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Moving? How to keep your costs low

Gail Johnson
CENTENNIAL, CO - SEPTEMBER 15: Connor Holzhauer, 7, plays on a moving truck after arriving home from school to find his family evicted and belongings removed to the front lawn on September 15, 2011 in Centennial, Colorado. Sheriff's deputies served a court order to evict the family of five after they had earlier fallen behind in a rent payment, and the owner sued for their eviction. The renter, John Holzhauer, a home building contractor, said he lost up to 40 percent of his business due to the weak economy and continued housing crisis. He said he paid the owner his outstanding rent balance the week before, aside from a $100 dispute, when the deputies came knocking. The eviction team removed all their belongings from the house and changed the lock. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Moving can be one of life’s more stressful experiences and it’s also stupidly costly. If you find yourself facing a change of address, be prepared for a long list of expenses — and keep a few cost-saving strategies in mind.

The basics
Be sure to include all those lovely disconnection and reconnection fees into your moving budget (or your regular monthly budget that you’re about to blow). You will need to pay the phone, cable, gas, and electricity companies to close and renew your accounts, plus you’ll pay Canada Post to reroute your mail. There isn’t much you can do to avoid these costs, so take a deep breath (or fire off a few expletives) and move on.

Packing
This is straightforward: unless you’re rolling in it, there’s no way you should be paying a moving company to pack your stuff. Rather, hit the liquor store for boxes or rent those reusable plastic tubs (yes, it’s an extra cost, but those bins are indestructible and eco-friendly) and roll up your sleeves. Don’t bother buying bubble wrap for your delicate things; multitask instead: use blankets, towels, sheets, table cloths, winter scarves and whatever else you have on hand to wrap up fragile items.

Getting from Point A to Point B
Should you hire a moving company? That depends. If you’re in your early 20s and your friends are still willing to help you haul your crap in exchange for pizza and beer, then by all means go that route and make it fun. Surely one of those pals or their parents have a truck you can borrow; if not, renting one will still be far cheaper than hiring even the most questionable of movers.

Now let’s say you’ve already moved a few times — and used up a few favours — you may want to consider paying for movers. The range of prices and quality is vast, so the best way to find a reputable, reasonable company is to ask around. Put out a call on whatever social-media sites you’re addicted to and talk to your friends, relatives and coworkers to get a few names. Then check out the company with the Better Business Bureau for complaints. Another resource is the Canadian Association of Movers, which recommends getting the terms and conditions of your move outlined in writing.

Be sure to go over the minutiae before agreeing to a particular company: do they charge for travel time to your place and back to their base at the end of the day? Do they charge for extra distance? And are your goods covered if they happen to drop a box of Waterford Crystal?

Getting rid of your excess
Chances are you’ll be overwhelmed (or disgusted) by just how much stuff you have. For starters, declutter. If you haven’t used something in over a year, chances are you don’t need it. Donate it if it’s in good condition, recycle as much as you can and prepare to part with the rest.

Should you hire a junk-removal company? Well, consider this: it’s a fraction of the cost for you to haul your unsalvageable stuff to the dump yourself than it is to hire one of these outfits. I’ve moved more times than MPs have been audited, and I’ve paid for these companies more than once. They’ve provided good service, but not once have I waved goodbye to the truck without parting with less than $300. (It’s not straightfroward to get an estimate; the company typically has to come to your place to see how much debris you have before it can provide a quote.)

I’ve since gone to the transfer station myself (OK, I’ve sent my spouse) and have never spent more than $10. If my unusable matter weighed a ton (literally), it would cost me $107. It’s not likely you have more than 1,000 kilos of junk on hand. Even if you had to rent a truck to transport your garbage, it would still work out to far less than what most junk-removal companies would charge to do it for you.

That said, you’ve got to consider the time, stress, energy and brawn involved in loading and unloading your excess and driving to the dump yourself. Even though it’s not necessarily the most economical approach, hiring a junk-removal company might save you your sanity, your relationship and your health.

Keep in mind if you are moving for a job, to carry on a business at a new location, or to study full-time at the post-secondary level, you can claim certain moving expenses come income tax time.

If not, just get ’er done — and then start planning your house-warming party.