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Simple Ways to Save Money When Moving

This summer, my family did something kind of unexpected. Over the course of two weeks, we packed up the house and moved.

Now, moving is already something that’s stressful and expensive. Even if you plan well, the costs can sneak up on you and shock you. Doing a move in two weeks amps that up a ton.

I talked to a few friends before we moved, to see how we could save money. And then, when we STILL spent more than we had intended, I talked to some more friends, to see what advice they had that I should have taken. Here’s their distilled wisdom:

It’s never too early to start getting rid of stuff

We moved from a 4 bedroom house, with plenty of room for books, toys, art projects, and everything else that we’d accumulated over the years, into a three-bedroom apartment, with a small sitting area and an eat-in kitchen. We had to purge a lot of stuff.

The thing is, we had too much stuff to begin with.

Even though we’d decluttered over the years, it was way too easy to just say, “well, let’s hold on to this thing, in case we need it down the road.” We almost never needed it down the road. If you’ve been a Simple Mom reader for a while, this is a tune you’ve heard before. But get rid of as much as you can, even now.

If you move? Great! Your life will be simpler!

If you don’t move? Great! Your life will be simpler!

Making money from a yard sale is great, but don’t hesitate to just give stuff away. It’s a great way to bless your friends and neighbors with tools, kitchen supplies, clothes, books, toys, and other things that it’s time to let go of.

Eliminate, then repopulate

In the same vein, it’s probably better to be overly aggressive in getting rid of stuff, and then repopulating your life as necessary once you get to your new home.

A friend of mine was describing a friend of his who had a duplex. “He and his wife … decided to gather every single thing they had and put it in the bottom level of the duplex. They moved upstairs, lived in just the top level, and as they needed something, they would go downstairs, find it, and bring it up. Little by little, they repopulated their life with only what was necessary.

“If you have something at hand to begin with, you can come up with a bunch of reasons to keep it, whereas if you start without it and have to go out of your way to get it, you have to ask a different question. Instead of asking, ‘Why should I keep this thing?’ you ask, ‘What thing do I need here?'”

Get rid of as much as possible. If you decide there’s a bookcase-shaped hole in your home, you can fill it (and then fill it!).

Don’t spend money on moving boxes

Your local liquor store or grocery store has more boxes than they know what to do with. These boxes — especially the liquor boxes — are often far sturdier than the boxes you can buy at the moving company and are perfectly sized for books, equipment, toys, cooking supplies, and other stuff.

The only problem: they don’t fold flat for transporting from the store to your house, so you might have to make several trips.

When friends ask what they can do to help you move, after you point them to 7 Simple Ways to Help a Friend Move, tell them “pick up liquor boxes and drop them off at our house.”

Get extra insurance for the move

If you’re driving the truck, look into getting extra coverage from your insurance provider, or get a AAA membership. Tsh’s husband, Kyle, described one of their experiences: “After three days on the road, I was within a hundred miles of my destination when I got a rock in the windshield from a passing vehicle. The extra insurance paid for itself right there.”

You’ll have enough anxiety as you move; worrying that you’ve banged up the mirror on the truck is a stress you don’t need.

movingvan_resizedPhoto by Jason Burrows

Evaluate your options by jumping on Twitter

Here’s a quick tip I learned (too late) for sussing out which moving services to use. Since we didn’t have a ton of people we could ask about moving companies, we were kind of in the dark. What we should have done was this: Go to Twitter, and search for what people are saying about the companies you’re considering. Yes, people often post on Twitter in a huff, but you get to see what kinds of things people are encountering.

I tend to rely on online reviews frequently (I almost always check Yelp before going out to eat, getting a haircut, etc.), but I didn’t think to check Twitter before signing the contract with the moving company. Don’t make that mistake!

Your thoughts?

Moving isn’t easy. And it isn’t cheap. But with a few strategic choices (and managing your expectations), you can decrease the stress and the money it takes to move. That way, you can focus on having good closure with your old home and a good start on your new one.

There are a ton of other suggestions I could have made here that I had to leave out.

But I’d love to know — what tips do *you* have to make moving easier and more affordable?

Reading Time:

4 minutes





  1. Kelly

    Don’t spend money on bubble wrap. For years, we’ve only used newspaper to wrap breakables. Sometimes i splurge and buy the blank newspaper, but you certainly don’t have to have it. I would also suggest keeping your china boxes if you are newly married. They are custom made for your dishes and hold up well.

