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9 Tips for Managing your Moving Budget

Boston real estate isn't cheap, so when you've purchased a home in the city, its likely that you'll want to keep your moving costs as low as possible.  So, we partnered with our friends at TSI to put together some tips that will help you create (and stick to) a moving budget.  Here's what they have to say:

There’s no way around it—moving is expensive. Whether you’re looking for a Back Bay condo or real estate in the South End, creating a budget before you start researching Boston real estate and planning your upcoming move is the most effective way to manage the cost of your relocation. Not creating a budget for your move can actually cost you more in the long run, especially if unexpected expenses arise during the moving process. 

The trick to creating an effective moving budget is to account for all the expenses you know or suspect you will have to cover throughout the entire moving process. So, what exactly should you include? We’re here to share 9 of our best tips on creating and managing your moving budget.

1. Hiring movers vs. moving yourself

After you sign the paperwork on the perfect house or luxury condo in Boston, your next decision will be whether to hire movers or rent a truck and move yourself. Whichever option you choose, this cost will likely comprise the bulk of your moving budget, so it’s important to take all the costs associated with each option into consideration when planning your moving budget. Here’s a closer look at the costs you might encounter whether you hire movers or move yourself:

Hiring movers

  • Company fee: This will likely comprise the bulk of your moving budget. Every company prices moves different, so call around and get at least three quotes before you commit.

    TSI TIP: Create your budget using the highest quoted amount—that way, if your movers end up costing less, you’ll have a little extra wiggle room.
  • Moving insurance: Don’t assume your moving company will provide insurance. Always ask what coverage is included, and speak to your home and auto insurance provider, as well as your credit card company, to see if you already have coverage.
  • Extra services: Some movers charge additional fees for services like packing, storage, moving heavy or difficult items, disassembling and reassembling furniture, long carries, and stairs. 
  • Damage costs: There’s always a chance something will get broken during your move. To account for this possibility, add a 5-10% buffer to your budget.
  • Tips: The standard tip is about 10% of your moving rate, divided between your movers. However, the tip you provide should always reflect the quality of service you received and is always optional.

Renting a truck

Many people assume that hiring a truck and wrangling some friends to help you move will be cheaper than hiring professionals. This may be the case if you don’t have much stuff to move or are moving from one condo in Back Bay to another right down the street, but if you’re moving a full house or apartment, or are relocating to Boston long distance, hiring movers may actually be cheaper, and they’ll also save you time and energy. 

Here are some common costs associated with renting a truck and moving yourself:

  • Truck rental: The cost of your truck rental will depend on the distance of your move, the size of the truck, whether you’ll be dropping it off in the same city where you rented it, and any additional supplies you might need.
  • Mileage and gas: Ask about the truck’s fuel mileage per gallon when you book so you can get a rough idea of how much you’ll spend on gas.

    TSI TIP: Try to avoid moving during rush hour. Getting stuck in traffic will only increase your fuel costs (and your stress).
  • Insurance: Ask your truck rental agency whether insurance is included, then speak to your regular auto and home insurance provider and credit card company.
  • Road tolls: If you’re moving long distance, you may encounter road tolls along the way.
  • Extra equipment rental: Some truck rental companies charge extra to use equipment like dollies and moving blankets.
  • Food: Include funds to feed your friends and helpers, as well as for yourself if you’re driving a long way. 
  • Damage costs: Always include a 5-10% buffer to account for possible damage and other unexpected costs.

Other costs

There are a couple of other costs to keep in mind, whether you hire movers or rent a truck and move yourself:

  • Shipping: If you’re moving long distance and have a lot of bulky, antique, or valuable furniture, you may want to ship it separately. Professional shipping companies are the best equipped to transport these items safely.
  • Lodging: If you have a long drive, you may need somewhere to stay overnight en route.
  • Child and pet care: Budget for child and pet care so you aren’t surprised by these costs down the line. If you can, leave kids or pets with family or friends while you pack and unpack. 

