Moving House on a Budget – Tips for the Cheapest Way to Move

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Moving house can be expensive as well as stressful. Find out the cheapest way to move with the following tips.

[New Africa]/

Moving house is described as one of the top five most stressful things in life.

Not just the packing, unpacking and upheaval, but also the cost of hiring removalists and cleaning.

But it doesn’t have to be super expensive.

As someone who moved seven times in twelve years (including interstate), I’ve picked up a thing or two about moving house on a budget.

Below I share the tips and tricks that will help you save money moving while keeping your sanity.

What's in this article:

Plan Your Moving Day

Before you start, create a rough plan for your moving day.

What day will you move? Will you have a couple of days off work to move? If you can, it makes life easier.

What’s the plan for cleaning the old place? Do you need to hire carpet cleaning? Do you need to create a cleaning schedule to make sure nothing gets missed and you pass the bond inspection?

Will you enlist help to move and clean? If so, ask your friends early and give them a clear date so they can set that time aside.

If you’re moving yourself and you need to book a truck, do that so it’s all booked in.

Think ahead about turning utilities on, transferring utility accounts, forwarding your mail and changing addresses and organising your bond refund.

The checklist at the end of this post will help you plan.

Budget for the Inevitable Moving Costs

Even the most frugal move will still involve moving costs, so it helps to budget for them ahead of time and save up. This way you avoid the added credit card interest on top of the moving costs.

Moving unexpectedly?

This is where having an emergency fund can be really helpful for covering this kind of unexpected costs.

If you’re creating a moving budget, here are some moving expenses to take into account:

  • truck or trailer hire or removalist hire
  • petrol
  • trolley hire
  • packing tape and markers
  • cleaning supplies and any home repairs of the old house
  • carpet cleaning costs
  • bond and rent in advance
  • mail forwarding service
  • home and contents insurance
  • maintenance or cleaning cost of the new house
  • food for moving day
  • thank you gifts/food if you’re asking friends and family for help

If you’re moving interstate, there are a few extra costs to take into consideration:

  • new driver’s licence, re-registration of car and re-insurance of car
  • overnight accommodation if you are moving interstate or a distance
  • If you are moving to a new town will you need money to tide you over until you find a job?

Start Early and Avoid Moving Your Clutter

declutter before moving to make it easier
Declutter before moving. [LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS]/

Don’t leave packing until the last minute. Starting early will make life easier for several reasons.

First, we all collect clutter. Moving will be cheaper and easier if you get rid of all the clutter you no longer need.

Removing the clutter before you start reduces the amount of packing, hauling and unpacking you need to do, making life so much easier.

Not only that, moving less stuff is cheaper. If there is furniture you no longer need or things you no longer use, you will be able to save time and money by not moving it.

Secondly, you have time to pack well and be organised. Fewer things get broken and it’s easier to find your stuff once you move if your stuff is packed well and labelled.

And if you start early, you can start collecting free boxes from work and stores to pack in.

Start with the things you don’t need to use day to day and use old linen and off-season clothes to wrap your things in to move.

Don’t forget to eat through your food, especially frozen food and run your pantry stock low. This makes moving frozen foods easier and reduces waste.

Find Moving Supplies on a Budget

use clothes as packing supplies
Use clothes and linen for packing breakables. [hakinmhan]

While it’s possible to buy moving boxes and packing, you’ll save a ton of money if you use recycled boxes for free. This cuts down environmental waste as well.

Ask at local retail stores if they will keep their boxes for your. Especially check with furniture stores, department stores or homewares stores for larger sized boxes.

Some stores have a recycling bin for in their carpark that you can access.

For heavy items like books, you’ll need smaller boxes. Check your local supermarket, office store or hardware store for smaller boxes. And if you shop online, keep the boxes you get your deliveries in.

While you’re at the hardware store, grab some tape and markers to tape up and label your boxes.

When it comes to packing material, you can avoid purchasing bubble wrap with these tips.

Save the packaging from the deliveries of online purchases, newspaper and junk mail and empty shopping bags. All of these free things can be used to pack moving items.

Also, look around your home for packing items.

Rather than packing clothes, pillows, towels, sheets, tea towels etc. use those to wrap your breakables in. It cuts down boxes, packing and waste.

Pack room by room, so that you can easily unpack the contents where it’s meant to go later on.

Label everything. In the least, write the name of the room the contents belong to. If you can, jot down on the box some idea of the contents to help you find something specific once you arrive at your new place.

Write ‘fragile’ on boxes with breakables and pack them really well. Really well. Especially if others are manhandling your stuff.

If you’re moving a short distance, remove drawers from dressers and move them with their contents still in them. Saves packing and then unpacking later.

