7 Frugal Moving Tips

Posted by Jill on September 29, 2010

I just moved into a new, much smaller apartment and learned some major lessons about what (not) to do!

My move was extra hectic thanks to three trips in the three weeks leading up to the big move…including one that ended less than 72 hours before my movers arrived!

I’m passing some of my hardest-learned lessons on to you, in the hopes that your future moves will be both smoother and lighter on your wallet.

Here are seven frugal moving tips:

Frugal Moving Tips

  1. Meals: Plan your meals for the days you will be packing and moving so that you can avoid spending extra funds on eating out. It might be a good idea to make a casserole early in the week and eat leftovers for several meals. Leave out a few dishes and utensils that you can pack at the last minute. I made the mistake of leaving leftovers in the fridge…and packing all my utensils! Consider purchasing items to make a salad or other cold dish for your first day/night in the new place – that way you won’t have to locate pots and pans right away.
  2. Boxes: Do your best to avoid purchasing boxes. Ask for empty boxes at a grocery or liquor store. If you live in an apartment building, look for people moving in and ask if you can take their boxes off their hands when they’re done. Bonus tip: pay a little more for brand-name packing tape. The generic (and cheaper) stuff is not worth it, trust me.
  3. Movers: If you don’t have a lot of heavy furniture, or you have some strong friends and a large vehicle, you may be able to avoid movers altogether. Keep in mind that saving money by avoiding movers is not worth it if you have to replace items that you and your helpers break or are unable to move! If you decide that movers are your best option, consider hiring independent laborers through something like Craigslist rather than going with a large moving company. One caveat – get recommendations and/or check references before booking. If you are hiring movers that come with their own truck, make sure the movers have insurance. If paying by the hour, make sure you are completely packed and as organized as possible before the movers arrive. Consider helping them move smaller items, and place sentimental, fragile and hard/expensive-to-replace items in your own car. If you feel the movers are not moving quite as efficiently as they could be, you do have the right to say something and/or reflect your satisfaction in your tip.
  4. Cleaning: If you are moving out of a rental unit, chances are you will need to leave the place spotless. If you have a large security deposit pending and find yourself running short on time, it might be worth it to hire a cleaning service. Again, you can usually get good deals through Craiglist but you’ll want to check references. If your security deposit is pretty small, your unit is relatively clean, or you just love the feel of a sponge between your fingers, go the frugal route and clean yourself.
  5. Damages: When it comes to repairs, consider whether the cost of fixing it is worth the deposit money you will get back. For instance, I had two small screw holes that my apartment informed me they would charge me $25 for. I didn’t have a way to fill them, and don’t own a car. So fixing them would have required renting a Zipcar, taking a 1 hour roundtrip to Target, purchasing some kind of spackle, and actually spackling/repairing the holes. I estimated that this would cost me about $15, plus about 2 hours of time. To me, it was worth paying the apartment $25. You might come to a different conclusion, but the point is that you should not assume that getting your entire security deposit back is actually the best financial option. If doing so requires a significant outlay of time/money on your part, it may be better to let some of that money go.
  6. Decluttering: As you start to pack, set aside two boxes or bags: one of items to give away or donate and one of items to sell. If you haven’t used it in the last year, chances are you don’t need it: get rid of it and avoid having to pack and unpack it. As an added bonus, you can put any sale proceeds towards other moving expenses! Before you ever move a thing out of your old place, do a walkthrough of the new place and have a rough idea of where furniture will go. If anything doesn’t fit, make the attempt to sell it before you move. This will allow you to get a better price for it, rather than having to rush to get rid of it as you are in the midst of moving.
  7. The new place: Before you move in, make sure your new location is ready for your arrival. Plug in the fridge so that you can bring food from the old fridge to the new one rather than throwing things away. If you are moving more than a few miles, a small ice chest can help keep the most sensitive items fresh. Before you move, make sure the utilities are working, on and in your name. When you get your first bills, make sure that you start paying on your move-in date and not before. Finally, before you start moving take note of any existing damages so that you don’t have to pay for them later.

What are your best tips for moving without breaking the bank?

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Comments to 7 Frugal Moving Tips

  1. Regarding furniture and appliances: we recently moved from a house to an apartment. One of the “pros” of apartment living (there are several, in my opinion) is the fact that appliances are provided. In our case, brand new ones. We sold our fridge, washer and dryer, and power mower in a matter of days before moving. This gave us cash to pick up some nice, used bedroom furniture for our new place. Furniture is usually pretty inexpensive, because the sellers generally just want to unload it quickly.


  2. Another great place for sturdy boxes is bookstores like Barnes and Noble, etc. Last time I moved I went dumpster diving twice behind the one near my house. Good news is the dumpster is for cardboard only so it’s not that messy. We got 60 boxes that we didn’t pay a cent for. They are also all generally the same size which makes stacking them super easy!


    • That is an excellent idea that I have never heard/thought of. Another pro is that the boxes will be 100% clean/dry since they only held books and not food or drinks. I will certainly be using this in the future.


  3. paper plates and plastic forks really help out in a move. I like to keep my toothbrush in my purse or a separate bathroom basics box for a quick shower.


    • agree about the paper/plastic. Nothing like being able to throw away!

      One thing I was not good at was keeping out cups for water for the movers. Felt AWFUL when they asked for water and all I could offer them was the chance to put their hand (or mouth!) under the faucet.


  4. What a great list of tips! Thanks for sharing. I know having friends and trucks is really helpful and offering to buy a couple of boxes of pizza is still way cheaper than hiring movers.


  5. Planning meals is an excellent tip. Usually we ask friends to help and buy a few pizzas on moving day; but thinking about meals for the next few days is key as well.

    Khaleef @ KNS Financial

  6. We just moved so I am Monday-Morning Quarterbacking the mistakes we made. I always create a “First Day” pack out of a kitchen trash can. It is the first thing I put in the car with me and has handsoap, paper towels, aspirin and band-aids and the box of utensils(and screw-top wine!). I pack the shower curtains, towels and clean sheets in each person’s dresser so they can shower and make beds right away. The crib gets put in very last so it is the first thing removed. Nothing like a cranky,tired toddler on the loose! At the new house I put a colored sign on each door and post-it notes in the space I want the furniture so the movers don’t have to keep finding me to ask me where to put things. I used bright colored labels (4 colors) on the boxes so everyone knew the orange boxes went to the basement, yellow was kitchen, pink for kids rooms and so on. I write the description of the box contents on each label rather than on the box itself so my moving boxes will stay nice (we move a lot!). I loved the idea about planning meals for the new house. My priority last time was to eat everything in the freezer so we wouldn’t have to move it and ended up with several expensive trips to the grocery store because I didn’t plan for after the move. I only loaded the fridge contents into the cooler so there wouldn’t be spills. I just packed the freezers as tightly as possible and left everything solid in there. Great article, wish I had read it a few weeks ago!

    Erica Hall

    • The screw-top wine cracked me up!! Lots of good tips here, I really like the idea of writing contents on labels so that you can reuse the boxes.


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