Moving is a real pain — which is why it usually takes some amount of enticement for your friends and family to schlep your worldly possessions from one place to another.
Eventually, though, you might find that the proverbial beer-and-pizza bribe isn’t enough, and you’re stuck moving on your own. And in pandemic times, you and your friends are likely social distancing. Hiring a moving company is much more expensive, but there are still ways to keep your moving costs low.
1. Plan your move
The biggest thing you can do to keep costs down? Plan ahead. There’s no way you’ll be able to get everything done at the last minute; unless, of course, you spend extra money. The more time you have, the more you can do yourself.
2. Clean out and pare down
For instance, you can start cleaning out your house right away. Get ruthless with unwanted and unneeded belongings: Sell or donate anything you can, and dispose of the rest over time in your regular garbage and recycling pickup. This way, you’ll avoid an expensive trip to the dump or paying for a junk removal service.
3. Vet your movers
Next, check out moving companies in your area, vetting either by online reviews or personal recommendations. Check out sites like Yelp.com for other customers’ reviews (taken with a grain of salt), or the more reputable Better Business Bureau, which rates and accredits businesses on how well they deal with customer complaints. You may also want to ask companies about any health and safety precautions they have in place.
Collect at least three quotes and compare them. If there’s a company that seems the most reputable, use your less expensive quotes to negotiate their price down, if possible.
You’ll want to get estimates in writing. If you’re moving to another state, you can make use of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s pamphlet that goes more in-depth on the different types of estimates a mover can give you and your legal rights.
4. Don’t pay for packing
Generally, the most expensive part of hiring movers is the hourly labor costs. The more people you have moving your stuff and the longer it takes, the more you’re going to pay. So do yourself a favor and pack your own things. Most moving companies will happily do this for you, and charge accordingly, but since you planned ahead (right?) you’ve got more than enough time to DIY. Plus, this way you can pack your valuable and fragile possessions to your exact specifications.
Of course, you’ll need boxes to pack. But make sure you don’t pay for them. See if you can repurpose a few boxes you’ve collected from deliveries.
Try to freecycle your packing paper, too. Old newspapers are commonly recommended, but use these only for items you don’t mind getting ink on. You could also use napkins, clothes or that big box of plastic bags you store under the sink. You were saving those for a reason, right?
5. Stay organized
Since you gave yourself so much time to pack, you’ll be able to accurately label all your boxes so you know what goes where. Designate a box or three to hold the essentials you’ll need right away in your new place, especially kitchen stuff. Unpacking can be a glacial process, and you might be tempted to order dinner while your kitchen is still packed up. If you’ve got an easily accessible box with kitchen basics, you can cook dinner at your new home and save money at the same time.
This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by USA Today.