Moving to a new apartment isn’t so bad when you’re going solo – like the time I made a cross-country drive from New Jersey to California in just four days flat.
But when you’re moving the entire family to another part of the country, it becomes a whole new ballgame that can prove more emotionally and financially taxing.
First, there’s the actual cost associated with moving costs – nearly $13,000 to get it done professionally, according to statistics. There are the logistics of planning the move while trying to juggle work, life and family balance. And then there’s minimizing the impact to the children, who may struggle to cope with the reality of leaving friends and familiarity behind.
Making that move successfully, saving money, and maintaining family harmony during a relocation can all coexist peacefully if you take the right steps in advance.
5 tips for mapping out the move
1. Make plans in advance. Moving an entire household’s worth of people, pets, furniture and other assorted animate and inanimate objects won’t likely happen on a whim. Peak moving season is during the summer – around June through August – but you’ll want to start coordinating the move months in advance, whether you’re moving in-state or out. Time is money, and the time you spend planning your move can save you money in the long run. Choose your move date wisely for a more seamless transition to a new location.
2. Scout out your new destination. Have you visited the area you’re moving to? Check out the neighborhood first before committing to the move. Research everything from stores, amenities and even crime rates online. Visit forums and other sites, like Nextdoor, to read what others are saying about living in the area. But most of all, if that summer period is your target move period, you’ll want to arrange a new school for the kids. Get to know your school district, and schedule a meeting with the principal and teachers, before deciding to enroll your son or daughter. (Of course, if it’s private schools you’re comparing, tuition prices should be your top consideration.)
3. Start downsizing now. One big financial relocation regret is arriving at your new home to realize that most of the stuff you’ve paid to move is stuff you don’t really need. Cut down on your costs before paying any shipping costs by paring down what you have. Do you really need to pack and move every single item in the garage, attic or basement? Take the time to discern what’s worth the move and what’s not; antique furniture, family heirlooms or items of big sentimental value may take precedence over possessions you can replace for cheaper than it costs to ship them. Selling off some of your old belongings on CraigsList, eBay, or through a garage sale can yield some extra cash to put towards your big move. Decluttering your household can not only prove to more cost effective when moving, but liberating -- less truly can be more.
4. Shut it down. Your utilities and monthly revolving expenses, that is. Give your local providers advance notice when you’ll be moving and arrange service cut-off dates to avoid paying an extra month of service you don’t need. The same goes for cable and other costs you may be able to do without. If it’s an in-state move, or to a part of the country with the same utility provider, call them to have your electric, gas, water, etc. transferred to your new home, enabling a seamless transition without having to stop and restart service.
5. Can you get paid for the move? If it’s job related, inquire with your new employer if relocation assistance is offered; getting some compensation, no matter how small, can help offset your expenses before shelling out money at full price to movers. You may even be able to claim a federal tax deduction for some moving expenses if you’re moving to start a new job.
3 tips for hiring movers
1. Get an estimate. Professional moving companies base their asking prices on distance and weight, so if you have a full, 3-bedroom household that needs to be shipped from Florida to Washington State, prepare for some major sticker shock. Obtain estimates from as many local movers as you can. Are they full service, i.e. will they pack and ship your items, or just transport them? Most companies will need to conduct an in-home estimate to determine a ballpark figure – when you decide who’ll you be hiring, make sure to get a contract in writing. Again, planning your move around times of the year, month, and even week, are key; since many moving companies charge more for weekend moves, check if your preferred mover can cut you a break for an off-peak move.
Obtain your estimates and time the move accordingly. First, if you’re moving the family for a new employment opportunity, how long can your new job allow you to relocate? Say they’ve given you six to eight weeks; start calling movers at least five weeks in advance to start comparing quotes, if not earlier. Try to secure a provider at least a month before the move date.
2. Investigate insurance. Some of your furniture might be cheaper to replace than to ship – but some of your household items might be too expensive to lose, like that glass china dining set, or those irreplaceable family photos or keepsakes. In this case, taking out some insurance to protect against damages during a move. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, you have two options: full-value protection, which holds the mover liable for any damages, and released-value protection, a less comprehensive (but more affordable) coverage plan holding the company responsible for no more than 60 cents per pound of the item. But before scouring the Web or calling your insurance providers for quotes, ask your moving company if they offer their own insurance protection for the move. Their rates and terms may be cheaper and save you money on your overall moving costs.
3. Do your due diligence. If you’ve found a moving company just for transporting your items, take the time to pack, secure and label everything; and insurance or no insurance, you can never write the word FRAGILE big enough on items that need handling with care.
3 ways to go DIY
1. Don't pay for moving boxes. Cardboard moving boxes can start anywhere under a buck and cost upwards of $20 or $30 for larger, padded shipping boxes suited for items like flat screen TVs, so pick your boxes carefully with cost in mind. If you’re packing and moving items yourself, see if a local liquor store or Target/Walmart can provide you with any extra, empty boxes lying around; they’re more likely to be sturdier for carrying heavier items. Ask friends or relatives if they can donate some moving supplies to conserve costs, check CraigsList, or see if your workplace or office can give you empty boxes. Saving on the cost of new boxes can save you money spent on buying tape, bubble wrap, labels, etc. (Just don’t ignore our "due diligence" tip above.)
2. Coordinate, calculate the logistics. Making the move yourself to your family’s new destination can slash the cost of getting a moving company to do it for you. Configure all your available options – and the associated costs – according to your needs, the size of your move, and the comfort of your family. Will you be renting a truck and driving your stuff and the family cross country? Maybe just a POD attached to the back of the family SUV? Can the family car get shipped separately? A 20-foot truck rented from U-Haul (suitable for a 2-to-3-bedroom household) will cost just under $2,000 to rent and drive from Cincinnati to Tucson.
If the little ones are too small to endure a week-long drive, then spending money on airfare for you, your spouse and kids may be worth the cost instead of a week(s)-long trek in a car. Of course, keep in mind your pets; will they ride with you for the trip, or can you fly them ahead? (United Airlines, for one, charges a $125 fee for approved in-cabin pets.)
3. Save your receipts. If that tax deduction is something you’d like to take advantage of, you’ll need to stay super diligent if you’re making the move without professional help. From renting a truck, buying packing supplies, or for food, gas and lodging on the road, save all your receipts for when filing time comes. Good record keeping is important when you’ve got dozens of receipt slips compared to one contract slip from a moving company.
Saving on the emotional cost
Despite every tip we’ve listed here, there really isn’t a price you can put on the emotional cost to children during a big move. Involving them in the process can make them feel more like participants, and not passengers, when moving to a new home. If they can’t accompany you during out-of-town house hunting, sit with them online when you’re scouting homes through realtor sites. Show them pictures; ask them questions. Engage them and provide them as much information as possible to make the move easier on them.
Like teaching financial literacy skills to kids, make the moving process age appropriate for them. Make packing a family effort. Getting younger kids active with the packing – especially their own toys, clothes and belongings – can give them a better sense of involvement and control in the big move. Experts recommend letting them pack a box of their favorite things, and having it available to be unpacked and opened right away after moving to your new home, helping them understand that their toys and possessions aren’t being left behind or thrown away.
School-age kids and teens will need your support during a move, since they’ll be leaving old friends and be challenged with meeting new ones. Communicate with them, listen to their concerns, and understand that tears will be shed and tantrums may be thrown. Allowing them to express themselves is just one way to bring the family closer together – where, when the monumental move is all said and done, it’s not about the money you spent or saved, but the fact that you overcame the challenge together as a family.