When it comes time to move, most of us want to get it over with as fast as possible. That often means forking over cash left and right and sweating the entire time. Some uncommon advice: Slow down to make your move go more smoothly and cost less.

Need some moving advice? Get tips on saving money on boxes to the food you eat mid-move.What qualifies me to give moving advice? Well, since graduating from college, I’ve moved four times. (In my entire life, make that 10 moves.) Some of my friends have moved twice as much or more in their lifetime. And if you’re in a military family, you may have us all beat.

According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, Americans move more often than citizens of most other countries. All that moving can be taxing physically, emotionally, and financially. But if you make a plan and play your cards right, you can minimize the amount of damage to your sanity and your bank account. Here’s some moving advice from things I learned during my most recent move.

Don’t pay for boxes

Forget the ‘ole liquor store and grocery store trick (who wants boxes with leftover food remnants anyway?) There are other ways to get free, clean boxes:

  1. Ask your Facebook friends. Chances are one of them has recently moved.
  2. Check out the “free stuff” section of Craigslist. Manufacturing companies often post ads for their boxes here. No food remnants like grocery store boxes, either.
  3. If you work in an office, gather old copy paper boxes (perfect size for moving) or check out the office supply section of your office.

If you’re concerned about being green with your move (or if you can’t find enough free boxes) consider renting moving crates or boxes. This trend has recently become more popular recently, and it might even cost less than buying boxes.

Plan meals ahead

It’s difficult enough to eat healthy on a budget when you’re not schlepping all of your belongings across town; it’s especially tough to whip up a stir fry when your favorite wok is buried in one of 100 boxes.

When you move, you become susceptible to what I refer to as “The Chipotle Trap”. It sounds enjoyable at the time—a different burrito bowl every night—but it gets pricey and fattening after a couple of days.

To avoid The Trap, consider making several large batches of food and freezing them a couple of weeks before your move. This way you’ll have already prepared food ready to go during move week(s). Money Saving Mom even has a freezer meal prep series to get you started.

Beware of utility companies

It’s hard enough keeping track of regular monthly utility bills, but add a move or transfer or service to the mix and things can get a little confusing. And confused is just how the utility companies want you when they tack on those extra fees. Many will add annoying transfer fees or set-up charges if you don’t protest. Sometimes they’ll even cancel your automatic bill pay which could lead to a missed payment if you’re not careful. Try these tips to avoid unforeseen fees.

  1. Make a list of every utility company you need to transfer your service with including your bill amount and their phone number.
  2. When you call, immediately get the person’s name and extension. Add that to your list.
  3. Request the transfer and give them your new address and set-up any installations.
  4. Ask the customer service rep if you’ll see any charges on your bill or if you bill is going to change after your move. Give them the amount you pay right now. Ask them if your next bill will be different.
  5. Confirm again that there will be no transfer, welcome, moving or installation fees. (Sometimes they won’t say anything until you use a certain keyword—cable companies especially.) If there are transfer/moving fees, that’s fine. Make note of this or politely ask them to waive the fees for you since, as they probably know, moving is costly. It may work, it may not, but always try to negotiate.
  6. Ask them if your automatic bill pay will change (if you use it). Sometimes a change of address will discontinue any automatic payments. If so, make yourself a reminder to set-up automatic bill pay again if the rep you’re talking to can’t do this.

This may seem like overkill, but I experienced a few hundred dollars in unexpected fees from our utility companies during our move. Twenty-five bucks here and there adds up. To top it off, some of the utility companies cancelled our automatic bill pay, so we missed a bill, adding late fees to the pile. It’s a hassle, but if you’re organized and diligent about it, you can reduce or eliminate most of these expenses.

Negotiate a longer move-in time frame

Time is money! Especially during a move. In the past, I’ve always had less than a week to move. But, this last time that I moved, I had about six weeks to move. It turned into a major blessing and money saver

In the five weeks leading up to the move, my husband and I moved boxes almost every night. By the time the actually moving day came around, we just had to ask two family members to offer their trucks for the day to move the big stuff and we’re done in just a couple of hours. We didn’t have to rent any expensive moving trucks for the day or fill-up a huge moving truck with gas.

Of course, this really only works if you’re moving to a nearby location—not if you’re moving across country. Still, I found the larger timeframe helped considerably—not only with saving money but also for the stress factor.

Don’t miss the tax break if you move for a job

If you’re moving for new job, you’re in luck: You may be eligible to deduct moving expenses (even if you don’t itemize deductions) thanks to a tax break from the IRS. To benefit you must meet these two criteria:

  1. Your new workplace must be at least 50 miles farther from your old home than your old job location was from your old home and
  2. If you are an employee, you must work full-time for at least 39 weeks during the first 12 months immediately following your arrival in the general area of your new job location. If you are self-employed, you must work full time for at least 39 weeks during the first 12 months and for a total of at least 78 weeks during the first 24 months immediately following your arrival in the general area of your new work location.

The things you can deduct as part of this tax adjustment includes things like expenses for: “moving your household goods and personal effects (including in-transit or foreign-move storage expenses), and traveling (including lodging but not meals) to your new home.”

As always, keep documentation and receipts to claim the adjustment on your tax return.

What about you? How do you make the chore of moving less expensive and more manageable? What moving advice would you give others?

Photo by ejhogbin.

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About the author

Total Articles: 16
Amber Gilstrap is a twenty-something CPA from Kansas City, Missouri who loves writing, working out, and---of course---finding fresh ideas for saving money.