Summer is often a time for moving. Apartment leases often end during the summer months, causing people to move to new apartments or into a house. People who bought houses in the spring often take a summer vacation to move to their new home. The weather usually cooperates, too.
Unfortunately, the process of moving is often an expensive one. When Sarah and I moved to our house from our apartment a number of years ago, the experience was filled with lots of little and big expenses as well as a lot of stress to boot.
Here are some smart things we did during our move or have learned while helping friends and family move in recent years that reduced the financial expense and stress of moving. Some of these strategies may not work as well during COVID-19 or with your particular situation, so, as always, treat these options as a buffet. Choose the ones that work for your situation and lean into them.
20 money-saving moving tips
1. Make a day-by-day plan well in advance of the move, and start early on the actual packing.
A day-by-day moving plan, where you break all of your tasks down into smaller pieces and do them as early as possible prior to the move, will save you a ton of stress and avoid many last-minute complications. It’s often those last minute complications that result in simply opening your wallet and spending a lot of money, something that would have been avoided with a plan.
Make a giant list of all of the tasks you need to take care of between now and the end of the move. Go back through and break down some of those tasks into smaller pieces. In general, a good task for a checklist is something that can be completed in one sitting in 20 minutes to an hour. Then, order that list so that you have a few tasks each day. Put ones that can be done well in advance early in the list, while others that need to wait until close to the move date near the end of the list. Then, each day, take care of the top two or three items on the list. You’ll find that doing this makes each day easier to tolerate and not overwhelming at all, plus when you get close to the big day, there’s little left to do and you’re not super stressed out. It’s such a great way to avoid last-minute stress and extra expenses.
2. Purge your possessions as you prepare to pack.
Rather than just packing up everything in your home for the move, carefully consider which items should actually make the move with you and get rid of some of them.
Do you really need all of those clothes? This is a perfect chance to pare down your wardrobe and donate (or sell off) some of the extras. Do you need all of those books, DVDs or video games? Again, donate the ones you probably won’t look at again.
You probably don’t need a lot of the random things that were cluttering up your closets, either. You’ll also probably find a lot of unused items as you clear out the kitchen and the bathroom and the medicine cabinet and … well, every single spot where you store things.
Just dump lots of stuff. Consider this not only a move, but a chance to freshen your whole life a little. Doing this now will make the move much easier and make your new space feel so much more open and inviting rather than cluttered up with stuff from day one. You’ll also likely spend a lot less on moving expenses, too, and you might even make a few bucks if you can find an easy way to sell off some of the items.
3. Ask on social media for boxes and other packing materials before buying any.
Rather than going to an office supply store or a moving company to buy a large quantity of cardboard boxes and other packing materials, start by putting out a call on social media to your friends and family in the area. Do they have any extra cardboard boxes or newspaper or magazines that you could use for packing material? Just ask them to sit it out on their front step at a certain time and you’ll come and collect it.
Repurposed boxes drastically reduce the expense of packing up your possessions for a move, but don’t stop there in terms of repurposing things.
If you still can’t find enough boxes, check Box Cycle instead of buying boxes in bulk. In many communities, you can find a lot of moving-ready secondhand boxes for a low price using that service.
4. Use as many repurposed packing containers as you can find.
When you’re packing things for a move, think outside the box. Cardboard boxes are great, but you likely have many things around your home that can be used for packing.
Laundry baskets, for example, work great for carrying a wide variety of items. Duffel bags work great for packing, as do backpacks. I’ve moved using milk crates and small cabinets for packing, too, by just using tape to secure the drawers.
The key is to pack the material well inside of the container, and that can be done quite inexpensively, too.
5. Use cloth items as packing material around fragile items.
When packing, don’t rely on newspaper or styrofoam as your sole method of protecting items. Instead, use materials like towels, clean clothes, bed sheets and mattress pads to protect more fragile items.
Not only does this save you from the expense of acquiring lots of packing materials, your total volume of packed materials will take up less space because you don’t have boxes or bags full of towels and t-shirts. Even better, you don’t have the effort or cost of dealing with all of those packing materials after you unpack — you just fold up the clothes and towels and other items you used for packing and put them away.
6. Do as much of the packing yourself as you can.
One of the advantages of having a clear “packing plan” is that it divides up the tasks into meaningful batches that you can gradually do yourself, provided you start with some time in advance. This lends itself well to a full “do it yourself” move, where you are paying movers as little as possible to do the work for you.
