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Moving? Here are some creative ways to save time, money — and your sanity

Moving is emotionally and financially taxing. These expert tips will help ease the pain.
Image: A man and woman carry a box
A common mistake is over-packing larger boxes without thinking how difficult it can be to move them. As a rule of thumb: pack heavier items in smaller boxes.SolisImages / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Summer is the most popular time of year to move homes, and this summer could be a post-recession record-breaker.

“The final numbers aren't in, but most of our moving company partners have been reporting that this has been one of the busiest summers for them since the recession,” Ryan Carrigan, co-founder of moveBuddha. “The strong housing market and strong economy have a lot of people moving. We've seen customer stress levels at all-time highs this summer.”

But why do we make these massive transitions in summer, when temperatures are soaring?

“It seems almost crazy that people would want to move during such a hot season, but the reality as to why this is the busiest moving time of year has to do with a number of things: Those with families find it easier to make this life transition when everybody is out on summer and easiest to transition school districts before schools commence,” says Aaron Steed, CEO, Meathead Movers. “[Additionally,] college kids are also doing a lot of moving around, with families being able to downsize homes.”

Anyone who has moved knows how stressful and costly it can be. Here’s our expert guide to doing it cheaply, safely and sanely.

Try to move on a weekday

September 1, when many leases will start, falls on a Saturday this year. If you can negotiate with your new landlord, try to push the move-in date up (or back if you’re able) so that you’re moving on a weekday.

“Avoiding the weekends and end of the month can get you a better rate on a moving company or rental truck,” notes Carrigan.

Verify your movers’ credentials

Cost-saving may be top of mind, but don’t go bottom dollar with movers if you aren’t certain you can trust them.

“People who shop for the cheapest movers [may] fall for unrealistic low estimates,” says Manuela Irwin, a digital marketing and business development executive at MyMovingReviews, a consumer protection site for consumers on the move. “They book the mover and then when the company has the household belongings, movers won't release the shipment until the customer pays more. And by more, I mean thousands of dollars more.”

To avoid scams, Irwin recommends that you thoroughly research the moving company (broker, moving labor or pod provider).

“Don't fall for vague and fluffy ads,” she adds. “As much as you may be in a hurry, don't push for the first solution. Be cautious: Check with the Department of Transportation to confirm whether a company is a legitimate business, check physical location, company history, membership in association and community organizations and last but not least, online reviews and the over digital footprint of the company.”

Book movers ASAP and pick the earliest slots

“If you're hiring a moving company, book the earliest morning time slot available,” adds Carrigan. “The moving crew will be fresh so they'll get the job done faster and typically do a better job.”

And do book your movers ASAP if you haven’t already — even if that means just asking friends and family to be free that day.

Get boxes at liquor stores and go green by renting plastic crates

“Free boxes from liquor stores or groceries are a great way to save some cash but make sure you only get sturdy good quality boxes,” says Carrigan. “Flimsy boxes won't stack well and increase the chances of damage.”

In some cases it’s smarter (and more eco-friendly) to buy or even rent plastic crates.

According to UHaul's moving supply calculator, even a modestly furnished four-bedroom home can require well over 100 boxes. "A great eco-friendly alternative to cardboard boxes are plastic bins or crates,” says Leanne Stapf, VP of operations, The Cleaning Authority. “[They] can be reused over and over again post-move, while cardboard boxes normally end up hitting the dumpster or recycle bin immediately. There are a variety of different companies that will rent plastic moving boxes if you prefer not to buy them. Ask your moving company if they can provide or search online to see what is available in your area.”

Pro-tip: U-Haul has a plastic moving box rental service.

Put heavy stuff in small boxes, and be mindful about remote controls

“One mistake many people make is over-packing larger boxes without thinking how heavy they will actually be and how difficult it can be to move them,” notes Steed. “Place heavy items in small boxes and lighter items in large boxes. Heavier items should be packed at the bottom of the boxes, with the lighter items sitting at the top."

Here are a few more quick packing tips from Lior Rachmany, CEO and founder of Dumbo Moving + Storage:

  • Lift your boxes to test if you hear anything moving — if you [do], you need to repack because items may break.
  • Secure all bottles, especially vinegar and soy sauce, by taping the tops to ensure that they are definitely sealed.
  • It’s easy to lose your remote controls — be extremely particular about where you pack them.

Trade the bubble wrap and foam bubbles for blankets and socks

Bubble wrap and Styrofoam can rack up a bill, and also be harmful to the environment. Cut down on this mess by using stuff you already have.

“Use dish towels, bath towels, t-shirts and socks to wrap your fragile items,” recommends Stapf. “You’ll save money on packing supplies and cut down on the overall number of boxes you’ll have to move.”

Finalize your packing strategy a week ahead of the moving date

“Always start your packing at least one full week in advance of your move date. Estimate the number of boxes you will need, along with the sizes and other material, in advance,” says Steed. “Set a packing method in place. As you pack each room, stack the boxes neatly in one corner and be sure to label them by room and content, as detailed as possible.”

Contact the post office and utility providers

You’ve got a million things to do, yes, but don’t forget to secure these rather administrative tasks before you hop in that moving truck.

“The postal service has to be contacted and appointments made to install cable and internet service,” says Gary Malin, president of Citi Habitats, New York. “Utility companies need to be notified of your move.”

Unfortunately, you can no longer deduct moves on your taxes

Under the new tax plan, business and personal moving expenses are no longer eligible for deduction, so keep them in mind when mapping out your budget.

“You can no longer deduct moving expenses as of 2018,” says Carrigan. “The new tax law removed any moving-related deductions. I still see articles being published with [outdated] advice and it drives me nuts.”

Treat your movers well with lunch and tips

Even if you’re paying a lot for movers, you should honor their hard work with kindness (aka, food and tips).

“We always buy lunch for the movers, asking for their specific food and drink preference when possible,” says Jennifer Howard of JWH Design & Cabinetry, who has moved 26 times in 30 years. “Pizza is an easy choice, but most of them end up preferring something individual when asked. We tip each of the guys at the end of the move. This extra show of appreciation is always welcome, and you never know when you are going to need them again. Each time I moved, I would swear, ‘I will not do that again’. But it’s like childbirth; I forgot the labor and agony, and moved again.”

This is stressful! Maintain self-care

Physical labor aside, moving can be taxing on an emotional level. Be sure to take extra good care of yourself during this upheaval.

“Moving is extremely stressful because it evokes separation anxiety in adults as well as in children,” says Dr. Fran Walfish, a family and relationship psychotherapist. “Recognize that you are undergoing a stressful experience. Be sure to get lots of restful sleep, eat well and exercise.”

More tips for a happy, healthy home

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