Moving — frugally

Things have been quiet on the internet the last few days; it’s grading season, and also, as an itinerant academic, I’m packing to move, for the umpteenth time since I graduated from college.

I actually really don’t want to count the number up. It has to average out to close to once a year. And it’s been a lot of years.

At this point I have it down to a science; I started doing some light packing a couple of weeks ago, but didn’t get really serious until a couple of days ago, and I should be mostly done packing tomorrow, although I’ll also do a little bit at the absolute last minute — clothes, sheets, tools, cleaning supplies. Also on the list for tomorrow: run by Goodwill to drop off a couple of boxes, and pick up my dry cleaning so it doesn’t get left behind!

I suppose the most important part of moving frugally is choosing your moving company (whether that’s your buddies and a Uhaul, or whether it’s professionals.) But I don’t have a lot of great advice on that. Instead, what I’m interested in right now is the “hidden costs.”

The upside of moving a lot is that I have not accumulated Stuff. I’m not really a Stuff person anyway — I’d probably weed every year or two no matter what, as part of spring cleaning. The thought of living with boxes of unused Stuff in the hallways or even the basement/attic really freaks me out.

But the downside to my aggressive weeding is that it can really burn me on the other end of a move. For example, last year I had a storage unit for about nine months while I was living in various spare rooms (long story.) When I moved out of my previous apartment, I sold or gave away a lot of furniture I didn’t think I was going to want: kitchen table and chairs, armchair, futon, twin bed. That made it easy to store everything else, sure. But when I got here, I ended up spending a month (and probably $1000) replacing things. If I’d just stored all of that furniture, it wouldn’t have been exactly what I wanted, but it would have been there (and free!). Oh well. So, this time, I’m taking everything, even though it’s going to be another storage unit situation since I’ll be living with a friend for at least the first six months. I need the storage unit anyway; might as well pack it full.

The other thing that always has bitten me on moves in the past is food. I tend to keep a pretty full pantry; dry goods, beans, different kinds of vinegars and oils, spices, nuts in the freezer, pickles and capers and mustards in the fridge. Then there’s cleaning supplies — I’ve tossed them rather than taking them with me more often than not, because they’re heavy and awkward and I don’t want them spilling in the truck. And I always seem to end up, after any given move, spending a few hundred dollars to replace things.

This time, I vowed it would be different, and a couple of things are making that possible. First of all, I had to go to New City for a conference two weeks ago. So I packed the car with all this food that I would have worried would spoil or spill if it went with the other stuff and took nine days on the road. Flour, sugar, vinegars and oils, spices, beans, etc etc etc. I even took the refridgerated stuff, although I didn’t think the frozen stuff would make it through a full day’s driving, so alas, I did end up throwing out two packs of cranberries, a bunch of frozen lemon juice, and — tragedy — some homemade chicken stock that I never got around to using. Seriously, I bet being aggressive about saving rather than tossing partly-used food items is going to end up saving me hundreds of dollars when I finally get to New City again in mid-June. I’m sure I’ll make a stock-up trip to the grocery store anyway, but I’m going to compare my credit card bills from last year to my credit card bill from this year to find out how dramatic the difference is.

Second, I have a car. It’s not as big as I wish it was. But even though I also have to put a lot of office boxes into it, it should still be able to hold a few leftover food items and the cleaning supplies, along with a few fragile/precious things I don’t want the movers touching. This is the first time I’ve ever moved with a car and it’s lowering my stress levels, definitely.