Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Law School: First Grades & The Legal Atmosphere

Not only have I now survived the first round of law classes, but I have also survived the first round of grades!  Grades came out yesterday evening and I was pleased with the outcome.  Everyone says the first year grades are really important to getting your foot in the door for scholarships, internships and jobs.  Not to mention getting good grades for my first two classes from the summer reaffirms that I can handle law school and master legal material. 

The funny thing about getting law grades back though is how all the students handle it.  A handful took to Facebook, like me, announcing their relief and happiness.  One brazen student even announced her actual grade on Facebook.  I personally am not a fan of that method of expressing your thoughts on grades, but the thing is everyone wants to know everyone's grades.  They go around cryptically asking about thoughts on grades hoping the other will spill the actual letter grade.  They didn't announce our class rankings yet because it was only one group of us doing 2 summer classes, so this is how everyone pieces together the rankings.  No one wants to be inferior to any other classmate, so it's like a game.  I don't really like to announce my actual letter grades, and I even don't need to know others.  I do wish there was a general graph of score distributions without names on them so I could compare myself though.  In several of my undergrad and even a couple masters classes there was an anonymous graph like that through an online log in component where grades posted.  I'd much prefer that to the scheming and dealing of law students trying to figure each other out for their own benefit. 

In just the couple months of experience I have had with law school so far it seems that the school aspect does nothing but perpetuate the stereotypical lawyer-like scheming and game playing.  The competitive nature of curved grades pits students against each other, each looking out for ultimately their own interest rather than the interest of all students and thus the future benefit of the entire legal profession.  The high school like atmosphere with separate sections, classes picked for you, lockers, even a bell that signifies the start and end of class engenders cliques, gossip, and distractions from studying.  Law school is full of scheming, lying, figuring out how to "win" or beat the others or get ahead.  I don't see why law schools can't take the first step in breaking down this structure of competitive lying to better the legal profession as a whole.  By the time students graduate, all they know is this life and work style they've been bred into, so naturally it spills into the professional realm. 

At the end of each day and the end of law school, I have two ultimate goals.  Get a quality job that makes me happy, but more importantly, to still be myself.  I want to follow my values and stay true to myself each and every day of law school and my career, despite the scheming climate of law school and the legal world.  Good grades or not, I just want to be myself each day. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Plans Fail, So Deal With It

I'm a planner.  I make lists, Plan A, Plan B, and often Plan C.  I like to know what's going on and when.  Just ask my husband.  Or check out my OCD wedding weekend packet.  So naturally I've had life plans, from school to what I'd do after.  Well, the thing about plans is that they don't always work out.  And as a planner, that can be tough to deal with, but I'm quickly learning.

While I told everyone growing up that I was going to law school, I found that I really liked researching legal aspects of psychology, like jury decision making and eyewitness memories.  Still very law-related, but this path led me toward grad school, not law school.  So the plan changed my sophomore year of college.  I decided to pursue a PhD and planned everything out so perfectly.  Well, then I got into a masters program, rather than a PhD.  Plan changed again, but to me it was merely a 2 year delay and then I'd go on with the same plan.  Funny thing though, that didn't work either. 

I (over-zealously) applied to 9 PhD programs that fit my interests, including one joint program with a law school.  FYI, PhD programs are tough to get in to, often taking only 1-5 new students each year.  After being wait-listed at 2 programs, I was eventually rejected from all of them.  I was surprised how I handled it all though.  After years of planning, paying for an out-of-state (read: uber expensive) masters degree in hopes of bettering my chances, and agonizing over the application process, I just felt mostly nothing.  I think I felt that there was nothing I could control about it, so why freak out. 

I did apply to law schools since my interests are so closely related to law and I can pretty much reach my same goals through law.  I got in to several law schools, and as I mentioned in my update post, chose to go with it.  The world certainly didn't, and still doesn't, make that decision easy though.  I hear daily on the news, on Twitter, everywhere that the legal profession is terrible, law school is terrible, none of it is worth it, everyone hates it, etc.  I never hear anything positive about law, so you'd think I'd be in freak out mode about changing to this path/plan.

