7 Tips to Save at least $1,000 on Your Next Move

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Whether you’re going across town or across the country, moving can be an exercise in high-cost frustration. But, done right, it can also be a chance to both save money and organize your stuff.

Here are some tips to save at least $1,000 on your next move, plus reduce your stress.

First check out the following 90-second news story:

That’s the short course on efficient, low-cost moving. Here’s more advice:

How to select your moving company

Moving is a highly competitive business with lots of choices, including potentially disastrous ones. Interview at least three companies (five is better) before you settle on one. If you live in a city served by Angie’s List, that’s a good place to find prospects. Ask friends, co-workers or real estate agents for referrals, or do a web search for movers in your area.

Create your own spreadsheet to make it easy to compare the costs and services offered. Movers offer a dizzying array of services from packing to disconnecting appliances to in-transit storage. Be prepared to record not just cost estimates, but exactly what those estimates include.

Before you start the interviews, read this information about your rights from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a division of the Department of Transportation. For more details on how to hire a moving company, check out this article from MovingScam.com.

Once you have a list of prospects, check the Better Business Bureau website to see how each company is rated, if it has been the subject of any consumer complaints and how those complaints were resolved. Then check for potential problems on the message boards at MovingScam.com.

How to save big bucks on your move

Moving the contents of a three-bedroom house across the country can cost from $5,000 to $10,000. Here’s how to trim the tab by at least a grand:

  1. Pit movers against one another – save up to $500. One reason you’re making a spreadsheet is to easily compare costs and services. You also can create competition among carriers by showing them the prices their competitors are quoting and asking for a lower price. Note: While price is obviously important, so is quality of service. If one company’s estimate is way lower than the others, be suspicious.
  2. Be flexible about the day and date – save up to $500. Most moves take place during the summer and on Fridays and Mondays. You might be able to negotiate a better deal by moving on other days and in other months.
  3. Sell, donate or toss stuff you don’t need – save up to $500. If there’s ever a time to get rid of things, this is it. Be brutal: If you haven’t used it within the last year, sell it, donate it, Freecycle it or otherwise dispose of it. And keep in mind that furniture is expensive to move and cheap to buy used. Consider selling some of your heavier items before you move and replacing them with “new” used stuff at the other end. This is also a good idea for clothes.
  4. Do your own packing – save at least $500. While proper packing is essential, it’s not rocket science. Here’s an article from wickiHow about packing basics. Here are a slew of articles from About.com on how to pack everything from stemware to closets. But don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Many movers won’t insure against breakage of items in boxes they don’t pack. Ask. If you’re nervous about packing breakables, let the moving company pack those items and pack only the more durable and/or less valuable items yourself.
  5. Disconnect your own stuff – save at least $100. Disconnecting stereos, computers – even household appliances – isn’t hard. If you can, do it yourself. Here’s an About.com article on moving major appliances. If you can’t do it, you probably have a friend who can.
  6. Move hard-to-pack items yourself – save at least $200. Many moving companies charge extra to crate and move things like flat-screen TVs or paintings. If you’ve still got the box your TV came in, that’s an ideal solution. If not, try to save room in your car for these and other items that would otherwise require specialty crating.
  7. Don’t over-insure – save up to $500. The moving company will offer extra-cost valuation coverage (basically insurance) over and above its liability limits. Check your homeowners or rental insurance policies to see what coverage you’re already paying for and avoid paying for coverage you don’t need.

How to save big stress on your move

Moving isn’t just expensive: It’s stressful. The single biggest way to save on stress? Start early and take your time. Waiting until the last minute and throwing everything into boxes will result in a lot more work and a much bigger bill. By starting early you can:

  • Collect your own boxes rather than buy them from the moving company. (Make sure they’re strong enough. Check moving company websites for the type of boxes they use and collect only ones of similar size and strength.) You can often find free moving boxes on Freecycle and Craigslist.
  • Approach each room independently, getting rid of stuff you don’t need and properly organizing and packing the rest.
  • Do online research on everything from having a successful yard sale to hiring movers to packing.

Bottom line? Moving is like doing your taxes: The earlier you start and the more preparation you do, the less stress you’ll endure and the more money you’ll save.