ChooseFI Logo

The Cheapest Way To Move: 13 Tips For Cutting Your Moving Costs

I’ve moved across the country four times. My first trip happened with only the things that could fit in the back of a hatchback Toyota. Every trip after that grew in scale, giving me enough life experience to dread going through a big move again.

No matter what stage of life you’re in, you can save tons by taking a bootstrap mentality to your move. If you’re looking for FI-friendly tips to reduce your moving costs (which add up quickly!), look no further. We’re providing some of our best tips for the cheapest way to move.

You can save on moving costs by decluttering before you begin, hiring help for what you need but DIY’ing what you can, and getting free boxes and moving supplies from your local area.

First, Plan Ahead & Bootstrap Your Move

If you’re moving for a job, ask if your company covers moving costs, and, if so, what is covered. Unfortunately, some companies don’t think to mention this or candidates forget to use it as a bargaining chip. If your employer will pay for a move, take full advantage of that.

However, if you’re like the rest of us and moving on your own dime, you’ll need a bootstrap mentality. Decide what will save your sanity and is worth the money, and figure out ways to save on the rest.

Anything that would normally cost you money to outsource, you’ll want to do it yourself. Any items that can help you cut corners also need evaluation. To save money, you must spend your energy instead. It’s a trade-off.

As with anything in the FI lifestyle, find ways to optimize that work for you and your situation. A dollar or some elbow grease is only well-spent if you’re excited about it or can realistically accomplish it with time and energy. So make sure to plan accordingly and pick what works for you.

With that, let’s get movin’!

Your Car Is Your Cheapest Way To Move

For anyone who packs lightly with ample advance notice, moving will be the cheapest for you. If you can fit most of your belongings in your car, you can freight ship whatever is left over. One of my favorite hacks as a broke graduate student was to load up on kitchen gadgets and clothes from home every time I visited family and used my suitcase as a moving box.

Going home for the holidays becomes a stealth mission by utilizing Southwest Air’s “2 Fly Free” suitcase policy. You can check two suitcases, up to 50 lbs. This is great for anything you may not need right away–kitchen items, books, or clothes.

After a few trips, you’ll be surprised at how much you can pack!

Ship Your Stuff Via Freight

If your car is stuffed to the brim, anything left over can be shipped relatively cheaply as freight via Amtrak. To do this, simply bring your belongings to any Amtrak station near you that offers freight shipping. Just about anything aside from furniture or large appliances can be shipped via train freight.

Anything being shipped is packed sturdily in cardboard boxes that are then dropped onto a pallet and plastic-wrapped as a cube. Your items will arrive at your destination within a week of shipping, and you’ll need to pick them up at an Amtrak station near your new home.

As of this writing, it costs about $75 to ship up to 100 lbs., and anything above 100 lbs. will runs around $0.70 per pound after that. Not bad!  I utilized Amtrak for one cross country move from Chicago to San Diego. I found the process straightforward, and my items arrived on time without incident.

Learn more about shipping with Amtrak here.

Utilize Your Network

If you’re lucky, you may be able to enlist the help of loved ones to help you pack, even if they can’t lift or load. Ask for boxes on your social media or in local groups (Nextdoor, local Facebook groups, Freecycle, Craigslist). I used Craigslist for boxes for one move, someone close to me was offering their used moving boxes for free. I showed up and filled my car to the breaking point with free boxes. I got more than I even needed.

Use blankets, towels, and newspaper to wrap breakables to save on bubble wrap. This will cut back on trash and save on space. Additionally, your family members likely have old sheets and towels they want to get rid of. These can be used as packing materials and donated when you’re done with them.


Whatever you can declutter, do. The cheapest way to move your junk is to not move it at all. Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist are great places to get rid of anything that won’t survive the move or fit into your new digs. And you can also donate any furniture you can’t sell.

Often, pieces are cheaper to replace with IKEA or Amazon when you arrive than to be shipped with your real treasures. Unfortunately, if you’ve ever bought cheap pieces, you know they can be a pain to dismantle. They also take a beating during a move or fall apart entirely during loading and unloading. Keep in mind, the bigger and heavier an object is, the more expensive it’s going to be to move.

