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There’s been no shortage of stories of people packing up and moving since the start of the pandemic, whether it being to move home with family, move away from city centers, or give up leases after becoming unemployed.
Others have capitalized on the work-from-home trend to try out new cities or living arrangements, even nomading. Some places, such as Northwest Arkansas and Tulsa, Oklahoma are offering incentives if you move there. And since the start of the pandemic, people are moving like no other.
According to a 2020 Migration Report from North American Moving Services, people fled high-cost of living states like California and New York and headed for places with a lower cost of living, such as Idaho and the Carolinas.
Also, I must say people are getting smarter. Since they can work from anywhere, states with no state income tax, like Texas, Florida, and Tennessee (my last home!) were also among the top for inbound moves.
For those that are moving for good, buying a house, moving in with family, or renting an apartment, the costs can easily get out of control. Buying a home and moving go hand in hand, and it’s easy to shove your budget aside when you’re stressed about moving, escrow, closing costs, packing, etc.
Even if you’re just renting, typically the application fee, deposit, and last month’s rent are due upon move-in. The best option is to prepare as much in advance as possible. If you know you’re going to move, pare down your belongings, organize, and plan some time off. Allow wiggle room in your schedule to move. Moving can either be stressful or adventurous. It’s all in how you approach it!
Ways to Save Money on Moving Expenses
1. Check with Local Retailers for Boxes
While going to big box stores increasingly seems to be an activity of the past, they can still be gold mines for finding new, clean, and sturdy boxes.
Most of the inventory you see on the shelves at Target or Safeway comes in larger boxes for ease of transport. If you need larger boxes, consider a home furnishings store such as Bed Bath and Beyond, Restoration Hardware, or an electronics store.
Try to go in the morning just after they would have received the load, so the boxes have not been broken down or taken away by the recycling hauler already. Some stores do their inventory and stocking overnight, so call and ask when the best chance is to score some free boxes and packaging, too.
Also, with the increase of e-commerce, driving by distribution centers or recycling centers can also prove resourceful. This one step can easily save you over $100, depending on the number of boxes you need.
2. Move on Your Own
Hiring movers isn’t cheap, that’s for sure. The average price of hiring a mover is $25-$50 per hour, according to HomeAdvisor. To top that off, some customers even hire a company to pack their belongings for them, and then unpack after the move!
Understandably, if you have a large family or young children and not a lot of time, you may need to hire help. In that case, shop around, compare rates, look at reviews, and be sure to understand their damage insurance coverage.
However, if your family is able to help move, it can save substantial cash. When my family moved to a new home in 2010, I packed up everything over the course of six weeks, and it wasn’t too bad at all. Luckily, we had my uncle and several other family members who came to help load things into the truck and take smaller boxes in their cars.
Worried about heavier items like appliances? Check out these spiffy straps that can take the load off, literally, of the challenge of moving a heavy item with novice movers, like cousins who owe you a favor. Treat those who helped you to dinner, and they’ll be happy, as true family and friends will jump at the chance to show you their loyalty!
3. Optimize Your Move-In/Move-Out Dates
Let’s be real. If you’re taking possession of two places at once, even for a few nights, you’re wasting money. If your lease ends on the 12th, make sure you are in your new place and out of the old one by the 12th.
It helps to have your move-in/out day on a weekend or a day off, so you can get it all done at once. In my experience, the place you’re moving out of will give you some leniency, such as a 48-hour grace period from when your lease ends to when the final walkthrough and inspection occur.
Be sure to also give plenty of notice to service providers, like electricity, internet, and subscription services that you’re either moving your service address or cutting off the service completely. If you don’t do it in time, you might be paying for something you’re not even using.
If you’re selling or buying a home, these timelines can get a little messier, as you’re depending on the closing date, which is affected by mortgage funding, inspection, appraisal, counteroffers, etc.
Try your best to build in a grace period such as a 30-day leaseback, so you can have a month to find a new place to live if your home actually sells.
