Seven Ways to Get Free Shipping Supplies

By Xin Lu on 9 April 2008 (Updated 10 May 2009) 25 comments

Once upon a time I sold a lot of stuff on eBay and Amazon, and I always needed envelopes, boxes, and padding. The costs of these shipping supplies could really add up when you mail over a thousand things per year, so I looked into how to cut down my shipping costs. Here are some of the ways you can get your supplies for free and lower your business overhead.

Reuse Packaging - When I receive an online order it always comes with a box. Those boxes can be flattened and used for your own packages. I usually keep a couple boxes around for future use. Bubblewrap lined envelopes are also great and can be reused.

Newspapers
- After you finish reading that weekly circular or newspaper, you could use it to stuff your packages for mailing. It is more environmentally friendly than bubble wraps or foam peanuts and could provide adequate protection to your package.

Junk Mail
- If you have a reasonably good shredder, junk mail can be processed into filler for a package. As long as the recipient is not able to piece together your personal information, junk mail is a great substitute for foam peanuts.

Dumpsters/Recycling Bins - There are often perfectly good boxes available in dumpsters and recycling bins. They are usually cleaner in the recycling bin so I suggest looking there first.

Local Stores - Last week in downtown San Mateo I saw several shops closing down, and one of them had a lot of boxes they needed to get rid of. If you look around your town and find any dead businesses it is likely they may have unwanted boxes. I think if you ask around you can even get shipping supplies from stores that are not closing down because businesses tend to receive many packages a day and have no need for the extra packaging material.

United States Postal Service - The USPS offers free shipping boxes and envelopes for their Priority Mail or Global Priority Mail service. You can order the packaging online or go to the postal office. The catch here is that you must use the boxes for Priority Mail.

Friends and Family - You can ask your friends and family to save packing materials for you if you do not have enough yourself. You should make an effort to pick the things up, though.

This list is by no means comprehensive and I am sure you can find other ways of obtaining free mailing supplies. With so much online ordering and shipping of goods around the world I think we all need to reuse and recycle our packing materials.

2.3
Average: 2.3 (10 votes)
Your rating: None
ShareThis

comments

25 discussions

Add New Comment

CAPTCHA
This test helps prevent automated spam submissions.
Guest's picture
Torley

Xin! Thanks for sharing. You mentioned Amazon.com but didn't explicitly mention that one of the best ways to get boxes to reuse is to order from them. With larger shipments, there'll sometimes be boxes within boxes, too. Amazon.com has some sort of box-numbering system, and I don't know which codes correspond to which sizes, but I've seen a good range.

Guest's picture
Gusher

Nice post. Thanks for the sharing. You've got a very nice blog here. Very informative.

Guest's picture

I do a lot of shipping for my ebay sales too, and this is an excellent list you've assembled. I'm highly in favor of reusing every darn box and puffy envelope that comes into my house. Lots of folks at the office building I work at put their boxes outside their office suites for anyone to grab, and grab I do!

Here's one additional GREAT resource of shipping materials -- the postal service itself. If you ship via regular mail (and these days, cost is a factor so I ship as much as I can regular mail) you can get FREE supplies that you order online and are brought to you free of charge by your mail carrier. Here's a link where you can order exactly what size boxes you want, does it get cooler than that??

Link to USPS.Gov Store Site

Guest's picture
Guest

Just a reminder that, as you said, you must use USPS shipping materials as they are intended to be used. The Post Office has the right to open packages, and if they figure out you have -say- turned a box inside out to use (even if you pay postage) they'll return it.

Guest's picture
Cheryl

I simply wrap the books I send in reused brown paper bags! If I can't find any free bags, I pick up a 99 cent roll of brown paper at the drug store.
Thanks for the tips!

Guest's picture
Kacie

I've turned cereal and other rectangular boxes inside out to use as mailers. Works for me!

Myscha Theriault's picture

I use that one quite a bit. It gives a fresh surface, and you don't have to come up with a label to cover anything up. Then I don't have to use paper either.

Good post, Xin.

Guest's picture
Tammy

U-haul (www.uhaul.com) has a box exchange message board, where people who have recently completed moves offer up their used boxes. Some people charge but many give away their boxes for free.

