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Ways to Save on Moving Expenses

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 17 percent of the U.S. population moves each year. That's a lot of moving. It's also a lot of money. Packing up your life and driving it somewhere else is pricey-and shelling out more cash than you have is the last thing you need to be worrying about during this stressful time.

Fortunately, while we can't make moving easy, we can give you some tips to make it a little less hard on your wallet.

Lighten your load
Use the move as a chance to purge your closet, your dresser, your drawers-everywhere that junk accumulates.

There are several reasons for weeding out your possessions. First of all, whether you're moving long distance or just across town, volume will play a big part in the price: the less you have, the cheaper the move. Second, this is a perfect opportunity for a garage sale-proceeds that will come in handy during the move. If you don't think you have quite enough for a sale, bring your cast offs to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army for a tax deduction.

Eat up
As the move approaches, plan your meals ahead of time to use up what you already have (remember, food shouldn't be shipped). This means digging into the corners of the pantry and freezer and may lead to some "creative" meals for a week or so. (Chef Boyardee and frozen corn? Ramen and canned peaches?) Then again, you'll save money and won't waste food. On moving day, donate what you haven't consumed to a local food bank for another tax deduction.

Change of address
To avoid late charges, submit a change-of-address form to the post office and any business that sends you bills. Most companies let you easily edit your address on their websites. Change-of-address forms are available at the post office or online.

Also remember to disconnect all utilities, effective the day you leave. Why pay for services you're not using?

'Tis the season
If you have the luxury of choosing when you move, aim for a weekday during fall or winter. Most people move during summer, on weekends and at the beginning and ending of the month, when leases are up. You'll find lower fees during off-peak times (this is true whether you're renting a truck, hiring movers or using another type of service).

Packing materials
Unless you need a very specific size box, there's no reason to pay much for packing materials. Your first stop should be your local grocery or liquor stores, which usually have piles of boxes out back.

You can also put the word out on any social networking sites you belong to. A simple status update on Facebook ("Moving and need boxes! I can pick them up") should yield plenty.

Craigslist.org is another fantastic resource for moving materials. You can find bubble wrap and boxes for free or very cheap.

Another way to lower costs on packing materials is to multitask with what you already have. Instead of devoting an entire box to towels, linens, blankets, etc., use them to wrap your fragile items instead.

To hire or not to hire?
The biggest question you'll face as you prepare for your move is how to actually, well, move. This decision will depend on a variety of factors: how far are you going? How much time do you have? How much stuff are you bringing? Etc. As you make the decision, keep these things in mind:

Professional movers
If you want to hire movers, get at least three quotes in writing, preferably after an in-home inspection. Check for potential complaints at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. You can also find reviews at the Better Business Bureau and on Yelp.

You can lower the price of a professional move by preparing for the movers ahead of time: unplug appliances, disassemble any furniture, roll up rugs and pack all your own boxes. The less time movers spend at your house, the less they'll charge you.

Other options
There are several innovative ways to move that don't involve movers.

U-Pack is a company that drops off a truck at your house, lets you load it, and then picks it up and drives it to your new location.

Portable On Demand Storage (PODS) is similar, but instead of a truck they drop off large metal boxes for loading and then transport them. One benefit to this service is that if you don't have a new place yet, you can store your POD at the company's site until you're ready for delivery.

Move it yourself
If you're up for moving yourself locally, consider renting a small truck by the day instead of a U-Haul or similar vehicle. You'll make more trips, but since you're paying by the day you'll save on mileage. If you have a friend with a truck, even better.

For loading and unloading, it's time to cash in on every favor you're owed. Put out the call to your friends in advance so there's less chance that they can get out of it. On the Big Day, have plenty of snacks and water on hand. Spring for pizza and beer for after the move-what you spend on food and drinks you'll have made back in free labor.

Tax break
If you're moving for work, you can often deduct the cost, so save all your receipts. The IRS says "you can deduct your allowable moving expenses if your move is closely related, both in time and in place, to the start of work at a new or changed job location." The IRS will help you determine if you're eligible.

Hopefully these tips will save some cash and headaches as you prepare for your move. Good luck!

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