5 Ways to Save Money on Moving Costs

Moving supplies and services don't have to break the bank. Here's how to save.

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So, you're moving soon. And as you look around at all your stuff, contemplating how much you'll need to spend on boxes and a truck, you can practically see the money falling out of your pockets. There's no doubt that moving can be expensive. But notice I said "can be."

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In fact, moving your stuff doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg (and your sanity to boot). Here are five simple ways to cut down and save money on your average house moving costs:

1. Don't Buy Boxes

It's amazing how much moving companies, especially move-it-yourself places like U-Haul, charge for boxes. I mean, $15 for one garment box? You could buy dinner for two at Panera for that! And you're only going to use it once. You can easily get some sturdy boxes for free at your local grocery store or wholesale club like Costco. Potato chip boxes work well because they're a manageable size and are often made with thicker cardboard (to protect the chips). Find out what day they stock chips and head over there to snag some free boxes.

You could also head over to your local recycling facility. They always have a ton of boxes lying around, waiting to be recycled. After all, cardboard is on the list of recyclable household items. Why not reuse some of them? As an added tip, fold up and save the larger boxes that come in the mail when you buy things online - you'll be glad you did when it comes time to move.

It pays to reuse boxes, bags, and other household items whenever you can. You can also check restaurants, shoe stores, and other retail stores for free boxes. Just don't go dumpster diving for them or pick them up off the curb - unless you want bedbugs or other creepy-crawlies in your stuff.

2. Skip the Bubbles

Bubble wrap is not only bulky and expensive, it's also bad for the environment because it's practically impossible to recycle. Instead of splurging on bubble wrap, use newspapers, towels and sheets to pad your items. You could also check Craigslist.org and Freecycle.org to see if anyone is giving away bubble wrap (or other moving necessities).

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3. Consider a Pod

If you don't have a ton of stuff and are moving a long distance, renting a Pod can be more economical than hauling it across the country in a moving truck yourself, and can be half the price of a professional moving company. Pods are small steel storage containers that are dropped off at your house on a specified date. You pack it up, and then the company picks the Pod back up and either stores it for you, or transports it to your new location.

If you don't want to haul yourself, your stuff, and your car across the country—gas alone will be in the hundreds of dollars—a Pod might be a better, and cheaper, way to go. For more a more detailed look, check out this comparison of average moving cost estimates for different methods.

4. Move During an "Off" Time

You know how you can usually save money flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday? The same goes for your move. Most people move on weekends. So, of course, prices on moving services are going to be higher then. If you want to save, then move in the middle of the week, when prices are often a bit lower. If you're going to be using a professional moving company, then consider moving during the winter months. Rates are almost always cheaper during the "off season."

5. Downsize

Most of us could easily get rid of at least 20 percent of our stuff and never even notice it was gone. And you can save money by downsizing and decluttering your home before you move. Believe it or not, there are even appliances you can live without completely. You'll rent a smaller truck, need fewer boxes and supplies, and have fewer trips and up and down the stairs (which really makes a difference if you hired movers).

As soon as you find out you'll be moving, start downsizing. Do a little every day and you are sure to notice a difference when moving day finally gets here. Do you have any tips, stories or advice about moving on a budget? Share them here!

Heather Levin is a frequent contributor for the Money Crashers personal finance blog and The Greenest Dollar. She is based in Michigan and enjoys writing about topics like real estate, frugality and going green.