  2. Katelyn

    We’ve moved 4 times in the last 6 years with one of those being a major cross country move and anticipate many more moves in our future (military family.) De-cluttering is the biggest thing. It helps to really think about if that particular item deserves the effort (packing, hauling, unpacking, cleaning) you will put into moving it and how often you’ve used it in the past year. I also like to pack an “open this first” box. Ours consists of basics like a single frying pan and cooking pot, a couple plastic cups, a single set of dishware/silverware for each household member, and some dish soap. I’ve heard of others including their crockpot. This box actually comes with us since we are often separated from our household goods during the move for days to sometimes weeks. By having this box our kitchen can continue to function with very simple meals while we unpack without having to resort to take out over and over or rummaging haphazardly through boxes looking for the forks because someone tossed them into the top of a random half full box.

    • KC

      We tend to have a few “unpack this first” boxes or suitcases:
      1. enough clothes/toiletries/medications for [period of time you expect to be “enough” unpacked within, then add 3 or more days for “flex”] (basically, pretend you’re going on vacation to somewhere in the same climate, and then add a shower curtain and towels)
      2. basic kitchen stuff (can opener, flatware, cups, plates, bowls, saucepan)
      3. basic hardware stuff (to assemble furniture and whatnot) and any necessary pre-move-in cleaning supplies

      And the very first thing that goes over:
      4. A bag with soap, hand towel, and toilet paper. You can order pizza for dinner, but odds are good that you can’t wait until the moving truck is empty before heading to the bathroom. 🙂

  3. Victoria

    This will seem extreme to most people but when we did a move across the country we actually bought a moving van. It was old and small but it did the trick. When we arrived in our new town we sold it for as much as we paid for it so the trip just cost us gas.

    • Kimberly

      I have a friend who did this too — only she kept the moving van for a few months while she renovated her new home. She did lots of dump trips with the ripped out home items, and picked up supplies. Then, she rented herself out for moving for a few months (she’d drop off the truck, someone would fill it, then she’d drive it to the new destination in town). After all that, she sold it for $50 more than she purchased it for. 🙂

  4. Becky

    We have been fortunate to have our husband’s company pay for two very expensive cross-country moves. We will be moving back west soon, and we are already creating piles of all the toys, clothes, and extras to get rid of prior to moving. Since we will be paying for the move this time, taking everything is not an option. My husband will be driving the moving truck this time too.

  5. Jessica

    In my seven years of marriage I have already moved 6 times! We also hope to move overseas in the future so making moving easier and more affordable is a priority for us. I’m a big believer in getting rid of stuff, even when you’re not moving and do this on a regular basis, it’s so helpful to not have to majorly de-clutter among the stress of actually moving house. I’m also an avid labeller! I label the boxes with the room I want them to be put into in the new home, this makes sure everything is in the room it needs to be, rather than just piled in one room waiting to be sorted through. I also keep my own inventory of the boxes and how many there should be for each room.

  6. Liz Wootton

    As I am looking at a (hopefully) probable move from Scotland to Canada next year, this blog has come at a good time. I’ve already begun decluttering – last year I started asking myself the question ‘If we move to Canada, would I want to take it with me?’, and that helped a lot. But now I really need to get more ruthless and focused. We may not move for 8 months, which might sound like a long time to get ready, but I know how easily time gets away from you, and I have found that chipping away at my clutter is more effective than one big purge. I get rid of things, then reassess what I have when I do day-to-day chores and realise that I can get rid of more. So 8 months probably isn’t all that long!

    I guess the nub of it is that I KNOW I don’t want to fill my new home with things I can’t find a home for now. Even if our new home is bigger (Canadian homes are often bigger than UK homes by square footage!) I don’t want that space to be filled with stuff. I want the SPACE!

  7. Michelle

    A number of years ago I wrote a LONG post with all of my best moving tips in it. I don’t know if you would really call them money saving per se, but anytime you find a method to streamline a move and protect your belongings while they are being transported, I guess you could potentially be saving money as well. My extensive list of tips can be found here:

  8. Johanna @ My Home Tableau

    We moved overseas a month ago. (from the US to Scotland) We sold or got rid of nearly everything we own. Now that we are rebuilding our lives, we evaluate each new purchase…do we really need this?

