11 Best Places to Find Free Moving Boxes

Dollars & Sense on 04.12.11
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Photo credit: Cristiano Betta/Creative Commons

It's dizzying to think about, but I've moved over ten times in the past 20 years. We currently live in Syracuse for my husband's medical training and are about to embark on move number 12, to Washington, D.C. But now that we have a gaggle of children, I'm hoping it's the last time for the next 20 years.

I don't think it make sense to pay for new boxes when it's so easy to get used ones, completely free. Here are my top tactics:

1. Craigslist and Freecyle

My favorite method for getting authentic moving boxes is to search Craigslist or Freecycle for people who have just moved and are giving cardboard away. If you don't see any offer ads, post a wanted ad.

2. Lightning-Fast Networking

Another quick way to get real moving boxes is to hop onto the listserv of your neighborhood or mom's group and simply ask. Someone is always moving somewhere, and people are happy to see their boxes get re-used.

3. Schools

If you already have a connection with a school, it's easy to go in and ask to relieve them of boxes used for equipment or frozen food. (Avoid fresh food boxes so you don't bring critters home with you.)

4. Liquor Stores

Then again, maybe you have a better relationship with a liquor store. (Hey, different strokes!) Bottles of booze are usually packed in sturdy boxes, and often in smaller sizes, which are great for packing heavy items and breakables.

5. Banks and Offices

Another great place to look for clean boxes are banks (or law firms), which might have even have those awesome document file boxes with handles and lids.

6. Box Exchange Web Sites

While national sites, like U-Haul's Box Exchange, aren't as effective as locally-based sites like Craigslist, it's worth checking for shares or exchanges in your city. 

7. Moving Company Left-overs

Speaking of U-Haul, if you are going to rent a truck, ask your DIY company if they have any used boxes lying around. Often people leave them on the truck and the store is happy to get rid of them. 

8. Office Supply & Electronics Stores

Other retail sources are office and electronics stores, who have to get rid of heavy-duty boxes on a regular basis. (I don't recommend grocery stores, since they usually crush boxes as soon as they are unpacked, and plus, food attracts bugs.)

9. Dumpster Diving

If you aren't getting any traction, or if you need boxes pronto, you could go dumpster diving at your recycling center (guilty!). Or check the bin behind a bookstore for possibly cleaner cardboard.

10. Help for Military Families

At sites like MovingDayBoxes, you might even qualify for free moving boxes if you or your spouse is in the armed forces.

11. Re-Usable Moving Crates

If you want a really out-of-the-box solution, rent reusable plastic crates from a company like ZippGo, BungoBox, or Rent-a-Crate.

So you see, it's easy to avoid buying fresh cardboard. If you do rack up moving costs, remember that you can deduct long-distance, work-related moving expenses from your taxes. So save those receipts and look forward to a refund.

In the meantime, I'm wishing you lots of happiness in your new home!

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