How to move for $100 (© PM Images/Getty Images)

Moving is never fun. It can be an even more stressful experience when you're strapped for cash.

But if you don't have a ton of belongings to move, you can at least reduce the financial pain. In fact (dare we say it?), the $100 move is even within reach.

"The key to moving without a lot of money is realizing that in exchange you'll have to spend more time doing the things you might have paid someone else to do," says Donna Kozik, author of "29 Days to a Smooth Move."  

Your final tally depends, of course, on where you're headed and a couple of other details, but it's a goal worth stretching for.

Here's your brutally frugal moving to-do list, straight from the experts, with price tags attached:

Don't buy boxes. You can peel off plenty of twenties buying empty cardboard. But why bother? "One trick is to get moving boxes from liquor stores or drugstores; you can get a lot of free boxes that way," says Kazz Regelman, co-author of “How to Survive a Move: By Hundreds of Happy People Who Did and Some Things to Avoid, From a Few Who Haven't Unpacked Yet.” Liquor-store boxes are particularly strong because they have to hold heavy glass bottles. Regelman says to be more wary when you get boxes from a grocery store: "They're not always fresh and clean."

Other places to look:, where people advertise stuff they're giving away, and the free section of Craigslist.

Cost: Zero

What's your home worth?

Don't blow it on bubbles. Bubble wrap and other packing materials are pricey. "Use blankets, towels, sheets and comforters to wrap larger breakable items, or items that you do not want to get scratched," says Martha Poage, author of “The Moving Survival Guide: All You Need to Know to Make Your Move Go Smoothly.”  Used or leftover gift wrap and plastic grocery bags make great filler in boxes, Kozik says. Save newspapers from your recycling bin for packing material — but choose wisely what you wrap in them; the ink will smudge on dishes, for instance.

Again, check sites such as Craigslist for people who may have just moved and want to get rid of moving materials, such as extra rolls of packing tape, for free. Otherwise, be prepared to spend about $8.50 for a three-pack at a place such as Home Depot.

On our blog, 'Listed': Housing issues top reasons for moving

Cost: Zero to $8.50 (depending on whether you need to buy your own tape)

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Lighten your load. One of the biggest ways to save on moving costs is simply by not moving stuff, Regelman says: "The less you can move, the less you pay."

She suggests selling big furniture before you move and using the money to buy new stuff when you get to your new place. "When you're young, it's probably not the most high-quality furniture, anyway," she says, "which brings us to the age-old maxim for all ages in life: purge, purge, purge."

Items in decent condition that you don't sell but that you don't want to move can be picked up by the Salvation Army or other charities. It's an all-around win, Regelman says: The unwanted furniture is whisked away at no cost to you; someone else benefits; and you can actually take a tax write-off for your donations.

Ask in your area for charities that make pickups.

Cost: Zero (In fact, you may pick up a few bucks here, short-term.)

Swear off storage units. Don't think storage units will save you money, Regelman says. Just because you're not moving these items — and they're out of sight, out of mind — doesn't mean you're not paying. You'll likely end up spending a few hundred dollars a month to store a $200 piece of furniture. You're better off getting rid of stuff before a move.

Cost: Zero

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Start early. Start planning your move as early as possible. "If you start at the last minute, for sure you'll move more stuff and junk," Regelman says. "Haste makes waste."

When you don't have money, however, you might have time, Kozik points out. "That now becomes your most important resource. And so you have to use it wisely."

How? "Think about the projects you have to do before you move, and make a time budget," she says.

Go room by room and think about what's involved to get each room ready to go — packing and labeling of boxes, cleaning, etc. Make sure you plan adequately for cleaning, since you won't have money for a cleaning service and you likely need as much of your security deposit back as possible, Kozik says. The author recalls once unexpectedly spending hours trying to scrub apple-pie splatters from the walls of the oven. has this handy planner where you can save all your important to-dos. ( is an MSN Real Estate partner.)

Cost: Zero, if you're already well-stocked on cleaning supplies; otherwise assume about $20 for cleaning supplies. (This Simple Green starter kit retails for $19.96 at Wal-Mart and includes one bottle each of all-purpose cleaner, stainless-steel cleaner and carpet cleaner, along with a pack of wipes and a cleaning towel. You can have it shipped to your nearest store at no cost.) Borrow items such as brooms and vacuums if you don't already own these.

Use, don't lose, friends: Friends can be your biggest asset for a cheap move. But you've got to be careful not to alienate them; good friends are more important than a move. Here are some tips:

  • Accumulate karma. Help others with their moves or household projects, so that when it's your moving day, people will actually want (or at least feel obligated) to help.
  • Recruit an army. "The more friends you can get there, the better, because the less each of them has to do — and their muscles will be less sore," Kozik says.
  • Be prepared. An army is useless – not to mention frustrated — if it's just standing around. Be organized: Have all of your belongings packed and ready to move before friends arrive, so the work can begin immediately. Borrow or rent labor-saving devices such as dollies to make the job go faster and with less strain. Renting a dolly at U-Haul costs $7 to $12, depending on its size and whether it's a one-way rental. (You also can check Craigslist for rental of dollies and other supplies.) "The easier you make it for them, the more they'll appreciate you," Kozik says.
  • Feed the masses. The experts say the old pizza-and-beers payment is still a pretty good way to show your thanks. But there are other things you can do, too: Make sure there are plenty of refreshments for people on moving day. And invite everyone to a simple housewarming party once you've moved into the new pad.

But for all that, "Nothing is as high a payment as a sincere thank-you," Kozik says. 

Cost: $49, which includes about $20 for three medium Pizza Hut pizzas (a deal: three for $5 each, plus tax and tip), two six-packs of beer for $14, a six-pack of soda for $5 and an additional $10 to rent a U-Haul dolly.

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Borrow a truck. "Dirt-cheap moving takes ingenuity, contacts and a guy with a truck," says Poage, who adds that she frequently got men with trucks to help her move (until she eventually married a guy with a truck).

If you're not moving too far, and can move in a few trips, use a friend's van or truck.

Cost: $26 to $52 for gas. Nationally, gas prices were $2.61 per gallon in early July. The majority of U.S. moves are within the same county, and even the bulk of inter-county moves are less than 50 miles, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. So, let's say you drain your friend's 20-gallon fuel tank and then refill it. You'd spend $52.20. More likely, you'd use only half a tank if the truck you borrow gets the average 23 mpg (the 2009 requirement for carmakers' fleet of small trucks). That would bring the total down to $26.

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Finally, save the paper."Many times moving is a tax write-off, which will give you a little more green come April," Kozik says. So keep all those receipts. Call the IRS at 800-829-3676 or visit and request Publication No. 521, titled "Moving Expenses."  In general, to write off your move it has to pass three tests: The move has to be work-related; it has to be to a place at least 50 miles away from where you live now; and you have to work at least 39 weeks of the following 12 months. Got a lot to move for work, and a long way to move it? You could save thousands. Learn more about the requirements here.

Cost: Free

And there you have it — as long as you're willing to supply the elbow grease, the ingenuity and the time, in many cases you can drive down the cost of your move to just a handful of expenses.

Now get to it — that bed isn't going to walk itself to that new apartment.

Grand total: $103.50, including packing tape, refreshments for friends, renting a dolly, a half-tank of gas and cleaning supplies. Of course you could offset your move's costs even more by selling belongings or getting tax write-offs (or just having friends who eat less).