If I were completely honest here, and they do say honesty is the best policy, I would tell you all about how awful the last couple of months have been and how I gave up my apartment because I wasn’t sure where I would land professionally, geographically speaking, and how now, almost a month into staying with a couple of different friends, I know where I’m working, but I haven’t found an apartment, yet. I’ll bet that would be a great excuse for not having posted new cheap ways to buy shiny things.
But excuses, whatever! You want to know about the cheap, so let’s roll!
This side up
There are a few things I can say that I know how to do without even thinking. Some things I have done so many times that I know just what to do where and how and for as cheaply as possible. Packing and moving sit squarely in the middle of that admittedly short list. (One of the other things is knowing how to make a great Cosmo. It’s a shame that I hate them.) Since packing to go to UNT (Still NTSU in my Freshman year), to finding a cooler and cheaper place to live during those school years, to hauling my behind up to NYC, dragging most of my worldly possessions, to the every few years find a nicer place to live syndrome since being up here, I eventually learned how to move on the super cheap, as in under $100 total. (local move, of course)
If you aren’t willing to do a lot of work, ie hauling, moving and carrying, and you don’t have fellow martial arts students willing to help you move, it is not cheap. (Yes, a couple of years ago, I was very lucky.) Frankly, if you want to hire people to move you, it will cost upwards of $800 for a small apartment, dependent on where you live, obviously. If you would like to do this inexpensively, well, I’ll give you my Gloria-pointers, and suggest you buy some of those heat patches for your back.
Packing: I won’t tell you how to pack and I’m not going to go all Martha Stewart on you and explain how to perfectly preserve the hand-blown Italian vase passed down from Aunt Florence. I will tell you how to make it as inexpensive as possible. You’ll need boxes, lots and lots of boxes. You can buy boxes, obviously. For a 1 bedroom apartment (more or less) you can pay about $189 at Uhaul, or the cheaper option is Home Depot for about $129 which includes tape and packing papers, etc. The problem, besides having to pay for it all, is not having enough boxes, or not enough of the right size, and too many of the giant ones. Ever tried to move a 3′x3′ box of books? Someone will get hurt, usually the schmuck who packed it, by the person who is trying to move it, so don’t do it.
I’m proud to say I have never paid for moving boxes. There are a few places to get free ones, but it’s all about timing.
Grocery stores are great places for boxes. My favorites are the banana and apple boxes. They’re sturdy, have a top and bottom, and are a great size for books, for instance. If you go in the morning (call ahead to find out the best time for your local grocery) they won’t have been broken down, yet, so you won’t have to tape them all back up.
Liquor stores won’t give you as many boxes, because they use them for customers’ purchases, but beer cases and wine boxes are good boxes for books, dishes, clothing, knick knacks, etc. Big enough to carry a lot, small enough to not weigh too much or over-pack and break everything.
Your local bars will also have boxes you can take off of their hands. Some places keep the beer cases to recycle the bottles, but it never hurts to ask. They usually get deliveries late morning or just after lunch, so call ahead and find out what day and time is best to get them. Most of the time, especially if they know you, they’ll be happy to hold onto a few boxes without breaking them down if you’re picking them up that day.
Here is an obvious, but largely untapped packing box source: Large apartment buildings. Most condo buildings have indoor trash/recycling staging areas. If you call the front desk, most likely they will allow you to see what is there. People are constantly moving in and out, so there will be a steady stream of moving boxes just sitting there waiting for recycling day. Also, in urban areas like NYC, for instance, many people get groceries delivered from Fresh Direct, for instance, and they’re delivered in, you guessed it, boxes! This means a few times a week, there are good-sized, sturdy boxes going into recycling. Just check them and make sure they’re clean and bug-free. I, for one, already have a cat and don’t want another pet (especially one with a few extra legs and a set of antennae).
You can also keep an eyeball on sites like Freecycle where you can give away some things you don’t want, get new furniture (well, used, but you know what I mean), and oftentimes, people list moving boxes to give away.
Now you have a veritable mountain o’ boxes. And Aunt Flo’s “hand-blown Italian” vase to put on the next mantle. Bubble wrap? No…we don’ need no stinkin’ bubble wrap.
I like bubble wrap, actually. Love to pop it, and it’s great to pack with, but cheap? Noooo. I use old newspapers. Newspapers also have the upside of being recyclable. Go to newsstands and they will have stacks of last week’s newspapers, usually local rags, to put out to recycle. If you ask nicely, they might just hand you as many as you like, and ta-da! Stuff to wrap that hideous old piece of — I mean, lovely heirloom, carefully and lovingly in.
