How to make a moving budget
Maximize your money when you move
Relocating isn’t just about getting a truck and a few trained professionals to carefully transport your possessions — it also means managing a lot of moving pieces until all your belongings safely make it to your new home.
There’s a host of variables that go into moving — and the cost. To help you keep your sanity and save money during your move, consider creating a moving budget.
- Your main expense will likely be whatever means you choose to transport your possessions (hiring movers or doing the job yourself).
- Look for ways to save money before you move; shop around for competitive moving prices and free packing supplies.
- Add a contingency fund to your moving budget for unexpected expenses.
- Set up budget negotiables and nonnegotiables in advance of your move so you’ll know where you can easily and quickly trim your budget.
Creating a moving budget: a step-by-step guide
You’ll want to start creating your moving budget at the same time you start planning your move — maybe eight weeks before you relocate.
1. Determine the type of move
Step one of creating your moving budget is establishing what type of move you’re making.
Local moves generally run about $80 to $100 per hour (considering the rates for two moving movers). A long-distance move — think more than 1,000 miles — often starts around $5,000 and can cost as much as $10,000, depending on how far you’re moving.
If you’re moving internationally, you’ll likely be looking at a heftier bill, and where you move in the world will determine the exact price. (For instance, moving from the U.S. to Canada via a truck won’t be as expensive as shipping your items to Italy on a boat.)
Remember: All these costs will fluctuate based on how much stuff you’re moving. One four-bedroom home will cost much more to move than a one-bedroom apartment.
» LEARN: How to move to Canada
2. List all expenses
Now that you have a basic idea of how much your move will run you, it’s time to think about all the associated costs of moving from one home to another.
“In my experience, the best place to start when making a moving budget is with how much money you have available to spend on the move,” said Chris Knowles, the founder and president of True Friends Moving Company in Tennessee. “Next, create a list of moving expenses. Creating this list will help you determine what types of services you are able to afford.”
Knowles continued: “The obvious things include packing supplies, moving services or a rental truck and storage fees. Some expenses that people often forget about include hotel costs for any overnight travel, insurance costs to protect belongings during the move and cleaning expenses. It's also a good idea to set aside an emergency fund for any ‘just-in-case’ situations, like a flat tire during travel or an unexpected expense that wasn't planned for.”
» CALCULATE: How much does it cost to move?
3. Research costs
Now it’s time to sit at the computer or pick up the phone to research all your moving costs.
Gather quotes from different moving companies
Compare truck rental prices
When determining time, factor in distance and time to pack and unpack. Be sure to add time if your location may be difficult for the movers.
Estimate packing material costs
Determine your insurance needs
Calculate travel expenses
If you plan to fly, calculate everything from airfare to taxis. If you have a pet, take into account that airlines charge for taking them along with you. Hotels may charge more for a pet-friendly room.
The important thing here is to look at your lifestyle and where to save money. A motel may be a great savings option for a single person who can eat out cheaply. But for a large family that needs to cook several meals a day, a larger short-term rental may save money in the long run.
» MORE: How much to tip movers
4. Prioritize and cut expenses
Now that you have a better idea of how much a move will cost you, it may be time to look at where you can save, especially if your expenses exceed your budget.
Don’t move what you don’t have to
Has your couch seen better days, or is it time for a mattress upgrade? It may be cheaper to buy replacement household goods and have them shipped directly to your new home rather than moving them.
Another budget-friendly biggie? Declutter as you pack. The less you move, the more you’ll save. Donate old clothes, books, electronics and kitchenware for a tax deduction (or have a yard sale to make some extra cash).
» LEARN: Are moving expenses tax deductible?
If you’re having trouble parting with an item, ask yourself if you want to unpack it on the other side of your move — and where you’ll put it. (If way back in a closet is the answer, you’ll know it’s time to get rid of it.)
And take a good, hard look at items that are broken or need repair. If these have been in a state of disrepair for months, you’ll likely never get around to fixing them.
Decluttering also extends to your pantry, refrigerator and cleaning cabinet. Try not to buy more items in the months leading up to your move.
» ON THAT NOTE: How to unpack after moving
Go for free and recycled boxes
When people complete a move, they have one last thing to declutter: moving boxes and packing material. You can save a ton of dough by searching online marketplaces for any free boxes.
