The Costs Of Bringing It All

Yet another great moving tip…My brother has been planning a long distance move that’s supposed to happen next month. Until I talked to my mother the other day, I had no idea how much it would actually cost him to move halfway across the country.

I figured it would probably cost a few thousand dollars when all was said and done. I was wrong.

By packing and loading a truck himself he’s saving some money, but he’s still having to pay someone to drive that truck long distance. He’s moved long distance before and the “load it yourself” plan was much cheaper then hiring a full-fledged moving company.

However, it’s been quite a while since that last big move and he’s accumulated a lot of stuff over the years. It’s easy to do after living in one spot for a long time. The problem is that hauling all that additional stuff means higher costs.

It’s now going to cost over $5000 to get all that stuff carried long distance in a moving truck.

On top of that, he plans to rent a UHaul to bring the items he doesn’t want to send with the movers, and he’ll haul one of his cars behind that truck. His wife will drive their second car.

When he arrives at his destination he won’t be ready to move in to a permanent residence. He plans on living with his in-laws for at least a few months (probably closer to 6 months) until he and his wife figure out where they want to move, and what they can afford for housing there (the cost of living will be higher in his new city of residence).

But, his in-laws don’t have any room for all of the stuff he’s bringing with him. This means he’ll have to get a storage unit for most of his furniture and belongings until he finds a new home. That’s 6 months worth of storage!

I decided to check some pricing on storage. I think based on the amount of stuff he’s bringing, he’s likely to need a storage unit that will cost around $400/month. Figure a 6 month time frame and you’re looking at about $2400 for storage alone!

There’s also the cost of gas to move across the country. He’s driving a small moving truck in addition to his wife driving a car, so it’s going to cost more in gas. He’ll also be towing a second car behind the truck, which is likely to negatively affect the gas mileage.

A quick Google search on MPG for a moving truck showed about 7-8 MPG. I’ll go with the lower estimate because he’s towing the car. The distance he’s traveling is ~1700 miles, so that’s 1700 Miles/ 7 MPG = ~242 gallons of gas. Ouch! At today’s prices (lets say $3.80 a gallon), he’ll be spending about $920 in gas for the UHaul!

So, just looking at estimates on the major expenses (not including the second car that his wife will be driving, snacks/food and lodging along the way), we’re potentially looking at:

That’s a total of nearly $10,000!

To make this move cheaper, I’d try to avoid moving everything.

If you were able to reduce the amount that had to be moved by half, that could potentially remove the need for a secondary truck, reduce the cost of the initial move (let’s say by a third but I’m not sure), and save on storage by being able to rent a smaller unit at the final destination. If you were able to sell a some of it before you left, you could save yourself a bundle AND earn a little extra cash!

Sometimes you just gotta let it go…Maybe you really like that sofa, but is it really worth the amount of money you’ll have to spend to move it and then store it? What if the new house is smaller due to the higher cost of living and you don’t have room? Could you get a new sofa after moving into the new house for around the cost you would have paid to move and store your old one?

In his case, most of the furniture isn’t new or very expensive. Some of it is sentimental (from a relative who passed), so I understand taking those items. But do you really need everything? The move might be a good chance to clean house.

I know it’s hard to let go of things and “downsize” and I’m concerned about bringing up this particular idea with my brother because I think he might feel defensive. I doubt many people would enjoy hearing that they might be better off financially by selling some of their belongings. I feel it’s still something to, at the very least, consider for a long distance move like theirs.

Melissa and I downsized our belongings considerably when we moved. We’re actually still doing that, reducing even more the clutter and unused stuff in our lives. I hope I can help my brother see things similarly. I know it will give him more peace of mind with the move as well as help them keep more money in their pockets while they make this transition.

Do you know anyone who’s had a similar situation? How did they save money during their long distance move?

Image Sources: Just-Us-3 and The Consumerist

Manage Rising Fuel Costs With Plastic

My feelings exactly!Gas prices have been out of control lately. Now that Melissa is driving to school everyday, our monthly gas costs have gotten much higher and our budget is feeling the pinch (or should I say punch).

We do have a plan for reducing our gas costs outside of the obvious suggestion of driving less.

First, using the Internet we can find the cheapest gas around. Personally I prefer Gas Price Watch. There is a good article with several options for finding cheap gas at Search Engine Watch. The article is a bit dated, but the few links I checked beyond Gas Price Watch still had some useful information.

Even though I like to confirm the information on the Internet, I know the cheapest place in our area already. There is a huge Mr. Car Wash nearby with a ton of pumps that uses cheaper gas prices to pull in more folks. I try to fill up at that location exclusively and judging by the traffic, I’m not the only one.

This location’s strategy relies on high volume and upselling with their car washes and oil changes (both heavily advertised). They even have unique gifts like local jellys and gifts inside the store. I bet they more than make up for the cheaper gas prices through these other services. This isn’t an issue for me as I generally won’t pay to get my car washed – it’s just too expensive – and I always pay at the pump so I avoid all temptation by not even going inside the store.

Another way we’re looking to save money at the pump is through our credit card. We have a Citibank Driver’s Edge card and get 3% back on gas and automotive purchases (as well as on grocery store purchases – our other big expense every month.) We took a while to choose our credit card and now it’s paying off. By transferring our Driver’s Edge rewards points to ThankYou network points, we can get rewards of $50 Shell gift cards.

