Do-it-yourself moving might seem like a cheap way to relocate, but my recent “frugal” move actually cost more than hiring the pros.Earlier this month, I moved a couple of subway stops away from my very first apartment in New York, and I decided to tackle the move myself, with the help of three good friends–two of whom have standard-sized vehicles, a luxury in this city.
Since I had only moved to the city last year and didn’t own a lot of furniture, I figured the move would be an easy one.
Boy, was I wrong.
Here’s what I failed to seriously consider: I was moving out of a fifth story walk-up and into another fifth story walk-up. Also, my friends aren’t what you would call “seasoned movers.”
Because the move was carried out on a social level and not a market one–as it would have been if I had hired the pros–I felt compelled to carry most of my things, especially if they were heavy, down the five stories before my friends arrived.
Dan Ariely’s book, Predictably Irrational, describes this phenomenon when a daycare centre decided to make parents pay a fee for picking up their children late. The centre hoped the fee would discourage the tardy pick-ups, yet parents began retrieving their children even later than before the fee was imposed:
Before the fine was introduced, the teachers and parents had a social contract, with social norms about being late. Thus, if parents were late–as they occasionally were–they felt guilty about it–and their guilt compelled them to be more prompt in picking up their kids in the future. But once the fine was imposed, the day care centre had inadvertently replaced the social norms with market norms. Now that the parents were paying for their tardiness, they interpreted the situation in terms of market norms.
Areily’s concept explains the entitlement people feel when they pay for things, and the guilt that ensues when they don’t.
The problem with my move was that I was paying for it.
Since my friends were not available on the same day, I had to split up my move into three separate occasions. Now instead of taking a day or two to recoup, one day of moving exhaustion was quickly followed by another, making the few days of in-between recouping a waste of time.
Three days of moving also translated to three days of treating my friends to dinner to help pay for their generosity. According to hireahelper.com, I could have paid $150 for two movers and two hours of service from companies such as 3 Brothers Moving or Moving Upgrade, with each additional hour costing $50. For three days of dinner, I paid approximately $150 altogether, not including the physical exertion plus the time spent packing and moving.
The bottom line is that I did pay for my “zero cost” move with three different dinners and being extremely exhausted for several days.
From my personal experience, here are some things to consider before opting out of hiring the pros:
- Where are you moving?
- Do you have enough energy to pack up your stuff, load it, unload it, carry it and then return to work the next day?
- Can your friends move your belongings without hurting themselves?
- Have you compared the costs of recruiting friends versus quotes from three different professional movers in your area?
- Keep in mind that if you do enlist your friends to help you move, you’ll “owe them” for a very long time.
Before you move, remember to factor in all the hidden costs, even for something that appears to have none.
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