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Where to Get Cheap and Free Packing Supplies

Where to Get Cheap and Free Packing Supplies
School’s out for summer, and you’ve probably already burned your last exam papers (or stuck them on your fridge to brag to roomies). But before you grab your swimsuit and enjoy the freedom of summer, you’ve got one thing in your way: Moving. It takes time, energy, and boxes — lots and lots of boxes.

Boxes and other moving supplies can be difficult to come by, especially if you’re on a budget. But if you get creative, you can find packing supplies and boxes for cheap or free.

The question is, how can you get the supplies you need and still save money? Here are several ways you can find cheap or free moving supplies for your next transition.

Use Your Networks

Asking people who you already know for help could score you a lot of free packing supplies, especially boxes. Text someone who has recently moved and see if they still have any leftover supplies you can use.

There are several online pathways you can take to find free boxes, since everyone is plugged in 24/7. Try any of the following routes:

  • Social media: Post on Facebook, Twitter, or send a Snapchat announcing your upcoming move and let friends and followers know you’re on the hunt for boxes and moving supplies. Try to sniff out local Facebook groups that are dedicated to selling or giving away free items in your neighborhood.
  • Nextdoor: The Nextdoor app is a private social network for your neighborhood. Neighbors post community announcements and other important messages, as well as freebies. Post a message that you’re in search of packing supplies, and you just might get some hits.
  • Craigslist: Most people are familiar with Craigslist, a free online market where you can sell, buy, find places for rent, and browse the “free” section in your city for moving boxes. You can also post in the free section to let people know you’re looking for packing supplies.
  • Freecycle: This grassroots search tool lets you connect with people who are giving away free stuff in your area, with the intention of keeping good stuff out of landfills. There’s a high chance people will offer up cardboard boxes through this forum.

Some Universities provide online resources to help make moving easier for their students. The University of Colorado Boulder has a page dedicated to moving, where you can find logistics on the moving and a way to donate or recycle your old stuff. Colorado State University has a pocket-guide to moving to help students cover all their bases throughout a big move.


Many retail stores receive boxed shipments daily. Since their inventory is usually directly from manufacturers, the boxes are typically brand-new and durable enough to hold heavy items.

You can usually ask an employee or manager if they have any extra boxes (and bubble wrap or tissue) that you can use to move. Some promising retail outlets that may have cardboard boxes and padding include:

  • Grocery stores
  • Electronic stores (BestBuy, etc.)
  • Big box stores (Target, Walmart, etc.)
  • College student bookstores

Liquor Stores

If you’re over 21, chances are you’ve already got a friendly relationship with the employees at the closest liquor. Liquor stores have tons of boxes to spare, as they receive all their product in boxes from distributors.

Ask an employee or the manager if you can take home some of their extra boxes for moving, or if they can set some aside for you during their next shipment.

Recycling Centers

Most cities have multiple recycling drop-off locations that take flattened corrugated cardboard. Here are recycling drop-off locations for the following local college towns:

Moving Companies

Many moving companies sell packing supplies, even if you don’t use their moving services. Some include packing supplies for free if you do use their moving services—as is the case with College Student Storage.

Packing supplies that CSS provides includes the following:

  • Boxes in three sizes
  • Tape
  • Poster tubes
  • Markers
  • Labels
  • Additional supplies (provided with advance notice)
  • Bubble wrap
  • Mattress covers
  • Extra boxes

Building Complexes

Since virtually everyone in your college town is probably moving out of an old apartment or dorm after spring semester, it’s possible to score boxes from different buildings around town.

These locations include apartment complexes, frat houses and sororities, dorm rooms, post offices, and local office buildings. Don’t forget to try your school’s mail room!

Yard Sales

Once summer hits, yard sales are everywhere. In a college town, everyone is trying to purge their extra stuff before they go home for the summer or move into a new apartment or house. Yard sales are a great place to look for extra packing supplies or boxes.

Beyond cruising around town on your bike or longboard to find sales, you can try searching Craigslist, the Nextdoor app, or your neighborhood Facebook forums/events to find yard sales.

Get Creative

When it comes to finding tissue or bubble wrap to pad your fragile items, there are plenty of ways to save money by using items around the house to get the job done.

Wrap a blanket around a fragile picture frame, and use old sweaters and t-shirts to wrap fragile knick-knacks or dishes. Newspaper also works great for padding, just be careful that the ink doesn’t rub off on any white or delicate items.

Packing and moving tips to save you time & protect your atuff >