This story has been updated since it originally published.
1. You Don't Have to Pay Full Freight. A cross-country move for a three-bedroom home can cost as much as $8,000. Figure $6,000 for the actual move (movers charge about $100 per 100 pounds, and the average room adds up to 1,000 pounds), $1,700 for the packing and $250 for the insurance. Movers are busiest on the last ten days of the month, so a move mid month should get you a better price and better service. If you can wait to move off-season, between October and April, you could save 10%. Get several written estimates with rates per hour (for a local move) or per pound (for an interstate move). Bids should cover every room in your house and should be done in person.
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2. Self-help will save you big bucks. Macho do-it-yourselfers do it all: pack, load and haul. Renting a 17-foot truck to drive your stuff from a three-bedroom house in Washington, D.C., to Phoenix will set you back more than $1,000. But if just thinking about schlepping everything on your own brings on a migraine, you could hire a couple of local teenagers or college students to help pack and stow. Then hire a container company, such as ABF U-Pack Moving or PODS, to make the cross-country drive. Cost: more than twice as much as renting a truck, but only about one-third of the cost of a full-service move. No matter what you decide, move your valuables yourself so that you don't have to worry about them.
3. Don't get boxed in. Before you buy boxes and packing materials, ask your friends for castoffs -- and go to the liquor store, grocer or recycling center to pick up discards. If you need to buy more, online outfits such as BoxesDelivered.com and Boxkits.com tend to have cheaper stuff than office-supply stores. And don't forget incentives from the U.S. Postal Service.
4. Kick the tires. If you're moving across town, ask around for recommendations. Then go to the Better Business Bureau's Web site (www.bbb.org) and make sure that there haven't been any complaints filed against your prospects. If you're moving across state lines, your first pit stop is the Web site of the American Moving & Storage Association (www.promover.org), a trade group. If you have a firm you want to use for an interstate move, you can make sure it's licensed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and view the company's complaint and safety record by clicking the "Search Movers & Complaint History" link at www.protectyourmove.gov.
5. Let Uncle Sam help pay for it. If your move is job-related, you may be able to deduct some of your moving expenses whether or not you itemize your deductions. You must move within a year of your first day at the new job. In addition, your new office has to be at least 50 miles farther from your old house than your old office was. If you qualify, you can deduct the cost of moving your household goods and traveling, but not meals (see IRS Publication 521, Moving Expenses).
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