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Moving on a Budget

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Moving on a budget across Country, state lines, or even into the next town over can seem difficult and frustrating. However, we’ll address simple budget-saving tips you can implement and budget-busting pitfalls to avoid!


Near or Far?

Moving can be incredibly stressful and rather expensive. Our family has moved three times in the past 15 years- once across town, and twice across the country over 1,200 miles away. Each move had it’s own unique obstacles and issues to overcome.

Before you move, you need to take into consideration several factors- how far are you moving, across town, across state lines, across the country?

Do you have your own equipment or do you need to borrow or rent it? In our case, during our first long distance move, we had an 18′ Utility trailer and a friend of ours allowed us to borrow his 26″ enclosed snowmobile trailer.

Go through each and every room of your home with a couple of empty laundry baskets. You must go through EVERYTHING you own to decide if it’s worthy of keeping/bringing with you to your new home or whether or not it should be sold/donated or otherwise discarded. If you’re moving long distance, ask yourself if the items you’re bringing with you are worth the money that it will take to drag them across the country.

Perhaps those 50 notebooks you bought for only .10 each during the September sale aren’t really worth space and weight hauling them with you. Once you have an idea of the items you will NOT be keeping you can decide whether or not to donate them or to have a yard/garage moving sale and get rid of them for some extra cash.

Things to take into consideration:

  • Are you moving Locally, across state lines, or across country (or overseas)?
  • Will your belongings be stored for any length of time when you arrive at your new destination?
  • Is your new home in move-in condition? Meaning – do you have to paint or make any renovations before you can unpack?

What Time of Year will you be moving? Do you have kids in school, will they be switching schools? Do you have a business, will you be trying to operate that business during the move?

Moving Locally:

This is considerably easier as you have the option of making many trips back and forth to move items. It can get rather expensive on gas though! Chances are, your friends and family would be willing to put up a day and help you bring items from your old place to your new home.

The catch- it is up to you to Pack your Own household contents up and have them ready for transport. There is nothing more aggravating than showing up to help a friend move- only to find that they expect you to pack up their belongings for them. First of all, unless they are an extremely close friend, they don’t know which items have sentimental value and which items are doomed for the dumpster.


Moving Long Distance

Are you comfortable hauling a Large trailer or driving a rental truck? Keep in mind when towing very heavy loads that winds can literally tear a vehicle off the road. If not, it may be in your best interest to hire a moving company.

Or, alternatively, you may be able to ask a friend who has experience hauling trailers to drive for/with you and then pay for his airplane ticket home. Moving companies can cost as much as $7,500 for a 650-mile move.

Is your vehicle reliable? Are the brakes good, can it make it up and down varying elevations and terrain without issue? Are the tires in good shape?


Create a Book of important documents

A 3-ring binder works wonderfully for organizing items that you will need when you arrive at your new destination.

  • School Records for the kids
  • Medical Records for each family member
  • Deeds/Rental Agreements/or Real Estate Documents if purchasing a house and closing on it
  • Identification for each Family Member
  • Birth Certificates for Each Family member – this one is especially important if you are moving away from the state you were born in.

Many people do not realize, until it’s too late, that it can be quite a pain to obtain a copy of one’s birth certificate, which is necessary when seeking employment, getting new state identification, or enrolling in school. In one state our taxes were audited and they required copies of our children’s birth certificates to be MAILED in with our tax audit form to prove our children were our dependents!


Avoid Getting Rolled

Over the last 15 years, we’ve traveled extensively around the country and the one thing that seems to be getting worse is the number of shady individuals that approach asking for money. Usually, this occurs when you stop for gas in an area you are unfamiliar with- you may see one or two people just “hanging around” nearby.

As you start to pump gas, they’ll approach you and start in with their sob story- they ran out of gas trying to help a friend out, or they need just a few dollars to get home, or they lost all their money or wallet and are stuck, etc- do yourself and your family a Favor- do NOT entertain these folks- make it clear that you are not interested – are not able to help- and that they should immediately GO Away.

Reaching into your car or wallet for cash will more than likely get you Rolled- aka- robbed, mugged, or worse. Do not set yourself up for it!

Avoiding robbery or mugging while moving

Check State Laws: Be Legal!


Did you know that some states do not allow certain household plants across state borders? This is to ensure that certain pests (bugs/plant diseases) do not infect the local populations. Be sure to have your household plants in an area that is easily accessible in the event that you have to remove them or have them inspected.



if you have hunting rifles, pistols, or other firearms and you are moving across state lines- be very careful! In some states, it is a Felony to have a firearm in your vehicle, particularly a concealed firearm. Check the laws in EACH state that you will be traveling through, not just the one you intend to live in.

