Tips for a Smooth and Frugal Move

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If you’ve read LifeasMOM for any length of time, you’ll know that my “life as MOM” is in constant flux, particularly over the last year. We’ve had a baby, moved cross country, and adapted to the new seasons of development that each of our kids has entered at ages 12, 8, 7, 5, 2, and 1.

Now? We’re moving. Again.

About three months ago, just when I was ready to dig in and settle in this home, our landlords said they wanted the house back.

Aww, shucks. (Or something to that effect.)

And now the day is fast approaching when we’re going to transplant our little brood once again. So, while I’m busily packing and cleaning, my friend, The Happy Housewife, has offered words of wisdom for a smooth and frugal move. I thought it super-appropriate to let her do the talking this Frugal Friday. I’ll be back in a few weeks with the continuing saga of our Get-Out-Of-Debt story.

Excuse me, I need to go pack a box.

I have moved over 15 times in my adult life. I have moved overseas, across state lines, across town, and even across the street. While each move has been different, there are a few things you can do to simplify your move and save some money in the process.

Don’t buy boxes! Use Craig’s List, Freecycle, and the Uhaul Message Boards to find free boxes in your area. Liquor boxes are a great size for books and glassware. I also drove around the military base I lived on and looked for people moving in, then asked if they would mind if I took their boxes when they were finished. Most people were happy to give me their boxes because it meant they didn’t have to haul them to the dumpster.

Great creative with packing paper. A box of packing paper costs about $8. This is a good investment if you have a lot of breakable items, or are moving long distances. You can also use plastic and paper grocery bags, newspaper, towels, fabric, sheets, blankets, and cloth napkins to protect your items. To avoid newsprint on your items, wrap them in a plastic grocery bag first, then wrap in newspaper.

Ziplocs are your best friend. Put kitchen utensils, silverware, pens, and other small objects in ziploc bags and then pack them in a larger box. This will keep these items from getting lost in a sea of paper, and they will also stay clean. When you get to the new house you just unzip and dump into the correct drawer.

Purge before you move. Packing is a great way to sort and organize the items you already own. I tend to pack with a garbage can next to the box. If I don’t love it, like it, need it, or want it, it goes into the garbage, not the box.

Label the boxes for the rooms you want them to go into. Obviously this only works if you know where you are moving. You can color code your labels by room, and also write a brief description of what is inside the box. This will make unpacking much easier.

For across town moves, leave items in drawers. This saves time (packing and unpacking) and money (less boxes).

Involve the kids. Kids are good packers when it comes to toys, stuffed animals, and other nonbreakable items. Give them a box and let them pack certain areas of their rooms.

Get the right sized truck. If you are moving a large household it is worth it to rent a big truck. Moving on a weekday will save money. Check all the truck rental places to see who has the best deal. If you move during the off season, many times places are willing to negotiate on the price of a rental.

Save your back and rent a dolly. Or if you move frequently, buy one. We finally bought one a few years ago after renting one for $12 each move. We paid $50 for the dolly and it has already paid for itself after a few moves.

Get the insurance. Truck insurance costs about $15. It is worth it. I am not saying how I know this, but I know.

Pizza is cheaper than paying movers. Ask friends to help you on moving day and make sure your provide food and drinks. You might spend $75 in pizza but that is much cheaper than paying movers. During our last move we had almost 40 people from church show up to help move. It took about an hour to unload the truck and set up all the furniture in the house.

Remember moving can be fun. There is something exciting about starting afresh in a new (to you) home. New rooms to decorate, the fun of opening boxes and rediscovering toys, and the opportunity to make new friends and neighbors can help ease the transition to your new home.

— Toni is a homeschooling mom to seven and proud Navy wife. You can find her at her blog The Happy Housewife, where she shares tips on debt free living, cooking, crafting, homeschooling, green living, and life with seven kids.

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  1. I want to second having people at church help with moving! Requests for moving help come over our prayer chain frequently. People always rise to the challenge (even without food!) ๐Ÿ™‚ I bet people at a church you might attend in your new city would be more than happy to help unload (or could be bribed with food) ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Great tips Toni! We have moved quite a bit too during our married life. One of the things we rented, that was a life saver was a piano mover. Our entertainment center is an antique tool cabinet and weighs a ton, we couldn't have done it without the mover.
    Thanks for hosting FishMama!

