Moving Sucks: The insider's guide to saving money when you move

Moving Sucks: The Insider’s Guide to Saving Money When You Move

They say the three most stressful times in a person’s life are death, divorce, and moving.  That’s right moving sucks.  Even if you are excited about the new house, new city, or new job, the process can still be one of the leading causes of stress in your entire life.

Since I’ve worked in the moving and storage industry for nearly a decade, and I just completed a move of my own, I thought I’d put together a quick guide on how to save money when moving in hopes it will help to ease some of that stress.

My family of three just moved from one city to another within the same state.  We had to be out of our old house before we had closed on the new house, so we had to shack up with my in-laws for nearly a month.  That meant we had to put our stuff into storage.

Tip #1 Storage:

When you put your stuff into storage, you are essentially moving twice so at the risk of stating the obvious, avoid this at all cost.  Negotiate for extended closing dates to allow yourself time to find a new place when you’re selling a house, or if you’ve already found a new home, carefully plan your closing dates so that you can move out of one house and directly into the new one with no time in between.  That alone can cut your moving cost in half.

Also, taking into consideration the cost of moving things into and out of a temporary residence and the cost of that temporary residence, storage can very quickly add significant costs to your move but unfortunately it is sometimes unavoidable.

Tip #2 Packing:

If you are considering hiring a professional mover, one of the biggest ways to save money is to do your own packing.  Professional movers/packers will do a quicker more efficient job (most of the time), but it’s expensive.  If you hire a mover, make sure they offer free used packing material.  Most moving companies recycle the used boxes and give them out to future customers that are packing their own stuff.  Ask to make sure your mover has this available before hiring them.  Packing your boxes yourself can save the average home-owner $1500-$2000 in the cost of their move.

If you are trying to DIY the whole move, then you probably won’t be granted access to a professional mover’s used box supply, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.  If you’re moving in the fall, winter, or early spring, which is considered the slow season, then they might have more than they need and would let you take a few.

Whatever you do, just don’t pay for boxes.  If a local moving company won’t give them to you for free, ask grocery stores, liquor stores, moving companies, electronics companies, friends, family, craigslist.  You can get free moving boxes. Some people actually pay moving companies to come haul away the empty boxes after they’ve unpacked. Believe me, people are happy to get rid of them.

Put a post out on Facebook. It’s very likely that someone you know has moved recently and has hoards of boxes in their garage just taking up space.

Tip#3 When to move:

If you plan to hire a professional mover, and you can control what time of year you move, then move in the fall or winter.  You’ll find the rates for both local moves (moves under 50 miles within the sames state) and interstate moves (moving from one state to another) are both dramatically lower in the fall and winter.  

The rates tend to start creeping back up each year in the spring and are at their highest in the summer when the kiddos are out of school and the real estate market is also at it’s peak.

Tip #4 The best of both worlds:

Moving services at most companies are à la carte. This means you can hire a professional company to handle only certain aspects of the moving process.  They could handle the packing of boxes and leave the actual transportation (loading, transport, unloading) to you, or  they could provide the labor to help you load a truck that you rent yourself.. Some companies will even drop off an empty trailer at your house for your to load. Then they come pick it up, drop it at your new house, and give you another couple days to complete the unloading.  Explore the different options and pay only for the services you don’t feel comfortable handling yourself.

*Super-secret industry insider bonus tip:

Want professional movers at half the cost?  Call a moving company, ask to speak with dispatch.  Tell them you want to hire a couple of cash workers.  They will ask you who you drive for. (They are assuming you are a driver for a moving company from out of town).

Be honest with them, and tell them you are just looking to hire some cash laborers for a local move.  Some dispatchers might turn you away, but many are on the lookout for work to keep their cash laborers busy and they will probably set you up with a couple of movers.  

Be sure to ask them what the going hourly rate is for cash labor and make sure you get their name. But be careful: This method has risk involved because you don’t get any coverage for loss or damage since your are hiring labor on your own and not actually through the moving company. But if you are willing to take the risk, this can dramatically cut down on moving costs.

Cashing in on this tip also means you’ll need to get your own moving truck but that’s pretty easy.  Call around to several local truck rental companies and find the best rates. It’s worth trying to haggle on these rates too.  Don’t take the first offer.

You can rent an automatic transmission, non-CDL moving truck pretty affordably and they aren’t difficult to drive. Don’t be scared.

Tip #4 Yard Sale, Yard Sale, Yard Sale!

The less crap you move, the less it’s going to cost you.  

My job is to go into people’s homes and tell them how much it will cost them to move. Quite often, people still have dozens of moving boxes in their basement still sealed from the last time they moved, years ago!  And now they want to pay my company to pick the boxes back up, and send them across the state, across the country, or even around the world.  It’s obvious this crap is of no value to them.  They haven’t even opened the boxes! Don’t waste your money shipping stuff back and forth all over the place if it holds no value to you.

Declutter before you move!

Take this simple 3 step approach to decluttering before your move:

  1. Identify the crap that no longer brings value to your life.
  2. Sell as much of the crap as you can.
  3. Donate or pitch the rest.

I strongly advocate donating over sending your crap to the landfill. But some crap is so crappy or out of date that some places won’t even accept it as a donation.

A clutter-free home is a happy home. A clutter-free move is a cheap move.

Happy Moving!


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