But to this day I'm still surprised that I just kept moving forward instead of having a complete meltdown when my plans didn't work.  Mr. Puma's theory is that I haven't had a chance to have a meltdown yet.  I found out while I was wrapping up my masters thesis and finals, then we had 3 weeks to move from Florida to Oklahoma before I jumped right in to the law summer session.  But I've been on break from law school for about 3 weeks now and still, no meltdown.  Maybe it'll hit me in November when I've been mangled by the stress of law school right before exams.  Or maybe I've reached a point in life where I can be more accepting of change and failed plans and the meltdown just isn't coming. 

While I am realistic and I understand that it's tough to get a job in any field, law included, and that salaries aren't what they used to be, I also understand there's just not a lot I can control to change things.  If I want to achieve my goals, I need to get a PhD or a JD, and the world said no to the PhD.  So I accept that and I plan to work as hard as I possibly can to control the things within my power, like grades and other decisions, to keep the outcome as I want despite the change in my plans and the dire circumstances in the legal world. 

Basically the moral of the story is that there are things in life you can't control or change.  You can plan all you want, but pieces of your plan will always be dependent on someone else or some extraneous circumstance.  So even super planners like me must learn to accept reality.  Plans fail, life changes, but the world keeps turning and your life keeps going.  At the end of the day, those who can accept that and adapt will be the ones that succeed and enjoy life.  I choose to accept it, because I choose to enjoy my life, no matter how it goes.
   

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

DIY Wreath & Front Entry Decor

One of the things I really love about moving back to Oklahoma from South FL is that we're able to afford a rental house instead of an apartment.  Obviously it's nice to have our own parking spaces, a garage, more space, a backyard and much more privacy, but I was also really excited about all the new options for decorating!

One of the first projects I did in the new house was decorating the entry.  It's kind of an odd entry, facing the street at an angle.  I fell in love with a teal geometric print doormat at Target, so I just decorated around it.  I started with two metal pieces I found on a 50% off sale at Hobby Lobby.  Then I found two teal planters that matched the doormat on clearance in the Target patio and garden section.  It took a couple trips to Home Depot and Lowes, but I finally found little plants for them at Lowes.  I didn't want anything that would flower, because I have bad allergies and I didn't want bugs (bees) near the front door.  Lastly, I've seen a bunch of wreaths on Pinterest and really wanted to make one.

   

It was incredibly simple.  I bought the twig style wreath from Hobby Lobby for $5.  Then also bought the fake floral stems and the ribbon from Hobby Lobby.  It was one white hydrangea stem and one stem with those little blue flowers for a total of $4.  The ribbon was on sale, so it cost $1.50.  I picked up the house numbers at Lowes for $1 each.  I liked the font of the $2 numbers better, but they were a little big bigger and heavier.  I was concerned they wouldn't hold on the wreath as well and that they'd take up too much space.  Turns out I was probably right, because getting these light ones to stay in Oklahoma wind was challenge enough.

I used wire cutters to snip the floral heads off the stem, then stuck them through the twigs.  I then pumped hot glue in like crazy, filling all the gaps between the stems and the twigs.  Those flowers have been really secured.  I hot glued the numbers on as well.  This is much more challenging though, because they don't lay flat against the uneven twigs, so I suggest hot gluing as much as possible.  I've had 2 numbers come off twice, so I may run thread through the little nail holes and stitch the numbers to the twigs if it happens again.  Lastly, I measured how much ribbon I'd need to make the wreath hang where I wanted it on the door from my hanger (a $2 buy from Target on clearance after Christmas).

The completed entry:


I do wish the planters had been bigger, but I think they work ok for now.  I'm planning to change the decor for fall and Christmas, so this will do for summer.  The total cost of the wreath came to $14.50 (and I have ribbon left over) and the total cost of the entire decor was around $50.

I'm always looking for more entry decor, especially wreaths, so feel free to share yours or your favorite in the comments below, on my Flickr group or via Pinterest.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Florida Theme Park Tips & Tricks: Busch Gardens

While we were living in Florida we had the wonderful opportunity to visit 3 of the major theme parks in the state multiple times.  We made it to Disney twice, Universal twice and Busch Gardens (in Tampa) four times.  While I had been to each of these before, I learned a lot about saving money and being efficient at the parks.  So I thought I'd share the tips & tricks we've learned along the way, starting with Busch Gardens in Tampa.

