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How to Save Money on Moving

Posted By Jim On 09/10/2012 @ 7:10 am In Personal Finance | 10 Comments

I hate moving. I hate boxing up my stuff, sticking it in a moving truck (if you get it as scheduled), only to move it somewhere else to reverse the process. It’s so time consuming, something always breaks, and it’s invariably going to put a dent in your wallet no matter how frugal you are. And the worst part of it all has to be dealing with the truck rental company… my experience with Uhaul [3] is well documented on this site but often times you have almost no choice.

One thing I do know is that a moving company is expensive. When I moved to the Baltimore area from Pittsburgh, my employer, Northrop Grumman, footed the bill for movers. They came, they packed, and they shipped it four hours south at a cost of close to $4,000. I had a single room of stuff (really, half a roomful of stuff… I lived in a double at my fraternity) so the sum looked astronomical given what they moved.

I’ve yet to look to a moving company to help me move after that and I probably never will (never say never), but here are some tips for anyone looking to change their living situations in the near future:

Only Move What You Need

The best way to save on moving is to move less stuff. The only way you can do that is if you start getting rid of some of the things you don’t think you’ll need in your new place. We aren’t planning on moving anytime soon but periodically I take a look at the “stuff” we have in our home and get a little bit of some of the things we don’t need just to free up some space. This could be books we don’t have any need for (donate to the library, give to friends) to furniture that’s in a corner and is never used (Goodwill).

If you have a lot of furniture and you aren’t sure if you’ll need it, consider making a floor plan of your new place and seeing if all that stuff fits. If it doesn’t, donate it and avoid paying a hefty fee to move something you definitely can’t use.

Ship It

Books are notoriously heavy, despite their small size, and if you can’t donate or otherwise get rid of it, consider shipping it. Media mail rates are really cheap and if you’re going a long way, might be a more cost effective way of getting your stuff from point A to point B. This may also be the case with a lot of other items, depending on how far you have to go, and it’s especially good if those items aren’t fragile.

Shop Around

The most expensive way to move is to have the moving company pack up your stuff and do it all for you. It’s the most time intensive, so it makes sense that it would be the most expensive. If you can do some of the work yourself, packing it up into boxes, then you can defray some of the cost (if you use a mover, they won’t insure what you pack yourself). You should shop around to find the best deal and see if any moving companies are running promotions that could reduce the cost. If it’s still outside your budget, as they often are, you should consider renting a truck and asking friends…

Ask Your Friends for Help

When it comes to the actual move, you can save a lot of money by renting a truck and asking your friends to help you out. Be careful who you rent from and when you rent it, as you might be stuck without a truck if you’re unlucky. When you do get your friends to help, make sure you provide plenty of drinks and food. They’re helping you out, it’s best to reward them for their hard work. (and remember to repay the favor when they move)

Skip Bubble Wrap, Search for Free Boxes

Unless it’s fine china, skip bubble wrap and go with your own clothes. How many t-shirts do you have? How about towels? Use those to pack your items unless we’re talking glassware and other fragile items. You save money on not buying bubble wrap and you find a place to put all those clothes!

If you do need boxes and other materials, check on Craigslist or your local bulletin board for people looking to give away boxes or packing materials. Your local recycling center may have a lot of boxes you can reuse. The last thing you want to do is buy cardboard boxes, they can get extremely expensive, quickly.

Remember Tax Benefits

If you are moving because of work, check out IRS Publication 521 [4] because you might qualify for a tax break as a result of your move. There are three rules you need to satisfy:

  • Is it work related?
  • Satisfy the distance test?
  • Satisfy the time test?

The publication goes into much greater detail so if you moved as a result of work, check it out as you might have yourself a tax deduction for the cost of moving.

Do you have any good tips for saving on moving?


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[4] IRS Publication 521: http://www.irs.gov/publications/p521/index.html

Thank you for reading!