I tried using OpenAI’s ChatGPT to help me move across the country

When you hit your 20-somethings, nobody tells you how to adult. So now, four months away from the end of my lease, I need to figure out how to move across the country for the first time by myself. I could ask my parents, but where’s the fun in that — I am a big boy after all. This means obviously, as a reporter for an esteemed tech outlet, the solution is artificial intelligence.

I mean why not, right?

Big Tech has spent billions of dollars trying to find meaningful ways for us to incorporate generative AI into our lives. So, why not use generative AI as my personal assistant and financial planner during my cross-country move from Austin to Chicago?

In theory, moving to a new city is an ideal test of the tools OpenAI claims ChatGPT to be good at, especially now that it can access the internet, users can upload attachments and photos, and can be custom-built for specific needs. If ChatGPT can’t ease some of my burdens when it comes to budgeting, searching for, financing, and driving to a new apartment that’s more than 1,100 miles away, then perhaps it’s not worth the GPUs it’s built with.

Step 1: Budgeting

Even before we look at apartments, I need ChatGPT to help me save money. On top of paying rent and utilities between now and June 1, I also started paying back my student loans in January, which runs me a cool $200 a month until the 2040s.

My goal is to paint a broad picture of what I need to do financially to have the money to make my move as stress-free as possible. ChatGPT — and, thus, this experiment — is inherently limited because the AI can’t do all the financing for me. As much as I would love, in theory, for this AI to take care of my budgeting fully, it can’t; nor do I feel comfortable allowing OpenAI to have access to my sensitive financial data.

Truly, this might be way above ChatGPT’s pay grade considering it’s a conversational AI with a hallucination problem (and not an arithmetic machine), but I gave both AIs the prompt specifying what I’m trying to achieve and asked it to calculate “how much I need to save from each paycheck to reasonably move to Chicago.”

The AI was game to help.

image of a wall of text

You gotta be as specific as possible. The AI’s don’t appreciate having to do financial guesswork.
Credit: OpenAI via screenshot

The big challenge was getting numbers that were realistic to my current situation — especially when it came to dates. Between the time this was written and when my July 1 move-in date arrives, I’ll receive 7 paychecks. During testing, if my prompt didn’t specify July 1, 2024, ChatGPT would assume I meant July 1, 2025, and calculate for a year’s worth of money. And even when I am specific about the dates, the AIs may still just hallucinate random numbers, like when ChatGPT randomly calculated for 10 pay periods instead of the 7 I’d specified.

The math was a little spotty, but with some tweaking to the prompts, ChatGPT gave me the ideal number that I should save based on my income and recurring payments. This matched up with the math I did by hand, which admittedly doesn’t mean much — that’s why my degree is in journalism and not STEM.

Step 2: Finding a place

Now that I know how much I need to save, I need to get a shortlist of places that fit within my budget. My range for rent for my next apartment is $1,000-$1,500. I’m not looking for anything fancy in the Windy City, but a studio/1 bed with an in-unit washer/dryer would be perfect.

Unfortunately, OpenAI has slowly wound down plugins so we’re going to have to rely on CustomGPTs, an evolved version of plugins that allows users to create their own chatbots, to specify our real estate needs for this experiment. I used three different CustomGPTs: Apartment/House Rental Finder, Apartment Scout, and Apartment Finder.

So far, the running trend with these GPTs and this experiment, in general, is I need to be extremely specific — which ruins the fun for me, because I’m trying to offload all my thinking to the robot. It’s clearly a worse experience than just Googling. For instance, Apartment Scout gives a bulleted list of neighborhoods, and when I tell it which one I like, it goes:

It looks like I’m encountering some technical difficulties accessing the specific rental listings directly from the sources I usually rely on. However, you can find suitable studio or 1-bedroom apartments within your price range and criteria by checking out popular rental websites such as Zillow,, and

image of a wall of text

What do you mean go somewhere else?
Credit: OpenAI via screenshot

On another attempt, it provides a few links to actual apartment listings.

image of a wall of text

Now it wants to act right.
Credit: OpenAI via screenshot

At least this GPT provides a link for me, unlike Apartment/House Rental Finder, which uses Craigslist to find apartments that specify my needs and then will tell me to go there myself if I ask for links to the apartments it listed.

image of a wall of text

Very helpful.
Credit: OpenAI via screenshot

Ultimately, Apartment Finder was also not of much help and also told me to go somewhere else to find what I needed.

image of a wall of text

Credit: OpenAI via screenshot

The results (or lack thereof) are not surprising. ChatGPT was designed to tell the user whatever will make the user feel happy or smart, rather than be any sort of leader or authority, so if you are unsure about the broad strokes of where you want to live, then you’re not gonna have much luck.

I’ll guess I’ll stick to late-night scrolling on Zillow.

Step 3: Packing and Planning

The final step of this move is the packing and planning of the drive. One of the perks of ChatGPT is that you can upload pictures now, so I decided to see if showing ChatGPT my room would help it give me advice on how to pack up my belongings for the move.

Short answer: It didn’t. Long answer: It didn’t, and instead gave me generic advice on how to rip apart my room:

First, declutter the room, separating items to keep, donate, or discard. Gather moving supplies: boxes, bubble wrap, packing paper, tape, and markers. Pack items from least used to most used, labeling boxes with contents and destination room. Dismantle furniture, wrapping pieces in moving blankets or bubble wrap. Protect the electronics with bubble wrap and place them in boxes. Roll up the rug and secure with tape. Pack the artwork with bubble wrap and place in picture boxes. Use wardrobe boxes for hanging clothes and suitcases for others. Pack a box of essentials separately. Clean the room once emptied.

This advice, especially that neat tidbit about rolling up the rug in my room, wasn’t all that useful (hint: my floor is carpeted).

image of a wall of text

Don’t mind my room, it’s a little dirty
Credit: OpenAI via screenshot

Okay, well, that was a bust, so what about the drive? Unsurprisingly, this is where ChatGPT was the most helpful. I gave it two scenarios: one where I use a rented U-Haul to drive to Chicago, and another where I keep my car. According to the U-Haul website and the math done by ChatGPT, renting and driving a U-Haul costs around $700+.

image of a wall of text

The mover’s dilemma: Sell all my stuff or spend $700 on a U-Haul?
Credit: OpenAI via screenshot

If I drive my car, a 2012 Dodge Durango, the cost of just the gas is only around $240.

After calculating costs, ChatGPT gave me some routes to take. Of course, that information is superfluous since I can use Google Maps anyway, but it’s nice to know now where my little adventure will take me. According to my friend from Illinois, the drive from Austin to Chicago is not great, so I’m glad ChatGPT told me to have some podcasts on deck to keep me entertained.


Here’s the TL;DR: Don’t use ChatGPT to plan a move across the country.

It’s not that ChatGPT can’t be helpful, cause it can. The chatbot helped me visualize a broad overview of my finances and gave me some useful tips and tricks for packing and route-planning. However, you need to be so hyper-specific with the prompts that all that time tinkering could be spent, you know, planning your move yourself.

Wanna use the CustomGPTs to help find apartments? Sorry, they’ll just tell you to use Zillow. Wanna use ChatGPT to pin down how much to save out of your paychecks? Unless you’re willing to get into the weeds about your financial security, good luck getting it to not just make shit up — and even then it still might. Of course, these chatbots aren’t designed to do life for you, but this exercise was somehow more frustrating than I thought it would be.

I guess I’ll call my parents for help after all.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *