Sunday, August 30

Frugal moving?

First, I just want to thank you all for your patience. I know posting has been intermittent (at best) during these last couple of weeks. It will get better again soon. It's just that selling off/donating half your belongings takes up some time -- and then you still have to pack the rest. Oh, and keep working in the meantime.

The good news is that we were officially moved out of the apartment yesterday around 6 p.m. It was stressful and came down to the wire. I suppose it just about always does, but it's still frustrating. I definitely suggest that any couples sit down and create a game plan prior to any move. Tim and I had different theories about moving. He completely underestimated the amount of time it takes to move when you have so much stuff. I completely underestimated just how badly two weeks' bad sleep would burn up any sense of patience I had. Let's just say there was a lot of yelling on both sides. And, depending on how you look at it, we were either both completely justified or completely unjustified. Either way, I figure we were even.

So. What have I learned so far about frugal moving? Well, I've learned that moving to a new state generally means that 'cheap' is thrown out the window.

First and foremost, there's the question of getting your stuff there. You have a few options:

Get it there yourself (car).

  • What: You could only take things that you can fit in your car. The rest would be shipped or sold/donated.
  • Sacrifice: You'll arrive with no furniture whatsoever. The older you get, the less this is a really viable option. For example, I have a hard time sleeping in the best of conditions, so I am reluctant to part with my Tempurpedic. And just replacing that would cost more than we're paying for the move.
  • Benefit: If you're okay getting rid of everything, this is by far the cheapest option. Items will get jostled around less in your car than in a moving van, so you won't need as much bubble wrap (which runs about $20 for 200 feet) or boxes ($3-5 each).
  • Caution: Remember that a loaded-down car will get sub-par miles per gallon. Plan to spend more than normal for gas.
  • Costs: Really, just gas. As for gas, we'd assume 20 mpg. (It's probably closer to 25 when loaded down, but it's best to plan for the worst.) For a 1500-mile trip, that's 75 gallons or about $225.
  • Total cost: $225

Get it there yourself (U-Haul van).

  • What: You can choose among several sizes of van. For out-of-state moves, there's a flat rate.
  • Sacrifice: Those vans are not comfortable to drive for long periods of time.
  • Benefit: You'd have to pay for a plane/train ticket anyway, and you'd still have to get your stuff there. This is probably cheaper. Also, you don't have to worry about anyone mishandling your stuff. It's under your control.
  • Caution: These vans get terrible mileage. The one I was looking at was 12 mpg. (I'm assuming that's loaded up, but it didn't say.)
  • Costs: We were quoted $800 for a 7-day rental of the van. Gas, though, really makes the price skyrocket. For a 1,500-mile trip, that's 125 gallons, or about $350-375.
  • Total cost: About $1150

Get it there yourself (car + U-Haul):

  • What: You drive your car but tow a trailer. This is only possible if your car either has a hitch or can have one attached.
  • Sacrifice: You'll get worse gas mileage than normal. You'll still have to get rid of a lot of furniture.
  • Benefit: Gas mileage will still be better than U-Haul vans.
  • Caution: Not all cars can do this. Also, you may have to be more careful driving when you're towing something.
  • Costs: The bigger trailer (5' x 8') would be $200. That plus gas for a truck or utility vehicle loaded down would probably be pretty steep. Assume a worst-case scenario of 15-20 mpg.
  • Total cost: About $500

Storage cube:

  • What: A large cube delivered to your house. You can hire movers to load or unload, if you prefer. You generally have 3 business days to get everything in, so it's best to order one close to the weekend.
  • Benefits: You don't have to load it all in a couple of hours. That's huge for people with medical conditions. Also, this way you can choose to fly rather than having to drive down. And did I mention you don't have to drive a moving van?
  • Sacrifices: Taking your stuff with you will inevitably cost more. You'll still have to get rid of some stuff -- the cube is about 6'x7'x8'. Ordering a second one is possible but completely demolishes your budget. And if you have a car and want it transported for you, that will definitely up the costs. Finally, if you live in an apartment building, finding a spot to put the cube can be difficult. Our front parking spaces are technically on city property. The company refuses to park there without a permit, which would have been $176. The garage has low-hanging pipes, so that was a no-go. Luckily, there was a space out back that we could use.
  • Costs: ABF U-Pack is charging us $1,136. (PODS wanted $2,300, so stay away from that company!) Then there's still the travel costs. We're driving down, so about $200; if we flew, it'd be around $450 after taxes.
  • Total cost: About $1,300-1,500.

