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Moving on a Low Budget: 7 Tips to Move With Little Money

Posted Moving Tips / October 15, 2021

Contrary to local and cross-country relocation, international moving on a low budget seems almost like mission impossible. Keep in mind that relocation costs can sometimes amount to over $10,000. If you are short on money or go by the saying A penny saved is a penny earned, that can pose a problem. But don’t be frightened so easily! If you’re serious about your decision to move, know that we have all the tips to make your relocation cheaper.

Many factors can impact the final cost of relocating overseas, such as the weight (or the volume) of your belongings, the distance between the country of origin and destination, services you’ll use, time of the year, and so on. However, the expenses can still be reduced before the relocation day comes. And we are here to show you how.

# 1 Choose a Country With a Lower Cost of Living

If you’re not relocating to another country for love or a job, take advantage of the possibility to pick the next place where you’ll live. Do your research on housing/renting prices, utilities, transportation, and grocery costs. Soon you’ll see that there are some magnificent places worldwide that can offer you what you’re looking for at much more acceptable prices. Maybe a move to France will be more than you can financially bear, but know that relocating to Portugal can provide you with a rather affordable cost of living.

Don’t Forget the Double Taxation Policy

If you are relocating from the US, know that you will be obliged to pay double taxes for your old and future country. And while some countries don’t recognize income taxes (such as Monaco or the United Arab Emirates), it’s still a financial burden you must consider. However, keep in mind that tax deduction is possible in some cases. Before it’s time to submit your tax return, find out if there is a way of saving by deducting your US taxes.

# 2 Pick the Right Visa

Depending on the country and visa category, visa expenses can go anywhere between a few hundred to a couple of thousand. Make sure to contact the country’s embassy or consulate and ask about the visa type most suitable for you and all other documents needed to travel abroad. However, remember that in most cases, categories intended for visitors are a lot cheaper than more permanent visas, such as work ones. If you work as a digital nomad, you can always apply for a tourist visa first and then extend it after it expires.

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# 3 Select Relocation by Sea, Not by Air

Even though international moving by air is a lot more convenient, safer, and faster, international moving by sea will always be the more affordable option, even if expenses still may vary (depending on destination and alike). Keep in mind that the best international companies use ports all around the US and in many countries abroad.

When choosing to relocate by sea, you will be presented with two options to pick from – Full Container Load and Less-Than Container Load. With the former, you will have a container designated only for your belongings. For that, you’re expected to pay a flat price no matter the weight of the volume of the shipment. With the latter, you will share the container space with other people, making it less convenient and safe but potentially cheaper. We say potentially because the price of this service is determined by the square footage your shipment takes. If you have a lot of belongings, sometimes it will be cheaper to go with FCL. If you are not sure which one to choose, don’t hesitate to contact the company and ask for their opinion.

# 4 Pick the Best International Moving Company

While cross-country relocation can be stressful without hiring movers, relocating across the world is almost impossible without an overseas moving company. That is, of course, if you are not planning to move with just a suitcase and a couple of boxes. Otherwise, the amount of relocation stress you will be exposed to will be unbearable. There are just too many technicalities to think of and regulations to follow for you to do it alone.

However, in order for your relocation to end successfully, the company you choose must be a legitimate and trustworthy one. Otherwise, you’ll end up paying more than what you initially thought you would. Be aware of scamming companies that will attract you with seemingly low relocation costs, only to end up charging you a lot more at the end. Checking their license and insurance on the FMCSA website is the first step in assuring yourself that a company is reliable. You also need to check reviews and recommendations and schedule in-home estimates with different companies. Only after all that work can you choose the relocation team and be sure that you’ve made the best decision.

Should I Hire Movers for Packing and Other Additional Services?

The most obvious answer to this question will be no because additional services mean additional costs, even though they are there to help you move efficiently. However, with international relocation, it might be worth the expense. Consider:

  • Packing services – opting for DIY packing and letting your friends help you will undoubtedly save you a certain amount of money. However, some countries demand relocation companies to vouch for packed items. That can’t be done if their workers haven’t packed them themselves. Also, always remember that professional packers know all the best ways of wrapping and boxing up.
  • Overseas vehicle shipping – you can either decide to sell, drive, or ship your car with you. If you’re relocating to Canada or Mexico, for example, driving to the destination will be the cheapest option. However, for other locations, you may need help in the form of car shipping services. Still, don’t forget that many countries demand expats to pay customs for imported motor vehicles.
  • Storage services – if you chose short-term accommodation or your new home isn’t ready yet, storing your belongings in a storage unit will be the best solution. Remember that some relocation companies can offer you to utilize storage units for a certain period for free. It’s an exceptional offer if you are moving on a very low budget.

