3 Tips to Save (or Make) Money on Your Next Move

cartoon moving truck with a house on it with a red background

What do moving and a march through the Sahara have in common? There’s muscle exhaustion, lots of sweat, and the illusion that you’re closer to finishing than you are. So basically a lot.

But there is one big difference: moving can take a pretty hefty toll on your wallet.

From hiring movers to buying boxes and packing tape, moving can be expensive. And the cost comes at the worst time. You just paid your security deposit or mortgage down payment, so you’re especially low on cash.

So what do you do? Strong-arm a friend into helping out? (Maybe, but don’t forget to buy a pizza in return.) Take out a payday loan to cover the costs? (Definitely not.)

But don’t worry, because there are lots of ways to make a move easier on your back AND your wallet. And if you do it right, you could even earn money in the process.

We reached out and asked the experts for tips. Here’s their advice for a cheap move.

1. Downsize to Save Big!

This one is common sense. The more stuff you have, the more stuff you have to move. And while you may be reluctant to part with your beloved collection of ugly holiday sweaters, believe us, it’s for the best.

By getting rid of unwanted clutter, at the very least you’ll save yourself a few trips up and down the stairs. But having lots of stuff comes with extra costs if you opt for anything beyond a total DIY move. You’ll have to rent a bigger truck, hire more movers, and pay them to work longer.

So what’s the solution? Andrea Woroch (@AndreaWoroch), a consumer-finance expert, says it’s simple: downsize.

“Moving costs depend largely on how much stuff you have to move,” she says. “It’s a good idea to host a moving sale, post items on eBay and Craigslist, or otherwise donate unwanted stuff to avoid moving those items.”

Ryan Alfson (@AnotherDollarRy), owner of Just Another Dollar, can attest to this. He and his girlfriend moved from Minnesota to Colorado in 2016 and saved tons of money by getting rid of unnecessary belongings.

“As soon as we had determined we were planning to move,” he says, “we began looking at everything in our apartment and deciding whether we liked that particular piece enough to pay to move it 1,000 miles.”

And not only did he bring down his moving costs, he actually made money—both by selling items and by getting a tax write-off for donations.

“I sold our old books, movies, and video game collections through websites like Decluttr.com, Amazon trade-in, and eBay,” he says. “We sold and gave away some bulky furniture that we weren’t overly attached to to family and friends. Our old clothes, mismatched kitchen items, and other unwanted household goods were donated to our local thrift stores. Side note: the benefit of the tax write-off for many of these charitable contributions is probably higher than any garage sale proceeds we could’ve made.” Learn more about downsizing your stuff in our blog 12 Tips for Getting Rid of (and Selling) Your Extra Clutter.

2. Pack Creatively

Once you trim down your possessions, you’re ready to pack up your essentials. And you might think that buying cardboard boxes wouldn’t come with a big price tag, but they can get pretty expensive, especially if you need a lot of them. Oksana Tunikova, with the real estate company Rentberry (@Rentberry_), says this is a prime place for cost-cutting.

“One of the least reasonable moving spendings is paying for empty boxes,” she says. “Hunt online with services like Freecycle, U-Haul Box Exchanger or FreeCardBoardBoxes—they will give away boxes for free. Alternatively, ask your office manager or your friend’s office manager about boxes of printer paper. Big companies have plenty of boxes they don’t need, so chances are good they will be glad to give them away.”

Tunikova also suggests getting creative with packing materials.

“The vast majority of moving companies offer a packing service of their own,” she says. “If you have fragile or breakable belongings, you’ll sure want them to pack your stuff safely. The truth is that your tiptop bags, liners, clothes, and pillows can be a great packing material too, so there’s no need to pay extra.”

3. Time It Right

There are good times to move, and there are bad times to move. Like moving during a snowstorm or the hottest day of the year? Not a good idea. Duh.

But picking the right time to move can save you money, too. Tunikova suggests avoiding the weekends.

“Oftentimes, moving services charge more during the busiest periods,” she says. “As these services usually have a limited number of trucks, busy days force them to rent trucks from partner companies. Given that weekends make the most popular time for moving, prices go up on Saturday and Sunday. Take a day off and move Monday through Friday, and you’ll surely save yourself some money.”

