How to Save Money (and Your Sanity) in the Moving Process

August 11, 2015

Just got your first house? Moving into a bigger apartment? Congrats! Now comes the hard part -- physically packing and moving all your stuff.

With my most recent move (one that will hopefully by my last), I realized I have moved 10 times in the last 20 years. It didn’t seem that ridiculous while it was happening, but looking back, that's pretty impressive. Surely I'm an expert at this point.

I've learned how to purge and pack better. I’ve learned that you don’t need all of your kids’ artwork -- even though it’s hard to get rid of those 8 ½ x 11 sheets of paper with two squiggles on them. I’ve learned that if you can afford it, it’s totally worth it to get movers. I’ve also learned that I’m a terrible control freak when it comes to people touching my things.

All that said, there are ways to making moving less painful. So whether you are moving across the country, state, or just up the street, you can simplify the transition so you can actually enjoy moving into a new home.

Start with these questions:

What is the timeframe and how much do I have to move?

These are all very important questions you should ask yourself. Look around. What size is your current place? A studio may only take 2-4 hours to pack whereas a 5-bedroom home can take 12+ hours to pack. If you have at least a month, you should be pretty good on time, if you only have a couple of weeks, it might be a little tight. Jobs and family clearly take time out of your week and if you have a full plate, you don’t really want to be stuck packing every weeknight until midnight. Plan ahead and remember -- it’s never too early to start.

Where can I find boxes?

One of the best ways to get cheap or free boxes is going to grocery stores and liquor stores. They generally have great sturdy boxes and if you catch them, they can give you some or all of them. It’s less work for them if you take their “garbage,” so give it a shot.

Do you work in an office? Paper boxes are perfect for things like books, music, and movies. They are sturdy enough but don’t hold too much so you can actually carry them without breaking your back. Do you know someone who has recently moved? Reuse their boxes or bins and packing materials. It will save you a ton and you could always gift them food or drinks as a thank you.

How much do I have to spend on the move?

Do you have anything saved up for your move? Consider putting some money towards movers, if possible. We hired a few for $85/hour and it took them a little over 4 hours to load a 2 bedroom house into the truck and deliver and unload at the new house. Granted, the old house was only one mile away from the new one, but it can be a great deal -- especially when it saves you so much time.

Don’t really have the funds to splurge on movers? Look into companies like UHaul to rent a truck. If you only need it for one day, it can be pretty cheap when you pay the base cost of $20-40 plus mileage.

If you are moving long distance, another option is getting a pod. There are a variety of different pod services around the state. You pack the pod, they move it, you unpack it. This is a better option for long distance but not necessarily for local moves. If they need to store your pod for you, the price can increase dramatically. Again, planning is your best tool here.

Don’t have a lot to move and  have a little time to spare? The cheapest way to move will always be doing it all yourself. Get a friend or two (hopefully along with at least one truck) and get moving. Pizza and beer seems to be the moving day staple, so the cost of feeding your crew and gas is the extent of your expenses.

What can I live without?

Purge, purge, purge. I can’t say it any clearer than that. I find that in my moves, I always purge before the move and I end up purging at least a little bit after the move. You get to the new place and something doesn’t fit? Purging is better than forcing it to fit. And doing it beforehand makes it so you don’t have as much to move.

If you start purging early on, you have time to have a garage sale, donate items to charity, or sell them on Craigslist (or even post it on FB if you prefer to deal only with people you know). We were combining households, so I ended up getting rid of a lot of things that we collectively had duplicates of. Remember: if you purge in advance, the money you receive from selling unwanted items can help pay for your move or purchasing what you need for your new space.

Purge, pack, move, unpack, purge. It’s a great way to start fresh and enjoy your new home with just the right amount of memories built in. The day we got movers to move my husband’s house was amazing. Much easier than the two days we needed to get my place moved over. That said, we got a taste of both, and my place wasn’t nearly as organized as his was so I know it wouldn’t have been as smooth of a move with the movers.

Overall, planning is your best weapon to attack a move. Even if it's a rough process, keep your eye on the prize -- a new home.