Preparing for a Move
I don’t know many people who enjoy moving. It usually involves a lot of heavy lifting, cleaning, costly transportation or moving services, and small things to take care of which can lead to a lot of stress. It doesn’t have to be this way and if you spend a little time planning ahead you can save money and take a lot of the stress out of your move.
Fortunately, most of us have a some time to plan for a move since we don’t usually have to pick up and move at the drop of a hat. At the same time, if you’re busy trying to buy or sell a house the thought of moving is probably not the first thing on your mind. But don’t let that stop you from planning. You should really start preparing for your move at least a month or so in advance. Here’s a checklist that can help you start preparing.
One or Two Months Before the Move
Gather important documents. Start rounding up your important documents a month or two before the move. This includes tax returns, insurance documents, financial records, and any other documents you think are important. This will help you accomplish two things. First, you’ll have a list of important companies that you need to submit a change of address to. Not only that, but things can and do get lost in a move and you don’t want your important documents to be one of them. If you gather them ahead of time and keep them somewhere safe they are less likely to get lost in the shuffle on moving day.
Notify the IRS. If you file a change of address form at the post office they will automatically update your records with the IRS. Even so, it’s a good idea to make sure you get things updated properly in case there is a delay or something happens and your address doesn’t get updated. All you have to do is fill out IRS Form 8822 and that will take care of it.
Contact your doctors. If you’re moving out of the area and will be using different medical providers it’s a good idea to let your current doctors know. It’s even better if you already know who your new doctor will be so that they can assist in transferring your records. In any case, you’ll want to make sure they know that you will be leaving and where you will be going. This can make things easier upon going to your new doctor for the first time.
Gather moving supplies. Use this time to start stocking up on moving supplies. Buying boxes can be expensive, so consider checking with friends and family for used boxes or even stop by your local supermarket or other retail store to see if they have any boxes to give you. There’s no need to pay for boxes if you can get them for free.
Start packing. It may seem like a month or two before the move is too early to begin packing things up, but start with items that you know you won’t need. You know what these things are, so if you won’t be using them before the move, get them packed up and ready to go now. The less you have to pack right up to moving day, the easier your job is going to be.
Throw stuff away. As you begin to start packing things up you’re going to encounter a lot of stuff that you just don’t need anymore. This is a good time to start throwing out what you don’t need or create a pile of stuff to donate to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. If you’ve been meaning to declutter your life, a move is your best opportunity. Start fresh in your new house by getting rid of all the excess. Not only is it less stuff to move, but you’ll have less clutter in your new house.
Two Weeks Before Moving Day
Notify utilities. If you’re leaving your old place for good it’s a good idea to give your utility companies a few weeks notice so that you can have your services shut off or taken out of your name at the right time so that you aren’t charged for what you aren’t using. Make sure you check to see who services your new location because it could be as simple as having them transfer service to your new address.
Notify cable and/or internet provider. If you’re like me, being without internet access is not much of an option. So, make sure you plan ahead a few weeks to get service transferred to or set up at your new location. Sometimes they may not have any available appointments for a week or two as it is so it’s best to call early and make sure you can schedule a hookup as soon as possible once you’re into your new house.
File change of address forms. Now that you’re just a few weeks away you should begin filing a change of address with the rest of the places you do business. Make sure to change it with your employer, bank, investment companies, insurance policies, cell phone company, credit cards, and any other place that might send you statements or otherwise need to contact you. While you can set up mail forwarding at the post office, eventually you’ll need to update your address with these companies anyway, so get it out of the way early.
Keep track of moving costs. Did you know that you might be able to deduct some or all of your moving expenses on your taxes? If you qualify you’ll want to keep track of everything. All the boxes, bubble wrap, and tape could be a deduction. Not only that, but so could truck rentals or moving company expenses or even mileage if you use your own vehicles. So, keep track of everything.
Five Days Before Moving
Change address with the post office. With just a few days left before the move it’s time to file your change of address form with the U.S. Postal Service. The easiest way is by stopping at any post office and doing it in person. You can also do it online, but I believe there is a $1.00 processing fee so just keep that in mind.
Finish packing. Don’t wait until moving day to try and box everything up. Start packing the rest of the stuff you won’t need before the move in the days leading up to the move. By now you should have everything but your essentials packed so that come moving day you’re more or less just loading up boxes on to a truck or in a car. When you pack in a rush that is when things get broken or misplaced, so plan ahead and pack at your leisure in the days leading up to the move.
Parting with the neighbors. You’ve probably made friends and met some great neighbors at your old place, but it’s time to say goodbye. Again, you don’t want to surprise the neighborhood on moving day when the moving trucks show up because you’ll spend most of the day talking with neighbors. If your neighbors already know you’re moving, you won’t be spending so much time on moving day catching up with everyone and can focus on getting the job done. Oh, and don’t forget to get the spare keys you may have given out. The new owners may not appreciate half the neighborhood having spare keys to their new house.
Pack smart. Use some common sense when packing and you will save yourself a lot of aggravation and possibly avoid breaking anything. Don’t stuff boxes until they can’t hold any more. You’re sure to break something or have the box come apart during the move. Also pack items by room for easy unloading when you arrive in your new place. You can eliminate extra moving if you have just what you need for that room in the same box. And finally, label your boxes. You just need a marker or ink pen but labeling the box with some of the contents will come in handy.
Get help. If you can, round up some friends or family to help with the move. The more help you have, the less work you ultimately have to do, and the faster you can get everything done. Having help can also eliminate injuries from trying to lift heavy objects yourself. Make sure you show your thanks by taking your help out to dinner or something once the work is done.
Take one last look. As you load everything up on the truck and your old place is empty, be sure to give it one last good look. Check all of the cabinets and make sure nothing has been left behind. Also, it’s a good idea to check for damage that may have occurred during the move. If you’re renting, that could come back to bite you if you have a security deposit. If you’re selling your house, that could cause trouble for the new buyers.
After the Move
Check contents for damage. If you moved yourself and you find damaged items, well, you don’t have anyone to blame but yourself. But if you used a professional moving company, you need to spot the damage and file a claim as soon as possible. So, this might mean unpacking everything in a day or two after the move, but if wait too long you may not be able to file a claim if you do later find something.
Confirm utility hookups. Just because you arrive at your new house and the power is on doesn’t mean you’re all set. There could have been a mixup where the old owners are still on the account at that address and you could be in for a rude awakening in a few weeks when they come and cut the power off unexpectedly. So, take a few minutes to call your electric, gas, trash, cable, or any other utility you use and make sure that they correctly have the new service for that address under your name.
Become familiar with the area. Even if you only moved across town it’s a good idea to scope out the neighborhood and find out where everything is. Where is the closest emergency after hours clinic? Pharmacy? Police station? Grocery store? As you become familiar with your surroundings you’ll be able to save time as you adjust to your new location. And don’t forget to introduce yourself to the neighbors if you haven’t already. They are the ones who will keep a watchful eye out for suspicious activity and may even become good friends.
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About the Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle is a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor® and spent a few years working as a financial planner. Today, he helps people make the most of their money by writing about personal finance here and elsewhere on the web. Jeremy is also Coach at Adaptu and a regular contributor for other publications such as Intuit, and American Express. Be sure to follow Jeremy on Twitter or Google+.