Busch Gardens is a hybrid theme park and zoo.  The one in Tampa is actually a sister park to the one in Virginia.  The Tampa location is Africa themed, with mostly animals from Africa, while the one in Virginia is Asia themed.  You can ride some of the best coasters in Florida at Busch Gardens, and also see rhinos, elephants, gators, flamingos and more up close.  This park is typically the cheapest of all the FL parks (although I think the fairly new LegoLand park now wins that title).

Unlike Disney & Universal, Busch Gardens is only one park, not split into multiple.  There's just the one ticket, and you can usually do the whole park in one day.  However, I suggest you plan for two because you can enjoy shows (something Mr. Puma and I rarely take time for at theme parks), relax and enjoy the animals more.  Plus you have a backup day if it rains.  Busch Gardens does partner with Adventure Island water park across the street and Sea World in Orlando.  You can buy combo tickets for these with Busch Gardens on any of their websites.

 
My biggest tip for visiting FL in general: Go during the middle of the week and the off-season (Generally late September - first week of May).  During the summer it gets really hot and humid in Florida, and it typically rains at least a little in the afternoon every single day.  Also keep in mind it's hurricane season through November, although I'd bet you're mostly in the clear by October.  The two tropical storms that hit while we lived there (no hurricanes!) hit in early-mid September.   

Tickets in general:

-If you live in FL, you can get cheaper resident tickets purchasing from the park websites
-Other ticket discount options: Military, Federal government employment, credit union members, universities (buy direct from some schools, like USF or UCF), AAA (can combine this discount with FL resident discount), employers (some corporations tie into a discount site, like restaurant groups & schools)
 
Busch Gardens Specific:

Tickets & Parking:
  • This park offers discounts to residents of nearby states (last I looked it was GA & TN)
  • They often offer Buy 1 Day, get the year for locals or Buy 1 Get 1 for non-residents
  • You can come & go from the park all day, so don't feel pressured to get the meal pass because you can leave for lunch.
  • There is no free parking ($15/day), but buying a year pass gets you free parking.  You can also risk parking at the hotel across the street and walk.

Money-Saving Tricks:
  • Look for hotels that aren't right by the park to save money.  For example, the Embassy Suites by the park is regularly more expensive than the one near downtown Tampa.  Be careful around the immediate park area as well.  While on the north side you have USF and the science museum, the rest of the area can be a little sketchy.  We like to stay at the Hyatt Place by the airport (they call it Westshore).  The Hyatt is usually between $70-100/night, but it's a suite with free parking, free wifi and free breakfast.  It's also close to the Tampa International Mall and has easy access to the highways.
  • Take quarters in with you!  They make you put any loose items, including cameras and usually hats/flip-flops, in a locker before you ride the coasters.  These cost 50 cents each time you open them.  But you can save a little money on these.  Plan to leave your stuff in your locker at the Cheetah Hunt coaster while you also go ride Montu nearby.  Each coaster has their own locker set, but they're so close it's pointless to pay 50 cents extra each time you ride.  If the only loose items you have are on you, like shoes and a water bottle, then take them to the coaster and you can leave them in a cubby while you ride (at your own risk of losing them, they're open & unmonitored cubbies).
    • Try to keep all loose articles in one bag, because the locker areas get crowded and it's much easier to just grab your stuff and go.
  • Our favorite place to eat is the BBQ place near Sheikra.  It's the best food in the park and the portions are good for the price compared to other places in the park.

When to Go:
  • Visit during the middle of the week and the off-season (Late September-First week of May).  We visited in late June and got rained out for a day. The second day it was really hot & humid and rained a little.  We visited again in October and December and it was absolutely perfect each time.
  • Check their website here before purchasing tickets and going to see what rides they know will be closed.  Right now they have closures listed through the end of September.  They'll also have a sign with closures at the gate when you arrive.  
  • Know the park hours & events.  They're open later during the summer.  While you'd think this is the best option if you only have 1 day, think again.  It evens out to the same amount of time either way because you'll spend the majority of your longer hours in the summer waiting in long lines.  The longest wait time we had during October/December was 30 minutes, and that was for the new ride at the time (Cheetah Hunt, which opened summer 2011).  Be prepared for a slightly busier crowd during events, especially Howl-O-Scream.  This is a separately ticketed event they have at night, but the crowds begin to build up in the afternoon for it.


