Moving into a new home is one of those unique life events that combines excitement, stress, and dread. A fresh start is stimulating, packing and throwing away junk is physically and emotionally draining, and hauling things around is just plain hard on your body. If you plan your move wisely, however, you’ll find that you can at least score most of your packing boxes on the cheap. Here’s where to look for them:
A few weeks ahead of your moving date, check with your neighborhood grocery stores to find out when their biggest shipments come in, and mark your calendar to be there early when the next one arrives. Grocery boxes are strong and extremely popular for moving, so the competition can be ferocious. Don’t overlook the topless boxes, either. Like their closed-off counterparts, they’re also perfect for moving many household items.
Any box built sturdy enough to hold six 1.75-liter bottles of liquor can easily stand up to transporting pantry items and dishware. Again, many of these boxes are lidless, but on the bright side, there’s no reason to label them as long as you can see their contents! You can also use the corrugated dividers in these boxes as packing material for delicate items.
Home Furnishings Stores
Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Living Spaces…all these stores have tons of boxes, even ones designed to safely pack the family china. Kindly ask ahead of time what the best day is for excess box availability and make sure there are no restrictions on the number you can take, as many major retailers already have deals with local recycling centers.
Office Supply Stores
Both independently-owned office supply stores and national chains like Staples and Office Depot have some of the best moving boxes around. Wholesale paper boxes are amazingly strong, well-built, and have snug-fitting lids, to boot. You can also find boxes ideal for worry-free packing of prized electronics like laptops, tablets, and game consoles at these stores.
Bars and Restaurants
Boxes from bars and restaurants usually have great variety in terms of size, mostly because of the extensive inventory of food and beverages they keep on hand. From little boxes to hold knickknacks and bric-a-brac to oversized containers to safely haul large houseplants and table lamps, food and beverage service centers are absolute goldmines for movers.
Home Improvement Stores
Buying boxes at big retailers like Home Depot and Lowes isn’t as good as getting their shipping boxes for free, but their prices are typically lower than other local options. Still, smaller hardware and building materials stores are typically happy to let you have whatever boxes they have to avoid having to break them down and find storage for them in their generally limited spaces.
Aside from little bottles of pills, many items in pharmacies are quite big and arrive in medium-to-large-sized boxes. Like grocery stores, pharmacies typically receive major shipments on a specific day of the week. Arrive early and stock up on assorted sizes, nesting them inside of each other for easy transport and access when you’re packing.
You’ll find some of the strongest boxes in town at the local bookstore, simply because books are heavy. Just be sure to check with managers for the best days to pick up empty boxes. When packing, periodically check the weight of each box to make sure that they’re not too heavy for you and your helpers to comfortably lift and stack. Choose large chain bookstores for the best selections.
Major recycling centers often have an area where barely used boxes are kept (ones that aren’t quite ready for the cardboard mulching machine). The sizes always vary greatly, so if you’re lucky, this resource could be a major contributor to your moving adventure. As always, make sure to ask someone in charge for permission before you start rummaging through piles of boxes.
Community Outreach Centers
Online forums like Craigslist and Freecycle can be total goldmines: not only for free moving boxes, but also as places to get rid of things that are in working condition but you simply don’t want anymore. You can also use these message boards to get rid of all your boxes when your move is complete. U-haul also has a free online forum for box hunters.
Your Moving Company
If you’re paying a professional moving company to facilitate your move, they may offer you deep discounts on boxes. These companies will often have boxes for paintings and other items that require special handling, as well as bundles of conventional boxes for bigger moves.
Moving Truck Rental Companies
Buying boxes from major moving truck rental companies is usually more economical than purchasing them at office supply or hardware retailers. If you’re renting a truck from a company, their boxes may be deeply discounted or free.
FedEx and UPS stores have packaging for everything imaginable. Fees for packing and shipping are sometimes steep, but if you just need boxes and packing materials, you’ll find that the prices are surprisingly competitive.
If trolling around town gathering boxes doesn’t appeal to you, try checking out deals online. Order as early as possible so you don’t have to pay premium shipping rates to receive your boxes in time for your move.