Woroch also has a suggestion about timing your move: avoid the end of the month.

“This is a popular time for people to move and that means demand for trucks sends prices soaring. If possible, schedule your move for the beginning or middle of the month to find cheaper truck rental rates as well as savings on professional services. While comparing rates online for truck rentals, try adjusting dates to find the least expensive days.”

Another tip? If you go with professional movers, request a morning slot.

“This is especially true in the summer when moving crews are slotted for up to five or six move jobs in one day,” says Mike Glanz, co-founder and CEO of HireAHelper, (@hireahelper). “If your loading request ends up as their fifth move, even if you get the best crew in town, they’re going to be exhausted, work slower, and might even drop a thing or two. This is going to end up costing you in the end.”

4. Straight from a Mover’s Mouth

These are all great tips, but what does a moving company think about them? Well, Lavi Brill and Nimrod Sheinberg, two managers with NYC Movers Oz Moving & Storage (@OzMovingNYC), agree with quite a few.

6 tips for keeping moving costs down:
  1. By packing yourself, rather than having professionals pack for you, you’ll save money.
  2. Boxes can be found for cheaper than your moving company will provide them for you—look around.
  3. If you’re using movers, your goal should be to use their time as efficiently as possible. Most are paid by the hour so the less time they work the more you save.
  4. Be organized—the less movers have to organize things the better.
  5. Disassemble anything that won’t fit out the door so your movers won’t have to.
  6. Get out of the way—your help is well-meant but the movers have their own routine and you’ll likely just get in their way.
  7. The less you move, the better. Get rid of anything you can sell or donate that won’t break your heart to lose.
  8. Be flexible on dates—moving supply rentals and movers definitely are a supply-demand industry. Find a soft period of demand and you’ll find a great deal.
  9. Keep risk in mind. A totally DIY move is the cheapest, but amateurs can get a plethora of mistakes leading to increased costs. These include parking tickets, damages to their own items, damages to either building, supply rental fees, personal injuries, etc.

Bottom Line:

Moving doesn’t have to be something to dread. (It certainly isn’t worse than a water-deprived trek across scalding sand.) By preparing right and moving smart, you can save money—or even make it. Follow these expert tips and give your wallet and your back a break.

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Ryan Alfson (@anotherdollarry) is a CPA living in Denver, Colorado. Ryan and his girlfriend, Alyssa, own and write for the personal finance blog website Just Another Dollar. Our site focuses on guiding millennials to make smart financial decisions in their 20’s and 30’s. We aim to inspire readers by sharing our own in-progress journey to pay off over $100k in debt. We hope to see you there!
Lavi Brill (@OzMovingNYC) is the Director of On-site sales at Oz Moving & Storage. Lavi directs a staff of on-site estimators responsible for evaluating potential customers’ inventory and providing them with an accurate estimate.
Mike Glanz (@hireahelper) is the Founder & CEO of HireAHelper.com, a moving labor marketplace that debuted in 2007. Having worked in the moving industry for a number of years, Mike launched HireAHelper to provide consumers with a new way to move called Hybrid™ Moving – a cross between the affordability of moving yourself and the ease of paying movers to do it for you.
Nimrod Sheinberg (@OzMovingNYC) is the Vice President of Sales at Oz Moving & Storage. An experienced figure in the moving industry, Nimrod is responsible for day to day management of all residential moving sales operations.
Oksana Tunikova (@Rentberry_) works for a real estate startup Rentberry. She writes educational materials for landlords and tenants as well as articles about major trends in real estate. She is a guest author for HelloSign, Dwolla, CarpeDaily, and Miss Millennia Magazine.
Andrea Woroch (@AndreaWoroch) is a nationally-recognized consumer-savings expert, writer and TV personality who is dedicated to helping Americans find simple ways to spend less and save more without sacrificing their lifestyle. She is a regularly-featured contributor for popular shows like Today, Good Morning America, FOX & Friends and KTLA Morning News. In print and online, her advice has appeared in popular media such as New York Times, USA Today, Money Magazine, Cosmopolitan, People, Consumer Reports, Reader’s Digest and many, many more. Read more about Andrea at AndreaWoroch.com or follow her on Twitter.

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