We often decide to move apartments to help improve our financial situation: for a better job or more affordable housing. Unfortunately, the process of moving always seems to be more expensive than we anticipate. The little costs we don’t think about can really add up. If you want to avoid that unexpectedly low checking-account balance, it helps to make a budget as soon as you decide to move.
Here are some items to add to your moving checklist when putting your budget together:
Money you owe your landlord(s) — Make sure you are clear about how much money your new landlord expects from you upon move-in. Almost every landlord or management company expects at least a month’s rent as a security deposit. Some expect two. Landlords may ask for the first month’s rent up front; some ask for the last month’s rent as well. These costs should be factored into your budget. Even if you have a security deposit from your old apartment coming back to you, don’t count on receiving the entire amount back unless you have the check in your hands. Until you do, be more cautious than you think you need to be, and assume that your old landlord will keep a portion of your deposit.
Transport — You’ve got to move your stuff from point A to point B. You can use a friend’s van (and your friends’ labor) or hire a truck and team of movers to do the work for you. Your costs will vary widely depending on your choice. If you use your friends and their vehicles exclusively, you should expect to cover the cost of gas and anything else you might need to buy to entice your friends to perform this very big favor. Gatorade? Beer? Dinner out? Whatever it is, add it to your budget.
If you don’t have access to a vehicle, but are moving nearby, you may be able to hire a “man with a van.” With the advent of Craigslist and other online message boards, it’s easy to find people who will rent their vans and help with the move. They usually charge by the hour and are typically less expensive than professional movers. Their costs vary widely depending on location. Some charge as little as $15/hour, others charge $50/hour or more. Movers with smaller vehicles and smaller muscles often charge less. If you’re moving long distances, you may have to rely on two sets of help: one to help you move and load at your old apartment and the other to meet you at your new place.
If you don’t have your own vehicle, moving truck rental companies offer trucks for single and multi-day rentals. Depending on the distance of your move, costs can run anywhere from $100 and up. U-Haul and Budget’s websites will give you an instant quote online. Other companies like United Van Lines or Penske ask for a phone number or email so that they can contact you with a quote. If you have a lot of stuff or don’t want to deal with the hassle of moving on your own, you can hire movers that will do the bulk of the work for you and take care of transport. Be prepared to spend a few hundred dollars at the very low end. Call around for quotes — many moving companies are willing to negotiate.
Moving Supplies — If you choose not to hire a team of professional movers, you’ll need to factor in the cost of moving supplies. Start planning early and you may be able to find many supplies for free. Ask friends to save old newspapers and cardboard boxes for your move. Other things you’ll need include packing tape, markers to identify the contents of your boxes, and bubble wrap or packing peanuts for extremely delicate items. If you have heavy furniture, dollies and moving carts can be invaluable. There’s no sense in buying these things if a friend has them, so start asking around early. Even if you’re able to find most of your supplies for free, leave some room in your moving budget for extra packing tape or last-minute boxes. You probably have more stuff than you think you do.
Covering your moving costs — It’s hard to generalize about the average cost of a move. Depending on the amount of stuff you have, the distance of your move, the size of your social circle, and the extent to which you’ll try to save money, your moving costs could range from less than $100 to several thousand dollars if you have to put down a large security deposit at your new place. If your costs are on the higher end of the spectrum, you may realize that you don’t quite have the cash to cover your move.
Perhaps the problem is temporary — you just need enough cash to cover you until you get your old security deposit back or get your first paycheck at your new job. Some credit cards offer upfront cash advances that you can use to cover your moving costs. You might also consider a short-term loan. These options can help you make ends meet but come with their own set of costs. Carefully research the terms and conditions, APRs, and payback options. Be sure to factor interest payments, late fees and other costs into your budget. Remember that you can’t count on your old security deposit to cover any money you borrow since you can’t be assured of having all of it returned to you.
If size of the security deposit is the issue, a surety bond might be a better option for you and your landlord (link to surety bond article). Instead of putting up a large deposit up front, using a surety bond allows you to pay the landlord a fraction of the security deposit as a non-refundable fee. This option might not save you money in the long run, but can help you when money is tight during the move.
No matter how big or small your budget is, leave some room for unexpected costs — a flat tire, the lost box that held your toiletries, or that extra case of beer you needed to buy to keep your friends happy. Like everything else in life, moving is always more expensive than you think it will be.