Save on moving expenses to stay out of debt

Save on moving expenses to stay out of debt

Updated: Jun 23, 2014 10:33 AM
© iStockphoto.com / Sandra Gligorijevic © iStockphoto.com / Sandra Gligorijevic

By Andrew Housser

The summer months of May through September are the most popular time for a home relocation. Many people choose this time to move so that their families can settle into new surroundings before the start of the school year. If you are not cautious, moving costs can quickly multiply and even drive you into debt – starting you off on the wrong foot in your new home. Fortunately, these money-saving strategies can minimize costly moving expenses.

1.    Lighten your load. Moving companies base their fees on factors including cargo weight. That makes an upcoming move a good excuse to shed unwanted and unused items. The less you have to move, the more money you can save. As a bonus, you can get a tax write-off for belongings that you donate to charity, or you can make money by selling items online, at consignment shops or at a yard sale.

2.      Find free moving supplies. Instead of buying boxes from a moving company or office supply store, track down free options. Check Craigslist, Freecycle or local sites like Nextdoor to find boxes that are being given away, or post a request for boxes. Ask at grocery stores and liquor stores for boxes and leftover packing materials. Instead of bubble wrap, use towels, bedding, clothing or newspaper to cushion belongings.

3.      Be a do-it-yourself packer. Boxing up even a few rooms will save packing fees. Or enlist friends and family members to help. If your move is local, take smaller boxes and possessions to your new residence yourself instead of paying to have them moved. Do keep in mind that the moving company’s insurance policy will not cover items you pack yourself if they break, so work carefully.

4.      Get estimates. To make sure you are getting a fair deal, request price quotes from at least three different moving companies. Contact moving companies for estimates six weeks prior to your move date. Do not automatically go with the lowest offer. Compare the services you are being offered, and check out online reviews and the company’s reputation. Most important, secure a binding estimate or a guaranteed price to prevent a mover from charging you more than you expect to pay. This can cover situations where the actual weight of your belongings is more than what was estimated.

5.      Be smart when scheduling. Moving companies tend to charge more during the busy first and last weeks of the months, as well as on weekends. If you can be flexible on your move date, you might be able to negotiate a better rate. When you meet with a relocation specialist, ask about promotions and see if they have suggestions on how to cut costs. If you are moving during the busy season, however, choose a moving company as soon as possible so you can secure your move date.

6.      Explore options. If you have enough friends and family members who are willing to help, or if your belongings are minimal, consider renting a moving truck and doing the loading and unloading yourself. Alternatively, you may be able to find college students who are willing to help load or unload belongings for a fraction of what you would pay a moving company. Another option is to hire a moving company that only provides transportation. Some of these companies drop off storage containers at your house for you to fill at your leisure. When you are ready, the company picks up the container and takes it to the new destination.

7.      Keep receipts. Your employer may be willing to pay for some of your moving costs if the move is for work purposes. It never hurts to ask. If you are not reimbursed, you may be able to deduct certain job-related moving expenses on your income tax return. Be sure to keep all receipts for gas, food, hotel, the moving company and any other related moving expenses.

Moving is one of life’s most stressful experiences. Some of that stress comes from covering the high costs of relocation. While comparing prices and moving alternatives might feel like just one more task in an overwhelming time, that work is worthwhile if it helps you to stay out of debt and make an affordable transition to your new home.   

 
Andrew Housser is a co-founder and CEO of Bills.com, a free one-stop online portal where consumers can educate themselves about personal finance issues and compare financial products and services. He also is co-CEO of Freedom Financial Network, LLC providing comprehensive consumer credit advocacy and debt relief services. Housser holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Stanford University and Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth College.
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