Link: http://www.uhaul.com/boards/default.aspx?ForumGroupID=4

Guest's picture

Hit the big chain bookstores! They always seem to have a ton of sturdy, perfectly-sized boxes that they're happy to give you if you ask. It works best if you're a regular customer - the manager at my Borders recognized me and basically gave me every box they had, which ended up being more than enough to move.

Guest's picture
Guest

How do you think Wendys gets all their fries/salads/hamburgers into the store?

In boxes.

I know someone who manages a Wendys, and we did almost our whole move with fry boxes, which are very conveniently sized for that. They also have a variety of other sizes. I imagine going during a slow time and asking could yield a regular pickup rotation - they save the time having someone break them down before putting them in a dumpster.

My mother has done similar things with grocery stores. Egg boxes are the winner for size and sturdiness.

Lest you worry that food boxes would be smelly and soiled, they really aren't. Clean as office supply boxes.

Guest's picture
Jesse

King Soopers has been my best bet historically: they have a ton of extra boxes sitting around in the back and they are very willing to give them away.

Guest's picture
Barbara

of businesses that are good for boxes:

-local print shops, including Kinkos. those paper ream boxes are perfect size for moving. One of my printers also lent me a tape gun so I wouldn't have to buy one.

- ABC liquor stores are good because they have the dividers for fragile things like glasses, wine bottle collections, etc

Guest's picture
Josh

Excellent post. Just one word of caution - if you get boxes from a dumpster (especially from a grocery store), it could have bugs. Just a word from personal experience...

Guest's picture
alicia

craigslist and freecycle both have free packing materials all the time

Guest's picture
Jonathan

I'm sure many of us can help ourselves to boxes from work. I've been lucky and I've had access to good supplies of sturdy boxes with handles. Some workplaces might frown upon this, but if it's going in the trash anyway, why not?

Guest's picture

Don't forget neighborhood stores such as JC Penney and Kohl's. They get shipments once to twice a week and they don't mind giving boxes away. You will find everything from small to large and everything in between.

Guest's picture
wildgift

An online book store sent me a book sandwiched between two sheets of brown corrugated cardboard, and rubber-cemented together. The "wings" helped prevent damage. I successfully copied the design, with some 77 spray adhesive and old cardboard. You cut the cardboard into two large sheets, then spray on the 77 or brush on rubber cement, and let it dry. Wrap your book in newspaper, and then make the sandwich. Trim edges, add the address, and mail it.

Guest's picture
Chris

I found that a local furniture store has several dumpsters full of cardboard, styrofoam and other assorted materials that can be used for packing. I called the store and was told to go out back and help myself. The downside is that you may end up making your own boxes since the cardboard tends to be in large sheets.

Guest's picture
Guest

FYI, if a seller sends me something packaged in newspaper (dirty) or shredded paper (gets all over the house), I will not be ordering from that seller again.

Libraries are another great place to get boxes. Really, anyplace that orders "stuff" - liquor stores, grocery stores, pet stores, copy stores, etc.

Guest's picture
Guest

Duh anyone with half a brain would know what to do to get boxes.

Guest's picture
Guest

I think this is common sense...and not worth a complete webpage...good efforts tho...

Guest's picture
Guest

I think this is common sense...and not worth a complete webpage...good efforts tho...

Guest's picture
J Allan

Until we get teleportation technology to save our trees, I'm gonna stick with DIY, recycled/reuseable packaging, or anything I find at Costco dumpsters.

Guest's picture
Katina

One simple way to reuse a box is to "cut" it down to the size you need. Put your stuff in the box. Slice the four corners down to the "top" of your stuff. Fold in flaps (cut shorter if needed). Makes for a smaller box, less padding (as long as it's not needed) & less weight.

Guest's picture
Guest

Computer paper boxes are very strong, and they are uniform in size. I used the same set for 4 years of college & 2 years of grad school. If you work in an office you can get them. It's best to go to the computer room, where they use the most. And they are clean. The last time I moved I brought home 3 every day for 2 months. My roommate & I were both moving out and both had a lot of stuff. We did great.