Your Cheapest Way to Move: Moving Out of State on a Budget

According to University Hospitals’ Stress Resilience Specialist Heidi Weiker, MSSA, moving is one of the top five most stressful life events. Add money worries and adjusting to a new state, and you’ve got one seriously stress-filled recipe for tension.

With proper planning, price comparing, and some ingenuity, you can save serious cash on your next move as well as lower your stress level. Here are a few pointers to find the cheapest way to move your belongings cross-country.

Clear Out Clutter

Large white moving van on a road with mountains and blue sky in the background

Well before your move, start getting rid of things you no longer need. Decluttering your home not only means less time spent packing, but also lower moving costs.

“Carriers price long-distance moves in terms of volume and weight,” says Nimrod Sheinberg, Vice President of Sales for Oz Moving & Storage. “Getting rid of superfluous clutter reduces your inventory’s weight and its volume, so you will save money.”

Work through each room in your home and set aside clothes, kitchen items, and other belongings that you no longer need. Organize a garage sale to help cover some of the moving costs, and donate whatever you have left to charity.

Decide How to Move

Close up of brown moving box with metal key attached on a string

You have several options when moving out-of-state on a budget:

  • Use a full-service moving company
  • Use a moving container company
  • Hire a truck rental
  • Totally DIY

Although sweet-talking your truck-owning friend to help you move from Alabama to Georgia won’t cost you much more than gas money and pizza, consider the extra labor on your part, the risk of damage, and the possibility of a strained friendship.

“If you’re not sure you can accomplish some part of your move without professional help, don’t try,” says Sheinberg. “We were called up once by a trio of college students who had gotten their couch stuck in a staircase. Getting in over your head and having to call emergency help is not ideal and can end up costing more than just paying movers.”

Moving container companies let you pack at your own pace. When you’re ready, the company delivers the container to your new home. Because you pack and load the unit yourself, you’ll often spend less than with a traditional moving company.

If you have time and don’t mind driving large vehicles, loading and driving a rental truck is another good money-saving option. However, if you must take a week off work to drive across the country, moving costs escalate dramatically.

To help you narrow down your long-distance moving options, use a tool such as moveBuddha, which provides quotes from multiple types of movers from multiple companies. Also consider what’s easiest for the family. Can you keep an eye on the kids while packing a truck or container? Can they stay calm in a disorderly environment?

“A family should consider the easiest and most stress-free way to get their family from point A to point B,” says Kelly McClenahan, moving and organizational expert at Price Self Storage. “DIY might be more difficult while making plans to move the whole family on top of the contents of your house.”

Travel Light

If you’re moving solo and don’t have much furniture, pack a few bags and travel by plane, train, bus, or automobile. Amtrak allows you to ship 500 pounds total, with a 50-pound weight limit per package. However, they do charge extra for that baggage.

Do the math to assess baggage fees for each option, and don’t forget to factor in travel time. “While the bus or train might be a cheaper option, you risk extending drawing out the move,” says McClenahan. “When you factor in duration of the move, a plane may be more cost-effective.”

Move in the Off-Season

Summer is peak moving season. Due to high demand, moving company prices generally increase between May and September. If you have flexibility in your move, Sheinberg says prices plunge in the winter.

To further cut costs, schedule your move for a weekday, which are more affordable than busy weekends. Also avoid moving at the very beginning or end of the month, when renters tend to relocate.

Use Free Packing Supplies

Grab boxes from local retailers, which often have empties sitting in the back room. Save your Amazon delivery order boxes and packing materials. Let your belongings serve double duty.

“Blankets, towels, newspapers, and pillows can all be used to substitute traditional packaging supplies,” says McClenahan. “Wrap your dishes and breakables in kitchen towels or clothes to keep them safe. Larger blankets can be used to protect furniture while they’re in the moving truck.”

Keep Your Receipts

If you’re moving for work, your employer may reimburse you for certain expenses. Review your employer’s relocation policy to understand what is and is not covered.

When planning an out-of-state move, you may find it’s more cost-effective to leave big items behind than move them cross-country. Until you find permanent replacements, enhance your new home with key pieces from CORT Furniture Rental. Rent by the piece or by the room, for a month or two years, depending on your furniture rental needs.

See How CORT Can Help