If you’re getting ready to go to college in a few weeks, you’ve probably figured out that college is very expensive! Besides tuition and books, one of the first expenses you’ll have to contend with is everything associated with moving to college. If you’re not careful, moving and getting set up at school can put you in a financial bind before you even go to your first class. It doesn’t have to be that way, however. If you plan, you can get yourself established in your dorm or off-campus apartment without putting much of a dent in your savings account. Here are six tips to help keep your college move-in costs low.
1. Make a Plan and Scout Ahead
Before you spend a penny on furniture or school supplies for college, determine what you need exactly. Start with a list of everything you think you’ll require for your living accommodations at school. If you attend orientation or check your college’s website, you may be able to find some helpful information as you prepare the list. Then, once you find out where you’re going to live on- or off-campus, find out what’s there already. In some cases, your new college digs may have all the furniture and household items you need. After you scope out your future living space, modify your list, removing anything that’s already in place that you won’t need to buy.
2. Get Thrifty
Once you determine exactly what you need, start searching for bargains, starting with your big-ticket items. Check bulletin boards and Craigslist postings in the vicinity of your school. You’ll likely find great deals on furniture and other household items from departing students. Local thrift stores are another great place to find heavily discounted furniture, as well as basic household items such as glasses and utensils that you might need. Tag sales and local flea markets are worth perusing, too. Throughout your search for household goods, your goal should be to find the cheapest, most serviceable items that you can live with for the next four years.
3. Share the Costs
Another great way to keep your college move-in costs low is to share them amongst a larger group. If you’re going to have a roommate or roommates, try to identify who they are as soon as possible. This is especially important if you’re going to be living off-campus. You can all discuss who’s going to pay for what utilities, or if you’re all going to use an app such as Venmo to divide the bills. You may also want to discuss chipping in for furniture that you’ll use together, or materials to build lofts. Regardless of how you do it, dividing your expenses with your roommates is a great way to lower the move-in costs you’ll incur when you arrive at college.
4. Get a Job with the School
Another way to lower your move-in costs at college is to work for the school you’re attending. If hired, you can lower your college housing costs. For example, many schools provide free or low-cost housing to students who are residential assistants (RA’s) and often give them free or discounted meals as well. Other jobs, such as working as a lab assistant or in some other capacity at the college may help lower your move-in expenses as well, so make sure you do your research.
5. Learn to Cook
If you live off-campus or are otherwise responsible for your meals, eating out for two or three meals each day can end up being a major expense. If you want to get the most out of what little money you have, forego restaurants and learn to cook instead. Shopping for your food and preparing it yourself will save you some serious money each month. If you have a slow cooker or Instant Pot, you can prepare multiple meals to last you the week with little to no effort, too. Additionally, packing a brown bag lunch and skipping a trip to the cafeteria can help you cut down on out-of-pocket expenses and keep your move-in costs low.
6. Embrace Campus Life
You’re already paying a lot to go to college, so ensure you make the most of it and take advantage of the free and low-cost services your college offers. Most colleges will have a tremendous amount of complimentary or low-cost student services, such as local transportation shuttles, urgent care clinics, or commuter lounges with free coffee. Take advantage of these services, since you’re already paying for them! Additionally, nearly all colleges have a plethora of social activities and events every day, and many of them are free. Before you pay out of pocket to do something fun elsewhere, see if you can do it free on campus.
While the college experience is expensive, moving in doesn’t have to be. So, if you’d like to save a little money as you begin a new adventure on campus, consider the tips offered here and keep your college move-in costs low this fall.