Most people who hire professional movers do so for peace of mind and for convenience. A reputable moving company can do the job efficiently with little or no risk to your home or property, leaving you with little to do but supervise. In fact, a reputable company will offer insurance against loss or damage.
Professional movers do cost more than doing it yourself, but here are a few ways to save if you plan to outsource the job.
1. Shop around.
As with hiring any professional, it pays to shop around. Start with recommendations from friends and colleagues, and seek out three or four candidates. To give you an accurate estimate, your contenders will likely need to visit your place and take an inventory of your stuff. The estimator will also note stairs in your building or narrow streets outside -- anything that will complicate the work on moving day. With the estimates in hand, compare, but beware of any bids that are well below the others. Before you decide, be sure you understand each of the listed charges. You might also check with the Better Business Bureau and a site like movingscam.com for any complaints about the moving company.
2. Pick the right time to move.
Movers are generally busier around the last 10 days of the month, because that's when most people move. If you can time your move in the middle of the month, you may be able to negotiate a better rate. The months of May through September are the busy season for movers. Time your move in early spring -- or even winter, weather permitting -- and the moving company may be more willing to negotiate.
For many, moving is also an opportunity to do a deep declutter. Stuff that's been hidden behind other stuff in dark cubbies reappears and suddenly seems less useful and interesting. Are you really going to miss that ceramic kitten with the broken ear? More importantly for your budget, now that you're paying someone to haul your property, it pays to trim down your lifestyle. In fact, many movers charge by weight, which means they're perfectly happy to haul your set of barbells and your library across the country. Beyond saving yourself the hassle of finding new places to hide your forgotten stuff, getting rid of stuff will save you money -- maybe enough to take up a more frugal fitness routine in your new home.
4. Buy your own packing materials.
Professional movers will be happy to provide you with all the boxes and tape and packing popcorn you'll need. But it won't be cheap. Instead, order boxes and materials from a site like uline.com, your local big-box hardware store or used from Craigslist. Moving van rental company U-Haul also sells packing boxes and materials, and they'll take back any excess you don't actually use.
5. DIY the easy stuff.
One thing the pros can do much better than the DIYer is safely pack items such as artwork, mirrors and heavy furniture. Some movers, like Bekins, will not insure property packed by owners unless the box shows visible signs of damage after the move, which means it may be wise to let them pack expensive stuff like TVs. But for everything else, from clothing to dishes to books, you can pack yourself. Choose special purpose boxes for dishes and glassware, be liberal with bubble wrap and pack tightly. On moving day your movers can then concern themselves with the big, pricey stuff.
6. Get organized.
As you are packing, clearly label all your boxes and keep an inventory. This might be as simple as a list in a notebook, a spreadsheet on your laptop or a collection of photos, one for each of your boxes, stored in a folder in the cloud. Before the movers arrive, stack your boxes in an easy to reach part of the house. The easier it is for your movers to get your stuff, the faster they can get the job done.
7. Stay organized on moving day.
It'll be hectic on moving day. There may be three or four movers in your place, packing the stuff you didn't and hauling boxes out to the truck. You can help them do their jobs by pointing out anything you'll be leaving behind or transporting yourself. Your movers will prepare an inventory of your belongings as they haul them away. Be sure to keep a copy -- you'll need it when they unpack. If this is a cross-country move or if your property will go into storage before you arrive at your new place, it is critical that the inventory be accurate.
Lars Peterson is an editor for Wise Bread, a personal finance blog that covers financial products and help readers find the best cashback credit cards.