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How to Save Money When You Move

We’re currently in the heart of moving season, those summer months when families typically prefer to uproot and replant someplace else. And this season has been noticeably busier, due to the housing market picking up, said John Bisney, spokesman for the American Moving & Storage Association. During the recession, “demand for residential moving services was down by almost a third,” he said. Despite a growing demand for these services, it’s still possible to save money when hauling your belongings from your current home to the next one. Below are moving tips for budget-conscious consumers.

Move on an ‘off’ day

Doesn’t matter if you do it on June 30 or Jan. 31—if you move at the end of the month, you’ll pay more for it, said Andrea Boccard, vice president of marketing for FlatRate Moving, based in New York. Many leases are up at the end of the month and start at the beginning, so there’s competition then for the trucks and crew to help you pack and shuttle your belongings.

Also stay away from moves on the 15th of the month, another popular move-in/move-out date. Even shifting to the 13th or 14th, when a mover has more trucks available, opens you up to ask for discounts or extras, such as free packing boxes or an extra mover at no charge, Boccard said.

If you can, schedule the move midweek, since weekends are popular. Check with your moving company: Weekday moving rates can be substantially lower if their employees have to be paid overtime for weekend moves.

Of course, moving in an “off” month will provide more savings. “Once October rolls around, you’re going to get a better rate,” Boccard said.

Book in advance

Even if your exact move date isn’t finalized, try to get penciled in a month in advance—especially if you need to move at a popular time. That will give you a little more power to negotiate.

“If you reach out in advance, they know they will have a customer and will work with you,” Boccard said. You can firm up the date later. Be sure to confirm the date with the mover, and get it in writing.

Booking in advance means you can book with the best companies, too, Bisney pointed out. “It’s not something to put off to the last minute,” he said. “When that happens, you find that people start getting desperate…and that’s when they get hooked up with the wrong people,” including, possibly, firms that aren’t reputable, Bisney said.

Read Jeanette Pavini’s Buyer Beware column: How to avoid getting scammed by movers.

Secure a guaranteed price

A mover may charge by the hour, use a binding estimate or charge a flat rate based on inventory. But to avoid surprises, insist on a guaranteed price in advance, in writing, Boccard said.

It’s worth your time: 57% of people who paid more than they expected on a move shelled out $175 to $1,000 more than they had originally anticipated, according to a survey by Unpakt, a moving services comparison pricing site and online booking tool.

“One of the most common scams is a when moving company will provide a low estimate initially and hike up the price once belongings are loaded on the truck,” said Paul Golden, spokesman for the National Endowment for Financial Education, a nonprofit that helps families with their finances.

Also vet companies, making sure that ones you’re considering have a physical address and licensing information. And if a company demands payment before the move or says that your goods are 100% covered by its insurance, be careful—those can be red flags that a company is trouble, according to Sharone Ben-Harosh, Unpakt’s founder, who is also founder of FlatRate Moving.

Do it yourself, but don’t underestimate material costs

Even if you have buddies helping you move your stuff for free, don’t underestimate the cost of packing materials, which can add up to hundreds of dollars. One way to save is to start collecting free boxes for weeks before your move, snagging spare ones from liquor or furniture stores, Boccard said. Another option is to consider online services such as or Craigslist for free packing materials.

On a recent move from Manhattan to Queens, Jon Stone planned a route that minimized driving distance and fuel usage, and avoided tolls. He used everyday items to cut down on costs.

“I did not need to rent a wheeled dolly from Budget because I used my desk chair to push items that were really heavy down the sidewalk,” he said. “The back of the truck had a loading ramp so I was able to simply roll the chair up into the back of the truck. I wrapped fragile items in towels and blankets, too,” he said.

Be selective in what you’re taking

If you don’t envision yourself using an item in the future, get rid of it before your move. There’s no sense in taking up square footage or weight in the truck with items that you don’t really want anyway, Bisney said.

While you’re at it, take measurements to see what will fit in your new home. “You don’t want to move a big sectional couch and pay for that [to be moved] to find out that it won’t fit in the new home after all,” he said.

Protect your valuables

Saving money paying on a move means nothing if your important items get lost or stolen in transit. So take care to protect these items.

The best way to move your valuables is to move them yourself, keeping them with you at all times, especially financial documents, information such as Social Security cards, and electronics that contain files with your personal information, said Becky Frost, spokeswoman for Experian’s ProtectMyID identity theft protection service. Financial documents that are no longer needed should be shredded before moving day.

Also, change your address with your financial institutions and the post office. Identity theft is often a crime of opportunity, she said, and sensitive information on statements, mailed to your old address, could be a temptation if it ends up in the wrong hands.

One scheme currently drawing attention: Companies with websites that offer to handle your change of address for you, for a charge. The United States Postal Service does the job for $1. See the USPS website.

Keep your receipts

Some moving expenses are tax deductible. If you’re moving for a job, you may be able to claim the expenses even if you don’t itemize. 

Source: Amy Hoak is a MarketWatch editor and columnist based in Chicago. Follow her on Twitter @amyhoak.

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