Moving Across Country on the Cheap

Last fall, we moved 3,600 miles across the country from southwest Florida to Portland, Oregon. It was a dream we’d been hatching for a while, but it happened so quickly that it felt like a daunting task. We wanted to keep the move as simple and as cheap as possible so we could spend our hard-earned dollars living our new life (i.e. buying beer, food, and bike parts). With a little research and some tips from friends we figured out how to save the big bucks. Here are six ways to cut your moving costs.

  1. Simplify. The best way to cut down on moving expenses is not to have much stuff to move. We held a “Say Goodbye and Come Buy our Stuff” party, inviting friends and family to bid us farewell, browse our home and make offers on everything. We had a great time visiting with folks, and what didn’t get sold was given away to local charities. The money we made funded our entire move.
  2. If you can, sell your car. We were moving to a walk/bike/public transit friendly city and knew we wouldn’t need a car as much. We also discovered that hauling vehicles across country is expensive. Our solution was to sell our cars to CarMax. They offered us good prices, hard cash, and an exact date to ditch the cars. It was our perfect solution.
  3. Rent a Self-Haul Truck in Person. Once we had reduced our possessions and decided to rent a moving truck to drive ourselves west, a friend advised us to go to the truck rental place and talk to them in person. Indeed, doing so saved us hundreds of dollars off the online quotes, got us some free extra days, carts and blankets for free and added that personal touch of knowing exactly who to call when there was a problem.
  4. Pack your own food. We put a small cooler in the front of the moving truck and made our own breakfasts and lunches during the trip. It is SO much cheaper than buying food on the road, and healthier when you pack fruit, veggies, nuts, yogurts, cheeses, hummus. We even made and froze chicken salad to use in wraps while riding.
  5. Stay with friends and family. One of the biggest expenses and most stressful parts of moving is the overnight stops. The cost of hotels and the worry that the truck with all your worldly belongings might be stolen or broken into can take a toll. If you can, plan your route to stay with friends or family so you can rest up and feel safe. If that doesn’t work out, plan to travel during the week. Also join a rewards program like HiltonHonors that earns you free nights’ stays, or use AAA or AARP membership discounts to get better rates.
  6. Ask for gas cards. After the cost of the truck rental, gasoline to fuel it was our biggest expense. And though we didn’t ask for them, several people gave us gas cards as going away gifts. It was a perfect present, helping ease our fuel costs and giving us an opportunity to think of them each time we used the cards!

What tips do you have for moving across country – or even in-state – on the cheap?

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