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Q: I'm moving out of state, and I'm afraid the process will be really expensive. How can I move cheaply while making sure my stuff arrives intact?
A: You've come to the right place: My dad has been in the moving industry for 47 years. I know when you need a hand truck instead of a dolly, and that among a mover's greatest frustrations is that every customer underestimates how much stuff he or she has.
Paying for a move can be harder than packing and hauling your stuff. Hiring professionals is a good idea if you have a lot of furniture or fragile items. But a one-bedroom professional move from Chicago to Boston with no packing services could cost between $2,177 and $2,923, according to Moving.com. If you don't have that much saved, you might be tempted to put the bill on a credit card, but interest charges would make it even more burdensome.
There are ways to cut that cost or avoid it altogether. Pack a rental van if you're comfortable driving it or have a friend who is, and if you'll have help carrying the big stuff. Or limit yourself to what fits in your car and accumulate Craigslist furniture once you arrive.
Here's how to move without going broke.
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TIME IT RIGHT
If you use a professional moving service, avoid the popular summer months and the last weekend of each month, when prices often are higher. Compare at least three estimates from local, reputable movers, says Scott Michael, president and CEO of the American Moving and Storage Association.
If you're moving across state lines, for example, look up companies using the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Protect Your Move search tool. You can view whether the company is registered with the Department of Transportation and insured, and you can see if it has a history of consumer complaints.
Be wary of lowball offers, Michael says, which could lure you into a bait and switch with an unscrupulous company and end up costing you more.
Ask the companies whether you'll pay less if you shift your dates. A company may charge less on certain days or weeks based on its workload, Michael says.
LIGHTEN THE LOAD
The cost of long-distance moves usually depends on the weight of the shipment and the number of miles to the destination, Michael says. Even if you move a short distance or without professional help, downsizing makes the move less pricey. (With a moving man for a dad, I've become ruthless at regularly culling my clothes and knickknacks, always ready for the next move.)
Lina Rosenberg, 25, has moved across states three times in the past two years, largely by driving herself in her car and choosing partially furnished apartments. She says it's smart to donate excess clothing, store out-of-season clothes at a friend's home for pickup later and leave bulky furniture behind. But don't get rid of kitchen items, she says. They don't take up much packing space, and they can be costly to replace.
PACK AND SHIP CHEAPLY
Packing your own items will save you money whether or not you hire movers. You don't need to buy boxes. Rosenberg suggests reusing boxes from liquor stores: They're sturdy and small, which means you can't make them too heavy to carry.
For items that can't fit in your car, consider Amtrak or Greyhound. They offer shipping services that can be cheaper than package delivery companies or the Postal Service. Rosenberg once shipped a bicycle by train using Amtrak Express Shipping. (You'll have to drop off your boxes at an Amtrak station, then pick them up at your destination.) Compare quotes using your individual shipping load and timeline.
TAKE THE TAX DEDUCTION
Moving for a new full-time job may mean gaining access to a generous, slightly under-the-radar perk: a tax deduction for moving expenses. You can lower your taxable income by the amount it costs to move your stuff, your car and yourself to your new home.
But you have to meet some specific requirements to get the deduction. Your new job must be at least 50 miles farther from your previous home than your old job was. The expenses must take place within a year of starting work in your new location. And you can't take the deduction if your employer reimburses you for moving expenses. When you meet those criteria, the stress of uprooting your world might be happily overshadowed by the money you save.
This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Email staff writer Brianna McGurran: firstname.lastname@example.org . Twitter: @briannamcscribe .
NerdWallet: Moving for Work? How to Get a Tax Deduction
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration: Protect Your Move
IRS Publication 521: Moving Expenses