Moving truck:

  • What: Companies like ABF U-Pack offer space in a trailer. Your items are then sealed away with a bulkhead. The rest of the truck is filled with commercial shipments.
  • Benefits: The truck option is cool because you can use whatever space you need. They quote you a price for a 6'x7'x8' space. For each foot of space you don't use, you get a discount (with a minimum of 5'x5'x8'). Other companies go by the poundage. The estimator figures out what he thinks things should weigh. For each 100 lbs under that, you get money off. Either way, you have the chance to lower costs.
  • Sacrifices: Having all the room you need might mean you go overboard and don't pare down your stuff enough. And for each foot of space more than the quote, you pay extra. This also means you need to have a space that a tractor trailer can park for a few hours without any problems. They refuse to block traffic. And, of course, you're on a time crunch of getting everything loaded in a 2-4 hour period. Finally, your stuff will get jostled around when the cube is moved and loaded onto the truck, when it's driven around, and when it's unloaded from the truck/delivered to your new address. That means packing carefully, which means a lot of moving supplies like bubble wrap.
  • Costs: ABF U-Pack offered about $1300 for this option. Another company (the one using poundage) came in around $1900. So it varies. Call around. A lot. Then there's still getting yourself down there. Between $200-400, depending on whether you drive or fly.
  • Total cost: At least $1,500.

Professional movers:

  • What: People who come in and take all your boxes, load them onto a truck and then unload them at your new destination.
  • Benefits: You don't do any heavy lifting. It's fabulous. They will also, for a price, pack your items for you.
  • Sacrifices: There are a lot of terrifying reports out there. We had gone with a place that gave us a $995 quote until we read terrible things about the parent company on Some of the reports were really scary: Movers sitting around chatting then charging overtime when the move took over 4 hours, end prices being up to 200% more than the initial quote, and the company withholding your items until you paid. The more well-known companies like Bekins, are pricey. Very pricey.
  • Cost: For an affordable place? Anywhere from $1,000-$2,000. Places like Bekins? Between $2,000-3,000, if I recall.
  • Total costs: Too much, unless you know the company is reputable.

So, is there such a thing as a frugal move? Well... Again, frugal is a relative term. There are certainly ways to cut down on costs:

  • Call all of your friends, even ones who work in office jobs, and see if their workplace has boxes that get thrown out. Offices have copy-paper boxes, which are great. We lucked out with a friend who works at Arby's. He offered a bunch of boxes after hearing how much store-bought ones cost. That saved us a bundle.
  • If friends can't help for some reason, start calling stores. Office supply stores are tricky. They crush and/or shred boxes early in the day. It might be best to call at the end of the day and ask them to leave a note for the morning crew. Grocery stores often only have produce boxes, which aren't great for long moves. Call liquor stores and see what days/times they get restocked. Those tend to be some of the best boxes, since liters and liters of alcohol are quite heavy.
  • Watch office supply stores for sales. This means, like most frugal hacks, getting a head start. With my mom's help, I found a sale on bubble wrap: buy one, get one free. Mom also had 2 coupons for $10 off a purchase of $30 or more. With each of us using one, the end total was about $60 for 4, 200-foot spools of bubble wrap and 5 boxes. Each bubble wrap roll retailed for $20.
  • If you want to try and avoid bubble wrap -- which I wouldn't recommend you skip completely -- save up plastic bags and get more from friends and family. These and newspaper help pad fragile items and keep them from shifting.
  • Remember to get different sizes of boxes. Unless you're using a professional moving service, you will want to make the most of your space. That means thinking of the box placement as a sort of Tetris game. (That's how Tim and Seth referred to it, anyway, and it helped them.)
  • Make use of your storage items. That refers both to storage bins and organizational storage like wicker baskets. Obviously, if you can use storage bins, it cuts down on the number of boxes you have to buy. But what about those baskets you have holding all your lotions and hair stuff? Fill the baskets as much as possible, then place the baskets in boxes. That way, you don't have to pack it twice -- the items held by the basket and the basket itself.
  • Finally, and I hope this is a no-brainer for everyone, keep a marker by your side as you pack. Then make notes on the boxes about the contents. Whether you want to be specifc -- shoes, jewelry, socks -- or more vague -- "Kitchen" -- you'll at least know where the box goes. If you use movers, you can tell them the correct room to put the box in. If you move the items yourself, you won't have to carry the box any extra steps.

