Without proper planning, moving can be an expensive and draining experience. But if you know what to do ahead of time, you can minimize any hidden costs, and keep the costs you can't avoid as low as possible, whether you're moving across town or across the country.

Regardless of the distance you're moving, there are a few key tasks to complete. Read on for some tips on what you'll need to do, and how to keep it from costing you too much.

Forward Your Mail
Forwarding mail is the easiest way to deter identity theft. There are two ways to forward your mail. Luckily, the United States Postal Service (USPS) makes both methods fairly simple, with both an on online method and an offline "change of address" form. To use the online method, a credit or debit card is needed, and a small processing fee will be charged. (To learn more about protecting your records, see Identity Theft: How To Avoid It.)

Change Your Address
Mail forwarding is only temporary. Also, mail that has to be forwarded will take longer to get to you, and things can often slip through the cracks. Changing your address with credit card companies, banks, investment accounts and any person or organization that sends you sensitive information is the next step.

Secure Important Documents
Keep them in a safe place during the move, both to ensure that they don't end up in the wrong hands and so you'll have them when you need them. Ideally, you should keep this box in your sight at all times, just like you would your wallet or purse. (For other ideas, see Keep Your Financial Data Safe Online.)

Budget for Moving Expenses
If you will be renting a truck, factor in the base rental cost, mileage charges, gas and insurance. The little things - like moving boxes and items for your new place - can really add up.

Startup Fees and Deposits
It's easy to forget about the service establishment fees and deposits you generally have to pay when you switch your utilities, because you pay them so infrequently. The water, trash, phone, cable, electric and gas companies may each charge you a fee when you move. Sometimes you can avoid these fees by providing a credit letter from a previous service provider showing that you had no late payments in the last 12 months. If a deposit is required, you will eventually get it back if you make all your payments on time.

In addition to budgeting for fees and deposits, you don't want to pay for utilities you're no longer using. If your move-out date is firm, go ahead and schedule utility cancellation before you get so busy with your move that you forget about it. Also, if you paid any deposits when you established services, ask for them back and use those old deposits to help fund your new ones.

Dispose of Large Items
If you live in an apartment, the cost to remove anything you leave behind will be deducted from your deposit. If you live in a house, heavy trash days may only occur a few times a year and will probably not magically coincide with your move date. Selling or donating large items can eliminate inconvenient dumping charges and damage deposit reductions.

Update Renter's Insurance
If you're moving from one rental to another, you'll need to update your policy, and if you're moving from a renting situation to an owning situation, you'll need to cancel. This is one area where you may be able to get some slack, though: cancellations can often be done retroactively. Also, your renter's insurance may cover your belongings while in transit, so chose your cancellation date wisely. (For more on renters' expenses, see Are You Ready To Rent?)

Track Your Expenses
Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to deduct moving expenses. If moving for employment reasons, the distance of the job and level of employment (full time or part time) can be determining factors. Consult IRS Publication 521 for further details. (For further reading, see Money Saving Year-End Tax Tips.)

Protect Against Moving Damage
If using movers, check their policy on damage to make sure you're satisfied with the coverage. Also, create an inventory of your belongings, especially high-value items, in case any items end up missing or damaged. For extra protection, see if your renters' or homeowners' insurance policy offers protection to your belongings during a move.

Also, if movers will be moving valuable antiques for you, consider having them appraised before the move. Being able to provide a written, professional opinion of the items' values will help you later, if you need to file a claim for loss or damage.

Cross-Country Moves
If your move will be taking you across state lines, there are a few additional matters to consider.

  • Switch Your Health Insurance
    If your health benefits will be changing, you'll need to set up new health insurance. While your existing policy will still cover you for a period of time after you move, health insurance plans and premiums vary by state, and you'll need to get a new plan with a company that operates in that state. (For more insight, see Introduction To Insurance: Health Insurance.)

  • Update Car Insurance
    Some companies only provide insurance in certain states, so you may need to shop for a new policy. If yours is a national company, a simple letter or phone call informing the company of your address change should be sufficient. Car insurance rates will often change when you move. (For related reading, see Shopping For Car Insurance and 12 Car Insurance Cost-Cutters.)

  • Switch Banks
    If your current bank doesn't have branches in your new area, start the switch now so you won't have difficulty accessing your money later.

The End of the Road
There's no question that moving is stressful and time consuming, but you can make the process a little less painful if you plan ahead to avoid the many unforeseen expenses involved in the process.

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