Moving Cross-Country Affordably

You’ve made the decision, it’s time to pack up, move to a new place, and start a new life. How can you afford to move all of your worldly possessions to a new location without breaking the bank? There are a few things that you can do to make the move cheap and easy.

The first step is taking an inventory of your possessions. This might seem an odd step, but this will make the move even easier. Whatever is not essential or does not have any sort of value (emotional or monetary) needs to be disposed of. Ebay is a great way to get rid of items, your local chapter of FreeCycle ( or Craigslist ( Good examples of things to get rid of are: furniture, DVDs that you no longer are interested in, CDs, books, records and kitchen appliances. You used that bread machine one time, that compilation CD just wasn’t what you thought it was and the couch is losing color and just isn’t as comfortable as it used to be. It is not as hard as it seems, selling and giving items away can be quite rewarding. Not only have you decluttered your area, but also you’ve gained a few more dollars for your move and made someone else very happy.

If you have a contact living in your destination, they are going to be very important to your move. Ask your contact if you can ship boxes to them. Otherwise, you will have to wait until you have secured your own domicile in which to ship your belongings. It may seem cost prohibitive to ship your belongings, but it is actually less expensive than you would think. By using the United States Postal Service you will save quite a few dollars in moving your belongings. The Post Office offers a service known as Media Mail. Media Mail is used to send media, such as books, CDs, and videos. Media Mail is the least costly and also the slowest method for shipping. This can help save a couple of dollars in shipping, which adds up. The maximum weight allowable for shipment through the Post Office is 70 pounds for parcel post and media mail.

Another thing to know about the Post Office is that any packages measuring more than 17 inches will be charged extra. Which brings the next project, finding boxes to ship your belongings. You could buy boxes from an office supply store for about $2-4 per box plus shipping tape, or you could scour grocery stores, liquor stores, book stores and even around dumpsters for boxes. Liquor store boxes are very sturdy, they do handles heavy bottles of liquid after all! Most bookstores will hold boxes for you if you ask them, be pleasant and speak with the counter person to arrange for them to hold boxes for you. You can create an estimated cost at the USPS website. Just a note: the further the distance the higher the cost and the longer it will take.

The hard part is behind you now; here comes the easy part, actually moving across the country. If you have a vehicle that can make the trip, it’s time to drive. Pack the car as full as possible and go! If the vehicle can’t make the trip, sell it. It will cost too much to ship the vehicle and you can use the proceeds towards a new vehicle in your new hometown. However, if the car will make it, use this as an opportunity to move your more fragile belongings, such as a television and/or knickknacks. The Post Office isn’t going to handle those boxes with kid gloves, so it’s best to keep items that are irreplaceable with you during the move. If you must sell your car, ship the more fragile items with extra padding and pay a little more to get it there faster. Make sure that you have the clerk mark the package with the “FRAGILE” stamp.

Driving across the country can be a great trip. This is where a lot of your money is going to be spent though. Gas, food and lodging can add up very quickly. There are ways to bring these costs down such as keeping homemade snacks in the car. Pop some popcorn before you leave your home or make some granola and get some fruit from the store. Bring a refillable water bottle that you can fill up in the hotel room and at gas stations. Most gas stations will let you fill up with soda fountain water for free, they usually only charge for the cup. When you decide to stop for the night, stop at a gas station, fill up the car and grab a travel guide. Travel guides tend to have coupons for hotels within a certain area of the country in which you are traveling. Ask the station attendant where you are and what you are near and pick a hotel from the book. You can usually get a room for about $25 and up, especially if you are traveling during the week when rates are lower.

A few more tips:

  • If you are a big fan of books and can’t stand parting with your collection but cannot afford to send it all at once, box them up anyway and have a friend mail them to you as you can afford to send more. Books are heavy and will be the biggest cost of your move.
  • Try to fill up the gas tank once it reaches the halfway mark. This will keep you fresh and keep the trip broken up into more manageable parts. Each stop, take three to five minutes to walk around and stretch your legs.
  • Make sure that you eat a hot meal every night of your trip. It’s probably very tempting to just grab some fast food and take it to a hotel room, but a nice hot meal will fill you up better and will help you get a better night’s sleep. You can get take out from most restaurants if you feel the need to eat in your hotel room, but that food will be hotter and tastier than any fast food dinner would.
  • If you aren’t under any time constraints to get to your new destination and see something interesting, go look! There probably won’t be many more times you travel across the country, best to see it while you are already driving. Even if you are under time constraints, allow yourself at least one stop per day to enjoy the local flavor of one of the many towns you are passing through.
  • Before you leave, check out a few audio books from your library. You can mail them back once you reach your destination (use a tracking number when mailing back those items so that you can make sure that they arrived and don’t rack up late fees) and this way you have road entertainment for the cost of postage.

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