Other great things to do in Tampa:
  • Lowry Park Zoo: Regularly acclaimed as one of the best zoos in the country, this one offers the regular zoo animals, plus local Florida animals. They also offer rides! Take a safari train, ride kiddie coasters and even get wet on a large log flume water ride.  Pick up a Tampa guide book outside the zoo exit for a coupon because this zoo is the most expensive I've ever visited.
  • Beaches: Tampa offers some of the nicest beaches in FL, and some are regularly on the best of the U.S. lists. The Clearwater and St. Petersburg areas are great for this.
  • Hyde Park: One of my favorite areas in Tampa, this neighborhood offers local dining and one of the few Publix Greenwise markets in the country.  Publix is a grocery store chain out of central FL that seriously has a cult following (not in the creepy way).  The Greenwise markets are like giant Whole Foods versions of the regular stores.  We like to stop in and grab black & white cookies from the bakery and pick up a bottle of wine for the hotel room.  Also in Hyde Park is one of our favorite FL restaurants, Ceviche.  More on Ceviche & our first Tampa trip here
Quick drives from Tampa:
  • Orlando - only about an hour northeast of Tampa, straight up Hwy 4.  More on Orlando when I talk about Disney & Universal.
  • Sarasota - about an hour south of Tampa on Hwy 75, this is a smaller town with some nice outdoor activities and the Mote Aquarium
  • Naples/Fort Myers - two hours south of Tampa on Hwy 75.  Also a smaller area, this is where Mr. Puma and I lived for a year after leaving Miami.  It's primarily known as a retirement place, so it actually gets busier in the winter as snowbirds (people who live in the North but come down during winter) move down.  The area offers great golfing, access to the Everglades, really nice beaches, fantastic kayaking and some decent outlet shopping (Orlando is better though).  You can also go out to Sanibel/Captiva just north/west of Fort Myers to find the best sea shells in the country.  
If you're looking for more info on the Tampa area, check out some of my favorite bloggers in the area:
Anyone planning to visit Busch Gardens/Tampa soon or have anything to add?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Fresh Raspberry Icing

I've been on a huge berry kick lately.  Raspberries have been a mainstay in my fridge since we moved in late May.  So when we grilled out with friends one night, I decided to make lemon cupcakes with this fresh raspberry icing recipe and we loved it.  The icing is sweet, but the raspberries at a fresh punch to it that is just perfect for summer.  Since it's a buttercream style icing, it melts in your mouth too.  I could eat it with a spoon.  Ok, maybe I did eat it with a spatula.


It's actually a simple recipe.  You just need raspberries, butter and confectioners sugar.  I prefer to use fresh raspberries, not only because they're in season and less sweet, but also because there's less water incorporated in the icing.

I've tried removing the raspberry seeds both by pureeing the berries in the food processor, then pressing them through the sieve and by skipping the puree step.  It's definitely easier to puree first.  After washing the berries, use the chop or pulse setting to quickly blend the raspberries in your food processor.  Then press them through a sieve (mesh colander) to remove the seeds.

Beat together the butter and half of the confectioners sugar until smooth.  I use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer for this, but you could use an electric hand mixer as well.  Add in the raspberry puree and mix together on low speed (trust me, you don't want to cover yourself & your kitchen in raspberry juice).  Slowly beat in the remaining sugar until your icing is fluffy.

It will seem like the mixture is never going to come together and you'll think you've ruined it because you have this weird liquidy mess, but it will be ok.  Just keep beating on medium-high speed.

I've found that the icing does separate some if it gets too warm, so if you're not going to use it immediately, refrigerate it.  Then set it out to bring it back to room temp so it's workable before you're ready to frost.