Originally we wanted to use our reward points to get gift cards to chain restaurants so we could eat out without affecting our budget. These days we eat nearly all of our meals in as Melissa practices new techniques for culinary school. When we do get a chance to go out, we rarely want to go to a chain restaurant but instead want to try new and interesting foods.

Because we haven’t been choosing the same old restaurants (the only restaurants for which we can use our ThankYou reward points), we have a backlog of unspent points that will now be buying us gas. Even just one giftcard will make a noticeable dent in our monthly gasoline purchases. Short of changing to a motorcycle for a commute, I think this will be one of our best bets for helping our budget absorb higher gas prices in the short term.

So what are you doing to save money on your fuel costs? How has it affected your household?

Image Source: A_Siegel

Defensive Driving: My First Ticket

Awww man!I got my very first speeding ticket this week. 

I simply didn’t realize I was in an active school zone.  It was the furthest thing from my mind at that time.  I saw the sign as I drove in but 30 minutes and a vet appointment later I forgot about it.  With no schools/children in sight it never occurred to me.  I just wasn’t paying attention which isn’t like me. 

I had just left my 14 year old kitty at the vet for major surgery and got pulled over less than a minute down the road.  I literally had just turned out of the vet’s parking lot.  I honestly had no idea I was in a school zone.  I’ll probably be mumbling that all week.

The officer had already written the ticket and wasn’t going to consider a warning despite my clean history.   So now I get the pleasure of paying a hefty fine and taking defensive driving to keep it off my record. 

We were lucky that we got a bonus recently so we will use part of that money to cover this fine.  What a terrible and stupid loss of potential savings on my part.  The good news is that I have no prior tickets and I’ve never taken defensive driving before.  So that leads to my next dilemma:  What is the cheapest and least painful way to complete defensive driving? 

The Choices for Defensive Driving in Texas

Classroom
In my area, defensive driving classes take about 6 or 6 1/2 hours (minimum of 360 minutes required) and are commonly held at comedy clubs or restaurants.  They take place on a Saturday morning or the time is divided over two weeknights.  The cost is around $30-$40 (some include a meal or drinks).  

You are required to take quizzes to prove you are paying attention but it sounds like it is hard to fail these quizzes.  I hear some classes can be pretty funny while others are dry and all about forced participation.  This is probably the best option for people who just want to get it over with or who don’t have the ability to take (or lack interest in taking) a video or online course.

VHS/DVD
You can also take a defensive driving course by VHS/DVD or in some areas you can even order it through your cable service “on demand”.  Same rules apply with the minimum of 6 hours required.  You can watch on your own schedule and must complete the course in 90 days. 

With some services, the DVDs get to sent to your home and there is no need to send them back.  However, if you rent them from a video store you will likely have a rental due date (often 5 days) and you will incur late fees after that.  The cost of this type of program varies from $25-$40 (plus shipping in some cases).  You take your exams online or by using a touchtone phone.

Some examples of these VHS/DVD programs are: BustedDriver, TakeHome, and Wheels in Motion.

Online
Online courses are self-paced computer programs that take 6 hours to complete.  You can do the course in one sitting or as your schedule permits within a 90-day period.  I found the typical cost was between $25-$40 for online courses geared for Texas.  The formats differ in that some are mostly reading and some are mostly video/animation so you are bound to find one you can handle.  

They have online quizzes that you must complete to prove you have been reading/watching along the way.  Some can be timed even – when Eric took an online course it wouldn’t let him move ahead to the next screen until a certain time had passed.  That might be a little frustrating if you are a quick reader.  I guess they do that to help ensure that it takes the full 360 minute minimum to complete.

Here are some online defensive driving options that interested me:

Comedy Defensive Driving - says it requires “no reading”, is fully animated, and the website has a sample video.  It appears to be for Texas only and it costs $29.95 with their special offer right now.  It looks promising but I wonder if the animation and impersonations are entertaining or if it would get annoying after a while.  It’s probably still better than straight-up reading though.

I Drive Safely - This course uses text, video, and animation.  After watching the demo I get the feeling that this is what I’d expect from a non-comedy style course.  It seems straight forward and easy to use.  The course costs $39.95 and says it has 24/7 support.  Eric took this one and said it was “alright”.  It had been recommended to him and he had no complaints.

Get Defensive - this site claims to have the “lowest price allowed under Texas Law” at $25.  The animation on the website is kinda cheezy but it gets the job done I guess.  It appears they have affiliate programs for every state (prices vary by state).

Traffic School Online - This site seems pretty professional based on the demo.  For Texas it runs $30.  They also offer programs for many states.  I think this one looks good and the price is reasonable. 

What will I choose?  Online defensive driving appeals to me most because I can complete the course at my own pace and I’m already on the computer much of the day anyway.  I’d rather spend time on my computer instead of sitting in front of the TV.  The classroom style courses are probably just fine but spending 6 hours on a Saturday in a room full of strangers who don’t want to be there just doesn’t sound very fun to me.

I haven’t decided what online course to take at this point.  None of the programs listed above seem bad but I’m leaning towards the Traffic School Online or Comedy Defensive Driving programs.  I think I’m going to rule out Get Defensive even though it is cheaper because the animation was a little much for me.  If I’m gonna have to watch a program for 6 hours I think it is worth it to pay $5 more to make it more tolerable.  I Drive Safely looks very professional but at $40 I don’t know if it is worth it when there are decent alternatives at $30.  The ticket already is expensive enough!

Note:  Every state has their own guidelines regarding defensive driving – be sure to look up what is required by your state when researching defensive driving options.

Image Source: MikeSchinkel