The problem with finding free moving boxes is not figuring out if they exist – they do.
The problem with finding free moving boxes is that by the time you think to do it, it’s two days before The Big Move and you’re so desperate for packing materials that you end up spending 60 bucks on a Multi-Room Super Storage Pak from the local Save’n’Store.
Don’t worry. Your wallet can stay full on your quest for free moving boxes. But you’ve been warned: as soon as you start looking online for apartments for rent (with PadMapper, of course), you should also start looking for boxes.
Place to look: Craigslist
The ultimate free stuff resource. Go to your community’s Craigslist, click [For Sale], search for [moving boxes] in [free stuff] and you’ll have access to enough free moving boxes to build a castle of cardboard in your new backyard.
There are several other online resources for free (or really, really cheap) moving boxes:
- Freecycle.org: sign up for your community Freecycle and find free, used packing equipment
- Boomerang Boxes: you can buy used moving boxes for a song, and then sell them back if they’re still in good condition
- Freecardboardboxes.com: an affiliate of Boomerang Boxes that allows people in the same region to swap free boxes when needed
- U-Haul Exchange: U-Haul created a forum for movers and ex-movers to announce free boxes
Expert tip: Bring your own box cutters. There is nothing worse than driving 25 minutes to collect your bounty only to discover they have not been collapsed. Sorry, but 12 full-sized boxes will not fit in your Subaru Impreza, no matter how hard you try.
Place to look: Local Apartment Complex
Hone your stalking skills and scope out the apartment complexes in your area. As new tenants arrive, offer to take all their empty boxes off their hands as a “welcome to the neighborhood” gesture – heck, go ahead and help them get the couch up the stairs while you’re at it. Your good karma will pay out in cardboard.
No U-Hauls on the horizon? Leave your name and phone number with the landlord or apartment manager and let them know you’re on the lookout.
Expert tip: College campuses are also great places to find boxes. Your best bet is to go to the back entrance or loading dock of the university cafeteria and talk to the wait staff. They can likely hook you up.
Place to look: Retail Stores
Strip malls will provide a bounty of boxes. They are constantly receiving shipments of new goods, and new goods come in boxes – it’s as simple as that. You can even shop around for the boxes of your dreams: stop by Best Buy for all your electronics, Barnes and Noble for your books, etc.
Grocery stores and liquor stores receive shipments on a daily basis, and they usually just recycle the boxes as soon as they are unloaded. Both are known for being liberal with their box dispensing.
Expert tip: Chances are the 15-year-old check-out kid is not going to be able to help when you rush in asking “Boxes? You got boxes?” Rather, stop by the customer service counter, or talk to a cashier you’ve had before. If the manager is around ask her, rather than the new bag boy.
Place to look: Your Workplace
Pilfering boxes from the workplace is effective; it just takes a long time to get enough to pack up your entire life. If you start early, though, collect computer boxes, paper boxes, supply boxes (you get the picture) and soon you’ll have enough.
Expert tip: If the Apartment Hunting Gods are smiling upon you, your move will coincide with the hiring of a whole slew of new employees. New employees = new computers and chairs and desks = lots of boxes. Plan your move wisely.
Place to look: Dumpsters
Dumpster diving is definitely a touchy subject, especially because no one quite knows if it is legal or not. Either way, in most cases you could get into some hot water for trespassing onto a business owner’s private property. Ask the property owner before you start rifling through his or her trash.
Expert tip: Wear gloves.
Place to look: Your Friends
If each one of your friends gives you one free box, you’ll be set!
Expert tip: Have lots of friends.
UPDATE: Place to look: Recycling Centers
Thanks to historychic in the comments for this one – recycling centers should have cardboard boxes somewhere on the premises – might require some dumpster diving, though.
Boxed up and ready to go? Read up on moving scams to avoid shady circumstances. If anyone has any other tips to share, leave them in the comments!