Thursday, June 18, 2009

Moving expenses

Right now, I have no profound theoretical things to say about thrift because I'm busy trying to figure out the very practical problem of transporting myself, Sebastian, our stuff, and my cat from our (more or less) happy homes in Washington to our new, chillier homes in Boston in the next month. This is proving to be incredibly expensive.

I managed to find what looks like a decent apartment through a friend, which has saved me the hypothetical money and stress involved in flying out to Boston and scrambling to find a place and sign a lease within a few days, then paying a broker's fee for it. Sebastian, however, has not found a place, so I'm still flying out to Boston next week to help him look for one. Money not saved.

Then there is the problem of schlepping our stuff. I've done a long-distance move once before, from Chicago to Washington the summer after I finished college. That one was somewhat less complicated though thanks to my lack of worldly possessions and angry feline companion. This time, we have probably a small apartment's worth of furniture between us, and the cat can't fly on planes (IMPORTANT THRIFT ADVICE: Pets use up valuable resources and cause endless headaches. Don't get them until you are established and can be reasonably certain that you'll never move anywhere again.) Hiring movers and driving ourselves and the cat is one option, but last time Seb hired movers to move his stuff, they were expensive and lost so much of it that it was impossible to re-assemble half the furniture on arrival.

The other option is renting a large-ish truck and driving it the eight hours ourselves. We lean in this direction. So here is my question: What is the thriftiest way to move? Which truck rentals are the cheapest? Where can I get cheap boxes (that will hold heavy things--not the liquor store boxes mentioned earlier)? What is the best way to find an apartment in three days? Which furniture should I keep and which should I sell? How can I make this process as smooth as possible so that Sebastian and I don't kill each other before we even arrive? Any ideas?


Maureen said...

How comfortable are you and Sebastian driving a large truck? I'd advise going that route and taking turns driving (switching every two-three hours). For loading and unloading the truck, my father has always sworn by the "hire guys you meet at the local bodybuilder gym" method, but that's always felt iffy to me. Maybe ask your friend in Boston if she knows some people?

And another good source for boxes is fast-food restaurants. The boxes for frozen fries are perfect for books.

o. roberts said...

I like this blog--saw it when you posted it in your gchat status.

Anyhow, I don't know how heavy is heavy but I have all my boxes from produce delivery that are just in our basement and am happy to share some, though I will of course need some for my (luckily much shorter) move. They are all brand new (except for 1 day of vegetable storage).

I think renting a truck is the best way, but it is still probably somewhat expensive. Last year when I moved, I think I spent $160+gas for renting a truck to go about 1.5 hrs. You'd have to balance time/cost of selling large furniture here and repurchasing new stuff but if you did that, you could just UPS in boxes the essentials (as well as put stuff in the car you're driving up). This is how I have moved when I did not have any furniture and it pretty cheap. Buying/transporting furniture is expensive and a huge hassle though and with all the bedbug outbreaks going the craigslist route is less preferable.

I would probably just stick with the truck.

Sarah S. said...

One thing I've done to save on truck rental costs: our car insurance sends us coupons for car and truck rental every six months when we pay our premiums. We have two cars plus the truck, so at least one of the two times we moved recently, we had to rent a carrier for one of the cars and one of us drove the second car. The second time, we made sure to only have one car at the move location. It might be worth taking a couple of days to drive excess vehicles to the new abode - you can also scope out the likelihood of being able to replace vs. move some of your stuff.

As far as packing goes, I acquired (permanently borrowed) some large Rubbermaid boxes from my folks for our dishes and books. They don't break but depending on how much heavy stuff you have to put in them, they can get pretty hard to pick up. We also used our towels, sheets and less delicate clothing as packing material - any way to save materials/space = good.

For loading and unloading the truck: we just took it in stages at the unload end (usually you get the truck for multiple days, like 3 or so) and bought pizza to bribe/reimburse people for their effort in getting everything on the truck.

We also gave stuff away that we knew we could replace (cheap lamps, bookcases that were more trouble to move than they were worth and likely to get destroyed, books, cooking stuff) without too much money spent.

