5 Overlooked Moving Costs—And How to Avoid Them

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Moving into a new house or apartment is never fun. I speak from personal experience, having moved eight times in the past eight years and survived two cross-country moves as a kid (once with a scared and confused cat in tow). Aside from the chaos of boxes and packing peanuts and the moving-related stress, costs can add up quickly. In addition to renting a truck or paying for professional movers, the transition can also incur lots of smaller, overlooked expenses.

Nancy Giehl, coauthor of Organize, Pack, Move! Strategies and Money-Saving Tips to Simplify Your Move, reveals some of the charges we forget to budget for—and strategies to reduce or eliminate these costs.

Storage costs. Storing items that don’t fit in your new place can cost big bucks. Plus, the items can get damaged in the process. “You put stuff in storage and you’re going to get dust,” Giehl warns. “In warmer and more humid parts of the country, you’re dealing with mold issues and bugs and cockroaches.” Avoid these costs by honestly assessing what you have and whether you really have to keep it. Better to sell that oversized dresser or couch and get a little cash for it now than pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in storage costs before you decide you don’t need it after all. (Just watch an episode of A&E’s “Storage Wars” to see what people abandon in storage lockers.)

Disposing of unwanted items. Storage costs money, but often so does getting rid of unwanted items. “If you have crappy old furniture, most of my clients are horrified when we say we’ve got to bring in a dumpster,” Giehl says. “Those costs can be significant.” If an item is still usable, offer it on freecycle or find a local hospice or other charity. “Look for charities that do pickups,” Giehl says. “That’s a super nice way to get rid of something you don’t want, benefit someone else and get a tax write-off.”

Packing supplies. You’ll need boxes for packing books, dishes and other items. Liquor and grocery stores can be a good source of free boxes, but Giehl doesn’t recommend it because the boxes are often mismatched sizes, an inefficient use of moving truck space. Instead, she suggests getting packing peanuts, paper, and same-sized moving boxes from someone else who’s recently moved. “A lot of people who’ve moved are swamped with boxes and packing paper and they’ll put that put on craigslist, because they just want to get rid of it,” she says. Or if you have a friend who works in real estate, they might be able to connect you with a new home-buyer or apartment-dweller who’s eager to hand off moving boxes.

Tips and snacks for movers. If you’re hiring professional movers, you’re expected to tip on top of the amount agreed upon. “We believe strongly in treating your moving crew well because they’ll take better care of your stuff,” Giehl points out. The amount of the tip depends on the size and scale of your move; but Giehl says $25 to each crew member, plus lunch and snacks is a good rule of thumb. Providing lunch and cold drinks not only serves as a goodwill gesture, but also ensures that the crew doesn’t have to drive around town with a truck full of your furniture and belongings. If you’ve enlisted a group of friends to help with the move, then lunch (and possibly a post-move six-pack) is equally important to show your gratitude for their heavy lifting.

Replacing broken items. No one wants to replace a TV or serving platter that’s damaged in transit, so pack your fragile items carefully, especially if you’re planning a DIY move (most professional movers can spot breakables and position them carefully in the truck). Broken items are usually caused by inadequate packing, says Giehl, so don’t skimp on the packing paper or peanuts. Pack items like plates and platters vertically, because items stacked horizontally are more prone to breakage. TVs should also be moved vertically instead of laid flat, according to Giehl.

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