The Broke Person’s Guide to Moving

If your plan for a low-cost move revolves entirely around asking friends and family members to pitch in, think again.

Do you have an upcoming move to plan for? You are not alone. An estimated 40 million people move each year in the United States and a whopping 80 percent of those moves happen April through September, with the summer months being the busiest.

Whether you are hiring movers or enlisting friends and family to help, moving can be expensive—and the more you have to move and the longer distance you have to move, the more the cost goes up. Think about it: You may have to hire professionals, rent a truck, pay for storage … and then there are the things you may not think about, like utility connection fees, buying replacements, and more.

It’s estimated that moving a one-bedroom apartment, for example, may cost between $200 and $500 while moving a four bedroom house may cost $800 to upwards of $2,000!

For those of us living on a budget, moving expenses can seem like a hardship—especially when you are forced to do so, like when your landlord suddenly decides to sell your rented apartment as condos. That’s why we’ve gathered some advice for keeping those costs as low as possible.

Do not pay for boxes.

Sure, you can pay for moving boxes, but why would you want to? “There are free boxes to be had,” says professional organizer Felice Cohen (@FeliceCohen). Ask friends. Ask family. Ask stores, says Cohen. They will often give you boxes for free since they are usually headed for the recycle bin anyway. Furniture stores, book stores, and other places that deal in heavy items are good bets. “Avoid liquor stores as some boxes may have gotten wet and may attract bugs,” says Cohen. “Food stores are okay, but check the boxes” to make sure they are not soiled.

Also, even if you are paying movers, try packing those boxes yourself. “The more you can have packed before the movers arrive the more time and money you’ll save,” says Cohen.

However, if you decide to pack up boxes yourself, be sure you are meeting the professional movers’ expectations. Packing fees are one of the top three areas of additional expense that Ryan Carrigan, co-founder of moveBuddha (@movebuddha), sees when consulting with people who are moving.

“If you plan on prepping and packing fragile items like flat-screen TVs or glass table tops, make sure you meet the mover’s packing standards,” says Carrigan. “We often see people pack these items improperly only to be charged a lot in packing fees when the movers have to repack them on moving day. Always ask the moving company about packing requirements.”

It’s also a good idea to start packing early. Taking time off from work, especially for hourly employees, to pack means you are losing money. The solution? “Pack during the evenings and move during the weekend,” says T. J. Peterson of Oz Moving & Storage (@ozmovingnyc). Limiting yourself to the evening hours means packing may take much longer than doing it all at once, so give yourself plenty of time before the big move.

Weigh the cost of a DIY move.

The classic cost-saving moving tip is enlisting friends and family. This is more easily done with shorter moves. But don’t be afraid to use your network. If you don’t have one yourself, chances are, someone you know has a pick-up truck or vehicle with a hitch—necessary for cheaper self-haul trailers.

If you can’t find a pick-up truck, consider looking into services such as Phlatbed, which is an app that allows hundreds of local vetted and background-checked drivers to bid on your job.

However, it is important to consider the potential costs of not hiring professional movers. “Cutting costs can have a high price,” says Peterson. “If an item breaks, or god forbid a bone breaks, as a result of amateurs trying to handle a move themselves, it can create additional unforeseen costs.”

Before deciding to DIY, it’s worth looking into professional movers in your area and collecting quotes. Get at least three quotes, and be sure to ask which factors affect the quote the most to see if you can reduce it.

It’s also worth noting that if you decide to rent a small moving truck and drive it yourself, you should be honest with yourself about your abilities. Driving a moving truck—or even towing a trailer—is not exactly like driving a standard vehicle. Traffic violations or an accident on the road could end up costing you more than you bargained for.

Additionally, while you may not have to pay friends and family an hourly rate to help you move, there are still costs associated with a DIY move, such as food and drink, gas, and truck and trailer rentals. Be sure to count all those up as you compare the cost of DIY to a professional move.

Get rid of stuff.

“Before you pack a single item, make sure you really want/love/need it,” says Cohen. “Remember, everything you take will have to be boxed, carried out, driven, carried into the new place and unpacked. Is everything worth all that time and money?”

Chances are, a lot of stuff is not. Now is the time to clean out your closets, cupboards, and attics. Clothes that you haven’t worn in years? Donate them. Spices that have since expired? Toss them. That pile of old electronics and cords? Find a local place to recycle them.

Pay particular attention to heavy and/or large items, like books and furniture. Unless you have precious family heirlooms, big items like couches, dressers, and other types of furniture may be more trouble to move than they are worth—especially if you are moving a great distance or are trying to get the move done with just the help of friends and family. Furniture can often be replaced easily and affordably on the second-hand market.

Try selling unwanted pieces before you move, either at an old-fashioned yard sale, to used furniture stores, or on online marketplaces such as Craigslist, Letgo, and Facebook. If you cannot sell them, donate them to organizations and charities that resell second-hand items. Sometimes, local organizations will even pick up your items for you.

But don’t get rid of everything!

There are some things that seem like trash until you consider their replacement cost. Cleaning supplies, for example, even when they are partially used. “Keep almost empty cleaning supplies,” says Cohen. “These supplies are expensive so don’t let them go to waste. Keep in their own box and use them to clean the home you’re leaving/and to use in the new place.”

Moving can be expensive, but you shouldn’t let it drive you deep into debt and leave you stuck relying on short-term bad credit loans and no credit check loans (like payday loanscash advances, and title loans to make ends meet. To learn more about saving money on everyday expenses, check out these other posts and articles from OppLoans:

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Ryan Carrigan is the Co-Founder of moveBuddha (@movebuddha)—the fastest and easiest way to plan a move online. With over a decade of moving experience, Ryan has helped thousands of people successfully complete local and long-distance moves.
Felice Cohen (@FeliceCohen), author of What Papa Told Me, a memoir about her grandfather’s life before, during and after the Holocaust, has sold over 30,000 copies worldwide and was endorsed by Elie Wiesel. Her newest book, 90 Lessons for Living Large in 90 Square Feet (…or More)” came about after a YouTube video of her 90 sq’ NYC studio went viral. 90 Lessons is a want-to guide motivating others to “live large” in any sized space. Felice has been a professional organizer for over 20 years.
T.J. Peterson is  Digital Marketing Manager for Oz Moving & Storage (@ozmovingnyc) in New York.


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