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

Dining Out = Cost Savings?

This just can’t be my cheapest optionLast week was my first week in culinary school . Yea!

Right now I’m taking sanitation and soon I’ll be starting basic cookery classes. Sanitation isn’t the most interesting subject (even though it’s important) so the chef instructor likes to interject stories and commentary along the way.

He stressed the importance of dining out several times a week to gain experience and exposure to new ways of cooking. He wants us to try at least one new restaurant a week and even asks us every morning who went out to dinner. I understand why he gave us that advice; you won’t grow as much as a cook if you stick with cooking at home and never try other people’s versions.

One of the students in the back of the class said he would need to get a second job in order to afford eating out all the time. The chef smiled and remarked that eating out was actually cheaper than cooking at home.

Half the class looked confused (myself included) and he was asked to explain. He said that if you eat cheap fast food, take out, or at hole-in-the-wall dives you can spend less on food than if you cooked that meal for yourself at home. He used a hamburger as an example.

He reasoned that in order to make a hamburger at home he would need to buy more product than he needed. He couldn’t buy just one meat patty, one slice tomato, and one bun. He would need to buy a pound of hamburger, a whole tomato, and a pack of buns, all to get just one hamburger. Those minimum purchases result in excess and makes it more expensive than buying a $1.09 hamburger from a value menu.

This was an intriguing argument and it reminded me of the first time I made lasagna at home. I remember laughing when the bill for the ingredients came out to $30 when I could get a frozen pan of prepared lasagna for only $10. Mine may have tasted a ton better but it certainly wasn’t cheaper.

I see his point and agree that it is valid, assuming several things:

I fully agree that if I wanted to make dinners in single portion sizes that there would be waste and higher costs involved to cook at home. My single homemade hamburger would end up costing me over $5. That $1 fast food burger looks pretty good by comparison.

However, if you are cooking for more than 2 people or don’t mind leftovers, I feel cooking at home almost always wins out. I know that my food bill decreased dramatically when we started packing lunches, eating leftovers, and cooking at home almost exclusively.

After class I went up to him and said that although I understood the point he was trying to make I disagreed that eating out was always cheaper. I argued that buying/cooking in bulk, eating leftovers, and forgoing some variety actually made for a cheaper food bill.

If cooking large quantities of food from a planned menu wasn’t cost effective, restaurants wouldn’t be making huge sums of money. Right?

He agreed that economies of scale can be an “equalizer” and under those circumstances eating at home can be cheaper. He didn’t really seem convinced though. He said we would discuss it more towards the end of the course.

I guess I should start detailing real life examples for when we discuss it again. I want to be prepared to show the other side of the story if I get the opportunity.

A lot of the students in my class seem to be pretty young, maybe even fresh out of high school. I would hate to see any of them start picking up fast food everyday thinking it was the most cost-effective option for them.

Image Source: ebruli

I Buy It 1/2 Off Or You Toss It!

Now THAT’s a good chunk of Manchego!I just had to write a quick post about my grocery trip today!

I wanted to get some Manchego cheese for a Mexican bean soup I’m making this week, but specialty cheeses can be very pricey and I didn’t have room in the budget.

I chose to substitute Monterrey Jack instead, even though the spanish cheese would have been ideal for the soup. I love cheese and zesty Manchego has a wonderful nutty flavor. I enjoy snacking on shavings like I would a fine parmesan. But I digress…

When I was at the store this morning I decided to look at the Manchego anyway, to see if by chance it was reasonably priced. I was out of luck. An 8 oz chunk was over $8.50. Sigh.

I examined all of the blocks, trying to find a smaller (and cheaper) size and came across one pushed under a display. It was still 8 oz and $8.50, though. Then I noticed it said “sell by 3-14” on the label. I wanted to use it for dinner tomorrow so it would still be just fine for me.

I took note of the expiration dates on the other packages and they were all set for June. Bingo!

I called over the deli attendant and asked if they would discount the cheese for me. She looked confused, looked at the cheese, then said she would get her manager. When he came over I simply said that I’d like to buy the cheese for half off because the expiration date was in 2 days. He said that they don’t usually do that.

I said, “what are the chances that someone is going to come in here to buy this piece of Manchego in 2 days? Either I buy it half off now or you will have to throw it away.”

He looked at me, smiled, and discounted the cheese by half with a marker.

It was like a rush for me. I’ve never done that for cheese before! I got the specialty cheese I wanted for only $4.25 and they made a sale on something that would have been wasted. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Next time you are wanting something pricey and perishable, check out all the available items and see if any packages are within days of expiring. If you find one, put on your sweetest smile and ask for a discount! If the item is a speciality item that doesn’t move quickly you have an even better chance to negotiate a lower price!