Good luck in the move!

Matt said...

As for boxes, to my mind copy-paper boxes are the gold-standard for moving most things. (Bigger boxes than that can be used for sheets, towels, etc., but for most things they are the right size and strong.) My experience is that copy shops usually won't give them to you. But, offices often will and often have a bunch. You might have to try over a few weeks, if you have that. Grocery stores will often give you boxes, but they might be all sorts of odd sizes and have the tops cut off.

Have you looked into those moving services where you load everything into one or more big crates and then have the company move it? I've known people who did it for cross-country movies and have been very happy with it. I think it's less expensive than having things moved by movers, but not very cheap.

I've driven a fairly large moving truck myself a few times. It's not wonderful but not unbearable, either.

dWj said...

My last move, about a year ago, involved driving a big truck through New York City during rush hour.

Do not drive a big truck through New York City during rush hour.

PG said...

If you can arrange to drive down the West Side Highway at 6AM, however, I hear that a Penske truck is painless to pilot.

Miss Self-Important said...

Maureen: I am imagining an evening spent dumpster diving for boxes. Could be fun.

O. Roberts: I know, it was your ceiling-high pile of boxes that forced me to consider this problem in the first place. You have more foresight than me, but now I'm hoarding all my Amazon boxes too.

Sarah: The problem with getting rid of flimsy or easily re-acquired furniture is that I'm moving to another year of temporary living before moving again for what I hope will be a 3-4 year arrangement. I can get rid of cheap stuff, but only to acquire the same cheap stuff in Boston, so I'm not sure it makes sense.

Matt: Copy-paper boxes requested from office clerks. Good call.

Dwj and PG: The route will be duly considered.

S said...

When I last moved (like my brother, about a year ago), I got a lot of advice to avoid U-Haul. For one thing, when you reserve a truck, they don't actually guarantee it at the location you specify, they guarantee it within 90 miles of there. Also, at least the Cambridge, MA office seems to be quite aggressive about charging you for little scratches that you don't report when you pick up the truck.

Penske was good to me.

Allison said...

As I noted on the other thread, I furnished my entire apartment with IKEA stuff when I moved in two years ago. I just moved in May and sold or gave away almost everything in hopes of not having to rent a u-haul. Since my furniture was inexpensive to begin with, it was not really worth it to rent an uncomfortable truck. Our trip was 14-15 hours, and it would have been longer and way worse with the truck. Driving a fully loaded van was hard enough - couldn't really see out the back, had to leave lots of space because it took forever to brake, acceleration was not so good.

I sold my stuff via craigslist, and had surprisingly good responses on the bookshelves. I kept the cube one because I wanted one FOREVER and had just purchased it (it fits two rows of books! And file boxes for photocopies! Works as a room divider! I'm in love.) I also sold my dresser and bed/mattress in days and for about half what I paid for them. I moved my futon (actually my most expensive purchase) and said bookshelf, and the kitchen table. These all packed down flat.

I laid out a square in my kitchen that was about the size of the van's cargo space to make sure I could fit everything. Bikes went on a bike rack on the back. Our backup plan was to rent a car if we ran out of space - this would have really sucked because it would have meant each driving the whole way with no passenger, but even a one-way car rental was way cheaper than a rental truck, since I don't have that much stuff. Also, consider media mail for books if you are really pressed for space.

As for not killing each other: if you are doing your own packing and one of you thinks they are really good at packing the vehicle, that person should take sole control. Otherwise there will be thinly veiled criticism of box placement, and if you're me, this is somehow a comment on your intellectual abilities in other areas.

Sissie Sue said...

I recently relocated from TX to MT. We didn't have an apartment ahead of time. Instead of staying in a hotel during out week of apartment hunting, we stayed in the dorms at a local college. They rent them out during the summer. 75$ got us a whole week in a nice "suite". The only challenge then was food (no kitchen). But a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread came in handy for some meals.

So, if you don't have a place ahead of time, check into renting a dorm room at a local college; it could save you a bundle.

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