Cheap Moving Boxes

Moving: It’s not easy. Even if you’re headed to your dream house, you still have to pack up all your stuff and take it there. It’s time-consuming, it’s stressful, and, oh yes, it’s expensive.

You’ve already shelled out big-time — deposits, down payments, cable installation, and internet hookup. And now, you’ve got to dig deep to get your worldly goods transported. You have to pay people to come and haul your belongings from one place to another, preferably in a big truck.

But first, you have to pack it all up.

That means shoving everything you own into boxes. Many boxes, boxes that cost way more money than you’d think an empty box could possibly cost.

But you need them, lots and lots of them.

And who wants to shell out hard-earned cash for chunks of cardboard, something you’ll use once and then toss? Can you at least save a few bucks on this relocation adventure with cheap moving boxes?

Fear not; there are ways of cutting cardboard costs that will leave you with more cash in your wallet and no dumpster diving in the wee hours required.

All you need is a bit of strategizing to amass those containers while keeping more bread in the bank. Get started!

boxes stacked

Count up your cardboard box needs

Unless you’ve taken a vow of monk-like minimalism and get by with a futon and a coupla’ sticks of incense, you’ll need a sufficient quantity of boxes. And by ‘sufficient,’ we mean lots.

First, you likely possess way more stuff than you imagine, which becomes all too clear once you begin emptying closets, drawers, and storage spaces. And if you have an attic or basement…yeah. You’d better read on.

Second, it’s not easy to eyeball your possessions and predict how many containers they will fill. How many boxes will you really need? Fortunately, there are folks who have given this actual thought and can do the math for you.

Home Depot offers a handy tool that tallies up your possessions based on the number of rooms, standard and walk-in closets, garages, and basements you’ll be packing up. It also figures in your living style, categorized from minimalist to pack rat (be honest here). Enter your data, and the calculator presents the total number of boxes you’ll need and the cost to purchase them. Check out our review on Home Depot Moving Boxes to compare them with other options.

For an average apartment with no basement or garage — drumroll, please — the figure rings in close to $400.

For cardboard.

Okay, deep breath.

Start in your neighborhood

This is why you need to seriously pursue the quest for cheap moving boxes. Start close to home by hitting up your neighbors. No, don’t go knocking on random doors; that’s just annoying.

Turn to a website like NextDoor and check out the free ads. Once people have finished moving in, those empty boxes take up valuable square footage. They want that cardboard cache gone and fast.

Another local source to explore is CraigsList. Check out the Free Stuff listings, included alphabetically under the For Sale section.

And when you spot free boxes, hustle on over and pick them up, pronto. Free is always a popular option, and you’re not the only one moving.

U-Haul, those guys with the friendly orange and white trucks, offers a box exchange service in select cities. You can post and connect with other relocators to share or exchange moving boxes and supplies. If you want to save time, you can purchase U-Haul Moving Boxes.

Also, check out Freecycle, which operates nationwide and lists various free items, both Wanted and Offered, city by city. Some posts for moving boxes even include free bubble wrap and packing paper.

So make a cardboard connection close to home, and you’ll be on the way to amassing your moving stash.

Scour the streets

Local businesses can be a source of free boxes, and it can pay to cruise the trash receptacles, aka dumpsters, behind retail establishments.

Check out:

  • Liquor stores (nice heavy-duty ones, often with dividers)
  • Supermarkets
  • Big box retailers
  • Furniture stores
  • Builder supply stores
  • Restaurants
  • Bars and coffee shops

Temper your expectations here: This is a hit-or-miss operation and will, at best, supplement your box-gathering efforts.

Be aware that recycling cardboard is a big business and a source of ready cash for many people. Cardboard capitalists out there do this regularly on a fixed schedule, and they’ve got the good spots staked out and timed. And with the increasing demand spurred by online shopping, cardboard costs are only going up.

recycling graphic

Cast your cardboard net wide

Almost everyone has some cardboard boxes kicking around, and most will be happy for you to take them off their hands.

  • Ambush your family and friends
  • Bug your co-workers; put up a notice on the lunchroom bulletin board
  • Scope out the neighbors most visited by the UPS man and pay them a friendly visit
  • Stick an index card by your mailbox asking for unwanted empties

A few do’s and don’ts

Don’t Do This:

Priority and Express Mail boxes from the U.S. Post Office are free but illegal to use for anything but shipping mail. Any other use is actually against the law, even if just used as cushioning for smaller items placed inside larger boxes.