Fresh Raspberry Icing
Original Recipe here (along with her lemon cake recipe)
Makes enough for about 15 cupcakes or 2 box mixes

Ingredients:
  • 8-10oz fresh raspberries, whole
  • 1 cup butter, room temp
  • 3 cups confectioners sugar
Directions:

Puree the raspberries in a food processor, then strain through a sieve to remove seeds.  In a stand mixer, beat together the butter and 1 1/2 cups of confectioners sugar until smooth.  Add the raspberry puree and beat on low speed until incorporated.  Slowly beat in the remaining sugar.  Beat on medium to high speed until mixture comes together and becomes fluffy.  Use immediately or refrigerate.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Moving Guide: Packing & Moving Day


I've already shared our experience with deciding how we'd move and our tips for planning your move, so today I've got tips I've learned about packing and moving.  On our move from Oklahoma to Miami we didn't pack as well as we should have.  Things got broken, scratched, spilled and beat up a lot.  But we've learned since then and not one thing was broken in the move back to Oklahoma!



My tips:

Labeling Boxes:
  • Color code boxes by room with easily visible colored tape (Public Storage sells color labels pre-printed, but they're kinda small.  I used bright duct tape with a K for Kitchen, etc)
  • Put a sticky note on the door/wall for each room in the new home so movers know which is the master, office, kids', etc
  • Number boxes and create a master list of what's in each box by number in Excel
    • You'll be amazed how handy this is at the new home when you're looking for things, plus if you're using movers it will allow you to make sure nothing is lost/stolen and provide an inventory for insurance.
Label with major contents, number in top right lists all important things on the spreadsheet and the color tape on the top left denotes the room.

  • Create a spreadsheet inventory of collections, like books and movies.  Specify which room, bookcase and shelf size each belongs on.  Take a photo of each shelf for reference when unpacking.  Even when using packers and movers, this can help you prove ownership, condition and inventory in the event something is missing or damaged.

  • Label boxes for heat/cold sensitive items, fragile items, and this side up or do not stack things on top if items can be easily crushed.  Make sure to write this on the top & side of the box.
Packing:
  • Use a mattress cover.  This prevents snags, rips and stains.  They run as cheap as $5, but may save you $200+ if you have to replace the mattress.
  • Protect the corners/edges of furniture, frames and other large artwork with box corners or bubble wrap to prevent scratches, dents and chips.  This is one of the most important tips I can share, because this was a big problem for us!
  • Wrap all glass items in a couple pieces of packing paper or in bubble wrap.  
  • Do not stack glasses and then wrap them.  They will bust.
    • Similarly, place a liner of some sort between plates if stacking them.
  • Remove light bulbs from lamps & fixtures.  Wrap & store like glass.
  • Don't use newspaper to wrap dishes & such.  The print can transfer (especially on colored dishes/porcelain) and stain your items.  Use pro packing paper instead.
  • Always use small boxes for books and heavy items.  Free boxes from liquor stores are great for this.
    • While filling a box, pick it up occasionally to make sure it's not too heavy.
  • For the safest bet, invest in a few plastic storage tubs to prevent a box from crushing and damaging really fragile items. 
    • Make sure to tape the lids/drawers shut.
  • Pack a last out/1st in box for necessities like toilet paper, screwdrivers, flashlights, tape, paper/plastic eating supplies, etc.
  • Do not put wine or beer where it can get hot or too cold. Even if it's not in direct sunlight the items will go bad. Trust me.
  • Remember that candles, makeup, some foods, etc can melt in prolonged heat.
  • Use laundry hampers for tall things like wrapping paper or floral accents (see the 1st photo).
  • Clean everything before it's packed so you start fresh in your new place: rugs, furniture, dusting, clean dishes, clean vases, wash all clothes, towels & bedding.
  • Pack your flat screen tv like a pro. Use the original box & packaging or buy a designated tv box.  Keep it upright, not on its side.  
    • I've heard Plasma tvs require special procedures for moving (like keeping it unplugged for a certain amount of time to be at the right temp), so I suggest talking to the manufacturer or Googling it.
Day of the Move:
  • Designate a Do Not Pack spot and place signs on the items. Don't rely on telling movers/helpers that an item is Do Not Pack.  
    • We used the pantry, but I've seen others use the bathtub or a closet.
  • Don't forget to keep pet supplies out. Dishes with lids for food & water, leashes, treats (they'll be stressed out), a pillow, crates, etc. Having their blankets, pillows, toys, etc can help calm them down through a move and get them situated in a new location easier.
    • We actually had our dogs boarded during the day while movers loaded the truck so they wouldn't be in the way.
  • Transporting a car on a trailer? Fill it with stuff! Just make sure it can be in sunlight/get hot or cold.
  • In the midst of moving chaos, don't forget to have your car serviced. Make sure tires, brakes, air filter, lights & fluids are good.
  • Have propane tanks emptied. Don't try to transport flammables in the moving truck (usually it's against their policies anyway).
  • Have water & gatorade waiting in the fridge or cooler at both the move-out location & move-in location. 
  • Place the heaviest items in the back (by the cab) of the moving truck, not right by the door.
  • Rent an appliance dolly from storage places or your truck rental place for moving appliance (fridge, W/D, dishwasher, etc)
  • Don't try to transport plants long distance in a truck. Either move them in your car so you can control temp & water or give them away.
  • If you have a sleeper sofa, take the mattress part out before moving it to make it a little lighter.  
    • Remove couch cushions for loading (and consider bagging them to prevent rips)
Organization:
  • Make a folder/accordion file with moving paperwork. Include travel maps/info, utility/new home info, contact info & quotes for any moving/rental services, pet paperwork (make sure to have their vaccination record), emergency numbers, etc.
  • As soon as possible before the move, create a list of accounts to notify of your new address
  • Goes without saying, but pack your own overnight bag for a few days so you're not rewearing clothes or searching through boxes for soap.
  • Map out the gas station you want to fill up at before returning the rental truck.  Aim for the closest to the return point at the most reasonable price to avoid the fees for refilling. 
For unloading:
  • Don't just put stuff in the door. Take it to its destination room. If you're using movers or unloaders, this is part of their payment & responsibility.  
    • Unloading help/movers should place furniture where you want it as well, but don't expect them to assemble any furniture.
  • Make sure someone is in the home at all times to direct placement of furniture & boxes.
  • If you're renting, plan extra time between your arrival with the keys and the unloading so you can do a damage inventory.
  • Set up pets' crates or areas quickly to help them acclimate to the space.
Do you have any moving tips or stories to share?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Moving Guide: Choosing Your Method


