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Moving House Cheaply

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Moving House Cheaply

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I’m moving house at the end of the year.

I’ve moved a lot in my life. I’ve learned a lot of lessons in doing so; about housemates, living with people, curating stuff and space, and generally just doing it all as cheaply as possible.

When moving gets expensive

Moving gets expensive when we are moving long distances or are using a move as an opportunity to spend money. We want to leave all our ‘student furniture’ behind and get new, much more expensive ‘adult’ furnishings.

Or maybe we’re moving to a new city but want to cart our whole home with us. Every knickknack, unopened box and sentimental trinket that brings us comfort. I can understand the instinct for someone moving away from home for the first time, but knickknacks don’t make us feel secure. They’re also expensive to move and time-consuming to pack.

Sometimes moving costs us a lot because we move into a deliberately high-cost lifestyle. Maybe we’re moving to an expensive city, or upgrading from student residential living to town high-life. Maybe we’ve got a new job that’s paying for all this, or we’re just impatient to start living our best life.

We believe we ought to be able to afford the magazine lifestyle we feel we’re missing out on. We expect that there’s a time when we should start enjoying a luxury lifestyle. That expectation is founded on very little and can cause a lot of chaos in our finances. It’s a great way to get into debt and financial difficulties, even if your new job does allow you to spend way above your previous income level.

Another way moving can be expensive is when we move too quickly and impulsively into a new situation. I’ve done this more often than I care to admit. Usually it was because I was anxious and went with something that looked perfect. To be fair, it’s hard to tell from the outside, or until the first fight, that something is wrong. But perhaps I ignored or suppressed some gut instincts because I really wanted it all to work out. Months later, I would be forced to move again because I’d badly misjudged a situation.

The key to living well with roommates is just this: always communicate your needs and pick people you can communicate with. If you can’t communicate with someone easily, and everybody can be an adult about it when a problem arises, don’t live with them. Have regular housemate meetings, address problems and infringements quickly and in a matter-of-fact way, and treat shared spaces like you want others to treat it. Do not suffer in silence and expect people to hear you.

Decluttering, furnishing, moving

Decluttering. Moving is a wonderful opportunity to minimize and declutter. Everything is in flux and can be moved on to another owner, sold or finally thrown away. Not the stuff you love and need obviously – but the stuff that doesn’t serve you any longer.

If you’re in a digs situation and have a bedstead or a desk you don’t want anymore and that you think the next occupant might find useful, leave it behind. Don’t leave rubbish behind for others to throw out.

Sell some stuff to fund your move. Don’t expect that you’ll be able to sell for it’s nearly its original asking price. Facebook or Gumtree are good places to move items, but try to sell to your personal circle first. It minimizes the chances of fraud.

Look into local shelters or recycling centers that might be looking for second-hand items to support their causes. Oasis Recycling in Claremont, Cape Town is my spot and you can probably find local equivalents in your area.

Furniture. Simply decluttering only to go out and buy everything anew doesn’t help your clutter problem or your budget. It’s better to replace things slowly and as the need arises. Don’t leave behind or throw out perfectly good usable things because you want to completely redecorate.

It’s also good to have a process for how you’re acquiring new things into your life. For instance, I want a new dining room table for games nights. I will first source from what we have already or ask around to friends. If that doesn’t yield, I’ll look online for something suitable second-hand. If that fails, I’ll look to see if there’s a local crafts-person who can make me something customized at a good price. And finally, if all else fails, I’ll go to a furniture store to buy it new. It’s slower and requires a lot of patience, but this way good deals are found.

If you have the chance, go in to measure your new place or ask for measurements. Keep these written down somewhere when you’re hunting for new furniture or deciding what to bring with you.

If you’re on step two of acquiring new furniture, check out Decofurn for cheap furniture options.

Movers. We’re using Mzanzigo for our local move within Cape Town. I love the instant-quote page on their site that will tell you immediately how much your move will cost.

They quote this way because they are basically just a manpower and bakkie-hire service as opposed to a help-you-pack service. They will require you to pack yourself and be ready to load when they arrive.

For long-distance moves between South African cities, consider using the trains. I’ve moved my stuff across the country twice this way – though granted it was only a dozen boxes or so each way.

If you want to hire boxes rather than create a lot of cardboard waste, try Ecobox Rentals. If you want to find cardboard boxes cheap or free, just ask at grocery shops like Checkers and Pick and Pay.

Timing a move

Sometimes you don’t get to time a move, but it’s a great advantage if you can. Time allows you to gear up properly and make a good decision, to hold of until the right thing comes along. It allows you to be choosy about who you live with and what time of year to move. This can all save you a lot of money in the end.

We’re lucky to be moving in Cape Town’s ‘off-season’, before the influx of students and tourists for summer. Moving now while there’s a housing downturn also means good places are renting cheaper than before because more people are buying. Try Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree, and your local rental Facebook groups to look for vacancies.

If you’re struggling to find a new place in a new city, or just want some time to hunt around, or one lease is ending long before another lease starts, try using Airbnb as a temporary living arrangement. Many Airbnb hosts will negotiate a monthly lease (unless perhaps it’s peak tourist season) at roughly the same price as a normal long-term lease.

All in all, moving doesn’t have to be a traumatic, expensive experience. It can be a fun and transforming. Take your time with it and do your research, and good luck!


I’m not a financial adviser and this is not financial advice.

Article reposted with permission from Drawing Money.


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I’ve been a freelance artist in the film and animation industry since 2012 and I’m still alive! I am not a financial advisor nor am I legally enabled to give you financial advice. I’m a storyboard artist and a writer who’s made a lot of mistakes with money and consider myself well-read on the subject because I had to teach myself. The content on my blog is for educational purposes only and is my own experience and opinion and research.

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