Tips for Moving Furniture Yourself – The Cheapest Way to Move

It’s hot, heavy work hauling furniture. Here are some tips that will make it easier:

Hire a trolley/ hand truck and some octopus straps. Trolleys are essential for heavy items like fridges, washing machines and lounges. A stair climber hand truck is great if you have stairs (see pictured).

Disassemble what furniture you can. Undo beds, take drawers out of dressers, dismantle flat-pack furniture. This will make it lighter and easier to manoeuvre.

Wrap old blankets around items that might be scratched. You can purchase them inexpensively from second-hand stores. If you don’t damage them, you can wash them and re-donate them after the move.

Then pack the truck with the largest items first, securing them tightly so they don’t move around. Fill gaps with smaller items and boxes.

Pack books in small boxes. Books are amazingly heavy.

Get lots of help from friends and family and lift things carefully with help. Bend with your knees and take care of your back.

Finally, drink plenty of water and if things won’t fit through a door, take a break and have another go at manoeuvring after a breather. Things work out better after a break.

Random Moving Tips That Save Money and Make Life Easier

There are things you can do to make moving easier.

If you’re doing the moving yourself, consider moving the fridge first.

The fridge needs at least three hours upright to settle before turning it back on. By moving the fridge first, it will be ready to turn on and pack with food by the time your other furniture has been moved.

Before moving, create a general plan of where things will go in the new place. That way furniture and boxes can be put in the right room straight away, saving time and energy.

Doing the bond cleaning yourself will help you save on moving. Be sure to leave plenty of time to clean. This always takes longer than expected. Don’t forget to organise carpet cleaning if it’s part of your lease agreement.

If you’re moving close by, short trips with carloads of stuff before moving day will make moving day easier.

Remember to use a mail forwarding service and connect phone, internet and utilities prior to moving to your new address. And don’t forget to ask the neighbours when bin night is!

At your new place, line the top of kitchen cabinets with junk mail. This makes it easier to clean later on.

Before unpacking, look through cupboards and consider your new space. It’s quicker and easier to unpack if you already have a place for everything.

What if You Can’t DIY? Tips for Hiring a Removalist on a Budget

Is doing the move yourself impractical for your circumstances?

Hiring a removalist will increase the cost of moving but will reduce the stress.

If you’re going to hire a removalist on a budget, here are some tips:

  • Get multiple quotes from multiple companies and compare prices.
  • Make sure the quotes are based on inspection, not vague estimates of how much needs moving and the places you’re moving too or from. Estimates done over the internet can mean hidden additional fees later on.
  • Check that the removalist has a licence/accreditation and insurance.
  • For moving on a budget, you can check Gumtree for removalists. Just be aware they may not have the same high standards as a professional removalist. Check to make sure they have insurance and get everything in writing.
  • Look for recommendations from friends or online reviews. This is especially true if you’re hiring off Gumtree. Avoid companies with bad customer reviews.
  • Get your contract, including costs and delivery times, in writing to avoid additional fees.
  • If the removalist charges by the hour, ask how many people will be helping. The more people, the fewer hours and the cheaper the move will be.
  • To save money, do as much of the packing and moving as you can yourself.

Pack a Moving Day Survival Pack

During moving or at the end of a long day, you don’t want to be going through boxes to find things you need ASAP.

Instead, pack an overnight bag for each person and an essentials box for things you will need straight away.

Here is a list of things to consider:

  • snacks
  • water
  • thermos
  • first aid kit
  • regular medications
  • soap
  • important documents
  • toilet paper
  • immediate kitchen needs (dish towel, knives and forks, napkins, spoons)
  • kids toys or entertainment
  • phone and phone charger
  • torch
  • scissors, sharp knife, box cutter
  • cleaning cloths
  • picnic plates
  • spare change of clothes
  • screwdriver, hammer and Allen key (for putting your furniture back together)
  • towels and bed sheets (so you can have a shower and fall into bed, leaving the unpacking for another day)

A Checklist for Moving House on a Budget

Below is a checklist to help you with planning your move. Not all items will be relevant to your circumstances.

Planning your move will go a long way to reducing the stress and will help you save money moving.

Moving House Checklist

Below is a suggested timeline for moving along with a checklist. Actual times and additional items will depend on your circumstances.

