Whether you’re moving a few blocks or to another zip code, moving is one of life’s great expenses. But there are ways to cut costs while keeping your belongings—along with your proverbial arm (and a leg)—secure.
1. Be moving-company savvy
You’ll get the best deals by sidestepping peak moving season, which occurs May-September. “That’s when companies have the least capacity to move the greatest volume of customers, and they charge a premium,” says Linda Darr, president and CEO of the American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA). You’ll also pay more Friday-Sunday and at the end of every month. Keeping this in mind could save you 10-20% on your move.
“If you can, visit a company’s main facility before choosing a mover to weed out possible fly-by-night operators. Look for signs that there are systems in place, and that it’s clean and well organized,” Darr adds. The AMSA’s ProMover program furnishes a list of its recommended interstate movers. Alternatively, check a company’s reputation via the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or visit ProtectYourMove.gov for consumers’ rights info. And, before purchasing valuation insurance from your mover, call your renters or homeowners insurance carrier to determine whether you’re already covered.
Next, get estimates from at least three different companies in person, at your home. “There, a pro will spot items that need special handling—a backyard play set or plasma TV—and will add them to the estimate so there aren’t surprises,” says Darr.
And don’t wait until the last minute to do all this, or you WILL pay more.
2. Solicit low- or no-cost packing materials
Stock up on bulk low-cost supplies in warehouse clubs. UsedCardboardBoxes.com sells (and buys) recycled boxes at cut rates and ships them affordably. Better yet, forage free cartons from grocery stores, via Freecycle and Craigslist, or visit community-centric sites such as Curbly.com to uncover creative ways to find some near you. Check liquor stores, too, for cardboard castoffs. “Bottles are transported in sturdy boxes and are separated by Styrofoam inserts that are perfect for breakables,” says Kazz Regelman, coeditor of How to Survive A Move: by Hundreds of Happy People Who Did. Likewise, nix the need for pricey bubble wrap (around $19 for just 6 ½ feet) by using bed linens, dishtowels, pillows, and other soft domestics instead.
3. Do some of the work yourself
Packing and boxing—and even moving—some of your own belongings (think: linens, clothing, unbreakables) reaps considerable savings. On average, packing tackled by a moving company represents 25% of a total moving bill. So, even if you can’t pack it all, it pays to pack some. Keep in mind though, that movers are unwilling to reimburse for broken items in boxes packed by you and aren’t insured by the moving company against breakage, since you’re not a professional mover/packer, says Regelman.
If you’re moving close by, take as much as you can in your own vehicle—especially things companies can’t legally move, like cleaning products and charcoal grills. Self-moves (you pack, load, and unload—they drive), limited mainly to interstate relocations, cost less, too. Companies such as ABF U-Pack Moving and Broadway Express will drop off a trailer and/or containers, pick them up and move them to your new location. Pricing is based on the amount of trailer space or the number of containers used and the distance traveled.
4. Seek discounts and coupons
Traveling out of state? Chances are you’ll have to stop en route. Research hotels along the way and visit their websites for deals. NEA members can save up to 60% on hotels when booked through the NEA Travel Program. Collect coupon mailers and free offers from local merchants and use the U.S. Postal Service’s Online Address Change Service’s coupons and discount-code offers at local and national businesses.
5. Pare down, and raise money toward the cause
“Reduce your load: Weight and distance equals money,” says Darr. Holding a garage sale, selling your goods at a flea market or listing things in an online auction are good ways to allay costs. Music stores buy used CDs and albums, libraries accept books and new buyers or tenants might buy your spare items. But, “you’ll get the best bang for your buck,” says Regelman, “by donating unwanted items to a charity.” Sites like CharityNavigator.org and the BBB help you find organizations to trust. Larger groups, such as Goodwill Industries, Salvation Army, and Arc accept many items, and even do at-home pickups. “At garage sales, you’ll earn 50 cents for a piece of clothing and you’ll have tons left over. Enough gently-worn blouses, shoes and bedding could amount to hundreds given the IRS’s $5-$10 fair-value allowance,” Darr says. Request and retain an itemized donation receipt; submit it at tax time for a write-off.