7 Tips for Moving on the Cheap


Moving is often the start of a new life adventure. It's also a draining and costly hassle. Cheapism.com's money-saving strategies include purging the stuff you no longer need and making your move during an off-peak period. Here are seven more ways to reduce the stress and the overall expense. These tactics may require a little extra effort on your part, in the form of research and planning, but the payoff is a smooth transition without any surprises, financial or otherwise.

Be savvy when hiring movers.

Solicit multiple companies for free quotes, and try out different dates to elicit the best rate. With quotes in hand, start bargaining and let the movers compete for your business. (Ask about sharing a van with another client; this may prove fruitful for a long-distance relocation when you don't have a lot of stuff.) Once you've agreed on price with a given company, read the contract carefully from start to finish. Some companies have rules you might not expect, such as a stipulation that they won't move anything packed in garbage bags and will charge you for replacement boxes. Be alert to anything that smells fishy; the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration warns that scams exist in this industry. Canvass user reviews online and, most importantly, check the FMCSA website for red flags on a mover. Also make sure you have decent insurance (via a homeowner's or renter's policy) that covers your valuables.

Compare truck rental vs. shipping.

If you want to DIY the move by renting a truck, van, or trailer, you still should shop around and read the contract fine print. Advertised deals on vehicle rentals may be misleading. Again, try out different dates and times before committing, because prices often vary from one day to the next. Then, compare the cost of renting a truck against shipping your belongings. (The U.S. Postal Service may be cheaper than UPS or FedEx, but do your homework.) Obviously this is an option only if you're not moving furniture or a lot of electronics and you can fit bulky or heavy items in your own vehicle.

Plan ahead when food shopping.

About two weeks before moving, make your last grocery-store haul. Don't invest in heavy, long-lasting goods such as baking supplies or economy-size bags of rice and beans. Figure out what you can reasonably consume, what you can take with you, and what you can't. You'll probably want to move lightweight, non-perishable items such as boxed pasta and expensive items such as spices. It's generally not worth moving canned goods, and perishable and frozen foods should always be chucked or donated, unless you're moving a very short distance or planning to live off the foodstuffs while transiting from old to new locale. As it happens, there are regulations that may pertain: When moving across some state lines -- California, for example -- fresh produce may be seized by inspectors.

Think about what you'll miss.

If the cost of living or sales tax in your new location is significantly higher than where you currently live, or if you're attached to certain items that might be unavailable post-move, stock up before loading the truck. The same principle holds for services, but with obvious limits. Love your hairdresser or dentist, and the price is right? Schedule an appointment right before moving day. Have a trusted veterinarian who charges reasonable fees? Take your pets in for a physical before relocating and pick up their records and health documents to avoid transfer fees or duplicate shots.

Use your belongings as packing supplies.

Saving space saves money on transport, whether it's a DIY or professional move. Using items you're moving anyway as packing supplies saves even more. Instead of folding clothes, roll them and use them to cushion fragile items inside boxes or luggage. Put heavy items, such as books, inside rolling suitcases. Use the drawers in lightweight dressers and cabinets as built-in boxes for light stuff; they'll be secured shut. Laundry hampers, baskets, and trash cans all double as packing containers. And use soft goods, such as clothing, bedding, and towels, instead of bubble wrap or packing peanuts to wrap breakables such as dishware, flower vases, and framed photos or artwork.

Secure your security deposit.

When leaving your old place -- whether as owner or renter -- leave it as clean as possible and remove all trash. This is especially critical for renters to ensure the return of the entire security deposit. Renters should also repair or cover up any wall blemishes. Leave everything looking pretty much the same as when you moved in. Try to arrange a walk-through with the landlord and get a signed agreement stating that you're leaving the space in acceptable condition and are entitled to the full deposit in exchange. After arriving at the new place, take photos of each room while it's still empty, and zoom in on problem areas. Documenting the new-to-you home will ensure you're not blamed later for damage you didn't cause.

Be frugal on the road.

Part of holding the line on the moving budget involves keeping costs down while moving yourself. If you're driving, pack snacks and drinks to avoid costly roadside stops. Save on fuel with apps such as GasBuddy, which let you compare prices and plan stops, and try to avoid filling up in small towns, where prices are usually higher. Keep the gas cap tightly secured, don't ride the brakes, pack the vehicle as lightly as possible, and check tire pressure regularly to improve fuel efficiency. Look into buying a discounted gas gift card from Gift Card Granny, an app and website that organizes a market for unwanted gift cards; or use one of the better rewards credit cards and get cash back on gas purchases. When lodging overnight, call in a favor from someone you know along the way, stalk sites such as Expedia and Priceline for the cheapest motels, check out camping grounds or hostels, or try Airbnb or Couchsurfing for low-price accommodations -- and use that rewards card to pay any bills.

Cheapism.com participates in affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product through a link on our site. This helps support our work and does not influence editorial content.