Tips for Saving Money When Moving Locally

by Kevin on July 8, 2011

Having moved twice in the last 6 months I can easily attest that moving is an expensive proposition. You have the moving truck, gas for the truck, and utility deposits to name a few of the many expenses that pop up during a move.

Unfortunately, many of the costs associated with a long distance move cannot be avoided. But today I will show you how you can save some time and money if you are moving locally.

Avoid Movers, Hire Friends

As much as moving yourself sucks (back pain, sweating, stress, driving a massive truck) it really is cost effective. I’m a big believer in doing something yourself if you want it done right. If you move yourself and something gets broken, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Movers are an astronomical expense in most cities, even for a local move. The better idea is to hire your friends. You may not even have to pay them with cash — most friends will help you move for lunch and a few beers. Of course they will expect the same in return, but hey, you need the exercise so man up. Utilizing your network regardless of the situation is a solid move that saves everyone money.

Move Awkward and Breakable Items Beforehand

The thing that saved us the most hassle and money during this last move was not having to worry about our breakable items. There’s nothing worse than breaking Grandma’s heirloom platter while moving a big box truck full of your stuff. (Okay, there’s one worse: one of your friends breaks it and now they feel horrible and awkward, too). Remember, your friends aren’t professionals so you are increasing your odds of something happening.

Instead of putting all of our plates, glasses, and silverware into boxes full of newspaper and styrofoam, my wife and I made several small trips over to our new home the week before we moved to drop off items and make small home repairs. We intentionally delayed our move date one week after we closed so we would have time to do this. (It also gave us a week to do painting in an empty house rather than having to cover up furniture — another great idea.)

You might argue that we must have spent a lot of gas money taking all these extra trips, but every time we went to the house we had a purpose other than bringing items over. And the drive was only about 7 miles one way, so we weren’t burning that much extra gas. The trade-off was worth it.

Moving your awkward items that don’t fit into a box easily and your breakable items beforehand has the following perks:

  • You and your friends are less likely to break something.
  • You don’t have to wrap things as carefully if you are sitting them in your car’s floorboard as you would if they were going in a big pile of boxes.
  • You save time on moving day.
  • You can get a smaller truck.

Smaller Truck, Smaller Cost

That last point is key. By taking over several car loads of breakable items, we didn’t have to get as large of a truck as we did when we moved across states. The smaller truck size saved us a good chunk of change with the added perk of being easier to drive in traffic. I’m still don’t understand how anyone with a driver’s license is allowed to drive a massive 16 foot or 24 foot truck on the road.

Plan Moving Ahead of Time

The biggest piece of the saving money during moving puzzle is to plan ahead. The real “gotcha” moments happen when you have no other option that the one before you. That option is usually pretty expensive. For example, you pack up everything  you own including a bunch of old blankets. You go to pick up the rental truck and they offer to rent you their old, dirty blankets for $20. You don’t know what box your own blankets are in, and you’re in a rush, so you go ahead and rent the expensive blankets. Planning ahead would save you money.

So plan ahead. Come up with contingency plans. Ask yourself, “What would I do if…

Some things to consider:

  • Book your truck reservation in advance and reconfirm it a week in advance.Yes the rental companies have many trucks, but if you are grabbing their last truck at the last minute you will probably pay a pretty steep price. Pick your moving date and secure a reservation up front. You will get a better deal. And don’t forget to reconfirm your reservation. You never know if something goes mysteriously missing in the reservation system. Finding out on moving day that there is no truck for you to move in is not fun.
  • Move breakable items separately. Moving your breakable items fits in this category as well. By planning ahead you can remove a lot of the risk of broken items, which saves you money, and everyone a little bit of stress.
  • Pack well in advance. Having to pack up an entire apartment or house is overwhelming if you try to do it in 2 days. Give yourself a lot of lead time. You’ll be more careful wrapping your items (which saves you money by avoiding replacement costs) and you won’t have to panic right before moving. Aim to do a room per day or every 2 days.
  • Confirm your moving helpers. Just like with the truck reservation, make sure you stay on top of anyone that offers to help. You don’t want to assume you have a team of 5 helpers only to have 1 guy show up on moving day. Dates get written down incorrectly and people flake out. Don’t let that impact your ability to move.
  • Take care of utility deposits ASAP. If you can set up your new utilities in advance, do so. Moving day will be hectic and you don’t want to abandon your friends (or movers) with your stuff. If for some reason the utility must be set up on the same day you take ownership, take care of that as soon as you secure the truck. There’s nothing worse than showing up to your new place only to discover there is no running water/electricity/gas for heat.

What other tips do you have for local moves?


Dee July 8, 2011 at 11:45 am

These are really good tips, thanks.

I just moved a couple of months ago and thought I would save money by moving myself, but with the price of gas and all of the trips it took me, it woud have been cheaper to rent a truck, put everything in at once and just go. Live and learn. (I’m only one person though and have mostly clothes—lots of them—and a couple of bits of ikea-type furniture).

I’d also recommend getting rid of as much stuff as you can so there is less to pack and thus, less to move. Call the Salvation Army or some other organization to come by and get the stuff.

And label your boxes! This should save you money by preventing the need to go out and replace xyz because you don’t know which box it is. You mentioned the moving blankets (good point!), but I’m also talking about the stuff you will need on day 1 and 2, when you’re still feeling too lazy to unpack your boxes and look.


Super Frugalette July 14, 2011 at 2:25 am

Consider numbering boxes with a list on excel with the contents. You will know which ones you need to open right away and which ones can wait.

Liz May 20, 2013 at 4:26 pm

I learned something from my family (we moved a LOT when I was a child). Make sure that the last things you box up are up against the door of a moving truck so they are the first things out. Everyone packs their ‘need to have on the last day’ stuff up last and, chances are, you’ll want those things first in the new house :). Like a coffee maker!

Rachel Mendelson August 26, 2015 at 7:23 pm

Good tips, it really can help to save money when moving. Some moving companies are not expensive and they offer good services like First Choice Moving.

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