I have a lot of regrets about accepting my last job offer and how I was too meek to negotiate what I knew I was worth to the employer. Except, I thought the only things I could negotiate were pay, vacation days, and benefits! I didn’t realize that relocation expenses were negotiable, too. After talking to several of my senior co-workers, it turns out that this can be another bargaining chip and could have saved me several thousand more dollars on some of my relocation expenses. Here’s a summarized version of some options I had available:
Free home-finding trip (3 days and 2 nights included a free flight, hotel stay, any fees or expenses incurred, plus $150 per diem per person for food)
Lease Reimbursement (up to two months rent plus any early lease cancellation fees paid to my landlord)
$3,000 Relocation Allowance (After tax amount)
$3,000 Self Move Allowance (Before tax amount… or $4,200 if direct billed to employer … or none if professional movers were hired by the employer)
Free 30 days of temporary housing (at $3,600 rent/month) plus 30 days free temporary storage.
Free area tour and free rental tour with a real estate agent
Final Trip Allowance-
Free hotel reimbursement (within reason)
Free flight to destination if not driving
$50/person food per diem per day of travel (must travel ~300 miles/day per day which is a ridiculously short distance for eager 20-somethings)
$0.59 flat fee reimbursement per mile (estimated) driven
When it came down to it, the relocation expenses looked standard, and they looked pretty good to me. I had never been relocated before, so my parents and I had no idea if this was a good offer, a great offer, or a lousy relocation offer. I’m not sure exactly how much is negotiable from the list above… the per diem seemed generous (who buys $50 of food per day?), I was being reimbursed a flat $/mile driven which turned out to be more than double the reimbursement I actually needed for gas, and the relocation allowance was “standard” for incidentals associated with moving (like fees for applying for a new driver’s license and registration or for rent down payments on a new place). I now know that at minimum, the temporary housing was negotiable too! Several co-workers had negotiated two or three months worth of temporary housing on their own offers, which would have saved the fiance and I not only our failing sanities, but between $2,000 and $4,000 worth of rent expenses!
We went with the “self-haul” option that gave us a lump sum (no questions asked) fee to move our belongings. We had just gotten engaged prior to receiving the job offer, so we silly fools decided to sell all of our furniture on the east coast and drive out to California with our belongings packed into a car. Actually… half a car each since we had to split it! He was big on minimalism and “I’ve done this before”, while I was big on not lugging his super uncomfortable multiple-times-Craigslisted furniture across the country to build our first place together. We figured we’d be making $$$ by doing all this ourselves — and we did– but I didn’t realize how much in assets we actually owned until I was literally giving expensive items like my mattress and 46″ flatscreen away for cheap or free. I would possibly recommend the “everything in my car” option if you’ve just graduated college and can have a whole car to yourself and your belongings, but I would highly advise against it if you possess high value furniture pieces or have a whole family coming with you. The direct-bill and professional movers options are usually approved for a much higher amount of expense and will eliminate a lot of stress and waste for you. Trust me!
When I tallied it up at the end, we were credited $8,936.33 in the move and only incurred $1045.76 in expenses, which left us with a $7,890.04 pre-tax profit! Now remember, part of that “profit” was lump sum payments to go to things like rent, car maintenance, and other unforeseen incidentals. I estimate those around $4,000 expected expenses plus about $3,000 unplanned expenses (like a car he now needed to get to work, the flight home to my sister’s wedding, the freak hail storm damage in Arizona that nearly “totaled” my car, and the furniture we now needed).
A lot of people, especially young people, are too worried they’ll be seen as greedy if they try to negotiate salary increases with interested employers. However, relocation expenses can be a huge financial burden to the relocating employee and should also be considered negotiable before accepting the final “total package” offer. Take the risk and speak up! Temp housing is probably the biggest single item that can be negotiated. It’s usually fully furnished and ready to go, and can give you more time to apartment or house shop until you find a place you find comfortable. You may also be able to add more days to any “home finding trip” and perhaps bank all that fun per diem instead of spending it all.
If there are any readers out there who have had experience negotiating relocation expenses, I would really value your input and comments below! I hope I won’t have to relocate again soon, but with the layoff rumors running rampant at work again, one can never be too sure. Plus, I bet there are a lot of people who would be interested in hearing what you were/weren’t able to score when you tried. I know I am!