Packing: An Expense You Don’t Always Expect

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Oh yeah, there are my books!

Oh yeah, there are my books!

It’s official, guys: I’ve survived my first term at Oxford!

No more essays and no more mile-long reading lists for the next 6 weeks or so. I’ll be travelling to Amsterdam, Antwerp, Brussels, and Paris for the next 10 days before heading home to Boston to spend some time with my long-lost family and friends.

Before I even left my last tutorial though, I had to deal with another long and tiring struggle: packing. And I don’t just mean packing for my 10-day tour.


Oxford interviews all potential new students for a few days (yes, you read that correctly) during winter break, and my college (Pembroke) uses current students’ rooms to host them.

That meant that I had to dismantle my entire room, pack everything I brought to Oxford with me, and put it all into storage—only to have to unpack it all again next term. Trust me, you don’t know the meaning of boredom until you spend a full 24 hours doing nothing but cramming things into boxes and suitcases.

At some point in that miserable day, I realized something: Packing is actually an abusive and evil process. Not only is it about as entertaining as Emily Dickinson at a cocktail party, but it can also be really expensive if you’re not careful.


You’d think a large piece of cardboard with folding sides wouldn’t be pricey, but that’s not true. I paid £10 for two large boxes to store some of my more bulky stuff (printer, comforter, etc.).

On top of that, you probably end up paying for packing materials. Scissors and duct tape aren’t exactly bank-breakers, but when you’ve become accustomed to paying for lunch in pennies and other miscellaneous coins, you really miss that spare change.

And then the worst expense of all: storage. Storage places seem to cost more than they should while also being in the middle of nowhere. That means more money and aggravation, considering you have to figure out how to get all your stuff there. Since I asked early, Oxford offered me free storage—but other students weren’t so lucky.

After talking with some of my fellow money-savvy, Oxford-visiting students, I’ve put together some easy tips to help you save on all three of these annoying packing expenses.


Supermarkets bring in a lot of groceries on a daily basis, and all of those groceries usually come in giant boxes. Said boxes most likely end up in one recycling bin or another, waiting to be carted off (pun unfortunately intended) and turned into even more boxes.

Although recycling is normally pretty cool, it’s OK for you to stop it from happening once in a while. Talk to the store manager, and see if you can snag a few boxes for free. You won’t have even to write your name on them either. It’s pretty easy to remember where your stuff is when it’s in a lettuce box.


Try borrowing any extra packing materials you need from friends. I’m willing to bet at least one person you know already has the thing that you’re about to go buy.

Between myself and the 30 other Americans at Pembroke, we were able to share all the scissors, tape, and even packing space (more on that below) we needed.


My storage experience was a lot easier because one of my friends (who didn’t have to move his stuff) lent me some space.

So seriously, strange as it is, pay attention to what your friends’ houses look like. That sketchy, vacant basement that you hate hanging out in could become a new home for your suitcases!

Have any tips for sealing your packaging costs in a tiny box? Share them in the comments.

(Photo: adecker31)

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  1. Aaron Weber December 3, 2012 / 3:32 pm

    I moved every year for… about a decade, I guess? And I eventually got pretty good at it.

    First, boxes: Liquor stores and book stores tend to have a lot of cardboard boxes they’ll let you have. And check the mailroom or copy room at your work, school, or library: the boxes from copier and printer paper are great to pack things into.

    Newspaper is great packing material if crumpled up – and if you run short, you can always use clothes, towels, etc. to wrap delicate items. (Of course, that makes it hard to organize when you’re unpacking. But if you don’t mind unpacking your kitchen in order to find a matching pair of socks, you’re golden.)

  2. Smurfit Kappa Direct Packaging January 18, 2013 / 6:00 am

    Exactly! My husband is in a job where we have to shift to a new place in almost every 6 months. At the time of shipping, sometimes it costs very much. Then, I decided to hire a moving company and buy corrugated boxes in wholesale prices. Seriously, I was very much relived from the costs tensions!

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