If you're moving, you might be wondering where to score cheap boxes, packing supplies, and, while we're at it, trucks and movers! And it's smart that you're looking to save, since moving is not only a pain in the neck (and lower back, and feet), but also a major drain on your wallet. The average move costs $1,170 if you're moving in state; if you're moving farther, prepare to cough up $5,630.
Yet bargain hunters will be happy to hear that moving doesn't have to cost that much. With some smart deal seeking, it's entirely possible to save big bucks on every part of this oft-onerous process. Here's where to find these hidden bargains—without jeopardizing all your stuff.
Cheap moving boxes
Buying moving boxes can be a waste of your precious moving bucks, especially since there are so many ways you can get your hands on these cardboard containers for cheap or even free. One place to hit up? Anywhere they sell booze.
"Liquor boxes have thicker cardboard, which makes them ideal for carrying heavy objects like books or electronics," says Lior Rachmany, CEO and founder of Dumbo Moving and Storage.
"Go to the 'For Sale' section, and then choose 'Free,'" suggests Ali Wenzke, who founded The Art of Happy Moving after moving 11 times in 10 years. "You can typically find numerous posts for free moving boxes and bubble wrap."
Free packing supplies
Speaking of bubble wrap, along with the actual boxes, you must protect your valuables as they go into said cheap/free moving boxes. Freecycle.org helps folks find free packing supplies (and moving boxes) that other folks are looking to recycle rather than dump. Make your move Earth-friendly and save a buck simultaneously!
"Never buy bubble wrap—instead use blankets, towels, sweaters, and other soft items that need to be packed anyway," says Brian Davis, co-founder and lead real estate/personal finance blogger at SparkRental.com.
"There’s no need to add extra items to your move when you can simply use what you’re already packing," adds Davis, who has lived in 10 homes in the past 10 years, and spent only $100 on a move from the U.S. to Abu Dhabi.
Cheap moving trucks
In the DIY category, there is always U-Haul for cheap moving trucks; you can also rent a cheap ZipCar van by the hour or try a car-sharing service in which individuals rent out their own cars for a pittance. But beyond that option, keep in mind that the cheapest "truck" might not be a truck at all. It could be a train!
With Amtrak Express Shipping, you can ship your first 100 pounds anywhere in the U.S.—even cross-country—for a $67 flat rate, with each additional pound costing 57 cents. Just keep in mind that this method has a limit of 500 pounds per person, and you'll have to pack and then transport the boxes to Amtrak yourself. Still, it's a cheap way to get your stuff where it needs to go.
Have a lot of books? You might consider sending them through the U.S. Postal Service.
"The book rate for postal mail is only 49 cents per pound," says personal finance writer Romana King.
No, we are not going to suggest you hit up all your friends and then offer them pizza and beer. Yes, it's a cost-saving option, but at some point in your life you'll find that everyone you know has pretty much had it with helping others move.
Instead, research discount websites for movers and check out references to make sure you're not skimping on quality.
"Groupon is your best bet," says Rachmany. "Also don't be afraid to negotiate with your moving company. Moves can be cheaper during different times of the month, so you can save cash just by moving your move toward the middle of the month rather than during the peak times of the beginning and end of the month, or in the summer."
Also, instead of checking Craigslist for "man with van" type ads, you can get a more secure option going through a site such as Dolly.com or PockItShip, both of which are on-demand pickup and delivery moving services. They're especially good if you're doing a lot of the moving yourself but need some extra help with heavier items. Plus they provide the truck!
And if you want to make a difference in someone's life while they help you move yours, check out HirePatriots, a site that connects you with military veterans looking for work.
HirePatriots founder Mark Baird says that moving help is a typical job posting on this nationwide site and you can probably get some extra hands for $15 to $20 an hour.
Finally, consider "move sharing" as an option: You can call a company, and see if you can piggyback on someone else's move in your area.
Also, for cross-country moves, consider checking with a moving consolidator.
"These companies act like a broker and specialize in booking half-empty moving trucks," says King. "The result is you pay a significantly cheaper rate to move interstate, and the large moving companies that own the trucks get something for a prescheduled move."
With consolidators you might have to wait longer for your shipment to arrive, but it can save you lots of dough on the flip side!