Moving Truck/ Trailer

Here are three easy questions you should ask yourself when you’re preparing a move.

  1. Do you have your own Truck, Can you borrow a friend’s truck, or will you need to rent a truck?
  2. Do you have access to a trailer or will you need to rent one?
  3. Do you have other equipment to haul- campers, boats, snowmobiles, etc?


Truck Rental Tips

Truck rentals vary considerably by size, company, and mileage. Some rental companies allow you to rent the vehicle one way, others by return. When renting a truck, you must take into consideration how far you will be traveling. Will you be driving across town and making several trips, will you be traveling across the country and making only 1 trip?


Gas mileage in larger trucks is fairly low, oftentimes only 6-8 mpg. If you’re moving long distance or making several trips, this expense can quickly overwhelm your moving budget if you aren’t prepared for it.

Figure out what your approximate gas mileage expense will be using this free fuel calculator. In addition, if renting a truck, keep in mind that some rental companies charge a PER Mile fee for use of their vehicle. Be sure to find a company that offers unlimited mileage.

Additional Equipment Rent

Many rental companies do not include basic moving items in their rental packages. These basic items include a moving dolly, furniture covers, loading ramps, mattress covers, etc. If you are going to require the use of any of these items, make sure you read the fine print of your rental company agreement to see if they are included or if they are available at an additional fee.



You will be required to have insurance on the rental vehicle. Most companies will be more than happy to wrap this into their outrageous prices. However, if you already have full coverage on your own personal vehicles, you may find that your own insurance policy covers the rental.

Call your Insurance agent and ask them specifically if your policy covers rental vehicles and any equipment they may be hauling (such as trailers). If not, ask them if they have a Rider policy available. In our case, I was able to purchase $250,000 additional insurance coverage for $12. – A far cry from the rental companies “daily fee” of $30- which covered them and did NOT cover our personal belongings!

If you have credit cards, contact your credit card company to see if you are covered under their insurance services.

Avoid Peak Season

If you must rent a vehicle or hire a moving company, avoid moving during peak season (June-July-August) as these months are typically more expensive. Also, moving on the first day or last day of the month is also more expensive as these days are typically booked in advance.

Call Around

Before moving, be sure to get quotes from multiple companies, sometimes if a company is closer to you and you’ve gotten a lower quote from a competitor, they are willing to match their competitors’ price.

Inspect the Truck before you leave the lot!

If you rented a moving truck, INSPECT the truck thoroughly for ANY damage BEFORE you leave the lot. It is NOT uncommon for people to be charged for damages they did not cause because of failure to point it out to the rental company.

Have them note the damage and make sure a representative of the company you are renting from initials it before you leave. If you have a cell phone, take photos of the damage with the rental company representative standing beside it. This one tip can literally save you thousands of dollars.

More Money-Saving Moving Tips

If you have multiple large items, such as a camper, boat, or snowmobile trailer, it may be worth it to make more than one trip.


Packing your Stuff

Regardless of where you’re moving too, you still need to pack your belongings carefully. How you pack is as important as the move itself.

The first time we moved halfway across the country, I was very “attached” to our belongings. Rubbermaid tubs were on sale for $3 each at our local Walmart and I bought 50 of them. I knew our items would be in storage for several months while we renovated our new house and wanted them to be weather and pest proof.

First, once you’ve sorted all of your belongings room by room, pack them into boxes or totes. Using Masking Tape- label the name of the room the contents belong in, and then a note about the contents. If the box is heavy, it may be worth noting on the label. I typically add a label to the top right-hand side of every container (front and back). This makes it easier to see what the contents are quickly and easily.


Be sure to wrap your breakables carefully. Since you’ll need to bring your linens with you, use them to separate and wrap your glass dishes- towels, washcloths, hand towels, and pillowcases work wonderfully.

After all, everything has to get there together, why use dirty newspapers that will likely transfer ink?! When you arrive your kitchenware will still be sparkly clean and ready to use.

Once you’ve filled your totes and labeled them appropriately, put the cover on the tote, drill 2 holes in each handle.

Slide Plastic Zip ties into each hole, secure them into place. This ensures that your contents will NOT fall out, even if the tote gets tipped over. This also makes it more difficult for pests to wiggle their way into the containers.

The totes will last for years if you need to place items in storage, once you’ve settled into your new home, you can stack the empty containers for use later or sell them on a yard sale or Craigslist.


