Of all life-changing events, moving can be hands-down one of the most expensive and stressful. Moving trucks can cost $130 for a local move or up to $1700 for a long-distance move. Paying friends or family to help with the labor can cost a minimum of $100 per head, not including food and drink. Plus, packing materials like tape, bubble wrap and boxes will cost anywhere from $100 to $200, depending on the size of your household.
Yet, savvy movers know to cut down on moving expenditures and headaches with a few helpful hacks. For instance, hiring professional movers who can tackle the bulk of the physical labor and transportation is a great way to significantly reduce your stress load. However, if you intend to plan and pay for everything on your own, you can at least cut costs by finding free moving boxes. That’s right — there’s no need to pay for boxes when you can get them for free through these online communities, retailers, and businesses.
If you go to your local Craigslist site’s free section, you’re bound to find plenty of people who just finished moving and need to get rid of their used boxes. They’ll most likely be glad to know their boxes can go to good re-use and that they won’t have to make a trip to the recycling center. Try checking the site at the beginning of the week since most people will have completed their move over the weekend. However, results may vary depending on the population size of your area.
Be wary of any listings that say the boxes have been left outside on the curb, as they may become damaged, taken or rained on by the time you get there. For safety reasons, make sure to ask a friend to accompany you on any meetups with strangers.
The NextDoor app is a great way to plug into your neighborhoods, both new and old. Dedicated to circulating information in small communities, NextDoor provides useful information about local businesses and organizations and helps you securely connect with your neighbors. People often use it as an exchange platform for selling furniture, finding pet sitters or borrowing unusual items. As such, you can easily find free moving boxes within your zip code, and, who knows, maybe you’ll make a new friend while you’re at it!
Like Craigslist, Freecycle allows anyone to sign up and create listings for stuff they want to pass on to a new user. Unlike other online exchange forums, Freecycle is a non-profit, grassroots organization explicitly focused on giving and receiving free things locally to help cut down on global waste. If you don’t yet see any free box offerings in your area, you can always create a post to say you’re looking for some.
If it was true when the phrase “it’s a small world” first became popular, then it definitely is now in the cyber age. Considering most people on average have a few hundred friends on Facebook, it’s highly likely that someone you know, or even a friend of a friend, has access to moving boxes. Do you know someone who just got married or bought a house? Does one of your friends work at a general retailer? Even if you find no luck reaching out to your immediate network, try searching for “free moving boxes” on Facebook Marketplace.
Office Supplies Stores
Stores like Office Depot, OfficeMax and Staples get weekly shipments of products, which, of course, come packed in boxes. If you’re specifically looking for boxes with lids, you’ll score bigtime anywhere that sells printer paper. While you can stop by anytime and talk to a store manager, it may be more efficient to call ahead, ask what day they usually receive shipments and request permission to snag a few of their boxes.
General Merchandise Retailers
In the same vein as the office supply stores, general merchandise retailers, often known as “big box stores,” also receive regular shipments in boxes of all different sizes. Ask around at grocery stores like Publix and Costco, general merchandisers like Walmart, Target and Dollar Tree, home supplies stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot, pharmacies like Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid, pet stores like PetCo and PetSmart, and many others. If you call ahead to inquire about picking up free boxes, they might even have some waiting for you at the customer service desk. If you decide to inquire in person, make sure to stop by before noon, which is generally the least busy time of day for store associates.
Liquor stores are always fully stocked with boxes because they receive shipments multiple times a week. The best part about these is you know they’re durable enough to handle heavy, delicate glass bottles. The flip side is that liquor boxes tend to be the smaller kind with lids, which may or may not be what you need. Stop by your local liquor store before the evening rush to ask the staff, and pick up a little treat to enjoy after the move while you’re at it!
Find out where your nearest local recycling center is located with a quick Google search. When most people are finished with their cardboard boxes, they’ll leave them at a recycling center rather than tossing them in the trash. These boxes will likely be broken down and flattened, so you will need some packing tape to put them back together. Also, there’s no guarantee as to their condition. Still, recycling centers usually have the motherload of cardboard boxes.
Schools & Universities
Are there any elementary, middle or high schools near you? What about a university? At the beginning of every academic year, schools receive large shipments of books and have no use for the boxes they come in. Even if your move isn’t occurring in July through September, you can still talk to the custodial staff about boxes they receive for supply shipments. Plus, boarding schools, community colleges and universities see thousands of students move on campus at the start of every semester. Find out when the move-in days are and hit up the campus recycling bins the next day for your biggest catch yet.
Moving to a new home can be quite the headache, not to mention a strain on your bank account. However, you shouldn’t have to waste your hard-earned dollars on trivial materials like moving boxes, which will only be thrown out later. By tracking down and re-using free cardboard boxes, you can effectively minimize your moving expenditures and do a good thing for the environment at the same time.