You Better Shop Around
The first error in judgment I made was my worst one. Everything else that went wrong happened because of it. I didn't create a budget. I'd just found my dream job in New York City, which meant that I'd have to pack up my bags and leave Los Angeles. So, I hopped on my favorite message board to ask people who'd made the same move how much they'd spent. People estimated $3,000, and since the company offered to pay for my move up to $3,500, I thought I was in great shape. I was wrong.
Packing up my stuff and changing cities required a few key decisions. The first thing I had to decide was whether to use movers to pack up my bags here. At the time, thoughts of my new job and my new life distracted me, so I hurried my choice. I received an estimate that struck me as fair, $800 to pack up all my stuff and $2,000 to move it to New York. That left me some room in the budget, so it seemed fair.
Only later did I discover that I should have shopped around. There are literally dozens of moving companies in most major cities. By getting a lot of estimates, I'd have learned that my quote was double what some other movers would have accepted. Plus, there were hidden fees I didn't even understand.
Check the Fine Print
When the movers arrived, they didn't bring a dolly because they expected me to have my own. Did you know that there are different kinds? I had to rent three: an appliance dolly, a furniture dolly, and a utility dolly. Plus, they told me to get furniture covers as well. In total, I had to pay $75 more simply because I didn't know what the movers would bring. Some rental companies apparently add these items for free. Always ask to avoid these surprise expenses!
That wasn't my only problem with the movers, though. I didn't ask enough questions about how payment works. Once the two people had loaded everything on my truck, they looked at me expectantly. Tipping wasn't covered in the initial payment, and they expected $40 each! They said 10 percent of the total payment was fair, something I later realized was untrue; $40 for both of them would have been a great tip!
I also made a mistake with my car. I didn't want to drive it across the country for four days. It's a distance of 2,800 miles with 10 hours of driving each day. So, I paid the movers to do it. That was the ultimate gouge. They charged $1,000 to transport my car, which was more than the cost of packing my stuff. It was also double the price of my $500 plane ticket. Unfortunately, I'd already paid for my flight before I discovered the cost.
The biggest shocks didn't occur until I reached New York. I was so excited about my new life that I failed to consider I'd arrived before my stuff did. I had to pay $250 for residence at an extended stay hotel while waiting.
Packing But Not Unpacking
When my belongings finally joined me in the Big Apple, there was another twist. The movers only paid for packers on one coast. I was responsible for unpacking all my stuff at my new home. I was already way over my $3,500 budget, and all my worldly possessions were still stuck on the moving truck!
I paid a new set of movers another $750 to unload the truck. There was still another pair of surprises remaining, though. I'd forgotten to mention to them that I own a grand piano. They curtly informed me that they'd charge $600 to carry it upstairs. I was now $2,500 over budget on a move I foolishly thought would cost me nothing.
All in all, I paid over $6,000 for a move I expected to cost half that. If I had it to do all over again, I'd have researched everything and haggled about every detail. Instead, I'm completely broke during my first few months in New York City, so I can't enjoy my new life. I hope that you learn from my mistakes.