When you are calculating the cost of moving, you likely considered all of the most obvious expenses: the moving company, the deposit on a new apartment, some new furniture, and probably some cleaning made the budget. But what about packing boxes? Moving your belongings requires that you use sturdy boxes that can handle the weight and being bounced around in a truck, so many people find themselves spending more than they anticipated to find suitable materials. Will some preparation, you can save your money and recycle! Here are seven places to find moving boxes, for free.
1. Office Supply Store
Office supplies need to be shipped in sturdy boxes and often come with a lot of packing material that the store doesn’t reuse. So visiting spots like OfficeMax and Staples is a great way to find some of the best moving boxes for free — ask about the boxes that printer/copier paper are shipped in, too. They are perfect for everything from pots and pans to books to DVDs. Some of those boxes have a lid already, so you only need minimal tape.
Books are shipped in boxes of all shapes and sizes, but they generally have one thing in common: they must be strong because books are heavy. Most bookstores get a shipment in once or twice a week. If you live in a major city, chances are those shipments come more regularly. Ask around at Barnes & Noble, Borders, or whatever store you happen to have in your area for free cardboard boxes.
Check out Barnes & Noble, Borders, or whatever store you happen to have in your area for free moving boxes.
3. Bars and Restaurants
Restaurants get things like vegetables, liquor, canned goods and other such things delivered regularly, and when it comes to glass bottles and cans, the boxes will be strong. The liquor boxes delivered to bars are great for plants, toiletries, clothes, and other things you are taking in your car that don’t require the box to be completely sealed because they generally have the tops removed already. Restaurants will have things like French fries, produce, and dry storage boxes. The boxes may smell like fried food, but the restaurant will probably be happy that you’d like to take them. The more you take, the less they have to break down and haul to the dumpster.
4. Grocery Store
Prior to your move, ask your local grocer when their shipments come in. If you can arrange to show up that day, you’ll hit the jackpot of free used boxes. Banana and apple boxes are great because they are solid, but they do have gaps to allow fruit to breathe. Be considerate about what you pack in them!
Most likely, you live somewhere near a Walgreens, CVS, or Rite Aid. Find out when they receive their biggest shipments (Tuesdays, for example) and, just like the grocery store, plan to arrive on this day. You may let them know that you are seeking boxes so save them the trouble of breaking them down, and it will save you from having to tape them back together. Simply stack the small boxes into medium boxes, and medium into large, so you can fit more in your car.
6. Liquor Stores
Liquor boxes are solid, but generally small and often have the tops cut off. Plan to use them creatively, perhaps by creating lids. The cases that six-packs arrive in can also be excellent boxes, though not as sturdy as liquor boxes. Be aware that liquor boxes are often stapled together, so watch for rogue staple ends that can be sharp.
7. Home Improvement Stores
Places like Lowes and Home Depot will generally have lots of large boxes (hello appliances!), but because of the nature and leadership of large stores, sometimes it can be difficult to get to them. You may have better luck at a locally-owned small hardware store where the staff is more autonomous and likely will be happy to get out of breaking the boxes down.
- Craigslist/Freecycle – These community-based online forums are a great place to find used and empty boxes from people who have just moved.
- Uhaul Box Exchange – Uhaul made a free message board for people to find used boxes for free.
- Home Goods Stores and Toy Store – Really, any retailer that has large shipments come in will have a large number of cardboard boxes, but home goods stores, in particular, may have boxes for dishes (see Unpakt’s guide for packing dishes).
- Recycling Centers – If your local recycling center is well-used, they may have an area where people drop off lightly used boxes for reuse. Most centers don’t want customers rifling through the cardboard bin though, so be sure to ask before you start digging.
Where to buy boxes if you need to
If you are unable to find enough sturdy moving boxes from all of the places above, or you need something more specialized like glassware cartons, you might find yourself in the position of buying new materials. Here are a few places you might look:
- Your moving company – As part of your moving package, you may be able to get cheap moving boxes through your movers. They have access to a wholesaler, of course, so can sometimes offer you a bundle of various sizes for a deal.
- Uhaul – You’ll probably find that prices at Uhaul are lower than at hardware stores or office supply stores, and sometimes they will have a “free boxes” bin too for grabbing what you can while you’re there. Don’t forget to pick up packing tape while you’re at it!
- UPS Store – These are professional shippers, so you’ll be able to find any and all packing materials you might need here – including really big rolls of bubble wrap.
- Online – Retailers and discount hubs will have bundles of boxes for significantly less than you’ll find them at most retail locations if you can wait for them to be delivered.
- Lowes, Home Depot, etc. – If they aren’t willing to give you free boxes first, you can purchase what you need. They generally stock a wide variety of options and sometimes carry bundles of various sized boxes.