Moving Soon? 11 Ways to Save Money and Reduce Stress

MOVING COSTS

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.

TIME IT RIGHT

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.

WEIGH TIME VS. MONEY

The amount of moving-related work you're willing and able to take on often depends on how much time is available before moving day, as well as the size of your moving budget. While renters may have a few weeks to pack up the household, the timing is more leisurely for buyers because several months typically elapse between contract signing and final closing. Anyone holding a fulltime job with a looming deadline might want to pay the movers to pack at least some belongings. Figure on an hourly rate between $25 and $75. According to Moving.com, a partial packing job could add as little as $500 or as much as $2,000, depending on what you want packed and how far it's going; having the movers pack everything could double the final price under some circumstances.

REDUCE AND RECYCLE

Before deciding whether to do it all yourself or rely on the pros, get rid of anything you won't need in the new digs. This tactic can save you big time. Donate or discard whatever will need replacing in a year or two. Anything you haven't used in a long time -- or forgot you had -- send it out the door. The kids will want to hold onto every single Barbie shoe and Lego block, so a bit of creative parenting will be necessary to help them see the value of minimalism. Purge what you can and host a garage sale for the remainders, and put the proceeds toward moving expenses.

HIRE PROFESSIONALS

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.

REQUEST ESTIMATES

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.

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CLAIM TAX SAVINGS

If you are moving more than 50 miles because of a job relocation or job change, you may qualify for an "adjustment" to your income at tax time. Talk to a tax professional to see if the move meets the criteria and how much you can save on taxes. IRS Publication 521, Moving Expenses for 2014 provides some guidance.

LOAD UP ON PACKING SUPPLIES

Packing boxes are easy to find: Supermarkets, big-box retailers, liquor stores, and drug stores usually have empty boxes that they otherwise pay to have hauled away. Also look for boxes at your place of employment and at U-Haul locations (some set out bins where customers can recycle boxes). Make sure the boxes are in good condition, with tops that close. Use old newspapers as stuffing and wrapping and buy several rolls of packing tape. Ask the movers to bring wardrobe boxes for clothing because you won't find them elsewhere. Craigslist and Freecycle are good sources for moving supplies. Alternatively, turn to the web where Uline sells packing kits with boxes, tape, knives, markers, and cushioning for different size moves; a small-home kit costs $199 and the deluxe version goes for $403.

PACK EFFICIENTLY

The things you use least should be packed first, and those used every day saved for last. Items that belong together should be packed together; e.g., a computer and all its wires, track pad, keyboard, etc. Put books and other heavy items in smaller boxes; reserve larger boxes for the lightest things, including blankets, pillows, linens, towels, and clothing (dresser drawers should be empty). You may want the movers to box up fragile items, such as flat screen TVs and lamps, because they can do a better job. Pack dishes vertically, not stacked, with plenty of bunched-up newspaper or towels at the bottom of the box. If you're unsure about the best way to pack, ask the mover or check the website of a national moving company such as Mayflower or United Van Lines.

ORGANIZE THE LABELING

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.

DESIGNATE LOADING AND UNLOADING AREAS

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 STUFF WITH YOU

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.

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