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Smart Money

10 Tips: How to Move on a Budget

Moving can be expensive, to say the least! We’ve got your back with 10 tips to move without breaking the bank.

Jackie Lam • December 28, 2021

While moving can be exciting – hey, new digs, new neighborhood, new possibilities — the hassle and costs involved can have you feeling bummed out more than giddy. The national average to move in the U.S. is $1,556. Certainly no small chunk of change.

If you’re short on cash, that, on top of packing your belongings, hiring movers, and all the logistics and tiny little details that come with uprooting, could up the stress factor. But not to fret! By thinking out-of-the-box and flexing your creative muscles, you can plan for a smooth move that won’t bust the bank. Wondering how to move cheaply? Here are 10 ways to move on a budget:

1. Purge, purge, purge!

The less stuff you have, the easier — and cheaper — it will be to move. If you’re not squeezed for time, go by way of Marie Kondo and see what sparks joy in your life, and what you need and use. Then get rid of the rest. In my last move, I downsized to smaller digs, which forced me to declutter. I managed to get rid of about a third of my stuff. To avoid getting overwhelmed, start with one room or category, such as gadgets, kitchen tools, and office supplies. Tackle each section one by one. 

2. Sell stuff you're getting rid of

Whatever you don’t want, consider selling to make an extra buck. That’s money that can go toward moving costs or back into your wallet. Check out popular online marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Letgo, and OfferUp. Not sure how to go about it? As learning is about imitation, check out other listings to get a feel for what details to include. Snap a photo, create a simple listing, and bam! You’re on your way to selling stuff you don’t need.

3. Donate what you don't want

You can also donate items to a local charity or non-profit organization. Just check its website or reach out to them to see what kinds of donated items they’re currently accepting.


Money nerd tip: If you’re taking an itemized tax deduction for 2021, you can get a deduction of up to $500. Just make sure you’re donating to a charity or group that’s a 501 (c) (3) organization, which means your donations are legit fully tax-deductible. And hold on to your receipts and records that you contributed come tax time! 

4. Pack yourself

It can cost anywhere from $25 to $40 an hour to hire pros to pack your belongings. And that doesn’t include the cost of materials. To save some money, first, see if you can gather boxes, packaging tape and other shipping supplies from neighbors or by doing an ISO (in search of) ask in your local Buy Nothing Group. You can also use towels, socks, soft tees and rags as packaging material. 

5. Rent your own moving truck

Of course, you’ll want to do this within reason. If you or your S.O. is confident with driving a truck or van, and you’re comfortable trekking the distance to your new stomping grounds, then consider it. Otherwise, the stress, hassle, and money saved might not be worth it. Reserving a truck or van as far in advance as possible can also help keep costs down. Otherwise, reserving one in the 11th hour means it could cost you a pretty penny, or you might not get the type and size rental you want.  

6. Fill up a cooler

If you’re uprooting and moving to another state, load up at the grocery store on food and drinks for meals and snacks. Fill out an ice chest with these goodies. That’ll save you bucks, plus the time you would be spending ordering food at drive-thrus or grabbing a bite to eat at a sit-down restaurant. To save even more, buy foodstuffs that are on sale, use cashback rewards on your credit card, and hunt for discounts and promo codes. 

7. Stay with friends

If you have family or friends who live along your travel route to your new place, see if you can stay with them for a night. Not only can it help you save, but you might be able to catch up with folks you haven’t seen for years. In our pandemic times, see what their safety policy is for guests (if they are open to having them). As they say, houseguests are like fish: after Day 3, they start to stink. Keep that in mind by not overdoing your stay, and leave the place better than it was before you arrived.

8. Get quotes from movers

Do a bit of comparison shopping to see which moving company offers the lowest rate. When getting quotes from movers, get a fixed quote rather than an estimate. By doing so, you’ll know exactly how much it’ll cost. Also, check the quote to see if there are any sneaky fees that were folded in. If so, put on your haggle cap and see if you can get a lower rate, any of these fees can be lowered or bumped off entirely. 

9. Research costs of using PODS

A POD could be a good alternative to schlepping your wares into a truck and hiring movers or doing it yourself. The cost of renting a POD container for local move hovers between $349 to $549, while a long-distance move could set you back from $999 to $2,999. Renting a POD and moving your stuff that way could be more cost-efficient if you don’t have a ton of stuff and are moving locally, but it really depends. While the price tag looks higher, you won’t have to pay for gas, meals, tipping movers, or spending the time driving a moving truck. All good, money-saving moves. 

10. Steer clear of moving on the weekend

Just like how wedding venues and Airbnbs are in higher demand on the weekends, and thus rates are at a premium, you can bet that moving on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday will be more expensive. Movers are in greater demand, so their rates will be higher. On top of that, you might be dealing with weekend traffic, which would mean paying your movers more for more of their time, plus flashing more cash on fuel.

If you have a flexible schedule and can work this into your schedule, great. Otherwise, it might be worth your while to take a day off from work. Beyond that, moving in the middle of the month or the middle of the winter will be cheaper, too. That’s because fewer folks move during those times.

FAQs

How do I save money before moving out?

If you’ve got a bit of lead time before you uproot and move into your new digs, make the most of it by squirreling away funds. To free up money, you can save by cutting back on daily living expenses.

No, you don’t need to resort to eating strictly cat food and beans to cut back. Looking at ways you can save without living a joyless, deprived existence. For instance, consider getting takeout one fewer meal a week, or dropping subscriptions you still pay for but no longer use. If you’re a Chime member, you can set up automatic savings.

How much should I save before moving?

As moving can be expensive, and cost an average of $1,556 (and anywhere from $900 to $2,300 and upwards), ideally you should save as much as you can to pay for shipping supplies, a moving truck or van rental, the cost of fuel, meals, a place to stay while you’re uprooting, and so forth.

To figure out how much you need to save, start by getting quotes on movers, packers, and all the other expenses that come with moving. Once you have a ballpark figure as to how much you’ll need to be stashed away for moving costs, figure out your target date.   

How much should I tip movers?

Unlike servers at restaurants or other service-oriented roles, where you tip 20%, there’s no set rule when it comes to how much to tip movers. However, there are a few ways you can go about figuring out how much to tip your movers. For one, you can go by a flat daily rate. For smaller, local moves, consider $20-$25 per mover, or $40-$60 for larger, long-distance moves. Or consider tipping $4-$5 each mover per hour of work.  

How to save on movers?

If you’re curious about how to move cheaply while hiring movers, move during the week, in the middle of winter, or in the middle of the month. You can also do your homework and get quotes from several moving companies. Look closely at the quotes, and make sure they’re fixed quotes, not estimates. You can also see if you can negotiate for a lower rate or have certain fees nixed.

Final Thoughts

Moving can be spendy, for sure. But when money is tight, by thinking out-of-the-box, getting creative and rolling up your sleeves to do some of the work yourself, you can figure out how to move cheaply. 

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