Our move back to Oklahoma in May was my 9th move in 6 years (the life of a college student!).  I've learned a lot with each move, but after making my second cross-country move I think I've finally mastered some important things that help with making a move as smooth as possible.

While I really wanted to hire a full moving service for this last long distance move, they're just really expensive.  So we rented a truck again.  But this time we did hire loading and unloading help, which is the best decision ever.  I'm pretty much set on doing that no matter what from now on.

For our move from Oklahoma to Miami we weren't really in the budgeting position.  We had just graduated from college and gotten married, not to mention we both worked part time jobs up until the move.  But we did budget about $3,500 for the move from Florida to Oklahoma this time.  If you have a 2 or 3 bedroom apartment/house (and you're not even moving any appliances), 2 cars and a move more than 800 miles, that budget isn't going to allow you to hire a moving company.  It cost us about $700 to rent a 20 foot Uhaul truck and a car transport (the full trailer, not the 2-wheel tow).  Plus $100 in insurance.  While those trucks now take unleaded gas, rather than diesel, gas still cost us about $700 (those suckers get about 10 mpg).  Add in the cost of gas for my car ($200), 2 nights in a hotel ($150), food ($100), and we were left with a little over $1000 for moving supplies and help.  We hired loaders for our 3rd story apartment (2 people, 3 hours) and then unloaders for our house (2 people, 1.5 hours).  Total with tip was about $550.  Boxes, tape, rope, furniture covers and pads, bubble wrap, and packing paper took a nice bite out of our budget as well.  But at the end of the day, a full service mover to load, drive and unload would have cost us a minimum of $3,000 before tax or tip.

So here are my tips for planning your move.  Some of these are better for long distance moves because they might be overkill for local moves, but for the most part they're a collection of what I've leaned from both types of moving.  Today starts with all the pre-move choices, then I'll talk about packing and the actual move.
  