Another really useful tip: as you pack, label the boxes and packages with the destination room so that when they’re unloaded, they can be taken directly to the area of your new home that the items belong in.
Moving companies will often charge as much as $100 an hour to simply move your stuff around for you, a task you can easily do yourself if you give yourself some lead time and breathing room.
So, when you look at your “packing plan,” try to do as many of those tasks yourself. Try to avoid paying people to fill your boxes or move your boxes, because that will rapidly extract money from your pocket.
Of course, doing it all yourself can be a little overwhelming, especially during the crunch of the move.
7. Enlist friends and family to help with the move (and treat them well).
If you’ve taken care of most of the packing in the days leading up to the move, asking for help for the simple task of moving items into and out of a truck or a container is something that many friends and family are quite happy to do. All you have to do is ask (ideally with plenty of notice).
When people do help, make sure to take care of them. Order some pizzas and have some beverages available for them as thanks for helping out with all of the labor.
The nice thing is that if you have several people helping, you can actually do a lot of loading and unloading extremely quickly. We were able to load up the full contents of our first family home into a truck, drive to a house a few towns away, and unload everything in a single day thanks to help. That saved a lot of money on truck rental.
8. Got family and friends who want to help, but aren’t up to the task of moving stuff? Ask them to babysit or watch your pets.
If you have friends and family who want to help but may be unable to do so, ask if they can watch your pet or your children while you focus strictly on moving. This not only provides them with a task that’s genuinely useful, it also frees you up to focus on managing the move itself.
During the big day of our move, we actually took our children to daycare (because we had prepaid for it anyway), which got them out of our hair for most of the day. With our pets, we had them stay with neighbors while we were loading, packed up the pets last of all, then set up a room for them pretty quickly when we arrived at our new home so that they could settle in a little while we moved our stuff in.
9. Consider renting a moving container rather than a truck.
When moving, many people need a moving truck and even professional movers to move all of their possessions. However, when you’re shopping around for options, consider the possibility of a moving container instead.
A moving container is often deposited at your home several days before the move. You then fill it yourself over the course of those days with your possessions. On the day of the move, the container is loaded onto a moving truck, then deposited at your destination for several days, giving you time to slowly unload.
This is a good alternative to hiring a team of movers if you don’t have a lot of help with your move. Giving yourself a few days to load and then unload a container is often a lot cheaper than paying a team of movers to load and unload a truck.
10. Check with your real estate broker and see if they have a moving truck that they lend to clients.
In my area, several real estate brokers — representing people shopping around for a house — have moving trucks available to their clients as a “perk.” If you buy a house using their broker, then you gain access to the moving truck on the day of your big move. Other real estate brokers offer discounts with companies like Penske or U-Haul that offer moving trucks.
If you’re using a real estate broker to help you find a home, ask if they have a moving truck that they lend to clients after they buy a home. You may just find yourself with a free (or heavily discounted) moving truck to use on the day of your big move.
11. Ask for fixed prices rather than estimates when shopping around for moving services, and negotiate.
If you need a moving service, moving truck, or moving container, you should definitely call around and ask for prices. However, instead of getting vague quotes, ask for a fixed price for the service you’re asking for.
Nail them down on an exact number based on the specifics of your move. What is their exact daily rate for a container that will be moved on a particular date? What is their exact hourly rate for their service? Don’t settle for estimates — get a firm fixed price so that they can’t “gotcha” you at the last moment.
12. Use up as much of the food in your house as possible in the days leading up to the move.
Ideally, you shouldn’t be using your moving time to move a lot of consumable food items or other household items. Aim to eat up as many of the items in your home as possible in the weeks and days leading up to the move, and attempt to minimize the nonperishable goods you have to move as well.
Not only does this save you the effort of having to pack up food items and other goods, but it also reduces your costs significantly in the weeks and days leading up to the move. If you can lean into your food supplies for a week or two of meals, you’re not spending money on takeout or at the grocery store, plus you’re reducing the volume of food that you’re moving with you.
Aim to have an empty refrigerator and nearly empty pantry shelves when you move so that you’re not using time or space to deal with those items. You can stock up again after you move.
13. Be thoughtful about moving appliances, particularly older ones, as well as anything heavy or large.
With your appliances and large furniture, ask yourself whether this item really makes sense to move. Will it fit into the place you’re wanting to move it to? Is it in good enough shape to safely make the trip? Is it nearing the end of its lifecycle anyway?