And enlarging a post office mailing box by taping two together, a practice known as “Frankensteining,” is also a no-no. Ditto for wrapping your stuff in those heavy-duty Priority or Express Mail Tyvek envelopes, using them as packing material.

The U.S. Post Office deems this “unethical behavior,” and the Federal government cites consumers for the offense. So put it down, even if it’s parked right next to the blue bin! Moving is expensive enough without adding fines to your costs.

For sale, cheap

After going the freebie route, you still may need to purchase a few boxes, particularly larger sizes that are more difficult to come by. You can’t shove grandma’s quilt into that online shopping box that shipped your toothpaste, and when moving your clothing, you’ll be much happier with a wardrobe container than a bunch of plastic kitchen bags.

Your goal now is to pay as little as possible for good-quality boxes in the marketplace. So where can you buy cheap moving boxes?

carrying box

This box has seen better days.


A starting point for this frugal fun is U-Line, which might be the internet’s unofficial Corrugated Cardboard Central. A company with 1,550 different box sizes in stock. U-Line offers guidelines for container size and the correct weight, strength, and paper grade for your household items. Once settled in your new digs, you don’t want to unpack only to find your wedding china, bobblehead sports collection, or alumni coffee mug in shards.

Another company that can help rein in your container costs is Uboxes, which offers packing box room kits of various sizes and promises free same-day shipping.

A popular bargain bonanza, Used Cardboard Boxes offers earth-friendly moving kits based on the number of rooms you’ll be packing up. They’re chock full of stuff like tape, packing peanuts, and bubble wrap. Handy. But compare before you buy; new boxes at retail giants might win the price battle.

There’s also the appealingly named Cheap Cheap Moving Boxes. These kindred souls make the promise that “We are the cheapest, or it’s free!” They offer a buy-back of unused boxes should you overestimate the goods.

Big box boys

And pay a visit to the builder supply and warehouse outlets, like Home Depot Moving Boxes, Lowes, and Costco. These reliable standbys all have decent pricing to help cut moving costs, so do a bit of comparison shopping to pinch every penny. Big box stores are a good source for custom-sized containers to fit special items, like your beloved flat screen. If you do buy, hang onto your receipts to return any unused items.

Pack it in

Size it up

And yeah, size does count. Just because something fits in a box doesn’t mean you should necessarily jam it into said box. Here are a few right-size box pointers:

  • Small: Books, small frames, knick-knacks. And if you love it, bubble wrap it. Keep under 50 pounds, please
  • Medium: Kitchen drawer stuff, from spatulas to pasta strainers. Silverware. Tools. Legos. 65 pounds, max
  • Large: Curtains, down comforters, pillows. Anything bulky you can fit, but watch the weight! (Someone’s back is at stake here)

And label every single one. (No, you will not remember what’s inside.)

wooden boxes

Dial down the stress

Moving is a real stressor, and it’s not all in your head. The Social Readjustment Rating Scale, created by psychiatrists, lists “a change in residence” at number 32 out of a possible 43 Stressful Life Events!

Okay, so it’s not entirely in the same league as death, divorce, or incarceration, but it definitely made the list. So moving madness is real and takes its toll on your wallet and your psyche. (And if your move is caused by divorce or death, our heart goes out to you! You can get through this.)

By nabbing cheap moving boxes and saving some bucks up front, you’re ahead of the game financially and psychologically. Avoid jamming your belongings into 50-gallon trash bags and pillowcases come moving day. And with the dough you’ve saved, you can treat your pals, the true friends who actually show up to help on moving day. Pizza with the works, on you.

So what’s next?

You’ve nailed down a packing plan and are ready to find the right people to do the heavy lifting. Head to moveBuddha to locate the most professional and trusted movers to handle your worldly goods. You can read 100% verified human reviews from folks sharing their relocation adventures, then choose the best company to get your goods where you’re going.

We’ve compiled info and reviews on a host of fully insured movers that provide transparent licensing information and fast, free quotes to get you where you’re going.

movers carrying couch

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