What It Cost Me to Move from Wisconsin to Alabama

by Griffin Gotta

In the spirit of adventure and interesting job opportunities, and the fact that I’m 24, relatively unattached, and have few obligations — save for the bills which can always electronically snake behind you into any college town — I made the move last week from my hometown of Green Bay, Wis. to Auburn, Ala. I’m only now just getting my feet planted in my new home town.

I am the type to know the general layout of my saving and checking accounts — the general amount that gets sucked out every month, the amount that, ever so briefly, comes back in. I know how I’m doing — not to that exact cent — but for the most part. I think if one has any sort of financial awareness, then you have to have that sense of foreboding, the shadowy figure in the corner hovering over your shoulder and breathing down your shirt collar as the debit card swipes through to confirm another unavoidable purchase. That shadow is how I know how I’m doing. And, really, it’s not a bad thing for the same reason that pain signals sure come in handy if you accidentally stick your hand in the garbage disposal. It’s better to know than not, but I’d rather not think about looking into that dirty green mirror all too much.

My move to Auburn was in the form of “pack the car with as much as it will take and head off,” but with that freedom and mobility, of course, comes some very large holes in the ol’ day-to-day living quilt that needs to be sewn up rather quickly upon arrival. I’ll get to those in a bit.

I left Green Bay with a freshly-filled tank of gas ($33.68) and red eyes from saying goodbye to my family. Packed into my 2010 Jetta were more or less the following: A healthy pile of button-up shirts and pants on hangers, a 37-inch LG television, wooden TV stand, small coffee table, three large plastic bins filled with plates, glasses, books, cords, a lamp, DVDs, cleaning supplies and towels, black garbage bags half-filled (for easier cramming) with all the remaining clothes that made the cut, a duffel bag loaded with shoes, a backpack filled paperwork and toiletries, a computer bag stuffed with electronic gear, and a plant from my grandmother. This was much, much more than I expected would fit in my car. Even so, the passenger seat was open.

Our first pit stop (I was caravanning with my friend, who will be attending Auburn University, and his family) was a pre-Chicago regrouping at a Citgo in a place that I didn’t know existed called Sturtevant, Wis. I wasn’t close to half-empty, but filled up anyway ($18.20). The Jetta got even better gas milage than I expected, and at our next stop in a sweaty and busy Indianapolis, I only had to fill about half a tank again ($30.50). From there, I refilled at two more stops, one somewhere in Tennessee in the midst of a downpour, the other in Northern Alabama for the homestretch of road that dragged on the last couple of hours between Birmingham and Auburn (about $50 total).

When everything gets unloaded and thrown across the floor of an empty apartment, that’s when you truly realize how much more needs to be acquired. At a cavernous nearby thrift store, I bought a used box spring ($24.97), linen to throw over it ($1.99), and a not-too-big desk on wheels for my bedroom ($14.97). I was also able to find a brand new, factory-sealed full size mattress ($189.97) and frame ($44.97) at the same time, as well as a used couch ($69.97), which my roommate and I split.

It was coming together, but we needed the essentials and items you don’t realize you need until you move that can best be found in the small township/separate colony known as Walmart (sigh). We loaded up on plates, soap, rugs, a throw over for the couch, and a pantry rack ($33.20). That total was also split between the two of us. However, in the flurry of packing the pick-up, returning to the apartment and hauling everything, then jumping back on the road between thrift store and Walmart behemoths, I racked up another debit swipe at Walmart ($110.84), probably for things like a chair for the living room, coffee machine and shower mat, but I don’t know, some of the previous stuff like the pantry rack might’ve been on this one, too. This was the only receipt I lost. My brain was trudging through a blizzard of aisles and What Do I Need? and shopping carts zipping around me like an interstate expressway, and it wasn’t keeping up. So: something happened there, and I’m sure I needed it.

The next day, after attempting to straighten things out, set up a wireless internet router (always more of a strain than you think it will be), and clean the place (we don’t foresee a way in which the previous tenants could have possibly received their entire security deposit, unless, you know, sheets of insulation leaning against a wall in the living room are kosher) we were pulled one more time into Walmart’s gravitational forcefield for a five-drawer plastic dresser, stick-on hooks for pictures and clothing, as well as a few toiletries ($73.65). After getting the dresser, my room began to fall into place with the help of the plastic bins I brought with me, and I, for the most part, was settled in.

The last few touches — an Auburn banner to hang in the living room ($10.34 for my share) and T-shirt with the Tiger mascot and “War Damn Eagle” saying ($20.66) — were picked up later that day, a day that seems illogically long by any standards as I think back now.

$676.32.

That’s what everything above added up to for my move South. That is not counting restaurant stops, and it’s not counting groceries, because we haven’t gotten those yet. In all, it could’ve been much, much worse, but it’s also a reminder that even the little swipes of plastic pile up, no matter how frugal you try to be. In this case, the choice to pack up and go was mine. I resigned myself to startup costs before we left Green Bay. It’s the experience that I’m after, and the chance to hopefully make some money doing something that inspires me. Because those groceries, just like anywhere else, aren’t gonna buy themselves.

Griffin Gotta writes around the Internets, mostly about sports. He’s always looking for other writing projects, because writing is fun. He’s thankful for air conditioning. Photo: Nola Agent

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