Moving your entire existence is stress inducing even for the most organized people. It might not be your favorite thing to do, but it doesn’t have to put a giant dent in your savings, as long as you have a plan.
Start by writing things down. What do you know about the square footage and layout of your new place? How far away is it? Are stairs involved? Once you start figuring out those logistics, you’ll have a better idea of whether you’ll need to borrow Dad’s pickup or rent a larger moving truck – and whether it’s a job for you and a few friends or whether it’s better to hire professional movers. Give yourself plenty of time – at least a month, if possible – to get packed and organized. The farther away you’re moving, the lighter you should pack.
Get quotes and estimates. If you’re renting a truck to move to a new city, get prices from competing chains and take into account gas and mileage costs. It’s important at this point to know exactly how much storage you’ll need. If you’re hiring movers, ask for written estimates and research their reputations before signing a contract.
Whittle down mercilessly as you pack. Moving is a great chance to clear away clutter from your life. If you haven’t played old video games since your last move, should you really move them again? The same goes for your clothes, craft supplies and so on. As you pack, keep boxes marked “Sale,” “Donate” and “Trash” nearby. The less you have to move, the cheaper and easier it will be.
Space and weight equal money. If you’re a book lover, sell the titles you can do without to a used bookstore. The rest can be shipped by Media Mail through the U.S. Postal Service for around $12 per 20-pound box. Consider throwing out old CD and DVD jewel cases and storing the discs in a binder. Eat with the goal of emptying your pantry and freezer before moving, and don’t move things like old condiments and spices. Buy new when you get there.
Measure your furniture with a critical eye. If your big couch will be a tight fit and it’s seen better days, you’re probably better off putting it on Craigslist or Freecycle now than dealing with it in your new digs. The same goes for your dining room table and chairs, bed and anything else it takes more than one person to lift.
Sell your stuff to cover expenses. Now that you’ve decided what’s not going with you, have a garage or yard sale. Anything that doesn’t sell, donate to Goodwill or other charities that will pick up items.
Don’t pay for supplies you can get for free. Save up newspapers, junk mail and bubble wrap from deliveries in the months before you move, then use them to pack fragile items. Ask new neighbors if they have any moving boxes they want to unload. Liquor stores and supermarkets are great places to score sturdy boxes. When it comes time to pack, you can use bedding and towels to fill in spaces in boxes with heavy dishes or wall hangings.
Pack like a pro. Keep a box on your kitchen table with all your packing supplies, and label every box prominently by contents and the room it should be left in. One box, with your essential toiletries, medicine and whatever else you might need immediately, should be left aside to be packed last and opened first.
New city, new everything? If you’re moving far away, you’ll need to research your new town’s utility hookups. Find out as much as possible about water, trash, electricity, etc. when you’re there shopping for a place to live. (You can wait and ask around about cable and even Internet service for a few weeks.) Plan out your move like it’s a vacation if it’s going to take more than one day. Book a motel ahead of time instead of driving until you’re exhausted with no place to sleep.
Even if you’re just moving a few blocks into a new apartment, you need a plan. A new address can be a liberating experience, but every move comes with unexpected expenses. By making sure you’re not spending on moving services you don’t need, you’ll be able to relax in your new home – and maybe even pick out a new couch for it.