Five Frugal Ways to Make Moving Easier


Summer is prime moving season.

And who doesn't relish the chance to push a bookcase up a flight of stairs during the hottest part of the year?

While you can't control everything (and moves often morph into extended exercises in Murphy's Law), you can make it a lot easier. And cheaper.

Here are five tips to simplify and cut the costs -- and the stress -- during your next move.

Lighten Your Load

Some people are under the gun to move. Too many times, they pack everything and intend to sort it later when they have time.

Big mistake.

Most movers charge by the pound, says Steve Weitekamp, president of the California Moving & Storage Association.

And if you're moving yourself, all the more reason for ditching items first and just taking the good stuff.

"Go through everything you have," says Dick Gaylord, past president of the National Association of Realtors and broker with Re/Max Real Estate Specialists in Long Beach, Calif. "Determine what you really use. If you've got magazines from five years ago that you've not looked at once, get rid of them."

Want to make the process easier? Watch a couple of episodes of "Hoarders." Then get moving.

Sell. Donate. Recycle. Repeat.

Have things that you just don't need or want anymore? Consider three options:

  • If you have items that still have some life left in them -- just not in your house -- donate them. Charities such as the Salvation Army and Goodwill run thrift stores, where they'll sell your stuff and use the proceeds. Or dial up the thrift stores in your area to see if they have a market for the items you're unloading. You can put the money toward your move or your new place.
  • Have a stack of old books? Call a used bookshop and see if you can sell or trade your titles. Ditto at used-record stores.
  • For broken or worn-out items, if time is more important than money, services such as 1-800-Got-Junk? will haul it away -- and recycle anything that's salvageable. And since you're not paying to move it, this can save some coin.

Also, many big-box electronics stores will accept and recycle old electronics free.

ID DIY Items

Everybody has them: those special little items that have sentimental value. It might be Grandma's vase. Or that footstool Uncle Ed carved by hand. Or a finger-painting that won a blue ribbon at your child's school art fair.

Identify those special items and pack them yourself, says James Foltz, an aerospace engineer who recently moved 200 miles from Oklahoma to Texas.

"That was probably the biggest thing to us," he says. "Before the movers showed up we said 'OK, what don't we want them to touch?'" Even the best of movers are "not going to treat (those things) with the level of care you would."

The result: Nothing is lost "except for the handle on one yard cart," Foltz says.

There are some items consumers should always pack themselves and keep with them during a move, Weitekamp says: prescriptions, credit cards, fine jewelry, passports, birth certificates or other any important personal or financial documents that you might need to find quickly.

Move By the Numbers

One of the biggest hassles of moving is "mystery box syndrome."

Does that kitchen box contain the coffee maker, the bread machine, the fondue pot or the good stemware?

Before you pack your first box, invest in a $1 spiral notebook. Every time you pack a box, number it. (Put the number on every side, and write it big. That way, no matter how the box is placed later, you can read the number.) In the notebook, next to that number, give a brief rundown of what's in the box. (No. 12: Kitchen items -- silverware, wok, cooking pots.)

This is also a great way to make sure everything makes it to your destination. As the boxes show up, you can check them off your list. And if anything doesn't arrive, you know what's missing.

Use Your Calendar

One of the most important moving tools can be your calendar.

Gaylord has moved a few times himself, and he's coached clients for their moves. His advice is to prepare a calendar, then give yourself deadlines for packing various rooms in your home.

Don't be afraid to make alternative arrangements as you go, he says. For instance, once you pack up your kitchen, you will be dining out, grabbing fast food or gobbling no-cook food off paper plates until you get to your new home.

You can also use the "priority" box system, he says. As you pack each room, put items you'll need immediately (can you say, 1 pound of French roast and the coffee maker?) in one box. Then mark it with the room name and "priority" or something similar, says Gaylord.

If you want to go all Dan Brown, you can even use a funky symbol or code you devise yourself.