By Lauren Shepherd, AP Business Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — It's time to start calling in favors, honing your truck-driving skills and stockpiling boxes for the move back to school.
Moving can be an expensive proposition, but there are ways to cut your costs and still get your things where you need them come autumn. By doing some research and using your imagination, you can even cut stress at the same time.
The bottom line is that renting a truck and moving yourself is likely the cheapest alternative, even if you have to bribe your friends and family with pizza and beer — and especially if you're moving locally.
The benefit holds up even in a longer move. Moving the contents of a studio apartment from New York to Chicago would cost about $690, including tax, for a 12-foot rental truck with unlimited mileage from Penske, the best deal among three major truck rental companies. Not included: gas or "incentives" for your helpers.
Hiring professionals to haul the same belongings the same distance would cost $1,000 or more, according to estimates from an online quote aggregator.
Best of all would be to split the truck rental with someone else moving the same place. Here are a few tips on how to get through your move with or without the help of your friends:
If you rent a truck and move yourself, bear in mind that the timing of your move can determine what you pay.
"For folks that are looking at truck rentals, I think flexibility is key," said Tim Johnson, managing editor of Relocation.com. "You're going to pay for your rental based on demand for rental trucks."
According to U-Haul spokeswoman Joanne Fried, nearly 45% of all moves occur between Memorial Day and Labor Day at either end of the month and on weekends. If you pick other times of the month or week, you stand to save and have a better chance of getting the truck you want, experts said.
Just remember to check whether your helpers can accommodate your alternate schedule.
Lose a Few Pounds
If you choose a full-service moving company — the kind that provides people to carry your stuff out to the truck and then drive it wherever you ask — it's likely to charge by weight. So the more stuff you have — especially heavy stuff like books — the more expensive the move.
For starters, Johnson recommends insisting on an in-home estimate to ensure it's accurate and finding out whether your moving company has a minimum weight requirement — usually about 2,000 pounds. That's about the weight of the contents of a typical studio apartment. If your stuff is lighter, they'll still move you, of course; you'll just have to pay for the minimum.
To keep weight down, Bed, Bath & Beyond Inc. spokeswoman Catherine Gentile also suggested buying household supplies when you arrive and knowing just what you need. Most college towns have a Target, Ikea or Bed, Bath & Beyond where you can stock up with the same items you would get at home. Bed Bath & Beyond offers a "Pack & Hold" service that allows customers to shop at a store near home and then pick up the items at a store near college.
Cutting your load will also let you rent a smaller truck, if you choose that route. U-Haul recommends a 10-foot truck with about 400 cubic feet of capacity for the contents of a studio or small one-bedroom apartment.
With the recession now in its second year and fewer people moving overall, many moving companies and truck rental agencies are offering discounts and special student rates. Xpress Movers offers students 10% off, for example, Michael's Moving & Storage in Boston is offering students moving locally a truck with two movers for $79 per hour with a two-hour minimum. Some alumni associations also offer discounts for students. Locally based truck rental companies often offer the best prices in a given market.
Among the Web sites that aggregate price quotes are www.movers.com, www.movingestimates.com, www.moving.com, www.usamovingcompanies.com and www.topmovingcompany4u.com.
Use Message Boards
A number of companies run online bulletin boards where customers can find used boxes or other people moving to the same destination. U-Haul, for example, runs a "College Connection and Military Connection" board where students and military personnel can find someone to share the cost of a rental truck or a storage room.
Recycle and Reuse
Most rental truck companies sell boxes and other packing material, but those costs can add up.
Instead of paying for boxes, call nearby grocery and liquor stores to learn when they restock their shelves. Most will be happy to give you their used boxes — just drop by before the boxes are broken down for recycling.
And instead of paying for bubble wrap and the like, try using towels, blankets and sheets for insulation material, eliminating the need for pricey bubble wrap and furniture pads. Johnson also recommends buying plastic crates for the move that can double as storage bins and shelving after you arrive.
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