Tape: don’t go too cheap on this. I got the dollar stuff once and it would hold onto my skin, but never hold a box closed. 3rd worst weekend, ever. Just get a couple of rolls of decent stuff from the hardware store, and you will be much happier.
Get out! No, really, time to get out.
Your place looks like a box factory, Miss Sweetpaws has turned into the Tasmanian Devil, and you’re eating out of plastic Chinese takeout containers and the microwave. You are so ready to haul assumed bootie to the new place. Unless you’re Atlas, you will want a truck. People you know who own trucks will miraculously disappear around now, by the by. Probably to go sell that truck and buy a Mini.
The cheapest place to rent a truck that I’ve found is Uhaul. $19.95 for any size truck, plus insurance, mileage and the gas you have to put back into it. A cool extra is that some of their locations offer a free storage room for one month with truck rental. I did a cross town move with about 10 miles total driving. Total truck rental, including the $5 gas I had to put in before I returned it, was $45 or so. A word of advice: the guys outside hiring themselves out as movers are probably generally alright and hard workers, just be absolutely clear how much they want for how much work and how long. If their English (or other language, depending on where you are) isn’t clear enough, write it down so they confirm it. A misunderstanding can turn $8/hour to 80 dollars, and it’s all down to communication.
It hurts so Go—d!
Ah! You have moved, unpacked, and even managed to accidentally drop that sinfully ugly made in Taiwan tourist junk that some clever vendor managed to foist off on gullible Aunt Flo during her trip to Italy. All is good with the world.
Except, you haven’t been able to move properly for a week. Muscles stiff? Still? Sounds like a case of outofshapeflabbybutticus.
There’s only one thing to do, right? Gym! Wrong. Gym is expensive. Gym can cost $75-$80/month. You might be able to get a YMCA membership cheaply, but what if you’re not near one? What to do? Wear long sleeves all year round? Wear the ubiquitous baggy fat-man shirt to hide the belly?
No! Work out on the cheap! But I don’t know the right exercises you say? I don’t ever exercise long enough or intensively enough to make a difference on my own you whine? Oh, quitcherbitching. This one is good. You know how you can pay $7.99 for unlimited movie streaming on Netflix? You know how if you have cable TV, like Comcast you have that On Demand service, or Hulu to watch TV shows and movies? Guess what, buttercup? They offer workout videos! Seriously, check it out. They have a wide variety of them. Yoga based, dance based, even manly weight training and kickboxing based videos. The coolest part is, if you’re shy or embarrassed about your lack of crunch or push up abilities, no one can see you but Miss Sweetpaws. She’ll laugh at you, sure, but who’s feeding her, huh? She’ll hide it if she knows what’s good for her. Prescription bland food all week for her!
For most of these workouts you’ll need some hand weights. You don’t need very heavy weights, because, and believe me, I know, doing 40 minutes of continuous strength exercises meant to increase endurance and strength using 20 pound weights ain’t gonna happen for most people. If you’re sitting there thinking “Yeah, I can!” I’ll bet you your form ain’t all that swinging, sister/brother/cousin. (These are the same people who insist on doing “proper” push-ups instead of putting their knees down, because that’s for sissies. Proper means going all the way down and all the way up without letting your butt drop, ya sissy. Do it the easier way until you are strong enough to actually do it properly.)
I like the rubber coated hand weights because they are easier on your hands. You can buy pairs from $4-$45, depending on size/type at places like Modell’s or Sports Authority. A much less expensive way to get a couple of sets (you’ll want a lighter and then slightly heavier set) is to either check on freecycle, or you can look for a used sporting goods store like Play it Again Sports. You may also find a local, small shop that offers trade-ins and used gear for sale.
Now, go sweat it out!
If you can afford it, sure, hire movers, or join your expensive, regional gym that offers swimming, classes, the newest gear and hot instructors to cheer you on, while you secretly hate them for their tight muscles and even tighter facial skin.
All kidding aside though! Okay, I never put that aside, but honestly, wouldn’t you rather save that $800-$1500 and the $80 monthly? Get your friends to help, offer lunch and beer afterwards, and it isn’t so bad. Unless, of course, you’re moving out of a place with M.C. Escher stairs: