August 30, 2005
So you’ve landed that first big job and you’re off to start a new life in a new glamorous city. Or maybe you’ve just graduated from college and you’re moving into your first apartment. Or maybe you’re just leaving your parents' house for the first time and it’s time to pack up all of your earthly possessions and get them into a place along with a couple of friends. There’s just one detail that might be overlooked in the initial excitement of your big plan: getting your stuff from point A to point B. Sure, moving sounds like a simple enough task, especially to a young, career-minded go-getter like yourself, but just ask anyone who has recently completed the feat and you’ll probably find out that moving can be a heck of a lot harder and more expensive than you think.
I recently talked to a newlywed couple who were preparing to start their lives together in a suburban townhouse that would serve not only as their first home but also as their first major investment. But instead of their early memories of the event being fond recollections of their new nest, they were forever scarred by the overwhelming task that consumed an oh-so-precious weekend. (OK, that may be a little dramatic, but the move definitely didn’t go smoothly.) Securing a vehicle took longer than they anticipated, personal items and expensive furniture pieces were damaged and the whole ordeal cost more than they had expected. If only they had followed a few simple steps, they could have made their moving experience less of a nightmare and more of an event that allowed them to actually enjoy the excitement of starting a new chapter in life together.
First off, plan ahead. Decide early on if you want to hire professionals to assist in the move or if you think that you can manage without extra help. If you decide to pay for professional movers, remember to shop around. Moving companies want your business and prices are negotiable. Find out the lower prices of local companies and use that information as a bargaining tool. By making a few phone calls, you may be able to save yourself time and money.
If you decide to move on your own, you’ll probably need some sort of vehicle capable of transporting your things (like a truck or trailer). The three major self-moving companies (U-Haul, Penske and Budget) offer reasonable prices for truck rentals but still, remember to shop. It’s also important to reserve your vehicle in advance, so you’re not stuck with the wrong truck on moving day. Also, because most leases close at the beginning and end of the month, rates are more expensive then. Try to reserve your vehicle mid-month to save a little cash.
Though it’s important to be thrifty, paying the extra $15 for insurance is always worth the cost. Many moving truck insurance policies not only cover any potential damage to the truck but also anything in the truck. That means if any furniture falls and breaks while you’re trying to negotiate a three-point turn in a diesel U-Haul, it’s covered.
Remember the importance of organization and preparation. When you're packing stuff, it’s always easier if you have items like duct tape, boxes, Sharpies and bubble wrap handy. One way moving companies make their money is by selling boxes (which are surprisingly expensive). Many times you’ll need a few dozen boxes which can cost way more than they are worth. Make a trip to your local grocery store and ask if you can have any boxes they are planning to throw away. Liquor stores also usually have extra boxes that they won’t mind getting rid of. Once you‘ve obtained your new, free boxes, pack strategically with similar items packed together and mark your boxes accordingly. Also be mindful that if you have hired professionals, they may not insure boxes that you pack.
Finally, don’t be afraid to recruit some friends to assist on the big day. Everybody has to move sometime and good friends know that one day they’ll need to have the favor returned. Make an event out of it. It’s proper etiquette to feed your volunteers for their day's work, so go all out. If you’re feeling generous and can spare a few extra bucks, order some pizzas or wings. Otherwise, cook out or make sandwiches and fix drinks. Most college-agers will do anything for a free meal and a few packs of hot dogs is a small price to pay for help with the heavy lifting.
Starting off on the right foot at a new house or apartment can be the difference between enjoying a new home or loathing the thought of it. Don’t get overwhelmed and try to actually enjoy the experience—just take time to prepare before moving on.