And whatever you do, never break a lease if you can help it. I had a neighbor pay $6,000 to break a lease when the pandemic started! Work with the management company to find a replacement to take over your lease if you must. Craigslist, Sublet.com, and CareTaker.com are great options for this as well.
4. Get Creative with Packing Supplies
Going out and buying a bunch of brand-new shrinkwrap, bubble wrap, etc is not the most economical option, not to mention incredibly environmentally unfriendly. During my last move, I used my clothes, towels, linens, and even shower curtain to wrap more delicate items. I call this a triple-win. Not only am I saving money by not buying wrapping paper or bubble wrap, but I’m also saving space in my boxes by wrapping belongings with other items that I need to take with me anyways, as well as moving in a zero-waste manner!
You can wrap your computer monitors with a beach towel, your bowls with t-shirts, and your mirrors with a comforter. Tie knots to make it more secure, or use something you already have like rubber bands, binder clips, or shoelaces.
5. Long Distance Moves Are Even Bigger Money Saving Opportunities
According to moving.com, the average cost of a long-distance move, meaning 1,000 miles or more, is about 3 times that of a local move, clocking in at just under $5,000. With it being a multi-day effort, moving yourself and renting a truck will award you your greatest savings.
You also want to make sure you take apart any furniture that you can, such as bed frames, desks, or entertainment centers, as these will be likely done by the movers if you don’t, adding to their labor cost.
You also want to make sure you take what I like to call your “camping supplies” in case the movers are late or don’t make it to your destination in time. Meaning, you don’t want to have your bed and everything sitting in a truck you can’t access, reverting to a pricey hotel room. You can just have a little slumber party in your new home!
Lastly, be sure to take pictures and an inventory of all of your belongings, as if you hire movers and something gets lost or damaged, you have time-stamped proof of your belongings that can go a long way with making a claim with insurance or directly with the moving company.
6. Use This As a Decluttering Opportunity
Surely you’re well aware by now that moving fewer items equals less cost of moving. Fewer packing supplies, less load/fuel costs, and less time for movers to be on your payroll.
People associate Spring cleaning with, well, Spring for obvious reasons, but don’t fall into whatever’s trendy. I used December as an annual reminder to clean out my closet for clothes to either donate or recycle so that I don’t get one of those closets where you can’t even see what the article of clothing looks like unless you take it off the hanger, what a hassle!
Now, I’m not going to tell you to KONDO everything in your home, just to take an inventory of what won’t make sense for this new chapter of your life.
Aside from the obvious recycling/donating of clothes, toys, and dishes, perhaps you won’t be needing a lawnmower for your move to a condo, or a vanity mirror for your powder room. Maybe those skis won’t do you much good in Arizona, or a snow shovel for that matter. Use this as a renewal, and take inventory of what you can happily go without for what you want your new life to look like.
7. Go Bargain Hunting in Your New Town
Even if you’re just moving to another neighborhood in your zip code, there may be items that are too cumbersome or costly to move, such as a raised garden bed, shed, or home theater setup. You can make a deal with the buyer if selling your home, or use something like Craigslist or NextDoor to give it to a worthy neighbor for a discount.
One thing that I did when I moved out of state, instead of paying for moving a couch, coffee table, barstools, etc, is that I looked on the free section of Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and even visited the disposal areas of luxury condo and apartment buildings.
I can feel the judgment, but hear me out! I was able to find brand new furniture with maybe a scuff or loose screw, and instead of it going to a landfill, I fixed it up and took it home.
I like condos and apartments because you have a high concentration of residents within a centrally located area for disposing of items, and you can figure out when trash day is!
Hotels are another great option. Check out any in your metro area that are going through a renovation, and usually they have many items like chairs, decor, and pedestal tables that are not trendy enough for their new design, but still in great shape. Sometimes they go to a landfill, sometimes to a furniture liquidator (another great option). So, instead of paying $500 for a coffee table and two end tables, you get it free! Standing lamps, wall art, plants, shoe racks, you’d be surprised at what you can find.
I hold the bar with rugs, pillows, cloth chairs, and sofas though, no need to bring anyone else’s dirt into your home!