When Is the Right Time to Move?

Did you know that you can save up a lot if you are careful with choosing the relocation date? Most relocations happen from May through September. Higher demand produces higher costs of relocation in general. That is also the case with moves during holidays because that is when fewer movers are available. When you’re moving on a budget, make sure to pick a date off-season, if possible.

The same goes for travel arrangements. When relocating internationally, flying to your new home is more than a common way of transportation. Still, air tickets to specific destinations tend to be more affordable outside of the tourist season. Also, it would be best if you could wait for discounts or promotions on certain flights. It will allow you to buy a ticket for a much lower cost.

# 5 Find Cheap Packing Supplies

Relocation supplies don’t come cheap, especially if you have many breakables and valuable objects that need to be appropriately and safely packed. Using materials such as packing paper, bubble wrap, and boxes with dividers is necessary for those items. However, for others, it might not be the case. Try visiting department stores near your home. They can offer you new boxes for more than reasonable prices. You can also visit Used Cardboard Boxes if you are looking for cheap supplies and have “saving the environment” high on your list of priorities. And the best part is that they offer free shipping!

Can Some Moving Supplies Come Free of Charge?

All of your old rugs, blankets, linens, and the like can be used as suitable wrapping and padding materials. And they won’t cost you a cent!! Just be careful not to use them for valuables and delicate objects. On the other hand, there are many places where you can get free boxes, from your friends’ houses to local grocery stores that have many to spare. If the money is tight, this is an excellent way of saving some.

# 6 Don’t Bring Things You Won’t Use

We already mentioned that the relocation price is determined based on inventory weight or volume, among other things. That means that the less you pack, the more you’ll save. When deciding what to pack, go for only what you absolutely need. Be especially careful when relocating books, appliances, and furniture, which are exceptionally heavy.

If you’re planning to rent a place, try to find out about the country customs concerning renting. In some countries, renting a furnished home is common. If that is the case with your move, bring only the necessary furniture and appliances. As for everything else, try applying a one-year rule. If an item or an object hasn’t been used for more than a year, don’t bring it. Instead, help those in need by donating. You can also try selling some unwanted things and earning some money. If you need tips on how to do it, watch the following video:

# 7 Avoid Unnecessary Customs When Shipping Overseas

Get to know the country’s restrictions before shipping your things. Find out which items will pass custom control without additional fees. If you plan to relocate something that will bring you additional costs, think carefully if it’s worth it. Remember that some countries have pretty weird restrictions. Are you relocating to Singapore? Know that chewing gums are banned from this country. And if you are relocating to Saudi Arabia, for example, make sure not to have more than one Bible in your possession.

A Few More Useful Tips to Save Money

Although the following suggestions are basically common sense, mentioning them won’t do any harm. Consider:

  • Searching for cheaper housing accommodation in the new city – try relocating a little bit further from city centers and visit some home-sharing sites. There are plenty of expats and locals who would be glad to share their living expenses with you.
  • Asking your employer for reimbursement – if you are relocating for work, one of the questions to ask your employer is if you are entitled to a relocation package. It can help you with relocation costs as well as accommodation in the first few months of your move. Also, if you are relocating without a job, try applying for some positions even before the move. Just remember that you should point out the exact date by which you will be in the new country.
  • Taking care of your pets before the move – check the country’s requirements regarding animals if you are relocating with pets. Make sure that your furry friend is vaccinated and has passed all the health checks. That way, you’ll be confident that additional fees won’t surprise you after relocation.

Get Prepared to Organize Moving on a Low Budget

Now that money isn’t such a big deal, it’s time to create a relocation checklist for all that endless organizing and planning. Still, it should be easier now that you have an idea of what a move to another country on a low budget should look like. If you have any doubts, don’t hesitate to contact your overseas shipping company and solve them. And as for learning how to live in another country, try finding different expat communities online. No one can teach you how to adjust to a new country and deal with culture shock better than people who have already gone through it. Don’t be afraid of asking for help – it will allow you to have an entirely successful move in the end.


Milly Andrews

Born and raised in Portland, Milly has had a lot of experience moving and writing about the relocation process.

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