1. Planning & Money Transfer: Plan for the first few days. Two key meetings were the pre-completion walkthrough inspection and completion itself. Moving money and converting to dollars will take longer than you imagine: ask all UK & US banks & currency converters about timescales, costs and maximum amounts that can be transferred per day, so that the full amount is cleared with the builder’s US bank 24 hours before completion.
2. Phones: The moment you start buying items for delivery or services such as cable TV, you will need a mobile (cell) phone number. Your choice is a contract phone or pay-as you- go. Being part-time in the US, we chose the latter. Verizon do a $2 per day, unlimited use, but only charge on the days you use it. Or try Tracfone, $10 for the phone and priced per minute depending on card purchased. For landline calls, try Rebtel and cheapestcalls.co.uk. Skype or FaceTime are free.
3. Coupons: Many shops have a loyalty scheme with coupons by mail & email. Join their scheme before you start spending: BestBuy, Bed Bath & Beyond, Bealls and Savon Furniture all offer deals.
4. Electrical: You may not have gas in the home, with electricity costing $50+ per month when you are not there, to run the AC and any other appliances you leave on. Install/upgrade to a humidistat to stop mould growing. Turn off fridge and water heater when away.
5. Furnishings: Buy your TVs at Walmart – hands-down the best for price! But for other items shop also around in BestBuy, Target, Kohls, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and Ellenton Premium Outlets. Consider a CD/ Radio that has an internet connection so you get BBC radio.
6. Walkthrough inspection: You will need to inspect your new home and produce a snagging list. Create a checklist in advance of everything in every room to be looked at - we spent five hours on the day before the run through with the builder, doing our own checks. Buy an electrical testing kit from Walmart to check sockets and switches. Buy a ladder tall enough to get into the attic.
7. Furniture: There’s actually not that much style choices so do your research - don’t buy the first thing you like. Try Savon and the Macy’s Furniture Clearance Centre – and haggle! Delivery is often $70-$100 so concentrate your purchases and consider hiring a minivan for your first 2 weeks for the large TVs, Ikea packs and even a bed settee!
8. Cable TV & Internet: Again, research choices. For TV the choice is satellite dish reception from DirectTV (poor internet speeds); or cable from Verizon or Bright House Networks. We chose a Verizon TV/internet/phone bundle - relatively expensive compared to the UK. For a fee you can suspend the service when not in use.
9. Services: Join the Library. You are a homeowner so show your title deeds and photo ID and get 50 items out on loan at a time for free! When you are away, redirect your post for free for up to a year. The local post office will have a form to fill in (this also contains coupons such as 10% off at BestBuy – maybe $100 off your fridge - so ask early on!). Then phone the post office a week before you return, to cancel.
10. Fun! Finally, after the hard work it is time to relax. Spend a day at the beach. Use the free trolley bus to explore Anna Maria Island. At least once try the Bang Bang shrimp (or chicken) at the Bonefish Grill on Wednesdays for only $5. And for a nice ale, try Sam Adams Boston Lager from Total Wine at a heavily discounted price.
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