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How to Calculate Moving Expenses

By Pierre Lehu

Figuring out how much it would cost to move can help you decide whether or not to, well, move. When calculating moving expenses, you need to factor in how much stuff you have, time and distance, and miscellaneous costs. Next, compare the actual cost of your move to what you think you'd save by renting a cheaper place.

For example, if you were to save $100 a month in rent by moving and your new lease was for two years, you'd have a savings of $2,400. That might sound like a nice hunk of money, but what if the costs of moving added up to $2,500? Then, you'd actually be losing money. But even if moving costs were only $1,500, would it be worth all the time and energy it'd take to move in order to save $900?

Consider the following as you determine moving costs:

  • Taking inventory of what you own: Have you accumulated a lot of big furniture like a couch, queen-sized box spring (the mattress will fold but the box spring it rests on won't), a triple dresser, or washer/dryer? These items may not fit in any vehicle that you or your friends own, so you'll have to decide to rent a truck and do it yourself, or hire a moving company.

    Small items can take up a great deal of space, too: If you have a collection of small, delicate breakables, each piece will need lots of protective padding. And all that padding means having to use bigger boxes, which take up more room in the vehicle, which means making more trips or hiring a truck or professionals.

  • Choosing the right moving day: Picking the right day can affect your overall cost of moving. Because your old lease will expire about the same day your new lease begins, you'll probably only have one day to move, so you have to decide whether you can even do it in that time. If you really need more time for moving, you may have to overlap your rental agreements and pay rent on both places for a few days.

    If your old landlord needs to paint your apartment before a new tenant can move in, the landlord will leave your apartment empty for a time. If so, offer to pay for an additional few days or a week to stretch out your move. This might also give you the time to paint your new place if a new paint job isn't part of the lease.

  • Knowing that time is money: Whatever your calculations, remember that time is money so if a new place is half an hour's drive away, and you plan to move most of the small things yourself in your Honda Civic, then making all those trips would eat up a lot of hours and gasoline and add wear and tear on your vehicle.

    Other move-related activities that eat up time:

    • Searching for your new abode, and packing and unpacking. You could easily devote 50 hours to the entire process, and that's assuming you're not moving into a fixer-upper.

    • Sending change of address notices to all the companies that send you bills.

    Dealing with stress: The experience of moving is pretty stressful, from the favors you'll have to call in from friends, the payback they'll want or expect, and the possibility of injury. A banged up finger or two might be no big deal, but if throw your back out, you'll sorely regret not having had some expert movers doing the heavy lifting.

  • Taking care of miscellaneous costs: You might not think of these expenses, but it all adds up:

    • You'll need lots of boxes, bubble wrap, and packing tape. Never get free boxes from grocery stores because they might be hiding insects or their eggs. Liquor store boxes are usually much safer.

    • If you have a pet, you may need to put it in a kennel for a few days. (Besides, all that moving activity can be upsetting to pets.)

    • Utilities, like cable companies, might charge you for setting up their equipment in your new place.

    • Replacement cost of items you either break or damage during the move, or decide to replace because their state of decrepitude won't match your new digs.

    • Tips to movers and employees in your new residence who facilitate your move.

    • Pizza and beer (or other incentive) for friends and family who help you move.

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