I grew up an Army brat and then joined the Army myself so moving every 12 months is more normal than not to me. Unfortunately now that I'm out of the Army my husband and I have to move ourselves. We are used to someone packing our stuff, loading it, driving it and delivering it. It's a virtually painless process that cost us nothing. This move it seems will be anything but...
To be honest I didn't even look at what it would cost to have movers come in and do everything for us. I know that the process is prohibitively expensive and since we are only moving 2 hours away I figure we can do it ourselves for a lot less money and with a lot smaller impact on the earth. Including gas moving is going to cost us about $600 considering we are currently in a three bedroom 1,500 sq ft home I think that's pretty good. So how are we doing it?
1) Cut the clutter. You know you need to do it, you know you have things that you never use but no one wants to sort through it all. This is the "easiest", greenest, and cheapest way to move. The key is to start early and organize in stages so you don't get overwhelmed. I started going room by room and closet by closet. Everything we were keeping got boxed up, everything else was sorted into trash, recycle, donate, and sell. I started with the easy rooms first and saved the basement (aka pit of unidentified items) for last. This way I went into the hardest part of the sorting with a sense of accomplishment . The basement was tackled over a couple weekends to avoid burnout. I knew if I pushed to do too much I would throw out things we might need or keep things we might not. It's better (if you have the time) to take things slowly and purposefully. Most of what we get rid of went to Goodwill. A yard sale wasn't an option for us and I really don't like wasting a lot of time trying to sell things. Unless I think I can realistically get $30 or more I don't bother. So far I've made $235 selling stuff, not bad eh?
2) Get used moving boxes. I got boxes from three individuals, all found through Craigslist and all were free. Cardboard boxes are remarkably durable and can be used three or more times without showing signs of wear or losing their structural integrity so why waste money and resources to purchase new?
3) Use newspaper and household linens as packing materials. If you get the newspaper you can save your own or you can get a big stack from a recycling center and then rerecyle them after your move. You do want to be careful though, newsprint can bleed or rub off in which case you may want to opt for packing paper or your sheets :) Instead of buying or renting moving blankets to protect your furniture use your own blankets and towels and save yourself some money.
4) Shop around for a moving truck and then shop around for discount codes. I googled "discount codes for budget rental truck" and pulled up a long list of various discount codes. Some work and some don't but even if they don't all you've lost is a little time. I saved $40 using an online discount code. That may not seem like a lot but it's the cost of a tank of gas for one of our cars (which we have to drive to the new house anyway). Oh and make sure you get the smallest truck you need. Most moving companies offer guidelines based on the number of rooms in your house or the square footage but these are often very generous guidelines. Take a good look at your stuff and then go look at the trucks you can save $10-$20 by using a smaller truck.
5) Once you've got the truck move as quickly as possible. In addition to mileage charges most rental trucks have daily charges and you want to pay as little as possible. The idea of moving everything you own in less than 24 hours may seem daunting but if you pack and preposition your stuff before you have the truck it won't be so bad. We already have 2/3 of the house packed up and have started to stack everything on the first floor. By the time we have the truck everything will be stacked on the first floor and ready to be quickly moved onto the truck (with the exception of the furniture upstairs which we need a dolly to move).
6) Shop around (including your friends garages and tool rooms) for moving equipment. It can cost $15-$20 to rent a dolly for a day but a dolly is essential depending on the furniture and appliances you are trying to move. Go out on a limb and asks friends and coworkers if they have a dolly you can borrow or if they can borrow one from work. I never would have thought my father had a dolly but he does and can borrow another from work for free. If you aren't that lucky moving truck rental companies usually rent dollies but so do home improvement stores so shop around for the best price.
7) Beer (or other beverage of choice) and pizza is usually cheaper then the hourly fees movers will charge. Ask friends if neighbors if they will chip in with your move in return for a free meal. You could also check your local Craigslist to find "movers" who have cheaper than average hourly rates. But keep in mind they may not have any sort of insurance or guarantee so if they break something you are out of luck. Of course your friends don't come with insurance either...
8) Return anything you rent on time as there are usually excessive late charges that you don't want to have to pay.
9) Once you've moved and unpacked offer up your cardboard boxes on Craigslist so someone else can use them to move or simply recycle them and any packing material you may have.
10) Once you've moved take a night off to check out a local restaurant. You'll want the break and it's good to get out in your new neighborhood.