(Insider tip: Go to your local bike store and ask for the large rectangular boxes bikes come in. These narrow boxes are great for packing artwork and protecting TV screens.)
Move on a weekday
One of the biggest factors that can hike up your moving bill is what day and month you move. While timing can be hard to control, if you can move during the week rather than the weekend, you’ll save money. Ditto for moving during October and April. (The peak moving peak season, May through September, is the most expensive.)
Having your movers pack for you is a great timesaver — it will cost you, though. So, if you’re looking to save, pack everything yourself.
» WHAT’S THE MOVE? Moving yourself vs. hiring movers
Disassemble and assemble
Do you have bulky furniture or modular bookcases that need to be taken apart and reassembled during the move? Consider taking these pieces down well before your move rather than paying your movers for this task.
» LEARN: How much do movers cost?
5. Create a contingency fund
“Once you've made your list of expenses and know roughly how much you are able to spend on your move, prioritize your expenses based on their importance and necessity,” Knowles said. “This is where you will be able to finalize your budget and determine, as close as possible, how much your move will cost. But remember: Leave room for unexpected expenses!”
“Know this about moving,” Knowles warned. “There’s likely to be a surprise expense. Plan for this ahead of time so you won’t be caught off guard.”
6. Keep track of expenses
Moving is all about packing things up and getting them contained. It might be that the last thing you want to do is worry about keeping track of a notebook where you write down expenses.
Instead, if it makes sense for you, keep your budget virtual, either by using a spreadsheet on your computer or a budgeting app on your phone.
7. Evaluate and adjust the budget
You have a lot to do as you move, and it can be tough to keep track of all your tasks. But you don’t want to lose sight of your budget as you wrap yet another glass in bubble wrap. One reviewer on our site learned the hard way your expected costs can be quite different from the reality; it’s important to make your budget as realistic as possible so you don’t run out of money after just a “partial move.”
So, try to set aside time as each expense comes in to plug the numbers in, and ask yourself how that cost affects your budget. You may have to adjust your budget as a result. (This is where your contingency fund will come in handy, but be sure to not completely deplete it before your moving day.)
Tips for sticking to a moving budget
You’re on your way to creating a rock-solid moving budget. Now the key is to keep to that budget, which isn’t always easy — but there are some tips and tricks.
- Create a realistic budget: The easiest way to succeed is to create a realistic budget. You don’t want to set a budget that’s too big (and that could spiral out of control). But you also don’t want to create one that’s so small that every little extra roll of packing tip is going to stress you out.
- Plan ahead and start early: The earlier you plan your move, the more you’re likely to save. For example, if you have the time to track down free boxes, you won’t be running to a home improvement store at the last minute — and paying a premium.
- Stay organized and focused: Keeping on top of things will keep your budget under control. In the weeks leading up to your move, spend time decluttering and packing so you won’t be stressed in the final days. Leaving things until the last minute opens up the possibility of spending money on items in the interest of saving time. For instance, if you haven’t made time to pack, you might end up having to pay the movers to do it for you.
- Seek help from friends and family: A great way to keep your wallet happy during your move is to ask friends and family for help way in advance. If you have kids or pets, ask a family member or friend to watch them for the day. You’ll want to keep them safe and occupied so you can concentrate on the move — and save those babysitting/petsitting bucks. Also, if you have a friend with a pickup truck, maybe they can transport some bulky items for you.
Do movers charge by weight or volume?
As a general rule, movers do not charge by volume. Instead, long-distance moving bills are calculated based on weight and distance, while short moves are calculated using an hourly rate.
What unexpected expenses might come up during my move?
You may find yourself with a few boxes of junk or old mattresses on your driveway once the truck is packed. This means you’ll have to call a junk removal company to pick up these extras. Another expense that can come up during a long-distance move is car trouble, like a flat tire.
How can I save on my move without compromising the quality of my relocation?
One of the best ways to save money is to thoroughly declutter before you move. The more items you move, the higher the bill. So, getting rid of anything old or broken or that you no longer need will save you money.
And, if your move dates are flexible, move on a weekday during off-peak months.
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