The average American spends $1,250 to move locally. Moving long distance comes at a cost of around $4,890. From boxing up your belongings to the fuel to power your trip, every little thing adds up. If you do it right, moving out doesn’t have to be expensive. Whether you’re moving down the street or 1,500 miles away, these frugal tips are key to keeping your budget in check. If you want to know how to move out a budget, keep on reading.

Don’t Pay for Moving Boxes, Ever 

Moving boxes cost anywhere from $0.50 to $3 or more per box. They’ll add up fast if you have hundreds of items to move. Repurposing boxes is the way-to-go if you want to trim down your costs and reduce waste. Where can you get free boxes? The “free” section on Craigslist, liquor stores, friends and family, and the U-Haul Box Exchange.


Provided you live in at least a mid-size city, you’re almost guaranteed to find free boxes on the “free stuff” category of Craigslist. Keep in mind that boxes are given away on a first come first serve basis If you can’t find any free boxes, you can always create a classified ad under the “wanted” category.

Liquor Stores

Both mom and pop along with corporate-owned liquor stores receive a massive amount of boxes each week. If you’re a frequent customer or a skilled smooth talker, you can easily take home a decent amount of boxes. Most liquor and grocery stores just put boxes in a baler/compactor and then sell the cardboard off to recycling centers. So, if they won’t give the boxes away for free, the next best option is to offer a few cents for each one.  

Friends and Family

Have a friend or neighbor that just moved? See if you can take their boxes off them! Even if they didn’t recently move, most people have a stash of boxes in their garage from their recent Amazon or eBay purchases. All it takes to get boxes is a quick text, phone call, or Facebook post.

U-Haul Box Exchange
U-Haul Box Exchange

U-Haul has a super useful box exchange that lets customers connect with one another to give away and sell their used boxes. If you don’t want to pay for boxes, then enter “free” in the search engine. Once you find a post in your area, you can respond to it by entering your name, email, and a short message.  

Slim Down on Your Belongings

Moving is the perfect time to reevaluate what you HAVE and what you NEED. Obviously, the less you have, the cheaper it will be to move. Start by looking at your clothes and then asking yourself “when was the last time I wore this shirt?” Seriously, stick with the bare minimum. Even selling off your furniture is a good idea if you can just rebuy when you get to your new home. When it comes to selling your belongings, there are so many ways to do it. Hold a garage sale, create classified ads on craigslist, join a marketplace group on Facebook, and download a mobile-driven marketplace application like Offerup

Rent a Trailer or Moving POD

The biggest mistake first-time cross-country movers make is hiring a moving company to transport all their belongings from point A to point B. This calculator will give you an estimate of how much a moving company would cost. The cheaper alternative is to a rent a U-Haul trailer or a POD. U-Haul provides instant quotes and you’ll see prices in the $280 to $400 range for a five-day period. Depending on your vehicle, you could choose a trailer ranging from 4′ x 8′ to 6′ x 12′. Renting a truck, on the other hand, will cost well over $1,000 for a cross-country move. 

Using a POD to move your belongings across the country is also a cheaper alternative. The POD company takes care of the transportation and charges an average of $0.40 per mile. According to their website, moving out of state moves start as low as $800. The benefit to a POD is that you’ll have more space than a U-Haul and you can rent it by the month if you don’t have space to unload it. 

Don’t Overlook Media Mail 

Media Mail is a cost-effective way to ship books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, and more. See here for a complete list of what qualifies as Media Mail and what doesn’t. A pound of media mail costs $2.38, no matter how far you ship it. With that said, keep in mind that your package must not weigh more than 70 lbs. As an added bonus, USPS provides free tracking on all Media Mail packages. 

Use a Budget Worksheet

A moving out budget worksheet helps you track all the expenses associated with moving. Before you start packing your bags, you need to estimate how much you plan on spending. A $1,000 budget can turn in to $3,000 if you’re not careful. We’ve put together a budget worksheet to help you account for all of your moving-related expenses. 

Deduct Moving Expenses on an IRS Form 3903

If you’re moving for work, you may be able to deduct some of your moving expenses.

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