Now that we’ve been home for 3 months, there aren’t too many more surprises or re-adjustments to report, so apologies on the less-than-regular posting. I’ve got a new project up my sleeve that I hope to have up and running in September, but in the meantime, I’ve got a few more posts I want to share about our move.
A few weeks ago, I got an email from an expat who will be returning to the States soon and has started getting her ducks in a row. She asked me if there were any surprises or lessons learned despite my careful planning. While nothing earth-shattering, there were a few things that left me saying, “huh, I didn’t think about THAT.”
1) Starting from Scratch
When David and I first moved in together in 2008, I filled a small U-Haul trailer with clothes, books, miscellaneous kitchen items, a leather arm-chair, and a bookshelf. David already had full furniture sets that were nicer than my hand-me-downs, so we left it at that. For that entire year, David joked that he could buy me out with $500 for the chair. Literally, everything else in our loft was his.
When we got the offer to move to London right after getting married, I was quick to see it as an opportunity to purge all of the randomly accumulated stuff and finally build our style together. No more, “my coffee table” or “his desk chair;” we decided to only store or move items we both really loved. We packed up our wedding china, clothes and kitchen items, and furnished the rest in London. We never intended to keep the IKEA furniture we bought abroad, especially since we didn’t want to incur heavy moving costs down the line.
Now, flash forward to our arrival back in our loft in Richmond, VA and having no more than a leather arm-chair (yep, same one), a couple of mirrors, a linen cabinet, and some stored bar stools. I’ve thought to myself on more than one occasion that it would be pretty convenient if we had a few more items tucked away in storage. I managed to store my teaching professional library, but not the West Elm daybed? I’m sure that made sense at the time.
The allure of starting over and purchasing items together still exists, but my enthusiasm has been tempered by frustrations at the cost of the endeavor and the dilemma we (ok, maybe just me) feel to pick the perfect thing versus just something.
So if we haven’t invited your over for dinner, it’s because we don’t have enough chairs.
2) Credit History
I am not embarrassed that I didn’t think about our credit score during the whirlwind of the relocation. While abroad, our US credit sat tight for the two years. But, within our first month back, we picked up two car loans and opened a store furniture credit card to help ease the pain on item#1 with a 12 month no interest offer. Additionally, our credit was queried when we set up our cable bill and our cell phone accounts. Between the first query (car #1) and the last query (car #2), our credit score went down 30 points. I suppose someone could make a case that all of the sudden we were looking to overextend ourselves, and therefore shouldn’t have the primo credit score anymore. Thankfully, all my (panicked) research concluded that once over a certain number, there isn’t too much difference between my score now and my original score. The unfortunate lesson is that now we feel we need to wait a few more months before we go looking to refinance our mortgage.
My advice to any soon-to-be re-expats is to spread out these inquires to your credit history. Perhaps if you have to get two new cars, you might try to use the same lender within the same time frame, so that they don’t have to query it twice. More importantly is to keep your eye on your score in case you have a big loan (i.e. a home loan) in your future and limit all other major activity.
3) Bank accounts
I highly recommend keeping your foreign bank account active as long as possible during your final week of living abroad so you can settle final utility bills, especially if you suspect some will have overages. If your foreign account is closed, the company will send you a check in foreign currency, and that’s just a pain. You can always use a US ATM to withdrawal any balance, and then send a letter to your bank once it is empty to request the account be deactivated and closed. Make sure you alert your bank ahead of time of your new US address and intent to close, and they should be able to downgrade the account to a free, no-monthly charge accounts.
Luckily, the return to the States is a lot more predictable than the other way around, but that doesn’t mean crossing the Atlantic and starting over (again) is easy. Think I might nest here for a while – and enjoy my new sofa.