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How Students Can Save Money When Moving to College

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Students have enough things to worry about—passing Organic Chemistry, pledging the right sorority, figuring out how to fit all their super-awesome stuff into a dorm room that must have been designed for elves. Confused thoughts about how to get their belongings from home to school may linger over their already exploding heads.

But before it bursts, they should stop, take a deep breath, and read our tips and suggestions to help get through this whole process with an A+ on their moving report card.

Many students might be living on a diet of Ramen noodles and the local dollar menu. As a result, you may feel that you don't really have too much extra in the piggy bank to cover things like moving expenses.

In cases like this, you may not be able to spring for the full service movers, but that's OK! How much will you really be needing to take with you?

Clear Out the Junk You Don't Need Anymore

Many people hang on to each and every item that ever came into their hands, but now is the time to figure out what can go. Make three piles as you go through your things: one pile for “Keep”, one pile for “Sell”, and one pile for “Give Away”. The give away pile could be items you think local charities or family and friends may like. Items in the “Sell” pile, you could spruce up and vend on eBay or Craigslist to make some more cash to cover moving expenses. And obviously, the last pile is stuff you want to keep and take with you. You also might want to go back through your “Keep” pile on a different day. When we look at items more objectively a second time, we most often find we aren’t as sentimental about certain items. That huge giant panda bear from a carnival that you attended with a boy whose name you can't even remember can finally be moved to the “Give Away” pile.

Wait to Take New Furniture

If you are getting any new furniture that is more “dorm” appropriate, you may want to wait until after the official moving day so you don't have to lug it home, then pay to have the movers haul it to your new place. Be sure to look around at different stores that sell items that work well in dorm spaces. Again, check sites that sell these types of items, and hit up yard sales ahead of time. Because students graduate every year, you may be able to find some steals to help you decorate and furnish your new place.

Take a Few Things With You Ahead of Time

If you are already enrolled and have access to your dorm, take some items with you each time you visit the school for events such as an open house. Also, find out ahead of time what furniture, if any, is provided by the school. Many schools supply beds and dressers, so you don't want to be hauling your own just to find out you don't need it. Is there a living room/kitchen space in your dorm or apartment? If so, find out if you are responsible for furnishing it. Make sure to ask the school what exactly you are responsible for providing and what will be provided. Keep in mind dorm apartments are generally smaller, and you will have a limited amount of space to store your items. You don't want to waste money purchasing items you won't even be able to take with you due to lack of space.

Check out Local Business and Look for Discounts for New Students

Many banks will advertise special offers for students, and sometimes have giveaway items for opening a new account. You will also want to consider something like an “Entertainment Book” for your new area, which will give you deals at all kinds of restaurants, stores, and events. If at all possible, look into this before you make your move.

Enlist Help

Your family and friends have been there for you through thick and thin, right? And if not, tell them they owe you. Enlist their help in packing up and giving away. The more friends who help, the more donated boxes you can receive. You can also get free boxes by following a few tips. Just do your best to make sure the boxes are sturdy, and as close to one standard size as possible, this will help when it is time to load the truck. You will want to get plenty of packing tape, labels, and markers to describe box contents. When it comes time to pack, do not use newspaper on glass or dishes, the print will rub off and you will just end up having to scrub everything before you put it away. Also, be sure to pack things like records and plates sideways, not flat—there is less chance of breakage. Clearly label each box as you go, and put a large star on the boxes you know you will need to open first.

Another thing to consider when enlisting assistance from your friends is food. Not only will feeding your friends show your appreciation, it will surely fill their stomachs that will have worked up an appetite while moving your belongings.

You will also want to consider if you will be driving your items all to school by yourself, or with friends. Do you have a couple buddies or family members willing to lend a helping hand? This would obviously save you money on the cost of renting a truck or van, especially if you don't have to take that much with you.

If you choose to take a moving van, and cannot enlist the help of your friends, you need to make sure you or someone available can drive it. If possible, you’ll want to rent a vehicle that is larger than you think you need. You don't want to have the stress of finding out it all doesn't fit, and now you have to make two trips.

Don't Pay for Packing Materials

Although your items are precious to you, you don't have to throw money around buying things like packing peanuts. Instead, work with what you've got. Look around. Grab some things like dishtowels, or wash cloths. T-shirts also work great to stuff between items or to wrap dishes. Also, keep in mind many movers charge by how much space you take up. If you are taking things like coolers or chests, fill them with other items. Be creative while keeping your items protected.

Renting the Truck

If you've determined this is the route you are taking, it's important to call several companies and compare costs. And remember, when asking movers important questions, there is never a silly inquiry when it comes to transporting your household.

Some Questions You May Want to Ask:

  • Do you offer a student discount?
  • How early do I need to book my move?
  • What's the cancellation policy?
  • Is a deposit required?
  • Does the moving company choose the size of truck I need?
  • Where do I pick up and drop off the truck?
  • Are there time restrictions?
  • How much does it cost daily?
  • What is the per-mileage charge and any other associated fees?
  • How old do you have to be to drive?
  • Can more than one person drive the truck during transport?
  • Must I refill the gas tank?
  • When do I pay?
  • Am I covered by my auto insurance?
  • What are the insurance options?
  • What happens if I'm not insured?


Another option to consider when renting a moving truck is finding someone from the school you are moving to that is moving back to your area. If he or she is coming back the same day, you could split the cost of the move—you pay there, he or she pays back. If you don't have a ton of stuff and your friend is relocating with you, rent a truck big enough for you both, and again, split the bill. These are things you could discuss with your truck rental agency.

If You are Moving Into an Apartment

Call ahead to get everything hooked and set up. It certainly isn't going to save you time or money if you arrive and don't even have electricity to efficiently and safely unload. This could also make you late returning the moving truck. Students moving into an apartment should call the local phone, electric, water and cable companies to get everything hooked up and ready to go for their move-in date.

Regardless of whether you are moving into an on-campus dorm, or an apartment on or off campus, the best thing you can do to save cash is plan ahead and be organized. Make a list of accomplishments and check them off as you go. Think how happy, relieved and relaxed you will feel your first night in your new place if you follow some of these simple suggestions. Go you! You can make this move with no problem.

Jodie Andrefski  Posted by Jodie Andrefski on January 24, 2013

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