How To Avoid Common Moving Costs

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Back of a U-Haul truck with a $19.95 rental price on it.

$19.95? You can do better than that …

It’s that time of year again: Moving Day 2013. In Boston, it seems half the city moves on September 1, because the rental market revolves around students starting the new school year.

Moving can be stressful and expensive. Throughout my childhood, my parents always moved themselves, so there was never a moving truck or paid movers involved. In my adult life, I too have chosen the DIY moving method, mostly to save money.

I’ve moved over 40 times in my life, so I’ve learned a thing or two about managing a move. Here are some tricks I use to cut down on my costs.


Movers And A U-Haul

Of course, the best way to move for free is to enlist the help of your family members (especially those who own trucks or other large vehicles) who will still love you even if you make them lug an iron-framed couch up three flights of stairs.

If your folks aren’t local or can’t help for other reasons, think about anyone else who might be able to lend a hand for some heavier items. Who are your strongest friends? Do you know anybody with a pickup truck? If this strong person or truck owner is your good friend, maybe they will help you move in exchange for a meal or some beer, if they’re of age. Or, you could just borrow the truck or trade cars with them for the day.

Another option would be to exchange moving help with other friends who are also moving, especially someone who’s already borrowing a truck or getting help from family. You help them with their heavy things, and they’ll help with yours.


I’ve been stashing away Staples printer paper boxes from my office for weeks now. Every time I see someone put out a sturdy lidded box in the recycling area, I bring it back to my desk. People noticed I’m saving nice boxes and started bringing them to me.

If you don’t work in an office that orders lots of paper, there are plenty of other sources for sturdy, free boxes. Ask your local liquor store, grocery store, or Starbucks if they can put aside boxes after their next shipment for you to pick up at a specified time. Also, check your basement or attic. Did you or your housemate stash a bunch of broken-down boxes there from when you moved in and forget about it?

You can also save nice packing materials for your fragile items from online shopping shipments. In a pinch, grab a stack of free newspapers to wrap your dishes. I also sometimes use my clothing or linens to securely pad boxes filled with fragiles. Just be sure to label the box with both types of items you’re packing so you don’t lose track—you might forget where your bed sheets are if they’re in the kitchen box.

Furnishing Your New Apartment

You can score awesome finds from other people who are moving out and don’t have room for all their belongings. Check in with friends who are moving out, especially those headed to faraway places. I’m potentially inheriting a couch, wardrobe, and some other great stuff from friends who plan to give these away in September.

Moving day in Boston is also known in specific student-populated neighborhoods as “Allston Christmas” or “Mission Hill Christmas” when the residents receive free gifts from their neighbors who are moving away and leave piles of trash/treasure lining the streets. But I must caution: Be choosy when you’re claiming street-side freebies from the general public—especially anything cloth/fabric/cushioned. This is how you get bed bugs (another lesson learned). Stick to metal, plastic and possibly wood finds; however be sure to give any of these a good hosing or wiping down before you bring them into your new pad.

How do you cut costs on moving? Share your tips in the comments.

(Photo: ewen and donabel)

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  1. Christie July 31, 2013 / 5:32 pm

    Great article!

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