Moving For Cheap – How to Relocate on a Budget

Save Money On Moving Costs

Not too long ago I posted a blog entry about saving money while looking for an apartment in a big city.  Little did I know that just a few months later, I’d need to follow my own advice as I plan a move out to San Francisco.  My long unanswered desire to explore the West Coast coupled with my boyfriend’s love of start-up companies means we are packing up what we can, selling the rest, and heading off.  As I get ready to embark on a cross-country move with the added stress of not yet having a job, I’ve come across some interesting ways to save money.  So if you happen to be doing the same, whether it be across the country or simply to a new neighborhood, here are some tips I’ve picked up a long the way.

Shipping versus U-Haul
When most people move, the first thing they think of is renting a U-Haul.  However, using the United States Postal Service could actually be a much cheaper and easier way to move your things!  This is especially true if you are making a long distance move.  Currently we are packing medium and large moving boxes that cost only about one dollar per pound to ship.  The way to keep the price this low is to use parcel post which allows for slower shipping.  Want to get an even better price on some items?  Ship all your books and DVDs by media mail.  The only thing that might cost more are electronics which should be shipped through express mail which allows for better handling.  Shipping in general works very well for a long distance move because not only is it inexpensive, it saves the hassle of driving a U-Haul truck or trailer.  Driving a 4×8 trailer costs around $500 and a 10’ truck about $2800.  As if the price weren’t bad enough, it will also slow down your trip since safety regulations tell you not to drive over 55mph.

If you’re moving in the same city, U-Haul still could be the best option for you.  Although the USPS is very inexpensive when used right, you still have to take your packages to a post office to send them off.  At that point, renting a U-Haul for one day at only $19.99 would probably make more sense (or if you’re a totally inept driver like me, just lug the boxes into a taxi or borrow a friend who has a truck).

Don’t blow cash on bubbles and boxes
Packing materials can cost a ton of cash and can make moving an expensive ordeal. For this move, I made the rounds to the local grocery stores to see if they had any produce boxes that they could spare and got all the boxes I needed. You could also try visiting your local recycling center to see if they have any boxes for you to use. If you have fragile items that need to be packed, instead of using expensive bubble wrap or packing peanuts, I recommend using old magazines/news papers and towels/linens to wrap them.

Sell Sell Sell
What is truly the best/most efficient way to save money on a U-Haul or shipping?  Have less stuff!  Thanks to Craigslist, selling anything has gotten easier.  So if there’s anything you don’t need, wouldn’t mind upgrading, or simply can’t take, then take a picture and post it on Craigslist.  To avoid scams, my boyfriend set up a completely independent email account which he’ll take down once the move is finished. You could also have a yard sale or list items ebay to get rid of items you don’t want to take with you to your new residence.

Selling your things is also a great way to make money for your move. Again, anything you can sell means less to ship and extra money in your pocket. My boyfriend and I plan to sell all of our furniture and rent a short term furnished apartment when we arrive in CA. That way we make some extra money for now, avoid signing a long term lease for an apartment that may prove to be less than ideal, and then get to buy new furniture for our first long term apartment.

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Have a grab party to give away or donate your things
Still have stuff you can’t sell but don’t want to take with you? Have a party! We’re having a going away party at our apartment and will give away whatever is not nailed down as door prizes for our friends.

A friend of mine recently had a clothing swap. She invited a few girls over on a Saturday afternoon for some snacks and mimosas and they all brought clothes they no longer wanted. After everyone took what they wanted the leftovers were donated to charity. Sure, doing this won’t put money in your pocket directly but it could allow you to get rid of unwanted items and even get a tax deduction – not to mention you feel good for helping others!

I hope you find these tips useful in helping you move cheaply. Do you have any tips or ways to avoid headaches while planning a move based on your own personal experiences? How about some funny stories or anecdotes we could learn from? Please share them with us, we’d love to hear from you! (And remember, ReadyForZero can help you pay off your debt in preparation for the big move)

This article is part of our Budgeting Tips Resource Center.  If you’re looking for additional information about budgeting tips, be sure to pay a visit!

Image credit: mbtrama

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  • This is really enjoyable and useful post. I really want to bookmark your post. Thanks for sharing.

    • Shannon_ReadyForZero

      Wow, that’s great, I’m so glad you liked it!

  • alison

    Thank you!

  • All of this is extremely helpful. I was just wondering, do you have any tips for moving pets at low cost? I got a bunch of furry friends and we are moving to Montana by the end of summer.

    • Shannon_ReadyForZero

      Thanks Nathaniel, and I’m so glad you found this helpful! I’ve unfortunately not had pets for a long time, but it seems to me that if you are able to drive to Montana then it might be easiest to bring them with you by car.

  • Great tips Shannon! You hit the nail on the head by suggesting to sell as much as possible before the move. Size and weight really is everything when pricing out the cost of moving, and less stuff means lower cost to move. Unless you have stuff that is irreplaceable or very dear to you, sell your furniture, pool tables, pianos, aquariums, gun safes off before the move and buy new ones at your destination. Gas prices are high but you can always find deals on furniture and the likes. Thanks for sharing!

    • Shannon_ReadyForZero

      Thanks David! You’re absolutely right about being able to find deal on furniture and etc – my fiance and I were able to furnish our new apartment for cheaper than the entire move!

  • Rachel Ludwig

    Hello, what is media mail?

  • Jennifer

    Hi, These are great trips. We are coincidentally planning a move to San Francisco. I’ve got to move a family of four. My question involves our old car. We have a very old, very reliable car that we use as our second car. It makes our life better. We could never replace it for the amount we would make on selling it. Do you have any tips on shipping a car cheaply (super cheaply)? I don’t want to drive that car 1100 miles and I don’t want to rent a truck to tow it 1100 miles.

    • Hi Jennifer, I did a quick Google search for “car transport” and some different options came up, including shipping companies who seem to charge several hundred dollars to ship a car. So that might be one option for you. The cost will depend on where you’re coming from and how far the car has to be transported. Hope that helps! Also, welcome to San Francisco!

  • Alyssa


  • Risa Lopez-Mitchell

    this is super helpful .. thank you for posting

  • Ash


  • Brad Larsen

    I was moving from New York to Florida and just to rent a uhaul it cost me over 3500 dollars! Then I had to pay for gas and look for help to do the move. I was asking around about moving companies and found Misho Moving. I spoke to a moving representative named Ronnie. He was so informative about the entire moving process. He Gave me a price of 3300 dollars and they did all the work! I was so impressed with their work I thanked them and tipped all the movers 50 dollars each. I promised to tell someone else about them because I appreciated the hard work and money they saved me. Get a quote from the and you will be impressed. Ronnie is really nice there. 813.850.6683. Great company for sure!

  • This is one of the useful tips I have read when it comes to relocating. I will surely apply these tips since we’re planning to move to other apartment probably by next year.

  • Kristi

    What would you estimate you spent on the shipping? Other than media mail, was there any other specific way you shipped the boxes to get the best rate? Weight/size restrictions? I’m not sure how to divvy up the items. I would appreciate the insight/advice as I am under a tight budget and timeline and beg for some help!

  • Nice tips,i should apply it to me as well,as mover i always move people but i moved myself recently and i only realized how much stuff i had on the moving day,i should have done what you suggest before,anyway..great tips

  • All the tips that you have shared very helpful I am also working as a long distance movers in the New York. Whether you shared a very informative post.