7 Tips to Save on Moving Costs
Ben Franklin famously declared that nothing in life is certain except death and taxes. But there was one unpleasant certainty he overlooked – moving. At some point in your life (probably at several different points in your life, in fact), you'll have to move yourself, your family and all your stuff to a new home. That process takes time, energy – and lots of money.
Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to lower the cost of moving (and with it, your stress levels). Here are seven painless ways to save money.
1. Ask for relocation assistance
If your move is job-related, your new employer may provide a stipend for moving costs. But if not, don't assume you're out of luck. During salary negotiations for a job in another city, factor in the cost of a long-distance move.
Moves spanning more than 100 miles can run anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000. That cost doesn't include packing supplies, a deposit for a new apartment, or all that Thai takeout you'll be ordering before you unpack your pots and pans.
2. Move during the fall or winter
You can't always control when you move, but if you do have some flexibility, relocate during the off season to cut costs. Moving is more expensive between May and September, when the weather is warm and sunny and kids are out of school – that is, when most people move.
If you relocate during fall or winter, you may be able to take advantage of movers' off-season rates or score deals on rentals from landlords desperate to fill inventory. Of course, there are downsides to an off-season move. Since fewer people move during these months, there may be fewer homes to choose from.
3. Lose the clutter
It seems obvious – the more belongings you get rid of, the simpler and cheaper your move will be. But people have a really hard time parting with their stuff.
For the sake of your wallet and your sanity, ruthlessly pare down your possessions before you start packing. Donate them to a local charity or sell them. Lighten your load by saying goodbye to the following items:
- Clothes you don't wear anymore
- Books you've already read
- Toys your kids have outgrown
- Gadgets you used once and forgot about
4. Shop around
It may be tempting to open up your checkbook to the first moving company you find, but be sure to get in-home estimates from at least three different movers. If you're moving out of state, Consumer Reports suggests that you only choose movers who:
- Are licensed through the Department of Transportation
- Have a carrier number from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
If you're staying in the same state, research your area's specific regulatory requirements and only deal with companies who hold the necessary certifications or licenses.
Keep in mind that it doesn't always pay to go with the cheapest quote. Some companies will offer an appealing rate, only to tack on arbitrary fees or even hold your belongings hostage in storage until you pay them. To prevent situations like that, read reviews and consult the Better Business Bureau to see if customers have filed complaints against a mover you're considering.
5. Don't pay for supplies
Whatever you do, don't shell out cash for cardboard boxes you'll use once and immediately discard. Instead, ask local stores if they have any boxes you can take off their hands. Most will be happy to give them up – the more they give away, the fewer they have to toss in the dumpster later.
Your neighbors might also be a good resource. Consider posting something on social media letting people know you're collecting boxes.
To protect fragile belongings, forget bubble wrap. It costs money and is bad for the environment. Reuse old newspapers or even linens and towels you need to pack anyway.
6. Take advantage of Media Mail
Here's a tip for all you bookworms out there – consider shipping your library instead of packing it. The U.S. Postal Service offers special rates to customers mailing books, DVDs, CDs and other sound or video recordings through its Media Mail service.
You can mail packages weighing up to 70 pounds, and the most you'll pay is $40 per box (keep it lighter than that and you'll pay significantly less – a 20-pound box costs around $12 to mail). By using Media Mail, you'll save money, space on your moving truck and your back.
7. Call in some favors
The cheapest way to handle a local move is also the most tried-and-true. Rent a truck and get a group of friends together to help you carry furniture and boxes (with the promise of pizza and beer at the end, of course). With your crew around, your move will be a lot less painful, and maybe even – dare we say it – fun?
Lizzette Jimenez is an Illinois-based agent with Owners.com, where home buying and selling is made simple. She has nearly two decades of experience in real estate. Prior to becoming an agent, Jimenez worked in strategic planning for a global insurance brand. In her spare time, Jimenez loves hanging out with her three kids and reading whatever she can get her hands on – assuming her 7-year-old bulldog isn't snoring too loudly, that is.