Lower Your Expenses

Tips For Moving To Save Money and Minimize Stress

Listen Money Matters is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. How we make money.
Tips for moving on a budget

Moving is certainly stressful and it can be expensive.  Having just done it, I’ll share some things I did to save money and minimize stress.

Did you know that moving is number three on the list of life’s most stressful events?  It’s just behind death (not your own, being dead is like being stupid.  Harder on everyone else than it is on you) and divorce.

Part of the stress is the expense involved.  I moved two weeks ago and I used some tricks and tips that I hope will help make your next move less expensive and stressful. Here are some tips for moving on a budget.

Get Rid Of Stuff

Really, lots and lots of stuff.  I’m generally pretty pared down but I was surprised at how much I was able to get rid of.  Mostly books which was a struggle for me.  

I wish I could keep every book I ever bought but I want to be more “portable” and it was the books weighing me down.  I donated about ten boxes and still had about an equal amount that I couldn’t face parting with.

For those books you just can’t live with out, you can use Media Mail through the US Postal Service, and it might be cheaper than paying movers to move them.  You can mail a twenty pound box of books this way for about $12.

How many CD’s and DVD’s do you have squirreled away?  Are any of the CD’s not uploaded to your iTunes?  Are any of those DVD’s movies or shows that you can’t watch on Amazon or Netflix?  They go!

I got rid of some kitchen stuff too, a juicer (too much sugar), a fondue set that was nice but I have used exactly once in fifteen years, a bunch of coffee mugs since I only drink coffee from the same cup every day, some clothes and shoes.

Getting rid of all that saved me money on my move, saved me space in the new place and did give me a bit of a psychological boost.  There is something satisfying about getting rid of stuff.

If you have the time and inclination, you can sell some of your excess and make a few bucks to put towards the move.  To be honest, I couldn’t be bothered and just gave away, donated, recycled or tossed it all.

Move In The Off Season

Not everyone will be able to do this.  If you’re in an apartment, have a job transfer, or it takes more or less time than you expected to sell your house than you have to move according to those time tables.

The off season for movers is the fall and winter.  People are understandably nervous about scheduling a move when the weather might be bad.

I dodged a bullet.  The Blizzard That Never Happened didn’t happen three days before my scheduled move.  If you can move during off peak season, it can save you as much as thirty percent on the cost of hiring movers.

Get our best strategies, tools, and support sent straight to your inbox.


Think this one through.  Moving is stressful enough without roping your reluctant friends into helping you and then hoping that after bribing them with beer, they’re still sufficiently sober to move your stuff without breaking anything.

I would recommend packing and unpacking yourself though to save money.  Packing isn’t very much fun but it isn’t exactly difficult either and I kind of enjoy unpacking.  A glass of wine and something good on Spotify can make doing both more tolerable.

Don’t Buy Boxes

Free boxes are pretty much yours for the asking.  I lived in a big building and the super kindly saved all of the Fresh Direct boxes (which are the perfect size to pack books) and boxes from people who were moving in.  I didn’t buy a single one, just two rolls of packing tape.

Liquor store boxes are great because booze is heavy so those boxes are nice and sturdy.  Some of them are sectioned too which makes them good for packing drinking glasses into.

Packing Materials

I wasn’t moving far, literally into the building next to my old one so my move didn’t even require a truck.  The movers just took everything out the back of the old building and into the back of the new one.

Because of that I did not go nuts wrapping and bubble wrapping anything.  I used anything that was fabric, towels, clothes, sheets, pillowcases and plastic shopping bags that I had saved up from the times I forgot my tote bag.

Not a single item was broken, it saved me money on wrapping materials and using the clothes is green.  Nothing to throw in the landfill after unpacking.  Even the bags get more than one use since I used them to pack and still have them to use in the wastebaskets in my bathroom and under my desk.

Portable Containers

This is a pretty neat idea.  Not one I used but some of you might want to.  Portable containers are available through companies like PODS. A storage container is delivered to your current home.  You load your stuff into it, already wrapped and packed, the company transports it to your new home, and you unload it.  So kind of the middle ground between DIY and hiring movers.

Use A Flat Rate Mover

I’ve heard horror stories of people who’ve hired movers and were quoted a price only for the price to be jacked up for various bogus reasons. In extreme cases, people’s possessions were “held hostage” until they agreed to the new, inflated price.

Many moving companies will send someone to your home to give you an estimate or you can fill out an inventory online and get one that way.  A flat rate mover may not eliminate a sudden price increase if you’re dealing with a shady company but it makes it less likely to happen.

I used a flat rate mover and the price I was quoted was the price I paid, no funny business.

Write It Off

This won’t be an option for everyone, it wasn’t for me and I double checked with LMM’s resident tax expert Johnny Horta to be sure.  But if you meet certain criteria, the move is job related and at least fifty miles away from your current home, you can write off some of your moving expenses.

Wait Until The Last Weekend

This one isn’t so much about saving money but avoiding aggravation.  Unless you have a big family or are a hoarder, packing will take less time than you think.  Two moves ago I started packing weeks ahead of my move.

It was so irritating living for so long surrounded by boxes and chaos.  Always bumping into stuff and tripping over boxes.  And what seemed like a good idea to pack weeks ahead didn’t always turn out to be the case.  Clothes and cookware I needed were packed, sealed and stacked under other boxes.

The next time I moved I decided to do it all in the final weekend before the move and that was plenty of time.  And I didn’t spend a few weeks eating take out because I had stupidly packed up all my cooking pots and dishes.

All in all it was a pretty cheap, easy move.  I spent less than $600, things went smoothly and I was unpacked and all settled in the same day.  Good luck when your time comes and I hope some of these ideas save you some money!

Candice Elliott - Senior Editor
Candice Elliott is a substantial contributor to Listen Money Matters. She has been a personal finance writer since 2013 and has written extensively on student loan debt, investing, and credit. She has successfully navigated these areas in her own life and knows how to help others do the same. Candice has answered thousands of questions from the LMM community and spent countless hours doing research for hundreds of personal finance articles. She happily calls New Orleans, Louisiana home-the most fun city in the world.

What's next?

learn course podcast popular toolbox