So, hopefully by now you have made it to USA successfully, have checked in at a hotel or at a temporary place of residence like a friend’s / relative’s home. You made it through the first two steps! That’s awesome, don’t you think? :-)
Of course, if you are anything like us, you’ll never really get “settled”, you’ll keep improving, decorating, creating etc, but at least at the end of following steps in this post, you’ll be able to live comfortably without “having” to do any more things.
A place to call home – Understandably the first thing on your mind will be a place to call your home. The research you have done while still being in India will help, but make sure you rent a car and visit shortlisted places before you finalize anything. As questions like
What are the different terms of lease agreement and find out relative cost to you over the year. Sometimes, if you are starting your lease in peak period (usually summer time) then you might want to consider a 6 month lease. That way, your term will end sometime in winter (non peak season) and your rent after 6 months will be lower. You might also want to consider a 6 months lease if you are not sure that you completely like the place and wish to know the locality better.
Find out what documents they need. Make sure you check the initial deposit etc too.
What is the criteria for breaking a lease or terminating. In case because of your job situation if you need to move, how flexible will the community be?
Check with community folks about which school they are zoned for. Check if the school has a bus route to that community if you are not planning to drop and pick up your kids yourself.
It’s also a good idea to check if the community has any kids play area or parks nearby.
(Update) Very important: Within 10 days of your moving (first time or even later) you must update your address @ https://egov.uscis.gov/coa/displayCOAForm.do for the records of USCIS. For anyone who is not a citizen of USA, but is living in the US on a long term visa, has to keep this site updated.
SSN – In USA, your Social Security Number is the key to a lot of money related things including your payroll and your taxes. So visit http://www.ssa.gov/people/immigrants/ and find out all the information about how you can go about getting it. In fact, you could start the process before even getting to US by following the steps given at http://www.ssa.gov/ssnvisa/whatyou_need.htm. Too bad we didn’t know about this when we came. Anyways.
Banks – It’s a good idea to choose a bank from whom you would eventually want to take a car loan from. Usually when banks give you a loan, they ask you to open a checking account with them and have your salary deposited in the same bank. Your loan application also becomes easier if you already have an account with them. We also found out that most of the banks needed some level of credit history for giving us loan, but we had “just arrived”, so it was a little harder to get a loan. https://www.dcu.org/index.html is what really helped us because their loan approval policy was much more immigrant friendly. Also their rates are great, so I would recommend going with them. The only down side is that their phone support is always too busy, so you might have to try several times before you get your loan finally done.
Car – For your first car in US, specially if you are budget conscious, it is a good idea to go for used cars. Make sure you do buy from a reliable business entity like authorized dealers etc, so you know you are not getting a scrappy deal. We did not opt for “company certified” though, because that would mean more cost to us. But it’s totally up to you here. For our first car, we chose a small car, but a newer model instead of an older one. This helped us get a good return value on it when we exchanged it for a bigger car (mini van). Here are some websites which will help you understand the value of car you are buying and compare it with what the seller is asking for:
Places to shop for your home
Target is good place for all kinds of shopping. It’s a good idea to ask one of your friends to let you use their redcard. You can pay for the shopping yourself, but take advantage of the 5% off. If you apply for the redcard at Target as soon as you come over, you might not get approved as they do need some credit history. After a few months when you have had a chance to build your credit history, you’d want to get this card on your own.
Amazon.com is online shopping place for things you are comfortable shopping online for (obviously) and are able to wait for things to arrive. It’s a good idea to take prime membership because specially during your first couple years, you will end up shopping every so often and the prime membership will give you free 2 day shipping.
Bed bath and beyond – is another good place and they do have 20% off coupons on website and they also come in emails.
For things like dinner sets, cutlery and small appliances, Walmart is also a good store.
Shopping list for kitchen – While you are just getting started, its best to go easy on the budget and shop only necessities. Here are some things you might want to consider.
Check if the apartment community has a microwave in the kitchen already. If it doesn’t, you might want to consider buying it.
Dinner set – set for 4 and includes tea / coffee mugs
Silverware (Spoons, forks etc)
Glasses for water and other drinks
Plastic bag clips – before you buy a whole lot of containers, these little clips will come in very handy for making sure your stuff stays good. Also, a lot of things like spices, yogurt (dahi) and protein mixes (or Bournvita) will come in really good reusable containers. So you might decide to not buy storage containers for kitchen for a long time.
Shopping list for Bedroom
Shopping list bathroom
Liquid soap dispenser
Bathroom storage (optional)
Rent – If you do not wish to invest a whole lot in furniture, it is a good idea to rent it. Places like Cort make it easy. Also if you move in around the time when some event (like labor day) has just passed, then chances are that most furniture stores will not have any significant discounts going on. In this case also, you might consider renting furniture instead of buying at least for the first few months.
USA calling / cellphone: We use Family Mobile (Walmart + T-mobile offering) for myself and my husband and we love it. Specially their prices!
For this one it is best to take recommendations from your local friends. We used Comcast in Tennessee and apart from their lengthy wait times on customer service calls, we did not have any complaints. We got good speed and used it for TV, Vonage, 2 laptops as well as 2 tablets. When we moved to Washington though, their speed could not keep up with 1 laptop + tv. So we have switched to Frontier. So far it is working well. Overall, I would recommend asking others in your community for this one.
We do have a television set, but we don’t have cable. We have a Roku streaming player and have taken netflix subscription (for English movies and cartoons) + we do have Amazon prime subscription (over 40,000 movies and TV shows, English) and we have taken dishworld subscription (Hindi). Meets our needs for Hindi as well as English news + sports + entertainment.
Alternatively, you might want to consider a Smart TV which comes with inbuilt support for channels like Netflix and Amazon prime.
Phew. That’s a long list. I sincerely hope it is helpful to you. If there is anything that I might have missed or something specific you’d like to know, please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment below.
Also, if you have any favorite sources or tips, please do share them for the benefit of other readers.
Thanks so very much!