TSI TIP: No matter which moving method you opt for, book early. It may not be cheaper, but you’ll avoid any fees for booking last minute.

2. Declutter

Reducing the size and weight of your move can significantly reduce your moving costs. Hosting a garage sale or selling things online can even help you earn back a little cash you can use to fund your move. 
TSI TIP: If you have junk you want hauled away, make sure you include the cost of this service in your moving budget. 

3. Timing

If you have the flexibility, try to move in the off-season between September and May—moving rates are usually a little lower during these months. Moving during the middle of the month (or any day that isn’t the first or last day of the month), or during the week, may also be cheaper.

4. Supplies

You can’t move without moving supplies, and these supplies cost money, but there are ways to reduce these costs:

  • Use travel suitcases for clothes and shoes.
  • Ask friends and check online for people selling or giving away used boxes.
  • Check grocery and liquor stores—these places often have used boxes available.
  • Look for a moving kit—moving kits contain the right number of boxes for your move, as well as other supplies like tape.

You’ll also need bubble wrap and newsprint. For inexpensive and non-sentimental items, coffee filters, socks, and other soft linens can help cushion your belongings and save you a few bucks, but you should always use proper packing materials for valuable or fragile items.

5. Buying and selling costs

The costs associated with buying and selling real estate in Boston, or renting a new Boston apartment are often overlooked when creating a moving budget. Always include these costs:

  • Commissions
  • Legal fees
  • Security deposits
  • Property taxes and land transfer taxes
  • First and last month’s rent
  • Repair costs
  • Fees for transferring utilities and changing addresses. Most companies will require you to pay a change or activation fee.

6. Hidden costs

Other hidden costs to account for when creating your moving budget include:

  • Utility costs: You may use more water, electricity, and other utilities while you’re packing, so plan for a slight increase in your regular utility bills.
  • Cancellation fees: Services like gyms, community associations, and daycare facilities may charge cancellation fees.
  • Lost wages: If you have to take time off work, account for any lost wages in your moving budget.
  • Restocking your kitchen: Most moving companies won’t move food because it can attract unwanted pests. This means you’ll have to replace any non-perishable pantry items you had to toss or donate, so make sure you budget for a few higher-than-normal grocery bills in the weeks following your moving day.

7. Contingency fund

Always include a buffer in your moving budget to account for unexpected costs like vehicle breakdowns, larger-than-expected deposits, or personal injury. 5-10% is usually sufficient.

8. Make a plan

Create a plan for how you’ll tackle the rest of your moving tasks, including packing. Set deadlines, and stick to them as much as possible. This will help you be ready when your moving day arrives so you can avoid any last minute fees or extra charges associated with delays. 

TSI TIP: Include any regularly scheduled bill payments in your moving schedule so you can prevent any late fees if you miss a due date or don’t receive the bill at all thanks to an address change.

9. Take inventory

As you pack, make an inventory of all your belongings, including the food in your fridge and pantry. You’ll need an inventory of all your items in case something gets lost of broken in transit and you need to make a claim against your moving insurance.

TSI TIP: Creating an inventory of your fridge and pantry will help you determine if there’s any food or supplies you can use up before you go, which means you can get the most out of the money you’ve already spent and avoid throwing things out. 

Get More Tips with our Ultimate Guide

Creating and managing your moving budget is easy with our tips. Check out TSI’s Ultimate Guide to Preparing for your Move for more expert advice on getting ready for your upcoming move, including decluttering tips, how to move with kids, downloadable timelines, checklists, and more.

Rachel Hazzard is a moving expert and content manager at TSI, a leading provider of long distance moving and shipping services for residential and commercial moves. TSI has been in the moving and shipping business for almost 30 years and offers simple and affordable solutions for almost any move or shipment. Call TSI at 1-800-626-1257 or visit us online at to learn more.

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