While it’s a pain, you can order new furniture to be shipped and have it delivered upon your arrival. It may seem anti-FI to purchase everything new, but it’s often cheaper than moving furniture you might not love.

Related: How To Downsize Your Home: 9 Easy Tips To Help You Live In Less Space

Outsource, But Smarter (And Cheaper)

If the idea of repurchasing and assembling the exact same IKEA Kallax bookshelf in your new digs is enough to make you want to throw your Allen wrench, give TaskRabbit a try. It’s an affordable way to outsource those IKEA builds so you can spend your time on other things (like unpacking!).

Browse trusted Taskers by skills, reviews, and price to help you get settled in without going insane.

Another reputable source for outsourcing is Thumbtack. This service can help you with tasks that might need a bit more finesse than a typical freelance Tasker. For instance, if you need junk removal, house cleaning, repairs done, or an experienced mover, you can compare local service providers using Thumbtack.

Both of these sites make it easy to compare prices, and gives you peace of mind that you’re hiring reliable service providers.

Get Packing To Save On Labor

While it may be tempting to hire a service to cover your cross-country move, large moving companies that handle your entire move aren’t cheap.

Calling around to compare rates might seem nightmarish when you’re already tackling a stressful move. But shopping around for movers or a truck to DIY could save you hundreds. The two aforementioned services–TaskRabbit and Thumbtack –also are good for sourcing movers and quickly comparing prices.

If you want to hire movers but don’t want to pay for the whole move, you can save by only hiring them for one part. For example, if you load a truck, you can pay movers to unload it. You can also forgo them entirely if you pack light and if you’re physically fit enough to move heavy objects.

Another way to save money on movers is by hiring them on a weekday, so make sure you compare prices.

Also, think outside the box when it comes to hiring. Do you know any parents of high schoolers? If so, you might be able to snag some cheap labor. Teenagers looking to make an extra buck might be willing to come and help you pack, or move boxes and heavy furniture, for a lower rate than traditional movers.

How To Save Money When Moving Across Town

Your cheapest best when moving across town is to first declutter, then to pack up cars and pick-up trucks for a few trips back and forth. If that’s not possible, you’ve probably thought about renting a U-Haul.

To rent a 10-ft. U-Haul truck, you’ll pay a base fee of $19.95. Then it’s $0.99 cents a mile after that, and you should return the truck with a full tank of gas. Additional fees include a $1 “environmental fee” and $14 for insurance. Your personal insurance may not cover renting a moving truck, call ahead to find out. You may be able to save this $14, but you definitely don’t want to be driving a huge unfamiliar truck around town without car insurance.

You can rent a pick-up truck from Lowes for $19 for 90 mins, or $89 for the whole day. This includes unlimited miles so you don’t have to worry about that, but it does need to be returned with a full tank of gas.

To truly save the most money on your move, see if you can borrow a truck or van from someone you know. That will most likely only cost you a tank of gas.

Related: How To Save Money When Buying Appliances

Watch Your Moving Truck Costs

Moving further than the other side of town and have a lot to load up? Renting a moving truck that you drive yourself is the next best option. You can rent a Budget, Penske, and U-Haul are the most common options.

Be sure to call around and get quotes from all three. Also, don’t rent more truck than you need. Bigger trucks are more expensive to rent and drive, so plan accordingly.

Be aware that all three options charge you for certain add-ons if your truck doesn’t come with it (ex., loading dolly, ramp, blankets). Before you book, factor in that you will need to pay for gas, and your state may tack on extra fees.

Make sure you do your own research based on your needs. Prices may fluctuate, options may not be available, or trucks may be sold out for the dates you need. Planning ahead will be your best bet.

Before you book the truck, call around to local moving companies and get a quote from them. You might be surprised that a moving company may not cost that much more. It’s worth a phone call to find out.

