Your college years usually involve a number of moves: First, you move from your parents’ home to a dorm; then, in your upperclassmen years, you might want to move into an off-campus apartment. In between, each summer usually involves boxing things up. After graduation, you’ll need to move again. The costs associated with moving in this relatively short period of time can add up quickly.
You can bring moving expenses down with proactive planning. Learn some moving hacks, do some research, get some help, and you’ll save yourself some cash. Here are tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.
1. Be selective
Before you move, you should definitely invest some time in downsizing. Consider the likelihood that some of your possessions may not be worth taking to your new place.
- Go through your clothing. Donate, give away, or sell anything you don’t wear anymore or that no longer fits.
- Sell old textbooks. There are plenty of avenues to resell books you’re finished with: your campus bookstore, online resale sites — or even standing outside the class you’ve finished as the next semester starts and asking if anyone needs the same book(s).
- Evaluate your furniture. If you have inexpensive furniture you picked up secondhand or for free, ask yourself: Is it worth transporting? If you decide it’s not, then you can donate, sell, or give it away.
Bottom line: The less you need to move, the cheaper the move will be. Even if you’re doing the moving yourself, a lighter load will save on gas (avoiding multiple trips!). It can also make the difference between using your own car, renting a U-Haul, or hiring a professional mover. If you’re moving a long distance and need to hire a mover, they typically charge by the pound.
2. Pack smart
Evaluate your new space to determine how much room you’ll have, so you know your limits when you’re packing. Make a list of the basics and essentials you’ll need. You can always add any niceties once you’ve settled in. Integrate these tips into your packing process:
- Reuse containers. Move toiletries and shower shoes in reusable and space-saving bins.
- Know your bedding size. Verify the size of your bed where you’re going. (Many dorms use twin XL mattresses.) Then pack two sets of correct-sized bedding and towels.
- Pack clothing by season. You don’t need winter and summer clothes at the same time, so pack only for the current season. You can always swap out clothes during holiday breaks and between semesters.
- Keep clothes on hangers. Transport hanging clothes in garment (or trash) bags for simplicity and to save space. The bags lie easily atop a stack of boxes. This also makes for easy unpacking.
- Conserve cushioning. No need to pay for bubble wrap if you don’t have to. Use towels and bedding to cushion breakable items instead.
- Coordinate with roommates for shared items. For many needs, a single item can serve everyone, so divide up the responsibility. For instance, one roommate can bring a TV, the other a microwave, etc.
A word on moving boxes: You don’t want to waste money on boxes if you can avoid it. For possessions that cannot be stored in space-saving containers, get used cardboard boxes. Free boxes can usually be found at grocery stores, liquor stores (very sturdy, and perfect for books), storage facilities, warehouse stores, and recycling centers. Additionally, you can scan local community forums, Freecycle, or Facebook groups for people who have recently moved. Chances are, they’ll have boxes and packing materials they’re willing to give away.
3. Ask friends for help
Ask friends for help when moving day arrives — especially those who have a truck for hauling or the muscle to do some heavy lifting. Make it a party! Pizza and beer are way cheaper than rental or moving fees, so be sure to keep your helpers well fed. And, of course, return the favor when it’s their turn to move.
4. Make price comparisons
Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and spend money on a rental van or moving company, depending on what you’re moving or where.
- Rent a vehicle. U-Haul is the option most think of first; but if you’re staying local, you can check out hourly vehicle rentals at hardware and big-box home-improvement stores.
- Hire a helper. Someone who offers moving services as a side hustle is usually an affordable option. Check Craigslist, community forums, or Groupon.
- Research moving companies very carefully. There are a lot of scams out there you want to avoid. And even among companies that are legit, quality of service varies widely. Check online reviews to find movers who can strike a balance between being economical, careful, timely, and affordable.
- Always compare estimates. If you do need to spend the money on a mover, get a minimum of three estimates from different providers before choosing. And remember: Cheaper isn’t always better. If you use an unethical company whose workers break, lose, or steal your belongings, it could end up costing you much more in the end.
5. Explore insurance options
If you’re making a long-distance move and need to ship your possessions, or if you’re planning to put some belongings in storage, consider purchasing moving insurance for them. Insurance costs are usually nominal because the risk is pretty low, but it can make a huge difference in resolving issues or recouping losses if anything bad happens during the move.
6. Learn to be frugal
Both before and after your move, learn how to live frugally. This ability will serve you well, both in your new place and in the long run. Try integrating these tips into your habits to save while setting up your new household:
- Set a budget. Devising a realistic budget, sticking to it, and knowing you can cover your expenses each month can bring you peace of mind, which is priceless.
- Be creative with furniture. Always consider the viability of getting furniture free or secondhand. And try to make furniture serve dual purposes wherever you can (a coffee table that offers storage, or a table that can double as a bench, for instance).
- Economize on meals. Stick with staple ingredients, shop with a list in hand, and definitely learn how to cook!
- Have fun on the cheap. Skip the cable and opt for a streaming service instead. Consider inviting friends over for game or sports nights. And revisit the lost pleasures of reading a book.
Moving into and setting up a new home can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to break the bank before you even spend a night there. Consider these money-saving strategies and, by the time you’re finished with all your moves in college, you’ll be a pro.