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How to find free moving boxes

So you're moving. You're going to need a lot of boxes. But if you know where to look, they're free for the taking.

By Smart Spending Editor Jul 9, 2013 5:55PM
This post is by Jim Wang from partner site

MSN Money PartnerWhen we moved a few weeks ago, one of the things I swore I would never do was buy a single moving box. There’s just something about paying for cardboard I’ll only use for a couple days that irked me. That and moving boxes are (relatively) expensive!

Image: Couple packing their house (© Image Source/PictureQuest)To be entirely truthful, it was just my frugal side coming out and I figured that with some creativity and a little bit of time, I could find a way to get enough free moving boxes to fit all of our needs.

Here is how we were able to get enough free moving boxes to avoid buying any.

Talk to your realtor
If your realtor is any good, he or she will have had a hand in many sales transactions within the last month. All of those people move. And all of those people use moving boxes that they will no longer need and they would love it for you to come and take those boxes off their hands. Just ask your real estate agent whether any one of her recent clients have boxes they no longer need. Since he or she will service a local geographic region, you probably won’t need to drive very far to get them.

Ask your friends
About half a dozen of our friends have moved within the last six months and most of them have moved into homes they will reside in for the next 20-30 years. They will have boxes you can use (or even simply “borrow” if they aren’t in their “forever homes”).

There are a lot of waste-not-want-not types on Craigslist and “freecycle” sites that will give you their used cardboard boxes for nothing. Take advantage of their generosity and you can usually pick up a bunch of broken down boxes for free (sometimes they’ll charge you, but that’s usually posted in the listing).

Liquor stores/Costco
Costco and beer/liquor stores are great options for a large supply of sturdy boxes designed to carry heavy things. We hit up our local beverage store for a bunch of these boxes and it helps to call ahead to find out when their delivery day is. After delivery day and before recycling gets picked up is the sweet spot. One word of warning, and this applies for Costco boxes as well, is that sometimes you’ll get boxes with a hole at the bottom. Be sure to get some reinforcement.

Cardboard box tips
When it comes to free boxes, not all free boxes are created equal. This is especially true for those boxes that have been used. Here are a few tips when it comes to cardboard:

  • Inspect them thoroughly! Your boxes will be holding a lot of important things, check them for structural integrity, crushed walls, and anything that could put your items at risk.
  • Look for signs of moisture. Moisture will result in weakness as well as mold. Pitch any box that looks like it has ever seen water.
  • Review seams. Cardboard boxes are typically once piece folded together and glued on one seam. Inspect that seam to see if the glue is still in good shape. If you tape up a box well enough, losing that seam won’t necessarily tear open the box (it depends on how heavy the items are and how they are packed).
  • Understand what Edge Crush Test (ECT) means. When you move, you’ll probably be stacking boxes. The ECT is a measure of how much weight a box can handle in terms of pounds per inch. Exceed that and you risk crushing everything and having the boxes above it collapse into each other. It’s bad.

To find the ECT rating of a box, just look at the bottom. Numbers on the bottom will tell how much weight a given box can hold. There is also what's known as the Mullen Bursting Test, which is a measure of weight per square inch of the box. If you pack stuff that is both heavy and expansive, the bursting test is something to be aware of.

I don’t want to get too esoteric with the stamps on boxes but it’s important to know when transporting heavy things. Chances are moving boxes will be able to handle anything you move.

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That covers basically everything I learned about moving boxes and how to get free ones. I hope that helps any future movers out there!

More from Bargaineering:

Jul 10, 2013 9:14AM

you seem afraid of the term "dumpster diving"?  there should be no shame in pulling $50 out of a dumpster of useable boxes. 


it's not uncommon to go BEHIND a shopping center and look into the bins behind the department stores.  many are NOT the slop-bins no one wants to reach into.  many small clothing stores are too small for the fancy cardboard recyling machines.  yet many are pleanty big enough to fill their bins with boxes. 


boxes run easily $0.50 to $1.50 each, so it's just chump change, but adds up when you move an entire house of belongings. 

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