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We’ve all had to move at least once in our lives — and one of the more arduous tasks when you move is making sure that you have enough moving boxes to pack everything.
One of the worst experiences during my last move was when I ran out of boxes and had to start purchasing them. I was amazed at the amount of money it took to purchase even a few boxes.
Before I was done, I had easily spent $50 just on boxes alone! That’s a bit overwhelming — especially when you take into account the fact that you may not be able to do much with them afterwards. (More on that in a minute.)
Let this be a lesson to you… Start collecting boxes early! The minute you find out you might be moving, keep your eyes peeled for empty boxes that you happen to see throughout your day. You’ll thank yourself later!
Where To Get Free Moving Boxes
Let’s face it, free moving boxes are always the best.
But what is the best way to get those free moving boxes, and what are the best kinds?
Basically, you have 2 good options:
#1 – Copy Paper & Printing Paper Boxes
My favorite boxes to collect when I’m preparing for a move are the ones that reams of copy paper come in.
- They have lids.
- They’re super heavy-duty.
- They stack nicely.
- They’re the perfect size for packing anything from books to cookware.
Fortunately, I worked in offices for years. And since I was the one who ordered all the office supplies (or supervised whoever did the ordering), it was always easy for me to collect those paper boxes and take them home for a few months — so I’d have plenty of them for each of my moves.
But even if you don’t work in an office, chances are you know someone who does. Ask them to collect empty paper boxes for you.
Or, you might consider stopping by an Office Depot, Staples, or some other office supply store and asking them if they have any empty boxes. They have to empty those boxes to put the reams of paper on the store shelves, and most likely they just get recycled anyway. It never hurts to ask!
#2 – Grocery & Liquor Store Boxes
While asking for empty boxes at your local grocery store is one way to get free boxes… in all honesty, grocery store boxes are my least favorite type of moving boxes.
The main reason is that fruit boxes, for example, can have all kinds of nasty stains and residue inside them.
Also, most of those boxes are not going to have lids, because the people unpacking the stock have cut these boxes open and taken off the tabs to get at the merchandise easier. As far as I’m concerned, no lids equals a bad choice of box because all your stuff inside can wind up all over the moving truck.
Liquor store boxes are much better— but they’re on the smaller side.
For one, they’re usually very clean. But the best part is the fact that most boxes from liquor bottles also have the cardboard inserts inside of them — and that’s a great way to keep smaller items separated within the box!
Where NOT To Buy Moving Boxes!
What if you just found out that you have to move right away, and you don’t have the time to gather free boxes?
Well, you can, of course, enlist the help of your friends and family — but it may be too short of notice for them too. In that case, you’re going to need to buy moving boxes.
My advice to anyone who is buying boxes for moving is: avoid stores that specialize in shipping boxes — like USPS postage stores and UPS shipping stores. Why? Because most of the boxes inside these stores are going to be marked up pretty high.
That’s where I got my boxes once, hence the $50 price tag.
Later on, when I had some time to look around, I discovered that most department stores have a small area where they sell packing and moving supplies. (It’s usually located in the office supplies aisle.)
I actually found boxes that were the same size as the ones I’d bought — and they were about 25% less in a department store than what I’d paid at the “official” mail packaging store!
Where To Buy Moving Boxes
One way to save money on moving costs is to purchase your moving boxes and other moving supplies online:
Places like Uhaul and Amazon sell individual boxes — in the exact quantity that you need. They also sell additional moving supplies that you might not think of — like moving blankets and heavy-duty moving bags with handles.
Online moving supplies can be delivered the next day — often with free shipping. So, if you need the moving boxes and supplies right away, then this option is your best bet.
You could also purchase a pre-bundled moving kit that includes various assortments of boxes, packing tape, bubblewrap, and/or markers. (You choose your kit based on the number of rooms you’re packing up.)
CON: One “downside” to the moving kits is that sometimes the boxes are all the same size — so if you run out of anything, you’re still going to have to run to the store to find the box sizes you’re missing.
PRO: One “plus” when buying moving boxes is you can get boxes that are uniquely-shaped to hold clothing. These are one of the best inventions ever! Wardrobe moving boxes are tall, narrow boxes that are perfectly shaped to hold clothing… still on hangers.
Another place to buy boxes is at your local dollar store. These days, you can find all sorts of things at dollar stores, including moving boxes, packing tape, markers, and even bubble wrap.
While the items may cost a little more than a dollar, generally speaking they aren’t more than a few dollars apiece. And while you get what you pay for in terms of quality, if all you’re going to use them for is to pack items for one single move — then this option could work for you.
Here’s a free online calculator to determine how many moving boxes you need.
Other Moving Supplies You’ll Need
We all know that when you’re moving, the boxes aren’t all that you need.
You will need:
- Packing tape
- Bubble wrap
TIP: Some fragile items can be wrapped in clothes, towels, or bedding to save money on packing materials like bubble wrap!
Beyond the basics, you might also appreciate:
Moving straps — these are especially useful if you’re moving everything yourself (or enlisting the help of friends & family). Forearm straps make it possible for 2 average people to move very heavy items — like furniture, washer & dryer, refrigerator.
Moving blankets — to wrap furniture and other items that you don’t want scratched during the move. Taping blankets around your items will also ensure that doors and drawers will stay closed (on hutches, desks, refrigerator, etc). As a bonus: moving blankets are the perfect weight, material, and durability to last a lifetime and can be used for many other things after your move.
Moving bags — if you want to keep heavy items that are similar together (like weightlifting supplies, tools, garden supplies, etc), moving bags with handles are a good way to do this. Just make sure that you get the super heavy-duty ones!
Packing tape dispenser — this is handy because is has a “cutter” built in. A tape dispenser makes it quick and easy to tape a bunch of boxes all at once.
The #1 Thing To Look For In Moving Boxes
The #1 feature I think you should look for when choosing moving boxes is boxes that can be securely closed!
This is always your best choice when moving — because you don’t want your stuff to spill out if the box gets tilted, tossed, or stacked.
And, if you or someone else actually drops a box, everything won’t go tumbling out on the street. That happened when I was kid, and believe me… watching the adults pick up of all my younger brother’s toys on a busy highway was not a fun way for them to spend the afternoon.
So, whether you choose free or purchased boxes, make sure they can be securely closed — on their own.
Yes, you can (and should) also tape them closed for added protection. But the more securely the boxes stay closed on their own, the less tape you’ll need to use. Therefore, the less tape you’ll need to buy and the more money you’ll save!
Uses For Moving Boxes After The Move
So, what do you do with all those boxes once you are moved?
Well, that sort of depends on your whatever your needs are. I broke down any boxes that I purchased and put them in my closets (against the back wall) — in the event that I or someone else I knew needed to move at a later date. You just never know if you or a loved one will have to make a move quickly, and you’ll be thankful that you have those moving boxes handy!
As for the printer paper boxes with lids… I used those for everyday storage. They fit on top of each other easily, and are still small enough that you can put them on your upper shelf in a closet or on the floor of the closet. I keep extra books, pictures, and knick knacks in mine.
Help a fellow mover. You can post your moving boxes for free (or a nominal fee) on Freecycle, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace. I’ve seen moving boxes offered and received several times there. Those places are specific to the area where you live — so you’ll be communicating with people who live near you.
If you still have some moving boxes left over, you can always recycle them.
Finally, here are some fun DIY ideas for cardboard boxes!
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My favorite things to write about are topics that have to do with pregnancy, weddings, saving money, living green, and life with dogs. When I’m not writing, I love to spend time with my husband, read, create 3D artwork and Native American beadwork.