Take Advantage Of Unused Truck Space

Hoping to tag along with someone else’s move? uShip makes shipping big stuff cheap and easy by helping customers connect with people who have extra truck space.

You can compare options in uShip’s transport marketplace, which gives you access to thousands of feedback-rated providers. Whether you’re shipping appliances or livestock, you can find shippers at a variety of price points.

Moving Via Storage Cube

Chances are you’ve seen these modern moving containers around at some point. U-Pack, or brands like them, deliver shipping containers that are packed in advance and picked up on moving day.

Depending on zoning and traffic laws, you may not be able to use cube shipping for your move, so be sure to check the local rules are for your starting point and your destination. While you enter in your ZIP codes to get a quote, also consider if you have an HOA or other ordinances that might prevent you from using one of these.

Comparing Prices on Storage Cubes

PODS offers different selections at 7, 12, 16-ft. options. On average, most people need about 12-16 ft. to store and transport their households, and the entire process takes about 6-8 business days. The estimated cost for a 16-ft container is $2,200-$3,000. You can also use the container for storage after drop-off for an additional fee of around $149 per month.

PODS is the most widely available service, and while it’s generally the most expensive, it may be one of your only options depending on your pick-up and drop-off locations.

U-Pack also offers storage and transportation cubes for your move. From drop-off to pick up, you’ll have about three days to load up your wares. On average, for a 70” x 82” x 93” Cube, you’ll spend around $2,220-$2,500.

Be Smarter About Storage

Calling around to price different storage facilities can be maddening, especially with varying rules, contracts, and pricing. SpareFoot lets you compare the most storage options nationwide and pick the best storage solution for your needs. If you have only a few boxes that wouldn’t warrant a typical unit, this can be a great solution.

However, if you have more than that, a well-known company like Public Storage is a great place for storage. Just make sure you compare the different pricing options for the differently sized units. You don’t want to pay for more than you need.

Quick Tips For Before And After

Declutter as much as you possibly can up front, but take time to label and group things accordingly with what remains. When disassembling furniture, secure nuts and bolts in Ziplock bags and take pictures of the process for easy reassembly.

Before things get crazy, don’t forget to change your address with USPS in advance. Not only will your mail find you in a timely fashion, but you’ll also receive coupons to help you save on everything from pizza to supplies at stores like Lowe’s.

After you arrive, you’ll have to start from scratch with service provides for your phone, cable, and wifi. SmartMove by CableMover provides easy-to-use tools and resources to connect people with the best Internet, TV, and smart home technologies without having to deal with interruptions in service.

You can browse current deals in the neighborhood you are moving to simply by entering your address with no commitment.

Moving is an exhausting and often expensive affair. But following these tips, from decluttering to comparing prices on trucks to using what you already have as supplies, will save on cost and stress.

Related Articles:

The Cheapest Way To Move: 13 Tips For Cutting Your Moving Costs

Subscribe To The FI Weekly

Action, accountability, inspiration, and community. Join the movement. Get started on your Path to FI

More To Explore
Life Optimization
Life Optimization
What Are You Optimizing For? | Chris Hutchins | Ep 423

Sometimes on the journey to FI, we ask ourselves the following; do I really need to spend money on this? Do I really have the time and resources for that? These questions may be easy to dismiss by saying no in order to stay on track with your financial goals, but by dismissing them, you could be missing out on something that is beneficial to your personal journey! This week we are joined by friend of the podcast, Chris Hutchins, to talk about the hacks for optimizing your life, the differences between cheapness and frugality, and the importance of valuing your time and what it can lead to. Saving money is an important part of achieving FI, but you should never feel so restricted that you miss out on investing your time and money in things that bring joy and value into your life. While saving is important, it’s okay to spend money. Whether it’s on a trip or investing in something new, there are ways to make it work without feeling guilt or shame. Prioritizing and valuing your time can introduce new experiences and provide happiness as well as perspective while on this journey! 

Read More »
You Might Be Interested in...
Share This Post
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on email
Share on pinterest