6 strategies to save money while moving

Saving a Bundle on Moving
Saving a Bundle on Moving

By Trent Hamm

There comes a time or two (or more) in everyone's life when they have to pack up their belongings and change their place of residence. Whether it's due to career changes, personal life changes or something else, it's time to move on.

However, moving can be expensive. This becomes more true as your family grows and your possessions accumulate. We're not talking about the new rent or the new mortgage or the new insurance here, but the simple moving expenses that can really add up. Here are six strategies to make your move less financially painful.

1. Sell, Sell, Sell

There is no better time than the months before a move to go through your possessions, figure out what you don't use and sell it off. You should evaluate every item you own, and ask yourself honestly whether or not you will ever use this item in the future. If so, is it worth keeping it rather than just borrowing or renting it (think: books and the library, videos and rentals, and other strategies for borrowing).

When selling items, several strategies make sense. Craigslist is a great resource for selling larger items. For smaller items, especially ones people tend to collect (like rare books and DVD sets), eBay is a powerful tool. Yard sales are a great way to get rid of larger bulk items like clothing, and consignment shops are a good way to sell quality furniture and clothing.

2. Get Lots of Sturdy, Free Boxes

As soon as you have an inkling that you might move, you should start saving every sturdy cardboard box you can get your hands on, along with packing material, like old newspapers.

Unfortunately, many people don't have a lot of time for this kind of planning. In that case, there are several places in the community to look for free moving boxes. I've had personal success finding cardboard boxes on Freecycle and Craigslist, as well as asking for boxes at liquor stores, bookstores (if you have some in your community) and grocery stores. Liquor store boxes are the best, because they're sturdy and don't have crumbs of food.

3. Avoid Hiring Movers

Moving services are incredibly expensive. Rather than simply drop thousands of dollars on a moving service, look into what it would take to move on your own. Can you ask friends to help? A few six packs of beer and pizzas while loading a rental truck or trailer (and maybe saying a few goodbyes) is far less expensive than paying someone to load and unload that truck. If your move is relatively close, perhaps you could personally move much of your stuff over a number of car loads.

Friends are often happy to help with moving if asked, but be sure you have clear tasks for them to accomplish when they come over so they're not standing around awkwardly while you figure out what's next.

4. If Hiring Movers, Do as Much Work Upfront as Possible

The advice above for friends also stretches to any moving professionals you hire. The less you have completed when they arrive, the more they have to do, and the less clear the tasks, the longer it will take them. If you're paying by the hour, that means money out of your pocket.

If you're hiring someone to move your stuff, have everything boxed and ready to go before that person arrives. Label all the boxes on the outside, and if anything is fragile, clearly mark it. Have any large items you want transported ready to be picked up and carried out the door. Remember, you're likely paying these guys by the hour, so when you spend an hour doing work that they'd spend an hour doing, you're literally saving an hour's worth of their rate. Cut their work and time down to the bare minimum.

5. Be Smart About Utility and Service Shutoffs

Many utilities require you to pay for a full month of service at a time, so if a service isn't absolutely essential, cut off that service before you leave rather than after so you're not paying for it during a time when you're not living there. That means contacting your service companies, such as your Internet service provider, cable provider, and so on, more than a month before your move-out date.

6. Buy Minimal Furnishings in Your New Place

Once you move into a new place -- especially a larger one -- it can be tempting to want to fill the rooms with stuff. That's natural, but temper that desire by buying minimal furnishings to fill your rooms. Don't be afraid to hit Ikea or discount stores for your first batch of furnishings. Over time, you can slowly upgrade from that basic level as needed. Plus you haven't dug yourself into a debt hole by making a bunch of impulsive and expensive decisions right after moving in.

Trent Hamm is the founder of the personal finance website TheSimpleDollar.com, which provides consumers with resources and tools to make informed financial decisions.