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How to Save Money When You Move

Harriet Edleson

Relocating is one of the most stressful events people face. It changes not only your physical location but your daily routine, your immediate support network and your social environment. According to the 2012 My Move Consumer Insights study, an online study of more than 8,000 respondents, including 6,300 movers, moving was rated as more stressful than any other planned life event such as having a baby, getting a new job or getting married. Still, 35 million Americans relocate every year, and there are many ways to minimize the impact on your finances.

Here are ways to cut your costs when moving your household from point A to point B, depending on your situation:

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If you own your home. If you own a single-family home, townhouse or condominium and you are relocating for a job, it can be trickier than if you are renting when preparing to move. Most people can't afford to carry two places at once, says Michael Corbett, Trulia real estate expert and author of the book, "Before You Buy!" While everyone doesn't agree on whether to rent or buy in a new location, Corbett says, "If you are going to a new area you should rent first as your perception of neighborhoods and their value is going to change." There are "so many unknowns" when you relocate for a job, Corbett says. "Will you like the job? It's foolish to buy a new house. You don't want to get stuck with the old one and be carrying both," he says.

The average homeowner who is middle- or upper-middle class, he says, can't afford two houses. "Your last option is buying the new before selling the old one," Corbett says. His advice: Get to the new place and rent, and put your house on the market in the old location, if you are selling rather than turning it into a rental property. "Don't put yourself in the situation where you are carrying two apartments," he says.

If you have time to research the new market. If you can afford to travel to the new area at least once before you move, you can save time and mistakes in the long run.

"The faster you can make the right decision, the better off you are," says Sylvia Ehrlich, president of Intrepid Relocation/Intrepid New Yorker. "Do the research online, ask questions, speak to people by phone, go to chat rooms online," she adds. "Research schools in advance. If you do travel to the new location, use your time efficiently. Aim to finish your research, for example, in two nights instead of three. Schedule meetings with licensed real estate professionals and try the commutes you are considering, and at different hours, if time permits.

If you pay professionals. You may save money in the short run by packing yourself, but it can cost you more in the long run if things are broken or damaged during the move. There are basically two ways to have your property protected during a move, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Household Goods Program of the U.S. Department of Transportation, www.protectyourmove.gov.

Federal law requires interstate movers to offer two different liability choices: full value protection and released value. With full-value protection, the mover is liable to pay the replacement value of lost or damaged goods. This is the more comprehensive plan to protect your belongings.

The other option is released value, which gives you minimal protection. In this case, the mover assumes liability for no more than 60 cents per pound per article. For example, if the mover loses or damages a 10-pound item valued at $1,000, you would receive $6 from the mover or 60 cents for every 10 pounds. According to the DOT, if you do not select released value, for which there is no additional charge, your shipment will be shipped at full value protection, and you will be charged a fee by the mover. Be sure to ask about coverage and fees before you sign.

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Even if you hire professionals to help you move antiques and other items of considerable value, carry items such as jewelry with you to the new location. If you're driving, pack them in the vehicle; if you are taking public transportation, keep them in your handbag or carry on, and with you throughout the trip. "If items are very, very precious and valuable, hand carry them yourself," Ehrlich says.

If you pack yourself. Some experts advise having professionals pack your belongings, and Ehrlich is one of them. Yet, she says "it depends on who you are."

If you want to save some money, get boxes from a liquor store because they are most likely sturdy and durable. If you call or stop by a liquor store, you can find out when they are going to unpack, and request the boxes. Boxes, duct tape, wrapping paper and bubble wrap all cost money. Some movers supply these items for a fee and some include them in the total cost of the move. Whichever route you take, make sure each box is labeled on more than one side, and that you have a detailed inventory so you can find things more quickly when your goods are delivered. Keep in mind, if you pack your own boxes and items are damaged, it may limit the mover's liability, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Household Goods Program of the DOT. "It may be more difficult to establish your claim against the mover for the boxes you pack," the DOT says.

If you seek reimbursement. If you are moving for a job, ask your new employer what its relocation policy is. If human resources says the company doesn't have a policy, ask for some type of reimbursement, and see what, if anything, is offered, Ehrlich says. Don't be surprised if there is just a lump sum. "Corporations have cut back more and more of the benefits," Ehrlich says. They used to pay closing costs and commission on the sale of a house but they don't always do that these days, she adds. Another way to save is to deduct your moving expenses on your tax return. According to the Internal Revenue Service, www.irs.gov, your move has to be closely related to your work start date, it has to be at least 50 miles from your old home, and, if you are an employee, you have to work full-time for at least 39 weeks during the first 12 months immediately after you arrive in the new location.

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If you can pare down. Typically, you're paying by weight when you move, so plan to shed some of your possessions, especially those you know you don't want in your new home. Keep in mind it can be costly at today's prices to replace items you already have, Hamp says. If you can measure your new home or get a detailed floor plan, assess whether items you have will fit well in your new space. That can help you decide whether or not to bring those items with you.

When you're headed to a new home, careful planning can make the difference between saving and spending more. The more you research ahead, the more ways you can save. "If you do a lot of homework in advance, you can identify where you want to be and what it costs to be there," Ehrlich says.

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