Moving is expensive. And at a time when you're likely going out of pocket for everything, you're doing everything you can to cut costs. Where do you skimp and where do you spend? And most importantly, where are the best places to get moving boxes without spending a dime?
14 places to get moving boxes without paying
It's not just the cost that can make buying moving boxes a less attractive option. It can be wasteful unless you know you're going to move again soon. Then, you can break down the boxes so they're flat and store them away until the next time. But if you know this will be your last move for a while, finding some good quality boxes for free is worth the effort.
So, where's the best place to get free moving boxes? As long as you're willing to put in a little effort, you have lots of great options.
1. Ask Uncle Sam
If you're planning a move on your own and don't have too much stuff, the answer is only as far as your nearest post office.
Of the many services provided by the U.S. Postal Service, one is their ability to provide free packaging to customers. Those “If It Fits, It Ships" boxes are available for free to customers who then pay for the boxes when shipped.
The boxes aren't very big, but as long as you can work within those dimensions, you'll not only get them for free, but you can have them delivered to your front door.
This isn't technically stealing, but if you're not planning on using the boxes after your move, consider paying it forward and offering them for free to the next person. Or, keep the boxes and use them to eBay off all your old stuff.
2. Re-use from U-Haul
If you're attempting a move on the cheap, odds are you're going to rent a truck. And even if you're not, check with your local moving truck rental company. They sell shipping and moving supplies, and oftentimes, people returning the trucks will have plenty of free boxes, tape, styrofoam packing peanuts, etc., that they don't need anymore.
U-Haul Customer Connect is the moving company's own social networking platform, specifically designed to connect people just starting their move with people who are just wrapping up theirs.
3. Big box stores are big on boxes
Big box stores like Walmart, Lowe's or Costco will also have tons of boxes they're happy to give away. Costco specifically is known to give boxes away to customers who ask. Many times, there will even be a giant pallet of boxes for customers (or anyone else) to use, free of charge. Some stores won't let you in if you're not a member, so ask one of your friends if you can tag along with them on their next Costco run.
4. Check the dumpster around back
Your local supermarket or retail store are also great places to look. Cardboard boxes, crates and even egg cartons are usually stacked up or broken down and flattened for easy storage or disposal. If you ask nicely, work quickly and only take what you can use, most businesses are happy to share their old boxes with you.
5. Come for the six pack, leave with stacks of cardboard
The neighborhood liquor store is a great place to find boxes for free. The boxes you'll find here are sturdier and more durable because they have to carry heavy glass bottles. They'll hold up better to water and dampness also, just in case it's an issue later.
And just like any other business owner, if you ask the manager and don't make a mess, they won't mind if you leave with as many boxes as you can carry. And while you're there, pick up some beers for the friends that are going to help you move. You are going to pay them in pizza and beer, right?
6. Get in the zone
Your local auto supply store should have plenty of huge boxes they give you for your move. All the spare parts they order for inventory and car repairs come in big sturdy boxes weighty enough to survive the trip from the warehouse to the garage. So they should suit your needs perfectly.
7. Good boys and even better boxes
Ever been to the pet supply store and seen those massive 50-pound bags of dog food? Or those huge crates or fish tanks. Well, the only thing bigger than that stuff are the boxes they're shipped in. Take a drive over to your pet supply store, and they should have a massive supply of free boxes for your move just waiting for you.
8. Hey Siri, find me used boxes
OK, maybe it's not quite that easy, but it's pretty close. Checking the Free section on Craigslist will yield tons of results. Many of those people also surfed the web for free supplies and they'll be relieved they can pay it forward.
And then there's Freecycle. This social networking site connects people within the community to link up and exchange old appliances, furniture, clothes and other stuff for free. Snap a few photos of all your usable boxes and packing supplies and pay it forward to the next person who needs them.
9. There's an app for that
Check around apps like letgo and the Facebook Marketplace. Online consignment shops and social media yard sales let users sell their old stuff, but you can also find freebies from people who need to clear up the clutter quickly.
10. Howdy neighbor!
If you're trying to scale back the amount of time you spend on social media (and many of us are), ask your new neighbors or others in your community who are on the other side of their move.
These folks will also be able to give you an idea of what you can expect with your upcoming move. How stressful was it? What unexpected expenses came up? What kind of stuff did they need and forget to buy? Tape guns? Plastic wrap? Ask them what mover they used and shop around for quotes. You never know, you could find new ways to save even more money!
11. Swing by the office
Your office probably has tons of boxes. Reams of paper, office supplies and other equipment all come through an office setting everyday. Go talk to the people in your mailroom and see what they have available.
12. Go straight to the source
Schedule a trip to your neighborhood recycling center. All of the boxes from liquor stores and book stores and supermarkets will eventually wind up here — unless someone snaps them up first!
By the time the boxes make it here, they've already been broken down and flattened. But as long as the boxes and flaps are still intact and not torn off, a little bit of tape (which you should already have) will make them like new in no time.
13. Head back to school
If you go at the right time of year, college and university campuses will have tons of boxes. Between the campus bookstore stocking up on textbooks for the next semester and move-in day at the freshman dorms, you'll find more free boxes there than undecided liberal arts majors.
14. Stacks on stacks on stacks … of boxes
Your neighborhood copy shop also probably does a lot of shipping. That means shipping supplies. If the shop gets in new shipments of paper, shipping labels and printer ink every single day, those high quality and durable boxes are just sitting there, waiting for a new life. Ask the manager if there are any boxes to spare and take what you need.
If you must buy, do it right
If you do have to spend money on boxes, make sure you're getting what you pay for. Companies like ULINE are known for their commercial quality cardboard boxes, packing tape and shipping supplies and accessories. But if you need cheap, cheap moving boxes, why not try cheapcheapmovingboxes.com? Should be easy enough to remember.
You can pick up 20 good-sized moving boxes, tape and a marker for less than $50. And any boxes you order and don't use can be returned to the company for a complete refund.
The best places to get moving boxes
Like anything else, don't just take a box because it's free. Make sure it's strong enough and large enough to suit your needs and hold your stuff. Nothing will make a move harder than subpar boxes that fall apart when you pick them up. But with just a little bit of work, you should be able to find all the free boxes you need for your big move.
Pro tip: Flatten the boxes once you get them home so they take up less space in your apartment before you start packing up all your stuff.