12 Ways to Keep a Big Move From Breaking Your Budget

05/01/2017 09:56 am ET

By Myles Ma, Credit.com

I moved across the hall two summers ago. My girlfriend and I were moving to a larger apartment in the same building, one that could fit two adult human beings better than the tiny Fortress of Solitude I had selected while I was still single.

I hate moving. It’s annoying, sweaty and expensive. The word “moving” vastly undersells the actual act. It’s easy to move. Lift a finger, take a step; you’ve moved. It’s not so easy to account for all of your possessions, pack them in an organized way, transport them safely, then unpack and rearrange them in a new setting, all on a budget.

But I thought moving across a hallway would be easy. While it was certainly easier than having to move to a different building, it was still annoying, still sweaty and still expensive.

I learned a valuable lesson: Moving is terrible, always. Having a plan can make it less so. Here are a few tips that may help you save on your next move and make it less stressful, even if you’re going farther than across the hall.

1. Get Rid of Stuff

There’s no point moving stuff you don’t even want. Try to sell excess furniture, especially larger items, online or to your friends or co-workers, said Ali Wenzke, founder of The Art of Happy Moving blog.

You can list items on sites like Craigslist, NextDoor or Facebook. This way you can get potential buyers to haul away your stuff for you.

Many charitable organizations will take smaller items like clothing, Wenzke said. Keep your receipt so you can write off the donation come tax time.

2. Get Free Boxes

The price of packing supplies can add up. Luckily, you can get free boxes if you just ask.

While many retailers will have spare boxes, furniture stores tend to have a good range of sizes, saidSam Radbil Sr., communications manager for ABODO Apartments, an online apartment marketplace. It’s a good idea to call stores at least a week before you need the boxes, since they may not get rid of boxes every day.

You can also ask friends who have recently moved if you can have their old boxes.

3. Label Everything

If you lose a sock every time you do your laundry, you will likely misplace one or two things when transporting everything you own. Labeling all your boxes appropriately can help keep your valuables from disappearing into the moving ether.

Radbil suggests labeling boxes by room.

“If you want to get really technical about it, even label exactly what objects are contained in the box,” he said. “This will also help you prioritize what boxes to unpack.”

4. Conserve Bubble Wrap (& Other Packing Tips)

A few stray packing tips from Garrett O’Shea, president of PockitShip, an on-demand shipping company: Wrap dishes in your clothing, rather than buying bubble wrap. Put paper or Styrofoam plates in between breakable plates. Put heavy items, like books, in suitcases. Pack essentials last, so they go on top of other items and you can grab them easily.

5. Decide Whether to Hire Movers

This decision boils down to time, ability and cost, said Leigh Meadows-McAlpin, owner of Dwelling, an interior design firm in South Carolina. Meadows-McAlpin frequently discusses the logistics of moving with her clients.

Moving on your own requires time to sort, pack, load and unload, as well as rent and return a truck. You also need the muscle, or friends and family who have the muscle, to pack and load everything. On the other hand, the cost of labor for you and your friends is usually no more than pizza, beers and gratitude.

“As the saying goes, time is money, and if you don’t have the time or ability to move yourself, you should consider spending the money to hire movers,” Meadows-McAlpin said.

6. How to Pick a Mover

The American Moving and Storage Association website is a good place to start, Wenzke of The Art of Happy Moving said. If you can’t find a mover in your area on the site, try searching the sites of their state associations. All the movers listed are vetted by the association and licensed.

“I recommend getting at least three in-person quotes from at least three different moving companies before choosing a mover,” Wenzke said.

An in-person quote should be more reliable and will give you a better feel for the company, Wenzke said. Be sure to ask about equipment, rates, how they handle parking restrictions with their trucks and if they outsource moves to a third party. Also make sure they have proper insurance — stuff happens.

Double-check reviews on Yelp, Angie’s List and other sites before hiring, she added.

Another good place to look is the Move for Hunger website, Wenzke said. The companies there are also vetted and pack up unopened, nonperishable food to donate to a local food bank at no additional cost.

7. Make a Moving Budget

Once you have a few quotes, you can put together a budget of how much the move will cost. Be sure to plan for unexpected expenses and any additional furniture you’ll need if your new place is bigger.

Factor in how much stuff you have and how much time you’ll need since movers usually charge an hourly rate.

“Small moves can start as little as $200 and go all the way into the thousands,” O’Shea said.

Make sure your wallet and your credit can handle the expense. You can get a snapshot of your credit report for free on Credit.com, and see whether you could — or should — get a credit card before your move. (Remember, while credit cards can serve as a great source of liquidity, that available limit isn’t license to overspend.)

8. How to Rent a Truck

If you decide to go it alone, you’ll likely need a bigger set of wheels. Your couch will likely not fit in your hatchback. (Looking for a new car? Follow these steps to save.)

When evaluating a truck rental, be sure to look at mileage costs, the cost of the truck, pickup and drop-off locations and any available discounts, Radbil, of ABODO, said. Remember to reserve a truck in advance as well.

9. Pick a Climate-Controlled Storage Facility

If for some reason you won’t be able to move your stuff to your new place right away, Meadows-McAlpin suggested keeping it in a climate-controlled storage facility. Otherwise heat, moisture and cold can cause mildew, rust and other damage to belongings.

“As a designer, I’ve had to have our workrooms repair or replace furnishings damaged in storage many times, and most of those damages could have been avoided if the clients had simply opted for a client-controlled space,” she said.

10. Report Your Change of Address

Moving is expensive enough, so you don’t want to add to your costs by falling behind on bills because they don’t get delivered to the right place. Luckily, changing your address is as simple as filling out a form on the U.S. Postal Service website.

11. Transfer Utilities

This can be easy to forget in the chaos of a move, but make sure the lights will be on for you when you get to your new home and that you stop paying for utilities once you leave your old home. When I moved into my first apartment after college, I did not plan ahead and had no lights or internet for the first few days. It was a pretty depressing way to start a new chapter of life.

Most utilities have user-friendly websites that allow you to do start and stop service, but otherwise calling ahead of the move can ensure that your new home is fully ready for you. (Once you’re settled, see how to save on your electric bill.)

12. Deduct Moving Expenses

If your move is work-related, you can deduct your moving expenses from your taxes if you meet certain conditions. The move qualifies if your new workplace is 50 miles farther from your old home than your old job location was from your old home, according to the IRS.

If you had no prior workplace, the new job location must be 50 miles from your old home. You must also work at least 39 weeks in the year following the move.

So to make your move pay, be sure to save your receipts for tax time.

Getting ready to move out of the dorm? Here’s 19 mistakes college grads make when finding their first apartment you’ll want to avoid.

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