How To

Moving On a Budget: How to Plan Ahead and Save

Photo: cjc4454

According to Moving.com, the months between May and August are the most popular for moving in the United States.

Whether it’s down the street or across state lines, no one likes moving. The piles of brown boxes and the hours upon hours of packing can wring a high cost to your wallet — not to mention your sanity. We asked Nancy Giehl and Joan Hobbs, downsizing and relocation experts and authors of Organize Pack Move!: Strategies and Money-Saving Ideas to Simplify Your Move, to share some of their secrets for successful moves.

1. Research your options

If you plan to hire movers, Giehl and Hobbs recommend getting at least three bids and telling each company that you’re receiving other bids. “Do not accept Internet bids or bids over the phone,” adds Giehl. “You cannot get an accurate bid if they can’t see your stuff.” If your move-in dates are flexible, ask if you can negotiate a discount. Also read reviews on sites like Kudzu.com, Yelp.com, and the Better Business Bureau.

If you’re planning to move yourself, then you may want to enlist the help of friends and family members to help you load the truck or watch the children on moving day. But be honest about your physical limitations. As Hobbs points out, “a back injury will cost you significantly more than hiring someone.” Of course, most people opt for a hybrid move (for instance, hiring movers to load and unload the truck but packing themselves or hiring a truck company to transport belongings but loading and unloading themselves).

Every service can be contracted separately so you pay for what you need.

2. Consider extra costs

“When doing a price comparison on different types of moves, don’t forget to factor things like truck fuel and one-way truck rental fees if you are going to do-it-yourself,” says Hobbs. Other oft-forgotten costs include insurance, trash removal, permits for moving trucks that block streets or alley access, and tips for movers. If you need to take unpaid time off from work for a DIY move, then that’s another cost consideration.

Ask potential movers lots of questions so you can accurately compare bids. “Some moving companies charge by the load, others charge an hourly rate based on number of crewmembers—find out,” says Giehl. “If your mover charges by the hour, find out when the clock starts. Some companies start charging from the time they leave their company parking lot, so the distance from your home to their trucks makes a difference.”

3. Give movers an accurate inventory of your stuff

One of the best things you can do to prepare for a move is to clear away clutter: clothes you don’t wear, furniture that won’t fit into your new space, books or movies you’ve long forgotten about (bonus: some of these items can be sold for extra cash or, if in good quality, donated to a charity).

But if you tell movers you’re getting rid of stuff, then make sure you actually sell it or you’ll usually end up paying more than their estimate. “A client told the movers she would be selling several large pieces of furniture,” Hobbs says. “When she couldn’t sell them she decided to keep them. Her moving bill was several thousand dollars over the estimate. She was furious with the movers but it was her fault.”

Since movers typically only see your current residence, be sure to mention any potential issues in your future home, such as winding staircases, narrow streets, or steep hills. “If there are special issues that make unloading significantly longer you will be unpleasantly surprised by your bill,” Giehl says.

4. Be ready for moving day

Lack of preparation costs you money. If you aren’t completely packed, then you could end up paying your movers their hourly rate (often $110 or higher) to pack things you could have done yourself. Or if you aren’t sure where you want furniture to go, you’ll eat up time asking movers to rearrange things. Lack of preparation can also hurt DIYers. “One of the biggest mistakes do-it-yourself packers do is skimp on is preparing boxes properly and packing breakables incorrectly,” says Hobbs. She and Giehl suggest using same-sized boxes, because you can get more in a truck if boxes are a uniform size.

With the right research and preparation, you’ll be ready for a smooth move to your new home.

Susan Johnston is a Boston-based freelance writer who covers business and lifestyle topics.