  9. Amanda

    When we moved two years ago we hired movers who provided muscle only. We rented the truck and drove it ourselves

    Despite the hourly fee the movers charged they saved us a ton of money. You see, they packed the truck like the ultimate puzzle! If we had packed it ourselves we would have had to rent an additional truck. It also saved us a huge amount of stress and exhaustion from having to lug everything ourselves. They were also extremely quick – no milking the clock from this company! Had we lugged everything with the help of friends and family the cost of feeding everyone likely would have come close to the professionals.

    Something to consider!

  10. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    We have a move in our mid-range future and have been working hard on the decluttering before it’s go-time. Thanks for the encouragement. We’ve reached the stage where we definitely need a nudge. 🙂

    Congrats on YOUR big move!

  11. Sarah M

    We are always de-cluttering. We have moved 6 times in 8 years, more recently across country. We gave away or sold 1/3 of our belongings and should have given away more! We’ll be downsizing once again when we go across the border (living in Blaine WA right now, moving next year into Canada) because the places are so much smaller and much more expensive. It’s amazing what you can live without!

    Sarah M

  12. Melitsa

    Declutter is a must if you can beforehand. We’ve moved many times as a military family and this totally helps. We’ve just moved last week. What’s really helped this time around is packing a case of clothes for two weeks and living out of this for a while. Takes the pressure off finding everything and rummaging through boxes that kids like to do.

    We also went for detailed labeling and my personal favourite was drawing a little pic of the place where the stuff used to be. Quick glance at the pic and I know not to go into this box as we unpack the things in priority.

    All of these did save us money not rebuying things we can’t find.

  13. Paula

    We have moved 13 times in our 15 years of marriage, and no we are not in the military. We usually take a “few” trips to the liquor store for boxes. I’ve noticed that other people are always moving too, so Craigslist or Facebook friends will often advertise someone getting rid of their boxes and packing paper from having just moved.
    We usually save money by moving ourselves. We have never had to hire anyone to help us move. We are blessed with friends and church family that is giving of time and muscle and we provide them some lunch in return. I feel that has saved my sanity a little too, knowing how things are packed, being able to find things easily, and knowing our truck is securely packed.

  14. Missy Robinson

    I’m going against the grain here, but I think purchasing those wardrobe boxes are TOTALLY worth it! When I moved this past summer, I purchased two and found two through Freecylce. It was so easy to move the closets. Now I keep two in the basement for the clothes my nine year old outgrows which will be passed to the five year old. I’ve donated the other two to those who need them.

    I always have the boxes marked with a color by which room they will go to and prepare a “staging area” like the garage, a basement or extra bedroom from where lots can just get dumped and I can unpack at my own pace.

    Moving is dreadful, in my opinion, and I hope I don’t have to do it again for a VERY long time!

    • Katelyn

      If you are near a military base, it’s worth asking around on craigslist or the city area facebook page for moving boxes. Many military families are looking for a way to get rid of them after a move (or more likely they get passed from person to person.) This goes for packing paper too.

  15. Kimberly

    We moved about 1000 miles this last spring. We ended up renting a moving truck for a one-way move. Prices on rental trucks are like plane tickets — they fluctuate. The farther in advance you can make your reservation for the truck, the better the price will be. We did a lot of research trying to find the “best price.” Find a quote online, then call and make sure you really DO have the best price. Sometimes someone on the phone can give you a better price, sometimes they can’t.

    Also don’t forget that you’ll be charged tax based on where you will pick up the truck. That can add a hefty last-minute fee on if you aren’t prepared.

  16. Erin @ Small and Simple Things

    After settling in after our most recent move, I was left with a few boxes unopened in the garage. They sat there for a year and a half. When I finally opened them, I just got rid of what was inside, since I hadn’t needed it for quite a while.

    I confess there are things I have moved because I just didn’t have the time/take the time to deal with them properly. For example, I have several boxes of old school papers that keep moving with me because I haven’t taken the time to sort through them and scan those of value. Moving is the best motivation to de-clutter, so perhaps I can pretend I’m getting ready for a move and do some good sorting.

  17. priest's wife (@byzcathwife)

    Decluttering has saved us time and money when moving….no sense in paying to move semi-trash!

  18. Rhonda35

    The military moved us many, many times during my husband’s career, but it wasn’t until he’d been retired 10 years and we were approaching a move with his current employer that we needed to worry about too much stuff. It was the first time we’d been in a house for more than 2 years, so we had accumulated a LOT!

