With the cost of higher education constantly in the news – and rarely in a “woo-hoo, what a great value that is” kind of way – college students may be more aware than ever of the need to save money. If you’re a new high school graduate heading off to college in the fall, you have my condolences. When I was in your shoes, I got my education in college finance from Winona Ryder’s character in “Reality Bites.” (Watch it. I did that. It didn’t go well.)
In all seriousness, the student debt you amass today is going to be a pain in your assets well into your thirties, and maybe beyond. It’s critical to save money, and unless you’re planning to study finance the strategies you come up with to save may be the most applicable part of the education you’re about to receive. (Aside from postmodern art theory, of course.)
The saving effort can begin right now, while you plan your move to your soon-to-be college of choice, by planning a group move instead of going it alone.
What is a group move?
First, let’s take a page from Economics 101: “volume improves efficiency.” If you make one wooden doll and sell it, you have to recoup all your costs from that one doll to break even. If you make a million dolls, you streamline processes and spread your overhead out over many, many units, making the production of each individual unit more efficient and less costly.
The same concept applies to moving. If you put yourself and a duffel bag in your car and drive from Boston to Southern California, you’ll spend only marginally less than if you put yourself and somebody else – and a packed to the gills load of stuff – in your car and drove from Southern California to Boston. (Besides, you’d end up in Boston, which would make you smarter. But I digress.)
Simply, by networking with other people who are going to make the same move, and by moving all your stuff together instead of individually, you’ll save money.
Amassing a group
The idea of moving as a group may sound good, but there are, certainly, practical roadblocks, the first of which is finding the group’s members. For example, when I went off to college I was the only kid from Port Angeles, WA, who matriculated at the University of Redlands. Even if I had wanted to put a group together, how would I have done it?
Next Lesson: Marketing. Even if you don’t currently know people who are planning to make the same move as you, that doesn’t mean you can’t find them. One way to do this is to engage with your school, either directly (by calling Admissions, for example) or indirectly through social media. Once you’ve found a way to connect with other first-year students, prepare a proposal and post it or send it out. You’ll likely be surprised at how many responses you get. You’re likely not the only college freshman interested in saving money.
If you do know people who are moving to the same college, then your job is that much easier. (Although be aware: in practice, strangers actually respond better to marketing than friends do.)
Actualizing the group move
The next lesson: “A logistical problem requires an operational solution.” In order to make the group move happen, you’ll need to establish some guiding principles, such as WHEN the move will take place, the METHOD you’ll use to move yourselves and your belongings, and the SYSTEM you’ll use to get everything and everyone in the same place at the same time. (You also might t learn something about democracy from this exercise – namely, that the more decisions you make before engaging the group, the easier it will be to get things done.)
The peripheral benefit of this (especially if you have to find strangers to move with) is that you’ll get to meet some fellow first-year students who will be just as friendless and nervous as you when you head off to college. The sooner you can make friends with your classmates, the sooner you’ll get over Freshman Week jitters and start enjoying yourself.
The final lesson
A group move also has one final benefit. Romantic as it is to have our parents drive us to college and move us into our dorms, it is way more fun to hit the open road with a group of peers. The initiative you’ll demonstrate by putting a group move together should be impressive enough to get you that road trip.