, and social security cards, and passports
- moving contract and household inventory
- insurance policies (life/property/medical/auto)
These items should be stored in a small fire-proof box with a lock -- which stays with you at all times. Whether you ride in the moving truck or a separate car or take a plane to your new home, keep this box in your carry-on luggage.
Tying Up Any Loose Ends
In the rush of getting out the door, we often forget the most obvious details. Contact those who provide you a regular service (cleaning, lawn care, deliveries, child care), letting them know that you are moving and won't need their help any longer. Give proper notice of resignation to any clubs, organizations, or volunteer activities with which you are involved. And don't forget to cancel local newspaper and magazine subscriptions. Moving is also the perfect time to take care of those little "chores" you've never gotten around to. Clean out any club, gym, or school lockers. Retrieve and return all borrowed items from friends and neighbors. Pick up your dry cleaning and return those old library books. Take items in for cleaning or repair -- and don't pack anything on the truck that isn't in working order. Finish up outstanding projects, or just let them go. Don't take a lot of unnecessary baggage to your new home.
Learning About Your New Neighborhood
It's also important that you take a few minutes to research your new community before you hit the road. Nothing is more frustrating than finishing unpacking, having no food in the house, and not knowing where the nearest grocery store or takeout restaurant is! It will take you less time to settle in if you are familiar with where "essential" businesses and services are located, if you know a bit about the kinds of neighborhood activities available to you, if you at least know how to find your way around without getting lost!
Fortunately, folks want to make newcomers feel welcome and at home, so you shouldn't have any difficulty gathering information. Talk to the realtor who sold you your house, or even some of your new neighbors (a great way to get to know the people in your area). If you're already affiliated with a local church or community group, ask them for information. Or contact your Chamber Of Commerce, visit some of the internet "relocation" websites like Citi-Data, and have the Welcome Wagon send you a packet. Just be sure to ask out about:
- recreational activities and community events
- schools and child care
- churches in your neighborhood
- restaurants, theaters, museums, zoos, and other cultural activities
- professional and employment opportunities
And don't forget to request maps of your new community. You might even plan an extended trip to your new neighborhood before moving day, to help you get your bearings and become familiar with the amenities. With a little pre-planning, you can feel right at home from the moment you arrive!
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