How to Move Cheaply: A Renters Guide

Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images

It’s summer. You know what that means, right? No, not wedding season, although that’s certainly in full swing, too; I’m talking about moving season. Summer is one of the most popular times to move house (or apartment, or whatever) — and although it also happens to be one of the most expensive times to do it, it’s actually not that difficult to move cheaply while keeping it wallet-friendly while you’re at it. Rent.com and FlatRate Moving (experts that they are) teamed up to brainstorm the best tips and tricks they could think of geared towards helping you make your move without going broke — tips which they then graciously shared with us so we could impart our newfound moving knowledge onto you, Gentle Readers. Read on for all the details!

Picking a Moving Company:

The biggest expense you’ll likely incur in the moving process is actually, y’know, paying people to move your stuff from one place to another. Of course, if you have access to a friend with a truck or the ability to make a whole lot of small car trips yourself, then by all means, do that; if, however, you don’t, these guidelines should help you get the most bang for your buck.

  • Keep the cost in mind. Some moving companies charge an hourly rate; others charge a flat rate based on inventory. Depending on how much stuff you’re moving and how far away your new place is from your old one might make one option better than the other, so call for quotes and price everything out. For reference, FlatRate Moving usually costs about $500 for a one-bedroom apartment move.
  • Know when to move. It’s true that moving on a weekend means you don’t have to take time off from work to do it, as well as that moving on the first or last day of the month means you don’t have to double up apartment rents the month you move. However, having a more flexible schedule will definitely help you lock down a better price with your movers. They’re busiest on the first and last days of the month, and weekends tend to be more expensive than weekends. Things to keep in mind.
  • Book early. Moving companies often price their moves based on availability; as such, booking well in advance means greater availability and lower prices. You’ll also have more room for negotiation.
  • Don’t forget to tip! Sorry, folks who hate tipping; movers fall into the category of people you should definitely tip, so be sure to factor that into everything when you’re pricing your move out. For local moves, it’s a good idea to tip 15 to 20 percent; give it to the foreman at the end of the move. For long distance moves, five to seven percent for the originating location movers and five to seven percent for the destination location movers is a good way to go. Don't be Mr. Pink:

Making Packing Painless:

If moving companies are the most expensive part of a move, actually packing up your entire life into a series of cardboard boxes is the most annoying and time-consuming. Here’s how to box everything up without going crazy.

  • Pack a “move-in box.” This box should have everything you need for your first night in your new place: PJs, a toothbrush and other toiletries, any medication you might need, a towel, a change of clothing for the next day, and so on.
  • Trust the tape. When it comes to what you use to tape up your boxes, masking tape just won’t cut it. There’s no substitute for real packing tape. Make sure you reinforce the bottoms of your boxes when you tape them together, too — the last thing you want is the one flimsy piece of tape you stuck down there giving way right as you pick up that giant box of books you spent ages packing.
  • Watch the weight. Generally, try to keep your boxes in the 20-to-30 lb. range and no heavier than 50 lbs. Pack the heavier items on the bottom to keep it all balanced — and also to avoid squishing any of your more delicate belongings. Speaking of delicate items, don’t skimp on the padding either — whether you go for bubble wrap or for a more eco-friendly solution, nothing is worse than opening a box to unpack it and finding everything inside it has shattered to little tiny bits.

Getting Your Security Deposit Back:

Unfortunately these are all things you have to pay attention to from the moment you move in, so if you haven’t been staying on top of it and you’re about to move out, you may be out of luck. But in the future, make sure you do the following things.

  • Read the fine print before you sign your lease. Often leases lay out specific guidelines regarding the return of the deposit — make sure you don’t miss ‘em. A clear list of conditions should be made and agreed on as part of the lease before you sign it.
  • Take “before” and “after” pictures. Snap photos of your place both right when you move in and right when you move out, making sure that both sets of photos are time stamped while you’re at it. That way, you’ve got evidence of any pre-existing damage, alterations that may have been made by the previous tenant, and so on — ensuring that the burden for them won’t fall on you.
  • Get written permission from your landlord before you do any customization or make any renovations. This includes painting, wall-mounting anything, and so on — anything that involves changing the very fiber of your apartment’s being in some way. The important thing here is to get it writing — that way, you’ve got a physical record that yes, you got the okay to paint your walls electric purple.
  • Clean up after yourself before you move out. You don’t need to replace the flooring or anything, but make sure you clean the place thoroughly, try to spackle small holes (the type from nails that held pictures up on the wall), and paint the walls back to white before you vacate for good. In the words of the mighty Allie Brosh:

Now go forth and move!