Moving is an expensive endeavor, and while it sounds nice, not everyone can afford white-glove service or even professional movers. Nor does everyone have superhero strength or friendly robot helpers, but the job still has to get done somehow. (If only free moving companies existed!) Luckily, if you’re moving on a budget and searching for all the tips on moving for free, there are plenty of ways you can save some money.
Is it Hard to Move With No Money?
Moving with little or no money will be more difficult than hiring a moving company. But it’s not impossible. You will need to get creative with how you move, such as by enlisting the help of friends or searching for free packing supplies.
Some moving costs don’t have a workaround, as you will need to pay for utilities and deposits at your new home. If you can learn how to move for free, you can save money for other expenses.
Tips For When You Need Help Moving for Free
If you’re feeling anxious and wondering whether it’s okay to try and get help moving for free, know that you’re not alone. In a study conducted by Move.org, researcher Joe Roberts found that “customers experienced shortages during 62% of moves” and were forced to figure out how to move for free. There’s nothing wrong with asking for a little help when you needed.
Ask People for Whom You Also Do Favors
No one likes a one-way street, but a good old two-way street never goes amiss. Chances are you have plenty of people in your life who rely on you from time to time, so those are the people to ask for help with moving. Ideas include:
Service organizations are also great places to find moving assistance. Below are a few excellent resources and assistance programs if you’re unsure how to do this on your own.
- Religious or spiritual communities, such as Catholic Charities or the Salvation Army
- AA or other support groups
- Local, state, or federal charities
Incentivize Your Crew
A good incentive goes a long way, and while it may mean a bit of cash out-of-pocket, it’s way less compared to hiring professional moving services. Potential incentives include:
- Movie tickets
- Happy hour after the move
- First pick at the goods that you’re donating (e.g., books, decor, or kitchen supplies)
No matter what you choose to do, the most critical factor is whether or not your helpers feel appreciated. Whether you moved next door or the next state over, ensure to send thank-you notes once you’re settled.
Out-of-State Movers: Prep Carefully
Moving out of state will prove more expensive (sometimes thousands of dollars more) than moving within a short radius of your current home. If you are planning an out-of-state move, getting assistance where you can is even more important.
Allison Kasch from Angi.com explains, “Whether you’re moving across town or across the country, distance will have a major impact on moving prices, with local moves typically costing between $916 and $2,527. Cross-country moves can cost anywhere from $2,700 to $10,000 or more to account for the additional distance.”
Unfortunately, you can’t simply source help for a day if you’re headed from Arizona to Alaska. If you’ve got a significant other or a roomie, this is less of a big deal. But if you’re moving far away on your own, it pays to think ahead about what you’ll do once you get there.
Before moving preparations, ask a few questions such as:
- Am I moving furniture?
- Can I get that furniture into my home/apartment by myself?
- If not, should I sell/donate it here?
- Or should I have someone come with me? Who?
- If the latter, how will they get home, and what will that cost?
- Do I need a storage unit?
If you need help moving for free for an out-of-state move, you’ll likely have to incentivize people with a reward. A plane or train ticket, or perhaps another agreement between the two of you may be enough to get the job done. Evaluate the costs to determine if getting assistance from friends is worth it or if you’d be better off hiring movers.
What is the cheapest day to move?
If hiring professional movers is unavoidable, you can choose to move on weekdays when the cost tends to be a bit lower. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday tend to be less expensive than moving on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. If you can, plan your move during the week to save money.
Other Ways to Save for Your Move
Getting help for free isn’t the only way to ensure a fiscal-forward move. Before embarking on your moving adventure, it’s important to figure out how much it will cost, which is where a moving budget comes in handy. After you figure out how to get help moving for free, it’s time to save (or even make) a bit of money.
Get Packing Supplies for Free (Or Less)
Packing supplies might seem like a simple expense, but they can actually add up quickly. When you’re on a budget, you can’t afford to spend a lot of money on new boxes, paper, bubble wrap, and tape.
Here are a few simple tips to save on packing supplies:
- Stockpile cardboard boxes in the month leading to the move, including small boxes that can fit inside bigger ones for padding and protection.
- Ask local retailers if they have extra boxes.
- Ask friends, family, and service organizations for boxes they’re getting rid of.
- Check out Freecycle, a group of people who exchange goods rather than trash them.
- For fragile items, purchase high quality moving boxes from your local Life Storage store.
As for padding options, use old newspapers, towels, sheets, clothing, and other linens to wrap items, and hold off on bubble wrap unless absolutely necessary. Shop for tape and any other items you need from discount stores where prices tend to be lower.
Where can I get free boxes for moving?
One of the best places to get free boxes for moving are grocery stores, liquor stores, department stores, and other local retailers. These stores often have lots of extra boxes that they will end up throwing away, but you can repurpose them. Ask a team member if they have any extra, and do NOT go into their dumpsters without permission, as this is a crime. Proceed with caution as sometimes these boxes tend to attract pests.
Make Some Money Beforehand
When you desperately need help moving for free, sometimes it’s best to get assistance during the initial stages rather than on moving days. Try money-saving tips such as yard sales, selling on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, and posting items online. If this sounds too overwhelming, ask a tech-savvy friend to help you with the digital stuff and compensate them using one of the ideas above.
Related: How to Pack Moving Boxes Efficiently
Be Smart About Hidden Costs
If you don’t want to spend a fortune, ensure you’re fully aware of hidden moving costs ahead of time. The only thing more expensive than a regular moving cost is a last-minute cost because the combination of scrambling and scarcity often means you spend more money. Set aside money for:
- Utilities, such as electricity, cable, and water services
- Replacement furniture and other home goods
- Security and Rent Deposits
- A Storage Unit if needed
Consider Storage Now to Save Later
It’s worth pointing out that storage, while it does cost extra money, can actually save you considerably in the long run. If it’s not a long-term relocation, it’s probably cheaper to get a small apartment in your new home and leave your bulky items behind. Especially in a big city, you’ll pay far less with a postage-stamp apartment and an affordable storage unit near you.
With these tips, you are on your way to a more affordable move. Moving for free will take some savvy, but once you’ve settled into your new home, without worrying about overspending, you’ll feel more relaxed.
This post originally appeared on the Life Storage Blog on 10/30/18 and was revised on 5/9/23 to provide new information.