How to make a budget and cut moving expenses

Take some of the stress out of moving day by budgeting ahead of time

by Jonathan Trout ConsumerAffairs Research Team
Woman working on budget with computer


Financially preparing for your move can save you money in the long run, so it’s a good idea to make a budget before you start the moving process. When planning your budget, think about moving company expenses, the costs that come with moving yourself and the cost of packing and storing items. Make your budget before you do anything else so it will be easy to stick to and prioritize inevitable expenses.

Man holding phone

Budget templates

You can write out a moving budget in a notebook, but creating a budget with today’s technology is simple and convenient. You can easily customize rows and columns in Microsoft Excel for a simple budget template or download and use a budget-specific app. Budgeting apps can be as detailed or simple as you need; you can customize rows, columns, automatically create charts or graphs and categorize expenses intuitively. Some of the top budgeting apps are:

If you use Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, you can download their app and access or share your budget spreadsheet on the go.

Car dashboard

Budget for a DIY move

If you aren’t moving a long distance and don’t have a significant amount of stuff, you might consider moving yourself. If you’re moving yourself, here are some items you need to include in your budget.

  • Truck rental - Moving truck rental prices vary depending on the size of the truck you rent.

  • Mileage and gas - Ask the truck rental company if you have unlimited mileage with your rental or if you’ll be paying extra for mileage. Expect your moving truck to get bad gas mileage. Use AAA’s fuel calculator to help budget for gas along your route.

  • Rental truck insurance - It’s a good idea to have coverage for your rental truck. Most insurance policies don’t cover large trucks, so include the rental truck company's coverage in your budget.

  • Equipment - Always ask what’s included in your truck rental fee. A lot of companies include accessories like dollies, ramps and furniture covers. If they don’t, you’ll need to add a line on your budget for extra equipment.

  • Portable storage containers - People use portable storage containers as an alternative to a moving truck. You can have a storage container dropped off in your driveway, fill it with your belongings and have it moved to your new space. Check out prices and compare portable storage companies here. If you go this route, add it to your budget.

Mover holding clipboard next to moving van

Budget for a moving company

You’ll most likely want to hire a moving company if you’re moving long distance, have a big house and/or lots of stuff or just flat-out don’t want to deal with the stress of moving yourself. If you’re hiring a moving company you’ll want to include these things in your budget.

  • Moving company fee - It’s smart to get a quote from at least three companies. Their fee should include fuel charges and labor. For planning purposes, use the highest quote in your budget if you haven’t decided on a company. A benefit of a flat-rate company as opposed to a company that charges by the hour is that you know exactly what you’ll be paying at the end of the move.

  • Extra insurance - You may want to protect items that mean more to you, like Grandma’s piano or great aunt Norma’s sewing machine. If so, add that to your budget.

  • Extra services - Ask the moving company if they charge extra for preparing things like appliances or pianos. If so, add those quotes to your budget.

  • Extra charges - Look out for extra charges like long-haul and long-carry fees and flight charges. Include these in your budget.

  • Packing - Using professional packers to pack your belongings is optional. If you use this service, add a line in your budget.

Empty moving boxes in a white room

Moving hacks to keep costs down

If your budget is tight, fear not! Here are some hacks for moving on a tight budget.

  • Free boxes - Free is best! Printer paper boxes from work and your friend’s or family’s old moving boxes are great ways to cut costs. Talk to local business managers from supermarkets, office supply stores, liquor stores and bookstores to get heavy-duty boxes for free. Craigslist’s “free” section usually has free moving boxes as well.

  • DIY garment bags - Put your hanging shirts and pants into groups of 15 to 20 and place them in a garbage bag, tying the garbage bag handles just below the hanger hooks.

  • No bubble wrap? No problem - Instead of buying rolls of bubble wrap, wrap breakable items like dishes and glassware in old sheets, towels, wash clothes or shirts. If you have styrofoam plates laying around, stack them in between breakable plates for extra cushion.

  • Put your suitcases to good use - They’re going with you, right? You might as well put them to good use. Put heavy items like books in suitcases. Their wheels and handles make moving easier than carrying boxes.

  • Sandwich bags for the win! - Sandwich bags, big and small. Use them! Sandwich bags are great for loose, small items like the contents of your kitchen junk drawer, nails and screws, bathroom products and much more. Don’t forget to label each bag.

Couple calculating budget


Moving is stressful. Using cost-cutting moving hacks and creating a budget and sticking to it minimizes the financial stress that comes with moving. The best part is, you can plan for the financial side of moving well ahead of time, making one less thing you have to worry about on moving day.

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by Jonathan Trout ConsumerAffairs Research Team

As a member of the ConsumerAffairs Research Team, Jonathan Trout believes having access to free, comprehensive information on products and businesses is vital to making smart purchasing decisions. He focuses his efforts on researching and reviewing multiple brands across a variety of industries, with the goal of writing unbiased buyers guides to help inform consumers on impending purchases.