19 Tips for Relocating (On the Cheap)

tips for relocating across the country on pennies

I just so happen to know a good number of people who are moving now, so I thought it would be good to cover some tips for relocating to a new town. Most of these tips will also work if you are just moving across town.

One of my worst moves of all time was when I was moving to a new apartment right around the corner from where I was living. I thought it would be the easiest move EVER because it was just around the corner, so I didn't pack things as I should have. I also drug the whole process out far too long by moving over the course of a few days instead of just busting it out over a day or afternoon. So, needless to say, now I always pack like I'm making a cross-country move, even if it's just a new neighborhood across town.

Bust it out. Get it done.

Here are 19 Relocation Tips for a Long-Distance Move (or Across Town):

1. Ask for Assistance

If you are moving because of a new job, be sure to ask your new employer if they offer any type of relocation assistance to help you cover move costs and resettlement into a new place. Depending on the city, they may also offer a cost of living increase. You don't want to leave any funds or help on the table.

2. Hoard Packing Materials

Every time you visit the grocery store, ask customer service for any heavy-duty boxes they still have after restocking their shelves. The liquor store is also a good place to get segregated boxes, which makes packing glasses and knick-knacks much easier. Collect other materials like newspaper and bubble wrap from family and friends to prevent having to spend money on those types of packing materials. Old blankets are a great way to protect the furniture that's going with you.

3. Start a Packing Timeline

If you are not in a rush, start a few weeks early by writing down a plan of attack. The less stress you have trying to get and stay organized, the less money you’ll spend purely out of convenience.

4. Keep a “Hold All” Box

Keep one larger box or a plastic tub to the side where you will keep all of your must-have items such as packing tape, pens, markers, scissors, paper, and important documents (think birth certificates, passports, driver's licenses, social security cards), medicines, info about your pets health needs, toiletries, and anything you’ll need until the minute you leave home. This will prevent having to buy new stuff every time you pack away or lose things you need. It's also a good idea to write down on paper important phone numbers as a backup plan in case you lose your phone. Keep this box with you at all times so you can get access to these important items when you reach your destination.

5. Keep an “Open First” Box

This is like the Hold All packing box, but not unlike the above box where your priority items are, this box will hold what should be considered your 2nd on the list priority items. Give some thought to what items you’ll need (or want) to have right when you get to your new home. Maybe you'll want to include things like the coffee maker, coffee cups, toilet paper, towels, and toys to keep the kids busy.

6. Label All Boxes

It can be really easy to skip this step or to just do it sloppily. Some people would actually rather go out and buy new items instead of searching through yet another box for something they need. Nip unnecessary spending in the bud by marking each box with a permanent marker noting what room it belongs in with a brief list of what’s inside. Try to avoid my technique that usually comes out at the end of the packing experience, where I throw stuff into the boxes and just label them all MISCELLANEOUS…;)

7. Clean as You Go

When you pack up an area, give it a good cleaning immediately after clearing the space. This will keep things efficient and prevent you from having to hire cleaners to do your entire residence when you are sick of the moving process. Cleaning will also benefit if you rent and count on a security deposit refund.

8. Ditch the Junk

Keep a JUNK and GARAGE SALE box close by. While you're boxing up your keepers, you'll easily be able to toss your junk and garage sale items into their proper boxes. Moving is a great chance to clear out the stuff that finds a way to accumulate over the years. Plus, you’ll spend more money if you have to move boxes of stuff you don’t even want anymore. Sell anything that is still in good shape by having a moving sale when you near the end of your packing process.

When you make your donation to the thrift store, be sure to get a donation receipt because that will come in handy when tax time rolls around.

9. Be a Sell Out

Moving across the country as lightly as possible may benefit you financially. Consider the cost difference between hiring a large moving truck to haul your large items versus the cost of buying new stuff when you get to your destination. What you discover may surprise you (or it may not)!

10. Check Out Storage Options

For any family heirlooms or pieces you may want back at some point, consider renting a low-cost storage unit to house your items until you can have them set in your new place of residence and cheaper option is to consider asking trusted friends or family to house your treasures in their homes until you can arrange for transportation. If you do decide to go with the storage unit, be sure that you don't forget about it and continue to rack up $50 + a month in fees. It should not be something used long-term. Pods are great short-term solutions. (Check out this post for more on the subject: Do You Have Too Much Crap? Money Wasted on Self-Storage)

11. Get Several Quotes on Moving Companies 

If you decide to have a moving company move your stuff, be sure you get multiple estimates and quotes before making a decision. You want affordability, of course, but you also want the reliability and effectiveness that professional movers offer.

12. Pack It Yourself

Moving companies will provide you with a moving team, a truck, and a driver; all you have to do it load up the truck yourself, and they'll drive it across the country.

13. Be Truck Smart

If you plan to rent your own moving truck and haul your stuff across the country, make sure to reserve only the truck size you need. It can be bad to underestimate the space you’ll need in the truck, but it will cost you a lot of extra money (in gas and truck rental fees) if you book a truck that is too large.

14. Pack Strategically

It can be tempting to just fling your boxes inside the truck. Create or find moving checklists online. Give yourself enough time to ensure you pack strategically, using every ounce of space in the most logical way. This way, you will be able to make everything fit, and it will be protected along the journey.

15. Seek Out Hotel Deals

When you have to travel a long distance and plan to do it on the road, you’ll need to consider stopping to rest. You can find valuable coupons in the books available for free at state welcome centers. Look for coupons for hotel deals and restaurants along the way and online before you leave.

16. Reach Out to Friends

If you have friends and family along the travel route, ask them if you can borrow their couch for a night rather than spending your money on hotel lodging. Plan out your travel time so you can leave some extra time to hang out with friends and family you haven’t seen in a while. They may even be able to provide temporary housing to help as you get settled in your new city and figure out what neighborhoods you're interested in.

17. Camp Along the Way

If the weather is nice and you don't have any friends or family along your route, consider camping out instead of staying at a hotel. Pick a campground that has showers, and you'll be set for another day of traveling.

18. Pack a Cooler

Depending on the room available in your vehicle, you can save a good amount of cash if you pack your own snacks and drinks for the morning and afternoon. Then, only stop for dinner.

19. Don’t Buy Until Settled In

When you make it to your new home, give yourself time to unwind and unpack. Don’t rush out to the store to buy what you think you need. Give yourself time to sort through your belongings and get set up, keeping a list of ideas along the way. If you rush off to the store the 1st week you're in town, it will likely lead to overspending, especially on things that you don’t really need. The only store you need to hit in the first few weeks is the grocery store.

I'm curious about what you have to say! Do you have answers to these questions?: “How do I move to a new city without a job?”, “How do I start the relocation process?”, “What are 4 things you should do before you move in?”, “What expenses should be considered when thinking about relocating?” and “What's the smartest way to move?”

Do you have any tips that I didn't mention? I'd love to hear them!