Congratulations: You’ve been given the keys to your new home. Now the physical work begins. Moving, even locally, can be a very expensive process. Here are eight money-saving tips that I discovered during our move within the same city last year.
Get free boxes and use towels as packing material.
Hopefully you’ve already been decluttering and packing during the entire home-buying process. If you haven’t, you need to kick it into high gear and take this opportunity to pare down your belongings. Even if you are moving into a much bigger house, consider whether you really need each item before you pack it into a box. Donate or trash whatever you don’t need or want anymore. The less you have to move, the better.
We got most of our boxes from our workplace. Many were just copy paper boxes, but those smaller boxes are great for heavy or fragile items. Ask your co-workers and friends to save boxes for you. Call the manager at the grocery or big-box store and ask if they have any boxes that you can take. Wine or liquor cases with the dividers are great for packing glasses, vases and other tall, skinny objects. You may also get free boxes by posting a request on your local Craigslist and/or Freecycle site. Someone else who has just moved will likely give you boxes rather than taking the time to break them down.
We didn’t buy any bubble wrap to protect our belongings. We used bath and hand towels, kitchen towels and pot holders, sheets, magazines, newspapers and other things that we had lying around (including some bubble wrap that we had saved from packages once we started looking for a house). Put some thought into packing your fragile items so they don’t shift around or get crushed by other items. Remember to label your boxes as fragile if they contain breakables. On the boxes, write the name of each room where the items will end up so they can be deposited into the correct room right away for unpacking.
Ask for lower — or no — utility deposits.
Find out which companies will be servicing your utilities and call to schedule the services to be turned on or transferred, as well as turned off at your old place, as soon as you know your moving date. Some companies will require a deposit or proof of a good-standing account from your previous company. Find out ahead of time so you can have your old utility company send you proof of good standing ahead of time. Schedule for mail forwarding with the post office and change your addresses with all of the companies with which you do business. Most companies will allow you to make these changes online.
Scour daily deals sites — and read reviews — when hiring out services.
If you are going to need movers, painters, carpet cleaners, house cleaners, chimney inspectors, handymen or any other service providerss, sign up for local daily deal emails (such as Groupon and Living Social, etc). There are often deals for at least 50% off services on these sites. Before you purchase any deals, read all of the fine print and look for reviews of the companies on websites such as Angie’s List (we bought a membership for this with a daily deal), Yelp, the Better Business Bureau or other review sites. If I had been more thorough about reading reviews, I would not have chosen the carpet cleaner who rescheduled on me at the last minute and was unprofessional when he finally did the job.
Decide which services need completed before you move in (cleaners, carpet cleaners, painters) and schedule them, or schedule the time to do it yourself. You can rent carpet cleaners at most grocery and hardware stores for around $30/day. We used daily-deal vouchers for two different carpet cleaners because each voucher only covered a certain number of rooms. We didn’t pay for housecleaners, but after the fact, we wished we would have. Having the kitchen and bathrooms professionally cleaned would have been money well spent (through a daily deal, of course). If your house has a fireplace, make sure that you have it cleaned and inspected before you attempt to use it. We bought a deal for a chimney inspection and cleaning and scheduled it for early fall. The inspection revealed a venting issue that my husband was able to fix himself.
Move midweek — or move some things yourself.
Unless you are going to move everything yourself, you’ll need to schedule movers. Ask if you can get a cheaper rate if you move mid-week instead of on a weekend. We decided that if we could afford to buy a house, we could afford to use movers instead of making our friends help us (again). Since we had a month to get all of our belongings packed and moved, we elected to have them move all of the furniture (leaving clothes in the dresser drawers) and about 20 boxes. We moved the rest of our boxes and the clothes from our closets by ourselves over the next few weeks.
Moving companies will give you quotes based on how much furniture you have, how many boxes you need moved, travel distance, and how many hours they expect it to take. We got quotes from four companies and went with one that a friend had recommended that also had good reviews. The company gave us a discount since a previous customer had referred us (it never hurts to ask!). Make sure that the company is bonded and insured and find out what insurance is included in your quote. Sometimes insurance will only cover up to a certain amount or will only cover value cost instead of replacement cost. The movers we chose were professional and the move went more quickly than expected, so our final bill was less than the quote. While there isn’t an overriding consensus on whether or not to tip movers, I’ve read that 5% is appropriate. Since we were very happy with the guys that we used, we gave each of them $20 on a 15-mile, $350 move, plus offered them cold bottles of water during and after the three-hour process.
Get cheaper cleaning supplies online.
If you’re cleaning your new house and/or old place, make sure that you have all of the supplies that you need and plan on spending double the amount of time you think it will take to clean. My No. 1 cleaning tip is Magic Erasers. They are truly magic and can be used on a ton of different surfaces. I bought a box of 8 Magic Erasers on Amazon for 45% less than they cost in the store. We carried a bucket of cleaning supplies from room to room.
Plan your meals during the move.
You’re going to need to eat during this time of transition, but if you don’t plan ahead, you’ll be dining out way more than is good for your wallet or your waistline. We grabbed fast food or sandwiches more often than normal, but we always used coupons. I planned ahead and froze some easy meals before we moved so we could thaw them and heat them up without using a bunch of pans since we had already packed a lot of our kitchen gear. We had enchilada meatballs, soup, homemade pizza (cooked and frozen ahead of time), pulled pork, frozen vegetables and chicken sausages for lunch and dinner during the week we were split between both houses.
Use your coupons.
Be on the lookout for coupons for home improvement stores: You’ll find yourself there every week for the first few months and then once a month thereafter. We started getting a lot of coupons when when we forwarded our mail. We saved our 10% off entire purchase coupons for shopping trips where we knew we’d be spending a lot of money.
When you move in, write down all of the tasks that you’d like to complete over the next year, including the recommendations from your home inspection, and list them in order of importance. You’ll have so much to do in the beginning that it’s easy to get side-tracked and end up with a bunch of half-finished projects. Make a list of any supplies that you’ll need for these projects and purchase as many as you can afford to at a time using your coupons, so you won’t be running to the home improvement store several times a week.
Don’t knock secondhand furnishings.
While you may be tempted to purchase new furniture on credit or with your emergency fund, don’t. Buy and replace items slowly as you have the money saved. Be open to purchasing used items, like a lawn mower, or accepting secondhand furniture from friends or family. Our friends gave us a used but high-quality dining room set when they purchased a new one and it looks great. Buying furniture for our formal dining room wasn’t high on our priority list, so we were thrilled to not have to spend money on it. We bought a barely used lawn mower for 25% of the price it would have cost new and paid to give it a tune-up.
If you feel weird about buying secondhand, remember that as long as the item is in good condition, no one cares whether you owned it for five years or if someone else owned it for four years and you’ve owned it for one. (Here are tips for finding the best deals on used furniture.) Two of our bedrooms are still devoid of beds, and we have no furniture in our finished basement, but since we don’t need to use those rooms right now, we aren’t going to spend money just to fill them. Since we didn’t spend extra money on new furniture when we moved, we have enough saved that we were able to replace our downstairs carpeting with wood laminate flooring much sooner than we planned and we replaced our old hand-me-down couch when we saw a great deal on a new couch.
It’s a year now and we still only have a few things hanging on the walls, but it feels like home and will continue to be a work in progress. We feel very comfortable with our financial situation because we carefully considered the costs of every step throughout this process.
What money-saving tips do you have for the costs of moving?