There are few things in life more stressful than moving. As the amount of stuff that must be packed and hauled expands, so do the hassle and the cost. Prices vary wildly, depending on when, where, how much, and how you want the move accomplished. Moving.com, a resource for moving services, information, and advice, estimates $2,500 to transport the contents of a three-bedroom house across town in St. Louis, Missouri, and between $6,600 and $8,600 for a move from Alexandria, Virginia to San Diego. Asking the movers to do the packing can bump up those numbers by several thousand dollars. Ouch.
Moving Soon? 11 Ways to Save Money and Reduce Stress
You can't always choose when to move, but if you have a choice, arrange to do so between October and April. Regardless of the month, aim for a date in the middle two weeks. The cost is always higher at the beginning and the end of a month because that's when most leases expire. Summer is peak season because school is over and families want to settle in before the next year begins.
If you're moving a three-bedroom home you definitely don't want to rent a truck and do it yourself. (If you insist, you'll need a 24-foot U-Haul, which costs $40 an hour and 79 cents a mile.) Hiring professional movers is more expensive but smarter for anything beyond graduate-student living quarters. Professional movers will arrive on time with the proper number of workers and the right-sized truck. They come with the necessary padding and shrink wrap, the tools and the pallets. They are insured, and they insure your stuff (for a fee). You don't have to feed them or buy them beer, although offering chilled bottles of water on both ends is a thoughtful touch.
Get at least three estimates from reputable moving companies. Most post an inventory list on their websites for you to fill out that helps them arrive at a ball-park figure. They then will send someone to your home to look over the items you plan to move. The representative will help you figure out how many boxes you'll need and which packing materials, and will inquire whether you want the movers to pack anything. It's perfectly acceptable to say, "I want you to pack anything I haven't gotten to," and that will be factored into the formal estimate. Local moving companies generally are cheaper than national companies, but if you're moving cross country, a national firm is the way to go.
Label the boxes based on where they are going, not where they came from. For example, if the new place has two children's rooms rather than one, as in the old home, label boxes "Kid1" and "Kid2." Fill several boxes with things you will need right away -- for example, coffee pot, coffee, and mug; sheets, pillows and blankets; the pet's food and water bowls.
Living in chaos is one of the more stressful aspects of moving. Designate one room as the loading area, and pack boxes there. As you get closer to moving day, more rooms will fill with boxes, but keep as much livable space as possible. Although movers will unload boxes and furniture to wherever they belong, set up an unloading spot for miscellaneous items. Decide in advance which area in the new home to clear of boxes first so at least some space will be uncluttered.
Take anything that's valuable or might be damaged easily with you in the car. This includes heirlooms, jewelry, houseplants, and the child's favorite stuffed animal. No sense adding to the anxiety.