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Ultimate Guide on How to Budget for a Move

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No matter where you are in life, moving is always a pivotal moment and an important decision to make. The biggest question you need to ask before you make the decision is, of course, “can I afford to move?” 

We’ll break down how much it costs to move so you can start developing a budget. By seeing all the costs upfront, you can determine your moving budget and whether you’re ready or need to save a bit more.

How much does it really cost to move?

The average cost of a move is anywhere from $400 to over $7,000. If you’re moving within the same city and live in a smaller house or apartment, you can handle the move yourself for as little as $300 (not including housing costs like security deposits). If you’re switching coasts, on the other hand, be prepared to spend at least $3,000 and as much as $8,000 if you hire professional movers.

Major caveat: There’s a lot of wiggle room in these numbers. Your exact budget for moving out will vary depending on where you’re going, the amount of stuff you’ll be taking with you, and whether you’ll be hiring a mover or doing it all yourself. Your needs will also factor into a moving budget to figure out if there are new things you need to buy or not.

Moving on your own 

Doing everything yourself will save you a lot of money, but you’ll still have to factor in unexpected expenses like renting a moving truck, gas to fill it up, and possibly hotels along the way. Here’s how a few different long distance moves compare when you’re doing the work yourself: 

DistanceU-Haul rental*Moving supplies**Gas***Total
>25 miles$58$210$7$275
100 miles$146$210$33$389
500 miles$570$210$166$946
1,000 miles$1,037$210$331$1,578
3,000 miles$2,715$210$994$3,919

*For 15’ Truck (1 Bedroom Home to 2 Bedroom Apt.)
**1-2 Bedroom Kit from U-Haul
***At average price as of 01/19/22 ($3.314/gallon) and 10 MPG

If you keep everything as simple as possible and do all the heavy lifting yourself, you can keep costs to a little over $500. (Beer and pizza for your friends not included.)

Hiring professional movers

Here’s where things get expensive. Your moving budget will have to get significantly larger if you’re planning on using professional movers or shipping a car. That said, the price to hire movers varies a ton depending on the amount you’re moving and whether they’re packing things up for you. Here are some example costs for longer moves using professionals: 

DistanceProfessional movers*Car shipmentTotal
<25 miles$465N/A$465
100 miles$2,059N/A$2,059
500 miles$2,538$631$3,169
1,000 miles$3,512$1,099$4,611
3,000 miles$5,404$2,373$7,777

*Average of quotes through MYMOVE for 2-bedroom apartment

Additional long distance costs to consider 

Before you set your moving budget in stone, there are a few other costs you’ll want to take into account, especially if you’re moving across the country. 

  • Food: If you’re making the drive yourself, plan on factoring in at least $30 per day for every person in your caravan. 
  • Hotels: Cross-country trips will almost always require a couple nights in a hotel. Expect to pay at least $100 per room on your drive.
  • Storage: Timing may not work out perfectly on your move, and you may need to store some of your belongings in the short- or long-term. Storage units cost anywhere from $100 to $300 per month, depending on the size.
  • Time off work: For some moves, you may need to take a whole week off of work. If these means lost wages for you, be sure to include that in your moving budget. 
  • Childcare: Depending on the kind of move you’re making, you may need to pay for childcare for a few days. This can cost as much as $600 per week in some cities.   

How to budget for a move 

With moving costs averaging in the thousands, most people will need to do some financial planning ahead of time to make sure they can afford it. Here’s what you should consider when creating your moving budget.

Decide which type of move is best for you

The biggest decision you’ll make when preparing for your move is whether to do it yourself or hire professionals. Both options have their pros and cons. You can expect the cost of your move to go up by several thousands of dollars if you hire the pros, but it will also eliminate a lot of the planning that makes moving so stressful.

If you do choose to rent a truck or trailer and move everything yourself, budget in some extra time for your move if possible. You’ll likely need to sell or donate some belongings, and boxing up your entire home shouldn’t be rushed. 

Add up the costs

If you decide to hire professional movers, get quotes from several companies to see which option is best for you. You’ll also want to consider costs for things like plane tickets, car shipment and a storage unit if needed. 

If you’re making the move yourself, determine how much a truck rental will cost you, the price of moving supplies, and what you can expect to pay on the drive. If this is a long-distance move, you’ll want to factor in gas, food and lodging for your trip. 

In either case, this doesn’t take into account housing costs once you get to your destination. Whether your new place requires a security deposit or a down payment, this should be factored into your moving budget as well. 

Create a saving plan

Now that you know how much your move is going to set you back, it’s time to figure out how to pay for it. Create a weekly or monthly savings target that lines up with your moving timeframe to make sure you have enough in the bank to pay for everything you’ll need. 

Leave some room for unexpected expenses

Even with your moving budget mapped out to the dollar, things will inevitably come up that you didn’t plan on, and the future-you will thank you for leaving yourself some wiggle room. If you can, set aside about $500 to $1,000 on top of your moving budget. If you don’t end up needing it during the move itself, it can likely be put to good use once you’re getting settled. 

Additional moving budget tips 

You may find it hard to reach your moving budget in the timeframe that you hoped. If you need to save up quickly, these steps can help you hit your target in a hurry.

Shop around for coupons

Moving comes with a ton of expenses, from the packing itself to all the new items you need once you get to your new home. Taking some extra time to hunt for coupons will pay off in the long-run, especially when it comes to things like furniture and decor for your new place. 

Negotiate with your movers

Typically, the quotes that professional movers give you are somewhat flexible. It’s a good idea to get estimates from several vendors and compare the costs and terms of different options. You can often knock off some money on the initial price by forgoing some features or doing some of the work yourself. 

Sell unwanted belongings

Moving is the perfect time to declutter your home. Instead of paying to move everything into your new place, you can earn some extra cash for your move by sellings items — either online or in person. If you’re not having any luck selling things, donating them can also save you money by decreasing the size of your move. 

The bottom line

Overall, moving is expensive and it takes a lot of work. Yet, when you approach moving with enough time to plan and budget, it makes the entire process easier. Before your move, consider the upfront and ongoing costs that will be part of your budget. Research these costs according to where you’ll live and build a precise budget. Always save a little extra for surprise costs and emergencies. With careful planning, you can feel settled into your new home while staying comfortable and happy.

Moving budget FAQs

Q:

How much money should I have saved up before I move out?

A:

The average cost to move can be anywhere from $400 to more than $7,000. The cost will depend on your needs, where you’re moving, and how much of your belongings you’re bringing with you. Be sure to save for your upfront moving costs as well as living expenses for three months to cover emergencies.

Q:

What do I do if I can’t afford to move out?

A:

If you can’t afford to move out right now, practice patience and diligence. Evaluate your income and spending and develop a budget to help you save what you need. Create a timeline and stick with it. Depending on your income and spending, you can have enough saved within a matter of months.

Q:

How do I know if I’m ready to move out?

A:

While different for everyone, moving can usually be an emotional process. It’s hard to accept change, even if it’s a good change. You might feel unsure, but you’ll know you’re ready to move out when you feel mostly excited and comfortable with the decision.

Q:

What essential items do I need for my first apartment?

A:

Your first apartment will need many essential items and products, including:

  • Cleaning supplies
  • Kitchenware and utensils
  • Furniture
  • Decorations
  • Pantry staples like spices

For a more expansive list, check out our First Apartment Checklist.

Q:

Where do I find an affordable apartment or home for rent?

A:

To find an affordable apartment, you can use different websites like Zillow and Apartmentfinder to see new listings that align with your budget. You can also use Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace to see single room postings from people who are looking to sublet or find roommates.


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