  3. I hope everything goes smoothly with your move! How far are you moving this time? I really want to move but we just can't right now. Every time the moving bug gets bad I end up making a trip to Goodwill, lol. Anyway another place to find free boxes would be grocery stores and home improvement stores (Lowe's, Home Depot, etc.). They just crush their boxes. You can request that they save moving size boxes and they'll put a note on the box crusher to save some for you.

  4. Great tips. i dread the thought of moving but, it will be something we are going to be doing within the next year. I think I will copy and paste this and save it!

    Have a great weekend!

  5. Great tips, I hope I don't move for a very long time. But I will be having kids move out eventually and will keep these in mind!

  6. Another great place to get boxes is your local fast food restaurant. The french fry boxes in particular are a great size, very sturdy, and stack well. I've used them in every move we've done.

  7. This is a tip for moving in: Be sure there are working lights in every room, set up the beds and be sure you can make breakfast in the morning. If you do those three things, when you are too tired to do any more you can go to bed and get a good night's sleep and be able to have breakfast the next day.

  8. Great tips! Lord willing, the housing market will improve and we will be downsizing in the next year. I will keep these tips in mind. Thank you for sharing!!

  9. As someone who has just been told she will have to move twice in a month (against our will but we have no choice)I was desperate for ideas on this very subject so I appreciate it soooo much! I read the Happy H all the time and was going to scour your blog looking for moving tips this weekend. You saved me the trouble. Thank you!

  10. My best moving tip (from a marine wife) is pack a box that is the open first box. In this box I put scissors, pens, paper towels, drinking cups, toliet paper, towels and shower curtains. More things go in the box but these are the basics. You forget that when you move into a new place there is nothing in the bathrooms and until you get a chance to unpack all your things you will definitely want a shower, use the facilities and clean up a bit. You can always eat take out with paper towels but you need to have some cups handy for water when the movers get thirsty. I keep the pen ans scissors attached to me as they tend to get misplaced throughout the unpacking.

    I second the ziploc baggie use. It is the best way to handle silverware and those things that you use in your office drawer.

    Happy moving.

  11. Thanks for the tips! We will be moving in the next couple of months and with 3 kids under 3, I need all the help I can get! I have become a pro at finding free boxes and am stockpiling newspaper, but I LOVE the tips about using plastic bags to prevent newspaper transfer AND using Ziploc bags (which I also have alot of by playing the grocery store and drugstore game). THANKS!

  12. Great tips. I just recently finished reading Jessica V. Psalidas's latest book, "Financial Purity," and have been blog hopping around tonight trying to find some great ways to get my finances under control. Stumbled across this site and am incredibly grateful! My husband and I plan to move within the next year and will most definitely use most, if not all of the tips you have outlined here- smart and frugal.

  13. My wife is too nice to me to reveal that I was the reason she endorses truck insurance. I rented th biggest truck available and something told me to get the insurance. When gassing up to return the truck, I caught the side of the barrier surrounding the pumps. It tore a huge chunk out of the side of the truck fairing. The first thing they asked me when I got to U-Haul was whether I bought insurance – I had and it saved me at least 1000 dollars. Let's just say it made my drive back home much happier knowing I wasn't out anything but the $15.

    I highly recommend insurance.

    The Happier Husband

  14. My tip is this:

    Just look for a FREE Recycle Yahoo Group in your area. Here in my neck of the woods (Atlanta) someone is always moving and giving away boxes or looking for them. This is always first come basis but why not?

    If you need free stuff from old TV's, toys, chairs, beds, couches; then this is the place to go. And it's all free.

    Just because something is used doesn't mean it worth throwing out in the trash. For example just last month my next door neighbor gave away about a large stack VCR & DVD's that her pre-teens will never watch again. But for a young Mom with little ones at home, picking up a boat load of free kids movies for free is certainly a mighty fine deal.

  15. I’ve moved……A LOT. Here is my best tip. The truck seems to NEVER be big enough. And there are always odd shaped breakable things to pack like lamps,vases and art objects. Linens take up a lot of room, too, and require big awkward boxes. But here’s the thing…..There is one place where there wasted space on the truck…. in the refrigerator. Take out the shelves, wrap the objects in blankets and comforters etc and pack them in the frig. Fill unused space with extra sheets,towels, even pillows. tape or tie the door shut. You move the appliances with a dolly anyway, so the little bit extra weight isn’t an issue. The odd shaped things arrive safely, and they take up less room on the truck than if you wrapped them separately or put them in boxes. I’ve done this for years and it works great….hope it helps someone else.