Received mail offer?   |   Log In

Bringing Down Average Moving Costs on a Tight Budget

Posted by MoneyKey on September 11, 2019
a young couple moving into a new apartment

Whether you’re finally moving out of your parents’ house, moving to the big city to start an exciting new job, or moving into the house you just bought with your spouse, this can be an exciting time in your life. It can also be incredibly stressful. Moving can burn through your time, it can force you to take time off work, and it rarely comes cheap.

With the cost of moving trucks, packing services, furnishing a new home, and more, average moving costs typically fall around $350 for a local move to a one-bedroom apartment, or around $1,500 for a four-bedroom home. A long-distance move is even pricier, with the average moving costs for a one-bedroom apartment being $1,050, to $5,000 for a four-bedroom home.

This could be especially challenging if you’re living on a tight budget. Having said that, there are things that you can do that may help you bring your average moving costs down.

If you’re moving on a tight budget, consider things like moving in the off-season, packing items yourself, looking for ways to find free moving boxes, and more.

It’s important to keep in mind that even if you plan your move well in advance and stay organized, sometimes unexpected emergencies pop up. Maybe your car breaks down in the middle of your move, or the basement in your new house suddenly floods. If money is tight and most of your funds are tied up in your new home, you may not have the savings to deal with an unexpected emergency expense. If you run into a situation like this, loans online from MoneyKey may be able to help. An online loan might be just what you need to take care of this surprise emergency.

If you stay flexible and organized, you may be able to navigate the process of moving on a tight budget and keep average moving costs down. The key is do your research, assess your situation, and start planning well in advance.

Breaking Down Average Moving Costs

budget sheet underneath change and a calculator

A huge factor in the cost of moving is whether you decide to hire movers or not. If you can get some friends and family to help you move, that’s great! But people’s schedules may not align, you may be moving to a new city and don’t know anyone there that could help, or you may have some large items to move that you need professional help with.

There are plenty of other costs associated with moving, so we’re going to go over them and also look at valuation cover costs, what moving costs you can deduct, and calculating your moving costs.

Hiring Professional Movers

While it might take some of the work off your hands, hiring movers can cost thousands of dollars, particularly if you’re doing a long-distance move. Prices will vary depending on how far you’re moving, the total combined weight of all of the items you’re moving, the time of year, and the company you hire. And these costs don’t include things like moving insurance and packing costs.

Having the money to spend on movers would be great, but if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, there’s a good chance that you may have to find a way to move on your own.

Moving Insurance

Valuation coverage functions like insurance would. If your belongings are lost or damaged by a moving company, you’ll be reimbursed. However, since moving companies aren’t technically certified to sell insurance, they provide what’s called valuation coverage.

There are different types of valuation coverage, and it’s important you understand some of the key differences so you can make an informed choice. These options include:

  • Released Value Protection. This is the most basic form of coverage and you won’t be charged for it. While it comes at no additional cost, you’ll be provided with minimal protection. The moving company will cover 60 cents per pound per item.
  • Full Value Protection. While you’ll pay more upfront for this type of coverage, it’s much more comprehensive. With certain exceptions, getting this protection means that the moving company will be liable if anything they’re transporting is damaged or lost. You’ll need to declare how much your things are worth, per pound, and then pay based on that valuation.

Using Moving Costs as Tax Deductions

someone calculating taxes with a calculator

Sometimes, certain moving costs are tax deductible, so it’s important to save your receipts and know what can be written off.

Moving expenses like the cost of packing and shipping your items are deductible, along with travel costs and accommodations. Meals aren’t included in this and can’t be deducted.

There are three tests that dictate who is able to write off moving expenses, and in order to qualify, you’ll need to meet the criteria of all three tests:

  • The Distance Test. If you’re moving to start a new job, this job needs to be at least 50 miles farther from your last home than your previous central job location was. Military members can still deduct moving costs even if they don’t meet the distance criteria as long as they’re on active duty and are relocating due to a change of station.
  • The “Closely Related to Starting Work” Test. You’ll need to move within a year of when you first start working at your new job location.
  • The Other Time Test. This time test involves how long you work at your new job location. You can meet this criteria by either working as a full-time employee for a minimum of 39 weeks in the 12 months after your move, or work full-time but be self-employed for a minimum of 39 weeks in the 12 months after you move. For this second set of criteria, you’ll also need to work a minimum of 78 weeks in the 24 months after you move.

If you’re eligible for tax deductions, take advantage! This can be a great way to lower the overall cost of your move.

How Moving Costs are Calculated

Finally, you’ll want to break down how moving costs are calculated. For long-distance moves, the weight of your items, the distance of your move, and the cost of labor are all going to factor in.

In contrast, certain costs might be calculated a little differently for short-distance moves. If you’re moving locally, you may be paying hourly for labor, or you might pay a simple flat rate. These rates may change depending on the cost of labor, additional add-ons like packing services, or the distance and difficulty of the terrain the movers need to work through to move your things (i.e. climbing stairs, distance between truck and front door, etc.).

And remember, if your move ends up being on the pricier end and you need to hire movers, it helps to have a safety net in case all your money is tied up in your move and you run into an unexpected emergency expense at this time. If you do run into an emergency you need to pay for immediately, apply for installment loan online to help you through it!