The month before you move

  • Confirm when you can pick up the keys to the new place and choose a moving date.
  • Notify your current landlord formally if renting.
  • Ask for time off work if possible.
  • Create a moving folder to keep track of hire contracts and receipts.
  • Create an important documents folder and gather documents like utility information, insurance, birth certificates, passports, rental contracts, mortgage documents etc. Keep this with you when moving.
  • Make a list of companies that you will need to change mailing address, details with. Don’t forget banks, insurance, schools, workplace, delivery companies, vehicle rego, tax office, utility companies, phone company, voter registration, Centrelink, MyGov, friends and family.
  • If hiring removalists, schedule in-home estimates for moving quotes.
  • If moving yourself, organise truck hire.
  • Create a moving budget.
  • Enrol children in a new school and request transcripts from old school
  • Create an inventory sheet of valuables and a list of boxes valuables are stored in. Consider transporting valuables yourself or leaving them with family.
  • Arrange any necessary repairs for your current home.
  • Start collecting boxes and packing materials
  • Start decluttering and donating/throwing out stuff you don’t need

The two weeks before you move

  • Eat through perishable and frozen food.
  • Arrange for a property inspection to recoup bond.
  • Organize mail forwarding service.
  • Confirm parking for the truck at the old and new home.
  • Organise the internet and electricity to be switched from old address to new address.
  • Cancel or transfer delivery and subscription services.
  • Discontinue memberships like for local gym if moving out of town.
  • Measure space and doorframes of new space to see what will fit.
  • Cancel or transfer domestic services like garden maintenance.
  • Cancel or redirect scheduled deliveries.
  • Ask friends and family to help on the day.
  • Organise babysitting of young children on moving day
  • Hire a carpet cleaning service.
  • Organise pet transport or pet sitting.

The day before moving day

  • Unplug and defrost fridge and freezer. Put ice in an esky for any few remaining perishables.
  • Drain water hoses in the washing machine.
  • Prepare for potential bad weather on moving day.
  • Make sure water, electricity, gas meters have been read or make a note of readings on moving day.
  • Collect keys.
  • Do a rental inspection of the new place if renting and fill in the rental paperwork.
  • Disassemble furniture.

On moving day

  • Make sure all taps, switches and lights are turned off.
  • Lock all doors and windows.
  • Double-check nothing has been left behind.
  • Take photos of an empty house to prove its condition.
  • Leave fridge upright for 3 hours after moving and before turning on.

After moving day

  • Hand over keys.
  • Follow up the bond refund.
  • Update pet registration with the local council.
  • Update your driver’s licence.
  • Notify change of address.

Moving to a new house is exciting but the process can be stressful and expensive. With a little planning ahead and help from friends, you can save money moving and make the process easier and less stressful.

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  1. Ah, moved heaps of times, including with kids.

    Just a tip with a major move to a new town, check out the removalists in the new place. They are often cheaper than where you are moving from. The big names just want major city stuff, so quote “idiots” rates and then just tender the job out to the local mob and make a few grand for themselves.

    I am a big believer of paying removalists, done it ourselves too many times. Less damage is done and it is quicker. Quicker is very important if you have to use leave or just go without out pay to do the move. Lost income is an expense.

    We had friends who did the hire truck and mates to do their move. They had too much stuff for the truck. They spent the next month hauling the rest of it in their little car. It cost them a fortune in petrol and lost rent, as they were renting out their old unit. They then held the thank you bbq and gave gifts. We calculated it would have cost them double doing it themselves.

    Oh, one expense we never counted on in our first house we bought, was the cost of key cutting. The last owner did not leave her set of keys and some window lock keys were missing. Had to get in a locksmith just to ensure the house was secure.

    The tip with kids, is get a babysitter! Toddlers unpack what you have packed, so pack their stuff when they are not around. On the day of the move, the can just take up so much time. In all the frenzy, it can be easy to lose them or they can get hurt.

    Gosh, commenting on here a lot lately.

  2. I’ve moved more times than I care to remember, and have concluded, like Astrid, that I would rather pay the professionals. I pack myself, but hire removalists to do all the lugging. I also get a cleaner to do the empty house: it has never cost more than $100, and to be honest, I’d rather expend my energy getting the new house the way I like it, rather than dwelling on the old. I generally ask the REA to suggest someone they have used before- less niggling on the inspection if they know a professional has already been through.

    That said, I totally agree with your tips re decluttering & packing!

  3. Oh yes MsBetterhomes. A cleaner. Great for minimising the overlap between properties, so you save money that way. Get one that also steam cleans after they have done the house clean. Certainly makes getting the bond back much easier, if anything you see the relief on their face if they know you have used a professional.

  4. Thanks for the comments. I’m away on hols, so a bit tardy in responding. Last time I moved house I swore blind to DH that I would hire a cleaner next time. I hate the cleaning part. Thanks for the point about loss of income being an expense – too true.

  5. This website is amazing…fabulous tips on moving and other great frugal ideas…i am converted…thanks to the creator/s…i have moved about 17 times in my life and getting a removalist is far more easier, however, that was when my husband’s employer was paying the bill…doing the moving yourself saves you a lot of money and yes, it’s challenging but the money you hold in your hand when the job is done is very rewarding…i have bookmarked this website and will be visiting regularly…

  6. Hi Tanya, thanks! I know for us it’s not so much a matter of saving money so much as we don’t have the money to pay for removalists in the first place. When there is no option but to move yourself, I hope that the tips above will make it easier. Thanks for leaving a comment, lovely to hear from you.