Moving Advice for the Smart and Frugal Renter

Moving certainly isn’t on anyone’s list of “Top Ten favorite things to do in your spare time.” Quite the contrary, moving is a hassle, it can be expensive, and it can be stressful for your entire family. The American Moving and Storage Association estimates the cost of an interstate household move at about $4,300, and an intrastate household move at $2,300. But, with a little bit of planning, you can make the entire process easier on everyone (including your wallet).

First of all, determine if moving into a new rental apartment is the right thing to do financially. People move for a whole lot of reasons: they need more space, for jobs or schools, or they simply prefer a different area of the city (or even country) than the one they’re currently living in.

All these are legitimate reasons to move, but you have to make sure that it won’t affect your financial stability. Take all the costs of moving into account before deciding if it’s the right…move (pun intended). Here are some of the things you need to pay attention to:

  • The new house or apartment are larger, thus more expensive. Do you really need more space? An extra room sounds great and you have a lot of plans for it, but, if you’re not using it at full capacity, it’s just wasted money. Don’t forget that larger homes also mean higher utility bills.
  • How is this move going to affect your transportation costs? Are you going to pay more on gas or on public transportation to get to work? Set up a budget for your transportation needs and check if you can stick to it.
  • If the utilities are not included in the rent, ask the landlord about the average monthly utility bills in the new building.
  • When are you planning to move? Avoid moving during peak season (summer, early autumn). Holiday season (November through January) is when prices for moving-related services are their lowest level. Moving mid-week, as opposed to weekends, might also save you some serious bucks.

Be smart about the packing supplies

You don’t have to buy dozens of new, expensive boxes to pack your stuff. Most grocery stores allow customers to pick up their empty produce boxes for free. Also, people who moved recently sell or give away the boxes they’re no longer using.

Pack lightweight items inside furniture you’re taking with you to the new home. You obviously can’t move a wardrobe that’s filled with clothing because it’s too heavy to lift, but you can leave some towels on linens inside.

Don’t waste money on expensive bubble wrap for fragile items. You can wrap them in T-shirts, towels, and other pieces of clothing you need to pack anyway.

Take the time to sort through your belongings

Now it’s the right time to do a thorough sorting of your things. It doesn’t make sense to spend time and money on packing and transporting stuff you no longer use. You might even make some money in the process. Organize a garage sale or put items you no longer need on Craigslist. You can also donate if it’s closer to your heart then selling. Donations then can also be used as tax deductions.

One month or so before the move make an inventory of your fridge and pantry and adjust your shopping habits accordingly to avoid wasting food. Cook what you already have, especially perishables like frozen meats and veggies, which you can’t really pack and transport.

Enlist the help of friends and family

Hiring a moving company to pack and move all your stuff is certainly convenient, but it doesn’t come cheap. Instead, you should enlist the help of friends and family, especially when it’s a local move. You can thank them with a nice meal and some beers (which, incidentally, also helps you avoid wasting food, so it’s a double win).

Local vs. long-distance moving

Local moving is no walk in the park, but it’s definitely a lot cheaper than a cross-country, long-distance move from, let’s say, Miami, Florida to Columbus, Ohio. Long-distance moves require a lot more planning and many other factors to consider.

For example, it might not make sense to pack and transport all your clothing and bedding items if your new home is in a different climate. You don’t need multiple pairs of flip-flops in Ohio, while your winter coats and heavy comforters are of no use to you if you’re leaving the northern states for Texas. So, pack with your destination in mind to avoid transporting too much stuff.

Are you extremely attached to your furniture? Sometimes, it makes more sense to sell it locally and purchase new items at your destination than it is to pay for a truck to transport it. This is particularly true if you’re moving into a smaller house or an apartment. The furniture you own might not fit or could look too massive in the new home. If you do decide to transport your furniture, ask your landlord or real estate agent to measure the entrance door and the interior doors of the house to be sure you can get the furniture inside the house.

If you’re not moving furniture and large appliances, you can even get away with not renting a truck at all. Pack suitcases with your family’s basic necessities for a couple of weeks and fly to your destination after shipping the rest of your stuff via Amtrak and postal services. It’s the cheapest way to transport stuff across the United States. The downside is that it takes a little longer to get your stuff.

Remember that planning ahead, being organized and taking all the factors into account are the three pillars of a stress-free, affordable move, whether it’s across the city or across the country.

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