Tips for Moving on a Tight Budget

stacks of change with plants sprouting out of them

When you consider how high average moving costs are, it’s important for you to have a clear moving budget ahead of time so you know how much you’ll need to plan and prepare before your move. By assessing your funds, you may be able to plan out how much time and effort you’ll need to put into your move. This is one of the key points in understanding how to move cheaply!

You’ll need to start by setting realistic goals relative to your budget prior to moving. To cut down costs effectively, you should try to set a budget that leaves you at least 10 percent of your budget after moving costs in case you run into any emergencies.

If you’re looking for tips to cut back on average moving costs, there are things you can do that may help lower some expenses. Some of these things include:

  • Sell things you don’t need.
  • Do your own packing.
  • Look for free boxes and grocery stores and other retailers.
  • Find household materials to use as packing material.
  • Ask friends and family to help you move.

Another thing you can do if you’re moving on a tight budget is to move during the off-season. Moving costs can be seasonal, so if you end up having to hire a moving company, they may charge less in the fall and winter. Business is typically busier in the summer when people often have more time to move. Also, moving on the weekends may cost more too, so aim to move during the week if you can.

It’s also important to take stock of all your items and figure out what you don’t need or want, and either donate or sell these items. You may be able to save on your move by putting the money you make selling these items towards your moving expenses. You’ll also be cutting out some of the total weight of the items you’re moving which could lower costs if you hire movers.

Researching Affordable Movers

someone researching affordable movers

When you’re looking into moving companies, make sure you don’t just go with the first company you see. Do your research, compare rates, and call around to get quotes.

There are three different kinds of moving estimates:

  • Non-binding moving estimate. This is just a document of a mover’s rough estimate of the cost of your move. The cost of your move could end up being higher.
  • Binding moving estimate. If you’re given a binding estimate, the mover will charge you the price they give you assuming there aren’t any changes to your move. If you end up moving just the items that you’ve listed out initially, the cost of their services will be the same as the binding estimate they gave.
  • Binding-not-to-exceed moving estimate. This is the same thing as a binding moving estimate, with the difference being that if your items don’t weigh as much as the initial estimate, you’ll pay less.

Make sure to contact at least three moving companies to compare rates and estimates before you make a decision.

Try to search out flat rate movers located in your area. Moving companies that don’t offer binding estimates can change their prices and charge more after the move. However, flat rate movers don’t typically tag on additional charges.

You should also ask the moving companies you speak to if they offer discounts based on a person’s income and status. Sometimes, discounts may be available for low-income people, senior citizens, college students, active duty military and veterans, or for those with special needs.

What to Do if You Can’t Pay for a Full-Service Move

After doing research into different moving companies and getting estimates, you might find that you can’t afford a full-service move. If that’s the case, don’t panic. You may be able to cut some costs by renting a truck, hiring or finding some help, and packing the truck on your own.

You may even be able to find ways of reducing the cost of renting a truck. Is there someone else in your neighborhood planning a move? Maybe you have a friend who’s moving? See if you can coordinate your moves so that you can split the cost of a truck rental.

You can also rent a shipping container for your move. This will allow you to pack up a portable storage unit yourself, and then some companies, like PODS, will then complete the move.

Be Smart About Your Move to Cut Down the Average Moving Costs

Moving can be an exciting time in your life, but that doesn’t mean it comes without any stress. If you’re living on a tight budget, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to afford movers to take care of all the dirty work for you. So, you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and do a lot of the work yourself! Even still, moving won’t be cheap. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to cut down on some of the costs of your move to make things a little easier on your wallet.

The key is to plan things out in advance and do your research. If you can manage to gather your packing materials ahead of time, lock down a few friends to help with the heavy lifting, get your items sorted and organized, and spend some time finding the best rates from moving companies, you may be able to ease some of the financial burden of your move.

Check out our blog for more helpful budgeting and financial tips!


Disclaimer: This article provides general information only and does not constitute financial, legal or other professional advice. For full details, see MoneyKey's Terms of Use.

Posted in: Lifestyle

We’ve helped over 250,000 customers.Let us help you!

Not all applications are approved; duration of approval process may vary.

* If your loan is approved before 9:00 PM ET from Monday through Thursday, or before 6:30 PM ET Sunday, the funds will typically be deposited into your bank account the next business day, otherwise, your funds will be deposited into your bank account in two (2) business days. The date and time funds are made available to you are subject to your bank's policies.

Disclaimers: Product availability varies by state. To see loan products offered in your state of residence, please visit our Rates and Terms page. MoneyKey – TX, Inc. is licensed as a Credit Access Business (CAB), License No. 16641-62815, by the Office of the Consumer Credit Commissioner and registered as a Credit Services Organization (CSO), Registration No. 20110150, by the State of Texas. All loans for which MoneyKey acts as a CSO and/or CAB are funded by an unaffiliated third-party lender and serviced by MoneyKey.

In the State of California, MoneyKey – CA, Inc. is licensed by the Department of Business Oversight pursuant to California Finance Lenders Law License No. 60DBO43590 and California Deferred Deposit Transaction Law License No.1004516.

Reviews and any ratings referenced are based on TrustPilot reviews. Images are for illustrative purposes only. Reviews reflect individuals’ opinions and may not be illustrative of all individual experiences with MoneyKey.

Download Our Mobile App

Download MoneyKey app on Apple iTunes icon Download MoneyKey app on Google Play icon