It’s nice not to have to pay for things once in a while — especially when you’re moving because there are so many expenses you have to worry about. But one area you shouldn’t cut corners on is packing. Boxes in particular. If you’ve ever moved before, you know cardboard boxes can be the biggest packing expense due to the vast number of containers you need to pack your stuff in. While it’s tempting to take what you can for free, there is a catch. Just be aware of those catches before picking up those free boxes at the grocery store or anywhere else for that matter.
Condition of the boxes: Make sure the boxes you’re considering aren’t flimsy, with sturdy bottoms and flaps that will close completely at the top. Substandard-quality boxes can fall apart when you try to move, causing your stuff to break or sustain damage. You’ll end up paying dearly for that damage — far more than if you were to buy high-quality boxes in the first place.
Strength: Make sure the boxes have no holes, rips or weak spots. Check the seams for wear and tear.
Cleanliness: How clean the boxes are will make every difference between old and new. This may not matter when it comes to packing your old tools, workshop items or sports equipment, but it will certainly matter when it comes to packing your linens, towels, clothing and stuffed animals. Consider what the old boxes were used to store, such as vegetables, fruits or chemicals, before you use them for your personal belongings.
The dry factor: Make sure the boxes have not sustained water damage in the past. Even if they’re currently dry but have watermarks on the bottom, don’t use them. Their integrity has been compromised, meaning they can become flimsy or even have mold on them, points out The Moving Blog.
Hidden Risks and Costs
Aside from all of the above factors, there are hidden risks to finding and using free or cheap moving boxes. Those include:
Lost time and hassle: You may be on a mission to locate every last free or cheap moving box you can find in your town. You may have a checklist of every grocery store in your community, but before you head out to each one, consider the time you’re losing as well as your sanity as you go door to door. Yes, you may save upfront costs, but what is your time worth?
Extra expenses: Driving around to businesses in your area also incurs extra costs, such as fuel and mileage on your car. With gas prices as high as they are these days, you’ll spend more in gas money than you will in boxes.
Where to Find Good Cardboard Boxes
If you really have your heart set on locating free or affordable boxes, there are better ways to go about this. Ask your friends and neighbors if they have extra cardboard boxes. This is easy if it’s around holiday time and everyone has big shipping boxes leftover from Amazon and USPS. Or, if someone in your neighborhood has recently moved, hit them up for leftover boxes. They may be happy to give them to you, as they may have been planning to recycle them anyway.
Hit up social media to ask friends that live beyond your neighborhood. Try online sites like Freecycle and Craigslist to scout out free boxes.
Other places that have cardboard boxes:
- Large supermarkets
- Big box stores
- Shopping centers
- Home electronics stores
- Liquor stores
- Recycling centers
Remember, call first before you go to save yourself time and gas money. If you hit the jackpot, you can find one store for all your cardboard box needs.
If your time is more valuable than hitting up all those stores, consider buying boxes at an affordable rate from your mover.