Have you been able to score a deal on something expensive because it was close to expiring?

Save Me, CFLS!

Save me, CFLS!One of the first things we wanted to do after moving into the new house was switch out most of the regular incandescent light bulbs to CFLs.  Of course, other stuff got in the way and that goal became low priority.  That was until we got our first electric bill. 

The bill was $40 for 4 days worth of service!  I was shocked!  I was so taken aback that I had Eric call the Electric company to see if our meter was working correctly.  Unfortunately, it was. 

I panicked, thinking our bills would translate to $600 in the summertime.  But then Eric pointed out that we had almost every single light in the home going 24 hours a day.  The home was blazing!  We hadn’t moved in yet or been able to get an alarm system set up so we were leaving on all the lights to make us feel more secure.  We were still shaken up by the robbery that had happened just days before.  We started shutting off the lights and added CFLs to our Christmas wish list. 

It’s funny though – no one really wanted to get us practical things like CFLs or boxes of tile for Christmas.  I guess that’s about as fun to buy as underwear and socks.  Throughout the rest of December we didn’t change to CFLs but we were more conscious by turning off all lights we weren’t using.  We drifted into complacency, thinking the problem was just keeping on too many lights.

Then Saturday we got the bill for the first full month.  Again, shock and horror.  Woah – $200!  That was higher than our summertime bills in the old house and we haven’t even been using the A/C yet!  This was not looking good for my budget.  We simply MUST find a way to lower that bill.

Immediately, we went through the home and counted up all the bulbs we would need.  Brace yourselves.  If we were to replace every incandescent light bulb in this home with a CFL we would need:

That’s an insane amount of light bulbs for one home.  We knew that there is no need to replace all of the bulbs, just the ones where the CFLs would be most useful.  We eliminated the areas with intermittent usage – like closets, the half bath, and the hallways.  We also decided against changing out the 5 chandelier style bulbs in the dining room.  The CFLs look clunky in it and we rarely use it anyway.

We determined that the critical bulbs needed were 24 swirlys, 9 recessed cans, and 6 chandeliers.  We would focus on getting those first then we would work the other bulbs into the budget over time.  As of right now we have changed out about 20 bulbs.  It’s progress and that’s good.

My goal is to get the critical bulbs changed by February so the following month’s bill will be based on the CFL’s with the same cool weather.  That will be a good way for me to see how much the CFLs really help.

This just has to make a difference in that bill.  If not, we may have to revert to using candles!

Image Source: Dano

Get Your Doctors To Give You The Goods!

Free meds certainly make me happy!I spent most of my morning at the doctor today.  My asthma has been acting up for over a month now and I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I’ve been putting off going to the doctor (laziness?  fear?  I’m not sure) but it’s to the point where I can’t sleep at night and I’m draining all of my emergency inhalers.  I just couldn’t avoid it any longer.

At the beginning of this year our health insurance benefits changed slightly.  Our office and prescription co-pays stayed the same but now we are required to pay 10% of the cost of any bloodwork performed (up to $100). 

After puffing on a new cocktail of nebulizer meds and getting an injection in my hip of something that burned like crazy I was able to breathe fully again.  Whew!  To help me get over this flare up I’ve been prescribed a host of new meds.  It’s a bummer (I still have 2 months worth of the old meds left at home) but I’m hoping this new stuff will do the trick.  

I’ve been saving money by getting my long term meds in 3-month supplies by mail order.  Unfortunately, this time we are experimenting with new meds so I had to get them one month at a time at Walgreens.  There goes my medical budget for the month!  I paid $10 for the visit co-pay and a whopping $125 in prescription co-pays.  Asthma inhalers are pricey right now and generics are hard to find due to recent formula changes.  Blood was drawn during this visit, too.  I’ll have to add that 10% fee to the overall damage when I get the bill.  Sigh.

The good news is that despite being lightheaded from the steroids I remembered to ask three very important questions about the new meds he was prescribing me: 

By simply asking those questions I was able to get:

I also nonchalantly asked if I would need a prescription to get some replacement tubing/mouthpiece for my nebulizer and he slipped me a new set for free.  That was a big help because I would have had to go to a specialty medical store for that.  I totally scored.

So even though I had to spend over $125 in meds today I was able to get over $125 in freebies and discounts.  Just goes to show it never hurts to ask questions about your meds at the doctor’s office (even if everything else that happens there hurts).  You might be surprised at what you can save.

Man, that was one painful injection!  I’m gonna be sore for days, I just know it…

Image Source: Son of Groucho

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