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How to Save on Moving Costs

Use these strategies to pay less when using a professional mover.

After moving last fall from one house to another in the city where we live, my husband and I vowed, “Never again.” We packed and moved our belongings -- with the help of a few generous friends -- instead of hiring professionals. It saved us money, but, boy, was it time-consuming and back-breaking work.

So if we break our vow and move again, maybe we’ll use professionals to do the heavy lifting for us. And we can keep the cost under control by using these strategies:

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Time your move right. June, July and August are the busiest months for movers, says John Bisney, director of public relations for the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA). When demand is high, movers can charge more or be less willing to negotiate the price. So if you can move between Labor Day and Memorial Day, you’ll typically find that rates are lower because demand declines, he says. Weekends and the beginning and end of the month also are busy times for movers. By booking a move in the middle of the week and month, you may also pay less, Bisney says.

Book in advance. Moving companies tend to set prices based on availability, so you’ll have more room for negotiation if you book a reservation well in advance of your move. Plus, it will be harder to find a company with openings if you wait until the last minute to book your move. There’s a chance that the only movers that will be available will be unreliable ones or con artists, Bisney says.

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Get several estimates. Because people don’t move frequently, Bisney says they often go online and shop by price -- picking the mover who charges the least. But this can be a mistake. "Moving is not something you want to do on the cheap,” he says. “You want your stuff to arrive safely and in one piece. “ That’s why it’s important to get at least three estimates from reputable movers. With several estimates, you’ll have more leverage to negotiate price. To create a list of potential movers from which you can get estimates, ask friends and family who moved recently for recommendations, check out companies on Angie’s List or the Better Business Bureau site or look for an AMSA-certified ProMover. Make sure the movers come to your house to give you estimates, Bisney says. That way, they’ll know exactly what you’re moving and won’t try to charge you more on the day of the move.

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Get rid of stuff you don’t need. For interstate moves, the price is based on distance and weight, Bisney says. So get rid of everything you don’t need or won’t fit in your new house so that you don’t pay for extra weight. Have a garage sale to unload unwanted items -- and bring in extra cash to offset the cost of moving.

Provide your own packing materials. I’ve never had trouble finding free, discarded boxes. Ask shop owners or managers what day they get shipments and set out boxes so you don’t have to dig through dumpsters. And avoid boxes that stored food items because they’re more likely to be infested with pests. You also can use towels, sheets and clothing to wrap fragile items. However, Bisney cautions that movers might be reluctant to take responsibility for damages to your items during the move if you packed yourself. So he recommends leaving boxes with breakable items open so movers can see what’s in them and make any necessary adjustments.

Claim a tax deduction. You may be able to offset some of the cost of your move by claiming a tax deduction on your federal return. To qualify for the deduction, you must be moving because you changed job locations or started a new job. The new job location must be at least 50 miles farther from your old home than your old job was -- in other words, not moving would have added 50 miles or more to your commute. If you qualify, you can deduct the cost of getting yourself and your household goods to the new area. And you don’t have to itemize to take advantage of this tax break. See IRS Publication 521, Moving Expenses, for more details.

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