Again, sorry for the long silence. Things have been crazed. But we officially have an apartment secured, our stuff is in transit and we're trying to decompress before we start our long road trip down to the land o' sun.



Anonymous Chloe (Naturally Frugal) said...

Good luck with the move! When I moved from San Francisco to Seattle I completely underestimated how much stuff I had and how long it would take. I had to send about 13 boxes up to Seattl (not cheap) and still had to get rid of lots of stuff.
Hopefully you guys can get some rest before your big move.

September 2, 2009 at 10:57 AM

Blogger Meg said...

Yep. Frugal is DEFINITELY relative. And often with big things like this you'll end up doing a mix of things, which is fine, too. My husband and I are lucky that all our moves have been pretty short distances. Two were just around town. Plus, my mom had a horse trailer which really helped when I/we needed to move.

Though we're not planning to move (at least any time soon), it's something I think about every time we declutter. Last weekend we were able to get rid of an entire dresser in our bedroom and within a week we should get our new traditional shiki-futon from J-life International to replace our bed. And actually, we've already been sleeping with the mattress on the floor for the last few days to get used to it. I'm really hoping the futon will help my back, but already I'm loving sleeping closer to the floor. We may even get rid of our nightstands eventually and just replace them with two small boxes or trays or something like that.

I don't know when we'll move next, but I assume we probably will someday, so it's nice to know it won't be so bad. My mom & MIL, while they don't really want to move, have both said that they just couldn't because they have so much stuff. I think it's sad when your stuff has so much control over your life, so I'm happy that we're downsizing overall.

September 2, 2009 at 11:02 AM

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September 2, 2009 at 10:25 PM

Anonymous Shevy said...

I was just counting up the various moves I've made since I graduated high school and moved out and I got up to 16 moves. That should probably qualify me as an "expert" mover, especially when you consider that 7 of those moves have occurred in the past 8 years!

Now, most of my moves have been within the Lower Mainland, but I have also moved to Alberta and back. Usually, we do it ourselves with a 1 ton truck from Budget. It usually costs under $150 for the day, including the appliance dolly and insurance. When we did the Alberta moves, the one there we did with 2 trips in my parents' van conversion. Seven or eight years later, with lots more furniture & two kids under the age of 5 (and me 8 months pregnant with #3) my mother paid for real movers, but I still had only 10 days to pack! That was insane and I would never want to do that again.

I like liquor store boxes and apple and lemon produce boxes. I used to sell Avon and the boxes they ship product in to their reps are also really great. You want to have a lot of boxes the same basic size and shape because they stack much better.

I can't stand wrapping in newspaper because it's messy and all the dishes have to be washed before you put them away. Bubble wrap is insanely expensive and useless afterward so I've never even considered using it. My wrapping of choice? Paper towels! Buy lots of rolls. You can tear off the right length for whatever you're wrapping, pack your breakables in tightly and they'll be fine. You can pad the top and bottom of the box with hand towels or face cloths for extra cushioning.

When you unpack, unwrap the paper towels, stack the squares neatly and *use them*! You're going to be cleaning anyway (unless the place is brand new) so this gives you two uses for the price of one.

September 3, 2009 at 10:12 AM

Anonymous John DeFlumeri Jr said...

Moving is a nightmare, and it always costs more than you think, takes a lot longer, and we usually pull a muscle somehow moving! We moved from NY to FLA this year, and it's all still fresh in my mind. Thanks for a great article. Visit my blog too for Unique, and Controversial, yet helpful material and podcasts.
Thanks, John DeFlumeri Jr, in Clearwater, Fla.

September 6, 2009 at 5:51 AM


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