Where Can I Get Free Boxes?

Stacy Randall
by Stacy Randall

Are you getting ready to move? Or maybe you’ve finally made the decision to declutter the house. Now, you need boxes…lots of boxes. But you really don’t want to spend your hard-earned money, so where can you get boxes for free?

To get free boxes, check with local schools, large retailers, office buildings, apartment complexes, and college dorms. Ask friends, family members, and your workplace to save empty boxes for you. Look for free boxes on online sites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Freecycle, and neighborhood community groups. Check local recycling centers or U-Haul Box Exchanges.

There’s no reason to break the bank on moving boxes. Put your wallet away, and try any of the following tips for getting boxes for free.

12 Places To Find Free Boxes

One of the best ways to ensure you don’t need to spend any money on boxes is to start gathering them ahead of time. As soon as you know you’re going to move or start a major house clean-out, start using these ideas to get what you need.

1. Get Boxes From Work

Depending on where you work, this could be a great way to get free boxes. Perhaps there’s a large delivery coming up soon. Or maybe your workplace receives frequent shipments. Let your coworkers or boss know that you’re looking for boxes.

Ask whoever receives shipments to set some boxes aside for you after they unpack deliveries. Note: If you see a stack of empty boxes hanging out, make sure to ask before taking them. (You never know if someone else has already staked their claim.)

2. Ask Friends And Family

Spread the word to your friends and family that you could use empty boxes of all shapes and sizes. The next time they get a package in the mail or make a Costco run, they can pass the boxes on to you.

If someone gathers boxes for you, make a point to get them as soon as possible. After all, they’re doing you a favor, and shouldn’t have to store boxes for you in their car or living room.

3. Check For Free Boxes At Big Stores

Large retailers and big-box stores are constantly receiving shipments, which means they get tons of boxes. Visit your local Wal-Mart, Costco, Target, liquor stores, pharmacies, and similar establishments and ask them if they have any boxes to spare.

They’ll likely direct you to the rear of the store or wherever they receive their shipments and invite you to take what you need from a specific area. Depending on your timing, they may have already broken down the boxes.

If you’re willing to bring them back to life with some packing tape, scoop them up. Another option is to ask stores when they typically receive new shipments and unpack inventory. Then make a point to visit during those times to snag assembled boxes.

4. U-Haul Box Exchange

U-Haul offers a Customer Connect program that allows people to help each other out and reduce waste at the same time. The company’s Box Exchange invites customers to trade boxes and moving supplies instead of having to purchase new ones.

U-Haul also has other ways to save on boxes, such as drop-one/get-one programs. Customers can drop off unused or reusable boxes at specific locations for others to take for free.

5. Online Marketplaces And Neighborhood Community Groups

Look online for free boxes via Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and similar sites. Platforms like Nextdoor highlight neighborhood communities and can be a great place to post a request for free boxes. You view and post within your specific neighborhood, so you can find what you’re looking for nearby.

Other sites, like Freecycle, invite you to post or request items for free or propose a trade. Create a post on your platform of choice and turn on notifications to ensure you get timely updates. Always ensure you check user reviews and arrange safe pickup terms when getting items via online sources.

6. Apartment Complexes

Apartment buildings always have new people moving in, which means you’ll likely often see boxes piling up near the dumpster area. Before you start digging around in the complex’s trash pile, visit the office. Ask them if you could please take a few empty boxes. More than likely, they’ll be happy to let you do so.

7. Office Buildings

Large office buildings are another place that receives frequent deliveries, so stop by and ask if you can get some boxes. They may be happy for you to take them off their hands. They won’t need to deal with breaking them down or throwing them out.

8. Schools

In addition to large retailers and office buildings, schools also receive lots of deliveries, often weekly. If you have kids in school, start there. If not, start with schools that you have some sort of connection to — you went there, worked there, know someone who works there, have a niece there, etc.

Otherwise, call a few nearby schools and ask them if you could possibly get some empty boxes. If they say yes, ask them how and when they prefer for you to get them. Schools usually have various security measures in place, so it’s best to let them know you’re coming.

9. College Dorms

If you live near a college or university, head to the dorms on move-in day and scoop up boxes that pile up outside. Visiting the day or two after move-in day also works, depending on when trash pick-up is. If you know someone starting college, lend a hand with unpacking and ask for boxes in exchange.

10. On The Curb

When people end up with empty boxes they don’t want, they put them out on the curb. So, take a stroll or drive through your neighborhood the evening before recycling or trash pickup.

Typically, items put on the curb are fair game, depending on your county. If you see some boxes in good shape, be courteous and ask your neighbor if you can take them.

11. Scope Out Garage Sales

Check out nearby garage sales to score some boxes. The best time to go would be near the end of the sale. Ask before you take them, in case the sellers plan to pack up their leftover items.

12. Recycling Centers

Go to local recycling centers and ask the attendant for empty boxes. Many centers have a bin specifically for cardboard boxes. You can check it out and take what you need.

You’ll likely find many that are broken down, but again, it’s nothing a bit of packing tape can’t handle.

What If I Still Need Boxes?

Using these tips, you’re sure to get the boxes you need without having to buy any. But what if you’re facing a large move or you’re crunched for time?

In certain cases, you could get to the point where you still need a lot of boxes and you’ve exhausted all of your free options. If this happens, you can always purchase various types of boxes at home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s. The boxes are very sturdy, but they can add up quickly.

For example, one extra small box at Home Depot costs about $1.28. A heavy-duty extra-large box costs almost $7. Moving companies also sell boxes and moving kits, sometimes offering specials if you’re using their services. But, before you resort to opening your wallet, think outside the box (pardon the pun).

What Else Can I Use To Pack Stuff?

To avoid spending money on your packing efforts, get a bit creative. If you’re moving, consider loading up clothes and shoes in your suitcases, plastic garbage bags, and backpacks. Transport sheet sets inside the matching pillowcase. Tote items in laundry baskets, hampers, and trash cans.

If you’re decluttering, assess your items for various things like bins, baskets, garbage cans, etc., that you plan to donate. Use these items to hold other things you’re giving away, like dishes, books, etc. Nest small items into larger items.

For clothing, sheets, linens, and other non-breakables, put them in plastic garbage bags. The goal is to reserve your boxes for items that can’t go into bags, soft bins, or any alternative containers.

Getting Boxes On A Budget

Spending money on cardboard boxes is often an unnecessary expense. You can easily acquire free boxes from friends and family, local retailers, office buildings, and schools. Visit apartment complexes or college dorms or check out your neighborhood the night before recycling pickup.

Online marketplaces and community groups are also great places to find and ask for free boxes. The earlier you start looking and the more time you have, the more likely you’ll get everything you need for free.

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Stacy Randall
Stacy Randall

Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent's former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.

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