Choosing a Moving Service:
  • Know that full-service movers not only cost a lot more, but take a lot longer.  They typically give you a range of both pick-up and delivery times (in weeks).  
  • Full service movers may put your items in a truck with other people's stuff, which means it may be loaded & unloaded multiple times to deliver their things along the way.
  • Full service movers can usually move your car as well, but the cheapest I found that was $1100.
  • Before you hire a mover, check Movingscam.com to make sure you have a reputable one.  Here's a blog post from Frugal Mama on various types of movers that I found helpful.
  • If you think you want to do a PODS style move, where you pack and they drive, be careful about space.  I loved that option, but it wasn't going to work for us because we had to get 2 PODS (or any of the other services' boxes) to fit our stuff.  Boxes work fine, but furniture is really tricky with this type.  Once you go over the 1 box, you might as well hire the full movers.
  • Consider mileage fees for truck rentals.  Penske & Budget usually offer unlimited mileage, but have a higher overall cost, while Uhaul gives you a lower cost but only allows a certain number of miles.  They then charge you a crazy amount per mile over that.
    • Uhaul is really flexible on this mileage though.  Ask for extra miles when you book (call them to book!), also ask about extra miles at the local place you pick it up.  You may not need the extra 100, but it'll be a safety net just in case.
    • Budget offers a discount for students.  Ask about both the one-way and student discounts when you CALL to book.  Booking online gives you no haggle room, and moving trucks will haggle with you if you call.
  • Things to think about when hiring load & unload help: 
    • Hire from a local company with a good reputation.  Local movers are the best for this.
    • Most companies charge a fee for every stair they have to take, so if you have 3 steps or 3 flights of stairs, make sure to ask about the cost of it.
    • Most companies charge a fee if the loading truck is more than 10 feet from the door.
    • Usually you have to hire a minimum of 2 people for at least 2 hours, then there's a per-person hourly rate after that.  Make sure you ask if the price is per-person, per-hour, or for everyone per-hour.
    • I still don't know what a standard movers' tip is, but I do know you should tip them.  And provide water/gatorade.  
    • Always budget an hour longer than you think it will take for the loaders.  Unloading goes way faster, but loading requires hauling it down and arranging it in the truck.

Supplies

Choosing which boxes to use can be a pain because they're expensive and you don't know how well they'll hold up until it's too late.  We learned that the hard way on our move into Miami and our move within Florida.  My box selections:
  • Home Depot -DO NOT buy their standard boxes.  They're TERRIBLE.  If they get the least bit humid, they crumble.  They bend really easy too.  However, I really like their heavy duty boxes (price is everything at Home Depot, you pay for what you get).  Sadly these only come in small & medium, but they're fantastic.
  • Lowe's - Decent boxes.  We used their medium boxes as the main box for our FL-OK move and it worked out just fine.  Reasonably priced at $1-2/box.
  • Public Storage - good boxes, but they're pricey
  • UHaul - Good boxes, but again very pricey.  I would suggest Lowe's for standard boxes and then UHaul for XL or specialty boxes.  Some corporate UHaul locations have a take/leave bin where people donate their used boxes and you can get them cheap/free.
  • Get free boxes from liquor stores, restaurants, retail, bookstores, Craigslist
  • Check your area for cheap stores, like Budget Boxes out of Dallas
My preference is to use Lowe's medium boxes for regular packing, Home Depot Heavy Duty mediums for things that need more support/protection, UHaul XLs for things like bedding, bags and odd size items, UHaul for specialty boxes (mirrors, art, tv, lamps, etc), and liquor boxes for breakables & books.  We spent about $50-75 in boxes for a large 2 bedroom apartment (now an average 3 bedroom house).

Tape:
Buy the good stuff, it's worth it.  The cheap tape won't stand up to humidity or lots of handling.
Cheapest color duct tape - Home Depot & Target
Cheapest name brand packing tape - Home Depot & Lowe's
Other Supplies:
Cheapest bubble wrap - Home depot & Lowe's
Cheapest furniture covers - UHaul & Home Depot
Check out The Container Store for bubble wrap by the yard as well.

Check back later this week for my tips on packing and moving!  Anyone else have moving planning tips or stories?