It’s not worth the effort to move a washer that’s on its last legs, for example. It takes up a lot of space and involves a lot of moving effort, which can translate into expense if you’re using a moving company. Instead, aim to replace it after your move, perhaps using some of the money saved from not taking it with you and from the other steps in this plan.
14. If you’re moving locally, move as much stuff as you can in your own car over several trips and ask a friend with a truck or van to help with larger items.
If you’re moving locally and have been planning ahead a little bit, you can potentially do most or all of the moving by simply making several car trips, or even doing a cycle of car trips with some friends and family. This completely removes the expense of a moving truck or moving container from the equation.
If you have some larger items that don’t fit in your car, see if you can find a friend with a truck who would help you move that handful of items that just won’t fit.
15. Talk to your insurance company and make sure that your possessions are insured during the move.
The reality is that no matter how careful you are, the process of moving does put some of your possessions at risk of being damaged. A good homeowner’s or renters’ insurance policy should cover your possessions during a move, but you’ll want to make sure that your policy covers both the place you’re leaving and the place you’re moving to as well as your possessions during the move.
You can take care of this with a few quick phone calls in the weeks leading up to your move. Simply explain to the insurance company that you’re about to move and that you want to make sure your policy covers everything. Many homeowners policies will cover you in this situation, but you should make absolutely sure to protect yourself against a catastrophe.
16. Pack up electronics in their original packaging (if you still have it).
Electronics are particularly risky when moving. Things like televisions and sound systems and large computer monitors can easily break during a move if you’re not extremely careful.
The best way to package items like that is in their original packaging if you still have it. Packaging for televisions and computer monitors are a good thing to hold onto for a year or two (at least) after buying the item just for this reason: it makes moving that item much more secure.
17. Try to move in the middle of the week and in the middle of the month.
Many people plan out their moves to occur on weekends, and because of that, moving trucks are typically more expensive to rent on weekends. The same thing is true for months — many people plan their move for the end of a month so that it will line up well with the end of a lease, and rental truck companies are aware of that and will charge more.
Avoid all of that by simply moving in the middle of a week early in the month. If you’re dealing with a lease that will end at the end of the month, use the remaining time to ensure that the place that you moved out of is super clean so that you maximize your chances of getting your deposit back.
18. Choose your utility shut-off dates carefully so that you don’t wind up paying for an extra month.
This goes in line with choosing a smart moving date, as described above. Contact the utilities at both the place you’re moving out of and the place you’re moving into in order to plan shutoff and start dates that line up with your move and also ensure that you don’t pay for an extra month of service.
I’ll give you a great example of this: garbage service. It is a good idea to have garbage service end right as you’re moving out, perhaps leaving the can by the road as you leave so your last garbage and the trash can are picked up by the garbage service. Not taking care of that loop may mean that you have garbage service you’re not using for another few weeks or that you’re stuck with no garbage service right as you’re trying to move out (which can be really problematic).
Decide for each service when you could live with having the service end and when you’d ideally like it to end (as well as when you want each service to start at your destination), and then line that up with your billing cycles to the best of your ability.
19. Try to repair minor issues in your new home yourself (or with the help of a friend or family member) without calling a repair service.
This is true both for the home you’re moving into and the place you’re moving out of. For minor issues when you move in, you’ll gain a lot of valuable insight by just repairing it yourself; knowing how to do that is a great skill to have, particularly for a homeowner.
For the place you’re moving out of, fixing minor issues by yourself means that you’re much more likely to get the deposit back on a lease or to decrease any services you might have to hire to get the place ready to sell. In either case, doing it yourself can directly translate into money in your pocket.
20. If you have reusable moving boxes, don’t just throw them away.
If you just moved into a new place and have a bunch of boxes from your move, you may be tempted to just toss them. Don’t do that.
Instead, consider giving them away in the new community you moved to. Join a social media group for your new community, introduce yourself, and offer your boxes to anyone getting ready to move. This is a great way to get a very positive impression in the community right off the bat and perhaps establish a few new relationships.
In some areas, you can sell moving boxes using sites like Box Cycle, but this doesn’t work well in all areas and you may find more value in just giving them to someone nearby who’s moving out.
Moving can be expensive, but there are lots of little things you can do to really cut that expense.
The key behind all of this is planning ahead. The first step is absolutely key – start planning early, give yourself several tasks to do each day, and move through that checklist. You’ll be able to do lots of things listed in this article and by the time you’re ready to move, most of the tasks will be already complete.