A Cheap Move

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It’s a buyer’s market in real estate. But snapping up a new home could still cost you more than you bargained for.

If you’re ready to make a real estate move MSN Real Estate has a few ideas on cutting down your costs. Moving experts say when it comes to relocating people get panicked and disorganized and the impact will be felt in your wallet.

First, most of your moving budget tends to go to packing supplies like boxes and bubble wrap. But instead of shelling out to U-Haul consider recycling centers and department store dumpsters for all your cardboard needs. And your towels, curtains or clothes provide the same amount of padding as cushy packing materials. Experts say you should also think twice about hiring your friends to act as movers. It might only cost you pizza and beer but moving experts aren’t convinced they should be trusted with the responsibility. And keep in mind you’re committing your help to any of their future moves.

For more money saving tips on your next move keep reading. Save money where you can, because buying real estate is not the money maker it once was.

1. Never pay for boxes. You can drop a lot of dough at U-Haul buying cardboard. Other sources of strong boxes, according to the frugal readers at the Web site Consumerist.com: Hospitals and laboratories, because chemicals and medical supplies are required to be shipped in double-walled boxes; and restaurants, whose potato boxes are very study. And readers at Curbly suggest the boxes in which shoe stores get their deliveries.

2. You've binged; now purge. Here's the most basic way to save on moving: Don't move so much stuff. "Basically, anything that you don't need, that you haven't unpacked and used yourself in more than a year is probably fair game" to not make the next move with you, says Kazz Regelman, co-editor with Allen of "How to Survive a Move." After all, the average full wardrobe carton weighs 75 pounds, according to The People Movers, and movers often charge partly by weight. "Basically, purge, purge, purge -- that's a great way to save money," Regelman says.

3. Purge efficiently. A corollary to that last tip: People often have time-consuming garage sales to thin their belongings, thinking they'll make lots of money. They often don't come out ahead when considering the amount of time spent to prepare and hold a sale. Just donate the stuff to Goodwill or another charity, experts say. The stuff will be carted off and out of your hair, saving you lots of time and snagging you a tax deduction -- and that plaid couch will still live again. "Everybody benefits," Regelman says.

4. Don't blow it on bubbles. Bubble wrap and other packing materials are spendy. Assuming you're going to do some of the packing yourself, pad items with bed linens, towels and clothing. Save newspapers from the recycling bin for packing material -- but be careful about what you wrap in them. Newsprint will smudge on dishes, for example, says Dan Ramsey, author of "The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Moving." Ramsey, who has survived 43 moves, advises using butcher paper to wrap dishes.

5. Be your own supplier. For the things you can't wrap up with towels and newspaper, check sites such as Craigslist.org for people who have just moved and want to get rid of packing materials for free, or on the cheap. Whatever you do, don't rely on the mover's supply of butcher paper and heavy-duty tape -- they're usually sold at inflated prices.

6. Box that sculpture. Place odd-sized items in boxes to make them easier to move, advises Martha Poage, author of "The Moving Survival Guide." Movers "love to have anything in a box," she says. It saves them time -- and time (along with distance and weight) is part of the cost equation. "It just works better in a van," she adds. "And the chance of it getting damaged or lost is less."

7. Keep a paper trail. "Keep a record of all your moving expenses," says Ramsey. "If your move meets certain criteria, you can deduct the expenses from your federal income taxes." Call the Internal Revenue Service at 800-829-3676 or read Publication 521, titled "Moving Expenses." You usually have to meet three tests. Your move will meet the distance test if your new main job location is at least 50 miles farther from your former home than your old main job location was from your former home, according to the IRS.

8. Let the post office help you. Got a lot of books? Consider shipping them via the U.S. Postal Service, which has a special rate for books and magazines. The Media Mail rate gets them there slowly but relatively cheaply.

9. Measure twice, cut once. Before you spend lots of money to move large pieces of furniture, measure the doorways and hallways of your new home to make sure the stuff will even fit. "One person (in our book) had to saw an entertainment center in half to get it under a low-hanging beam," then glue it back together, Regelman says.

10. Be a pod person. If you don’t have a lot of stuff, consider a pod. Some companies will drop off a pod or cube, then cart the loaded cube to its destination. "It can save a lot of money," says Regelman, "and if you load them yourself, obviously that saves you quite a lot." Some report that using the pods is even cheaper than renting a truck to drive goods a few states away. And if you rent a truck or cart your stuff to the moving company’s terminal and load the cube at the terminal instead of having them deliver the cube, you can save even more money.

11. Move at off times. If you’re moving locally, consider moving during the middle of the month. Moving companies are always busy at month's end, but when business is slower, the rare company may lower its tariffs -- but you've got to find it, say movers contacted nationwide.

12. Plan ahead. "If you're not organized in your move, you're going to be wasting time," Allen says. And time is money. Being organized will save you money in perhaps unexpected ways, Allen says. For example: "You could end up paying for an extra month's (utility) service that you don’t need if you don't get the service cut off in time."

And if you're disorganized and hurrying, you'll pay to ship stuff that you don't necessarily use anymore. Better to set up online bill paying so you can keep tabs on things and your credit rating won't suffer from missed bills, Regelman says. The Better Business Bureau suggests planning your move six to eight weeks ahead of time.

13. Beware the storage unit. Don't think storage units will save you money, warns Regelman. Just because you're not shipping stuff -- and it's out of sight, out of mind -- doesn't mean you're not still paying. You'll likely end up paying a few hundred dollars a month to store a $200 piece of furniture. You're better off getting rid of possessions before a move, she says.

14. Pick your season. "Moving between the months of October and May can often save you money," says author Martha Poage. "If you are not under a deadline to move by a certain date, you can get discounted moving rates from the van companies during this off-season period."

15. Get money for your move. If you're relocating for a current employer, negotiate for moving costs, advises Ramsey. If it's a new employer, negotiate the move as part of the job offer. If the company won't pay for a moving van to move you, maybe it will pay for you to move yourself with a rental truck, he says.

16. Take things apart. "Disassemble items yourself to save money," Poage says. Some moving companies may charge extra to disassemble items like cribs, bunk beds, outdoor play sets and water beds.

17. Find a good mover. Perhaps the single biggest way to save money on your move is to find a good mover. The cheapest mover often doesn't turn out to be the one with the cheapest rates, experts say. There are lots of underhanded moving companies out there, according to the Better Business Bureau, which offers tips to spot them.

18. Protect the family jewels. Sometimes saving money means not losing it -- and movers sometimes lose stuff. Or break it. Get all valuable household items appraised before your move, advises Poage. Point out the high-value inventory to the moving company before such items are loaded onto the moving van. Take anything very small and of high value, e.g., jewelry, with you. And remember to keep the appraisal documents for such items with you in case of damage or loss during the move, Poage says.

If belongings do go missing -- of great value or not -- filing a claim for lost or damaged items may seem like a nuisance after the headache of a move. But it's your money, says Poage, so pursue it. The deadline for submitting claims is usually 90 days after your move. And always keep copies of the forms.