Free Boxes

If you’re really tight on cash, you can go to department stores or liquor and ask the managers for old boxes. Many times these are located at the back of the store (by the loading docks) in bins and have already been broken down. They can be refolded and duct-taped to stay closed if needed.

Avoid getting boxes from grocery stores as they are more likely to have insects (and their eggs!) on them. You don’t want to bring pests to your new home!

Also, avoid using regular household blankets or sheets as furniture covers during the move. Certain fabrics will create friction when they rub and may literally rub the finish right off your furniture by the time you arrive at your destination. Instead, use stretch plastic wrap that will tightly adhere to the item, protecting it.

Be wary of any gasoline or solvent chemicals when you pack the truck or trailer. During one of the cross-country moves, DH placed a generator in the back of the trailer. Having forgotten to pack several pairs of shoes on the front porch, I tossed them into a milk crate and placed them on top of the generator (the only space left that I could find).

By the time we reached our destination, (more than 50 hours of driving straight- and a temperature change of 70 degrees!) the gas in the generator had leaked a little and literally dissolved several shoes. It was a gelatinous mess of shoe goo, lesson learned!

Open Me First

Be sure to create an “Arrival Box” and label it as “Open Me First“. This will be a box containing essentials that your family will need when you arrive at your destination. It should contain things to help serve a quick meal, as well as get cleaned up and refreshed.

  • Bar of Soap
  • A couple of Washcloths
  • A couple of Towels
  • Paper plates, forks
  • Roll of Paper Towels
  • Roll of Toilet Paper (you never know if one will be at the house when you arrive!)
  • toothbrushes/toothpaste
  • Hand Sanitizer

See More Packing Tips Here
View Kitchen Packing Tips Here

View More Frugal Living Ideas

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9 thoughts on “Moving on a Budget”

  1. these tips were so useful to me. i recently moved from
    virginia to san antonio texas. i did not have a clue “how to move”, but after reading this article the tips were so useful.


  2. best moving tip ever… use a zip-tie to connect and secure hangers right in the closet, then drop into a heavy duty pull tie trash bag. you can put a sticker or label on the bag if you wish to identify whose bedroom they belong in.

    when you get where you’re going, hang the bag up in the closet, untie the trash bag and save for your unpacking trash and cut the zip-tie. your closet is put away, still organized and still on hangers.

    • Best moving tip ever… Use a zip-tie to connect and secure hangers right in the closet, then drop into a heavy duty pull tie trash bag. You can put a sticker or label on the bag if you wish to identify whose bedroom they belong in.

      When you get where you’re going, hang the bag up in the closet, untie the trash bag and save for your unpacking trash and cut the zip-tie. Your closet is put away, still organized and still on hangers.

      I am getting ready to move from Alaska to Washington…..and would never have thought of doing this….thank you MaggieRV

    • Best moving tip ever… Use a zip-tie to connect and secure hangers right in the closet, then drop into a heavy duty pull tie trash bag. You can put a sticker or label on the bag if you wish to identify whose bedroom they belong in.

      When you get where you’re going, hang the bag up in the closet, untie the trash bag and save for your unpacking trash and cut the zip-tie. Your closet is put away, still organized and still on hangers.

      We will be moving from Minnesota back to North Carolina with 12-18 months. I never thought about zip ties.

      I can start sorting seasonal, formal, etc and have them tied and ready to go! Thanks for the tips!

    • Best moving tip ever… Use a zip-tie to connect and secure hangers right in the closet, then drop into a heavy duty pull tie trash bag. You can put a sticker or label on the bag if you wish to identify whose bedroom they belong in.

      When you get where you’re going, hang the bag up in the closet, untie the trash bag and save for your unpacking trash and cut the zip-tie. Your closet is put away, still organized and still on hangers.

      I have used this method and loved it! Made it so much easier to find the clothes we needed!

  3. Good read. I will take note of these tips. We’ll be moving to our new house next year. I’m thinking of building a box near the truck rack that will support some stuff I’ll be putting there. I think it’s good to use tie down straps on the truck rack too, to secure the load.

  4. This is a really great article. It offers good tips for those who are looking to move but don’t have the cash on hand. I’m going to share this with my girlfriend, she’s been talking about moving and we’re trying to find ways that will work around her budget constraints

  5. 5 stars
    It can be tough and irritating to move on a budget across the country, across state lines, or even into the next town over. Moving can be a very stressful and expensive experience. With a little planning and help from moving firms, you can have a reasonably stress-free moving day.


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