    I had a big yard sale about 6 months before we moved, thinking I’d really cleared out things. Well, in those next 6 months, I managed to find enough junk to have 3 more yard sales – as the move closed in, our household goods became less precious and turned into “things” not treasured items. 🙂

    His company paid to pack and move us, however, when we got to our new home, I had so many boxes, packing paper, etc. So, I did what some of the other commenters mentioned: I listed the boxes and paper as “free” on Craigslist. As I unpacked, I broke down the boxes and either flattened the paper or put all the crumpled bits into a box or two. I had so many messages requesting the boxes and my garage would empty out as quickly as it filled up.

    I felt really good about helping others and asked them to please make the boxes available to others in the same way when they got to their new destination. Why not share resources with others until the boxes/paper are so used that it really is time to put them in the recycling bin?

    As aside: not only did boxes get reused, but I heard many stories about downsizing, a death in the family, new marriages, etc. People like to share their stories and that is one of my favorite ways to connect with people – by listening.

  19. Erica

    Taking digital pictures of things that are sentimental but not practical or possible to move (like cups my grandmother hand-painted) allowed us to part from it easier when we moved countries. It is often the memory we want to keep, not the item. Be sure to back them up in a cloud somewhere!

    • pam

      I couldn’t agree more about taking photos of family items that can no longer be accommodated in a current for future home. I just moved twice in slightly over a year. I had many items that had been my mother’s and/or my grandmother’s. I took photos of them and plan to make an album with the photo on one side of the page and a little of the history on the other. Makes parting with sentimental items easier.

  20. Beth M.

    As a child, my parents gave each child a fairly large KMart trunk and a single suitcase. Everything we wanted to take with us had to fit. Slowly, they started letting us keep a banker’s box of paper and memorabilia, too. I’ve been trying to get myself back down to the equivalent of that standard in my adult life, too.

    So, for moving cheaply, REDUCE, pack & unpack yourself, label clearly and simply, hire temps (or ask your local church) to load & unload the truck if you can’t, drive yourself, pack a cooler with meals on the trip, stay with friends/family along the way if you can. My dad bought a trailer with low rails, bolted three planks of plywood along the front and sides, and we made a move from IL to CA on nothing but gas and cheap motels.

    More recently, I picked up brightly colored electrical tape at the dollar store, then put a small strip of each on an ordinary piece of paper, and put FRAGILE next to RED and the room each other color will be used for beside it in Sharpie – Living, Dining, Kitchen, Bath, Bedrooms (different colors for each), etc. For specific items I knew I’d need to find easily, I wrote it in Sharpie on the top and sides of the box – like IRON or SKILLET or FIRST AID KIT. Took the temps we hired just two hours to get everything into the right rooms, and nothing got broken. Hiring temps is a fair bit less expensive than a moving company, simply because all they are doing is hauling boxes. Someone will have to monitor them fairly closely and know a little about packing a truck so they can direct them, else the load can shift. The times we’ve had church help, there was always somebody really good at loading trucks safely.

    We cleared a wall in the living room and put the packed boxes there, trying to keep each room stacked on top of or in front of other boxes from the same room. We also packed an “Open First” box or two – besides essential cooking supplies and a set of sheets for everyone, make sure you include your cleaning supplies, too. They’ll probably be the last thing you pack anyway, and they’ll be the first thing you want. Don’t let them toss your broom and mop on top of everything in the truck – they will slip clear to the front and slide down between boxes to you can’t find it until they’re almost done unloading.

    As a kid we always sold all our furniture before we moved and bought “new” used when we arrived. The only my parents kept was their bed and an antique dresser. Sleeping in sleeping bags until we found a great deal on beds, and sitting on folding chairs until we found a clean used sofa was nothing.

  21. Katherine

    Whenever we move I leave town with the kids, and my husband executes the actual packing and moving. I am of no help, juggling kids and my tendency to overthink every item I pack, so I leave and he tackles the job with much less stress. When I roll back into town, I unpack boxes and reshuffle things in the kitchen that have already been unpacked.

    This method totally works for us:)

  22. Kim

    You know who else has awesome boxes? Copy shops! Copy paper boxes are the bomb!

  23. Simon @ Modest Money

    Moving however small is never easy. We have moved twice this year and despite meticulous planning it was still a humongous hassle. One thing I can certainly agree with you: Declutter your home every opportunity you have! Weigh each item presence on strict scales and vet anything that gets dragged through the door. It will ease many of the future moves.
    If you have to hire a moving company…research and compare mercilessly and even then, try negotiate the offered price.

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