Money-saving guide to packing and moving
Before you start packing boxes, create a plan for a better moving experience.
Fri, Nov 19 2010 at 8:56 AM
Packing up your life and moving is never easy. However, with a solid moving plan in motion, you can focus your moving energy in an organized way so that you can still spend quality time with friends and family before departing for your new destination. You should always start by creating a moving budget so costs don't creep up on you. Next, look for smart ways to save on packing supplies. Then decide if you can move yourself or if you'll need to hire movers. Finally, check to see if you qualify for any tax deductions on your moving expenses. For more details on each step of the process, read on and learn how to make your move happen as efficiently as possible.
Create a moving budget
One of the biggest mistakes people make when moving is not making a budget for themselves. It doesn't matter if you're moving across town or across the country, a moving budget will help you keep track of where your money is going and give you the chance to determine your priorities instead of just spending willy-nilly. You need to take into account the cost of packing supplies, moving company expenses or truck rental fees (including gas mileage, insurance and equipment rental). If you're moving to a different city, you'll need to take into account travel expenses, such as transportation of your personal vehicles, lodging and food. You may also need to use a storage facility, in which case you'll need to add that fee to your moving budget. For a complete listing of moving budget items, click here and start planning your move with money on your mind so that you feel in control of your expenses.
Smart savings on packing supplies
When it comes to finding inexpensive ways to pack up your belongings, I have one main piece of advice: Don't leave your shopping for packing supplies until the last minute. If you give yourself enough time, you can get all of your packing supplies for free or at great discounts. Start out by calling up your local liquor and grocery stores and ask them if they can give you the boxes from their next shipment of products. Liquor boxes are particularly useful for packing up books. You can also check Craigslist to see if anyone is giving away used boxes or any other packing supplies. Your local dollar store is another great place to look for deals on tape, markers, box cutters and packing paper. Some packing materials, though, you can also do without. Instead of buying messy popcorn or one-time use bubble wrap, try using your own pillows, linens, towels, clothing and paper grocery bags to wrap fragile objects. At the end of the move, you can also save money for the future by cutting and flattening your boxes so that you can reuse them. (I did this each year during college and was able to make most of my boxes last through almost 10 moves.)
Moving yourself vs. hiring movers
It will almost always be cheaper to arrange your own move than to hire professional movers. At the same time, it will probably take you much longer to move yourself without the help of a few strong moving men. The question is what's more important: time or money? If you are moving within the same city and can get a few friends to help you pack all of your belongings into a rental truck and then unpack them in your new house, you'll save money. However, if you are making a long-distance move, you also have to calculate how much money you would have to spend on gas mileage for your rental truck. Once you do that, you should make a few calls to reliable moving companies near you and find out how much they will charge for the same distance. If the price is similar to what you would pay for a rental, but also includes loading and unloading your stuff, then you might want to go for the professional movers. Either way, you'll want to call up the moving companies and truck rental companies at least six weeks before your move so you can shop around for the best price. And one final moving tip: Try to avoid moving during the popular summer months of July, August and September — if you can — because moving companies and truck rental businesses may increase prices during these times. Instead, try to move in the off-season and on weekdays, as opposed to weekends, so that you can find the best rates around.
Tax deductions on moving expenses
Did you know that you can claim moving expenses on your tax returns? It's not a free-for-all and you must meet certain specific requirements, but many people don't realize that they can actually deduct their moving expenses from government taxes. You'll need to check out Publication 521 by the IRS to find out exact details on how you may qualify for these tax deductions, but in the meantime you can see if you meet the three basic requirements. First, did you move for reasons related to your job or business? If the answer is yes, then you have to decide if you meet the "distance test." Is your new workplace at least 50 miles farther from your old home than your old job location was from your old home? (If you didn't have a previous job location, then your new one must be at least 50 miles from your old home.) Lastly, you must see if you pass the "time test." If you are an employee, did you or will you work full-time for at least 39 weeks of the first year after your move? If you are self-employed, you must maintain the rate of 39 full-time working weeks for the first two years after you move. Members of the armed forces are not required to meet the distance or time tests in order to file tax deductions on their moving expenses.
At the end of the day, you will save yourself time and money if you go about your move responsibly with a budget in one hand a timeline in the other. Make sure you give yourself enough time to acquire the necessary packing supplies and to actually pack up your belongings. Hold onto all of your receipts from the whole process — from buying packing tape to paying for truck rentals or mover fees. And don't forget to check if you are eligible for IRS-denoted tax deductions on your moving fees. Good luck with your move!