How to make a Cheap Move

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Tips for a frugal cheap move

So, you’re moving? Congratulations! We recently moved from Central Florida to the Pacific Northwest. We’re talking 3100 miles. If you’re wondering, that’s a 6 day trip by vehicle. Even scarier than 6 days in the car, however, was planning this big of a move with about 3 weeks notice, and making it a cheap move at that! It was stressful for a few days there.

We did some things right and we made a few mistakes, but in the end we pulled off a frugal move that we felt good about. Here are my best tips for making a frugal move, including how to avoid some of the mistakes we made.

Frugal Moving: How make a cheap move without losing your mind

Tip 1: Get rid of all the things!
This was the step that saved us the absolute most money! Why? The more stuff you have the more you pay to move it. If you’re making a short move this isn’t as critical, but if you’re making a long-distance move you have to decide if the items are worth moving.

We researched our options for physically moving our stuff. We had four options: pay for a full service moving company, load a truck and have someone else drive it, drive our own truck, or use a container shipping company. The cheapest option was to load a truck and drive it ourselves but there was no way I was driving that far with 5 kids and no other adult to keep me sane. I also didn’t really want my husband driving a truck through the mountains, which ended up being a really great thing when we encountered a surprise white out snowstorm.

We went with the next cheapest option, the container shipping. Knowing we had one 16×8 unit to move all of our stuff helped us part with things. The cost of a moving truck was about 3x more, so we asked ourselves “Is this worth the $10,000 difference?” Very, very few things were. We sold as much as we could via a yard sale and for sale group on Facebook, moved on to giving things away to anyone who would pick them up, donated what we could, and then arranged for the trash company to pick up the rest.

Avoid our mistake: get an insurance policy and make sure the person you order it with charges you for it, and ask for an itemized invoice. We ordered insurance but the clerk didn’t charge us for it or give us an itemized invoice, making it much more difficult to file a claim when our items arrived with water damage.

TIP 2: Plan to drive & sleep
Obviously this one won’t apply if you’re flying or making a short trip.
Driving: My husband used a free tool from Furkot to plan our trip. He was able to put in the maximum of amount of time he wanted to drive each day, specifying that we wanted to stop in major cities to sleep, and it told us the best routes to take given the weather trends.

Sleep: We’re a large family and we traveled with a cat, which means the cheap hotels wouldn’t work for us. To keep the costs down we stayed with family one night and made sure our hotels offered free breakfast. We made sure to use a frequent stay member card to earn points and discounts. One of the smartest things we did was pay for all of the hotel stays on a card that offers cash back (We used a PayPal debit card hooked up to our bank’s debit card so we wouldn’t have to use a charge card!)

Tips for a frugal cheap move

Our kids felt snow for the first time on our moving trip!

TIP 3: Plan to eat
Anyone who has made a 6 day car trip with kids can tell you one thing: you get very, very sick of fast food. You can help combat this by staying in larger towns, where delivery options are a little more diverse. The free hot breakfast bar was very nice too, the closest we got to real food some days. Lunch was our biggest challenge because of not only the fast food dilemma, but the vast amount of miles you can drive in the western US without passing any restaurants. Seriously, there were times we went 200 miles without seeing any signs of life.

Combat these blahs by packing snacks! And trust me, if you’re planning on spending a week sitting in the car 8 hours a day you’re gonna want some extra water bottles and high fiber snacks. TRUST ME. To make things easier you can pack bags of snacks ahead of time and label each with a name, day, and estimated time to eat. I did find that the kids were less likely to bug us about food if we set a rough outline for the times we would be eating.
TIP 4: Increase your data plan or investigate alternatives
If you’re getting by with the lowest data plan you can manage, consider increasing it before your trip. The last thing you want is to be driving through the middle of nowhere when you get an alert that your data usage is 90%. If that happens you’re kind of stuck paying whatever your mobile carrier wants to charge. I don’t know how all carriers are, but I know ours is cheaper if you order more data on a random weekday when you’re at 40%. It seems shady, but really, what mobile carriers aren’t a little shady? Other options would be buying mobile wifi or investing in a real GPS system instead of using your phone.

TIP 5: Plan to spend
If you do nothing else to prepare, make a realistic budget and set it! We budgeted for the shipping container, hotels, gas, two meals a day, snacks, souvenirs, and fun stops along the way. I kept a paper tablet in the van so I could write down every penny we spent and keep a running total of each day’s expenses. Most days we came in under budget but there was one or two days that we blew our food budget, but because I had a running list with me I knew where we could move funds.

Knowing we would be using our debit card frequently we kept all of our money in our savings account, which isn’t accessible from the debit card. Every time we needed money I would log into my mobile banking app and transfer over what we needed. This helped us stay in budget and protected our money a little more.

TIP 6: Plan for fun!
Driving all day is boring, make sure to scout out a few great places to get our and stretch your legs. State and national parks are safe, outside, and usually cheap!

Moving can be very stressful, especially when kids are involved, but with some forethought and planning it can go off smoothly.

YOUR TURN! Let us know in comments or on Facebook what YOUR favorite moving tips are!

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2 thoughts on “How to make a Cheap Move

  • Jessica

    A friend told me.about your site. I am.hoping to move from Virginia to Seattle in a couple months. I cannot fit all of us in a car however, so was planning to drive a truck. I would love to compare notes. I have four people, a double bass, a cat and two guinea pigs, and a sedan. I also didn’t find cheaper shipping containers.