6 Surprising Ways to Save Money on Moving and Avoid Buying Cardboard Boxes

published Mar 10, 2020
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Credit: Lauren Volo

Another moving day is here. Lucky you! Now it’s time to pack. With all the cleaning and organizing that goes with it, trekking to the store to buy a bunch of cardboard moving boxes probably feels like an inconvenience. Plus, it’s pretty wasteful and can get pricey all too quickly.

Have no fear, for there’s an alternative to forking over cash for cardboard—you can use things you already have on hand instead. Rachael Fischer Lyons, director of marketing and business development at Olympia Moving & Storage, offers alternatives to buying moving boxes, making moving cheaper, easier, and more eco-friendly.

Make the most of what you currently own

“It’s a great idea to use what you already have,” says Lyons, “as long as it keeps your items fully secured and sealed inside.”

Do use:

  • Suitcases and hampers: They’re great for packing clothes and linens. 
  • Plastic storage bins: These are good for accessories and miscellaneous items. Just don’t pack them too full with heavy things. 
  • Dressers: These are OK for small items. “You can move lightweight items inside your furniture,” says Lyons, “but if this adds too much weight to the piece, it’s better to empty the contents into boxes.”

Don’t use:

  • Garbage bags: People tend to turn to garbage bags as a last resort, but, says Lyons, “This is a mistake, even for lightweight items. It is very likely they will tear in transit and spill the contents onto your new driveway.”

Buy a few things you can reuse later

Storage containers like plastic boxes, bins, totes, are worth spending a little money on. Moving presents the opportunity to upgrade your storage, especially if you’re upsizing to a space with a garage, basement, or shed. These containers will not only assist with the move, Lyons says, but also help organize your new space. A win-win.

Don’t just throw everything together

Take special care of fragile items. “It is essential to use double-corrugated boxes or crates designed to keep your breakable items safe,” says Lyons, listing things like dishware, glassware, and art. “It’s also important to remember that you are liable for the contents of boxes you pack yourself. If you’re using professional movers, it’s a good idea to ask them to pack your most valuable and fragile items.”

Consider all the free alternatives to bubble wrap

It’s important to protect your belongings, but like buying lots of boxes, buying rolls and rolls of packing paper or bubble wrap can be a bummer. There’s another option: “You can wrap some fragile pieces in your linens, clothes, and towels,” Lyons suggests.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Try renting boxes

In some cities you can rent reusable moving boxes. “These are a great green alternative, so we recommend doing a web search to see if they’re available in your area,” says Lyons.

In New York City, for example, there’s Gorilla Bins, a company that offers rentable plastic moving boxes and supplies. 

Recycle the cardboard boxes you do use

To prevent them from ending up in a landfill, make sure any cardboard boxes you use are being recycled somehow. “Some moving companies will pick up boxes when you’re finished unpacking and bring them back to their warehouse for recycling,” says Lyons.

If not, she advises you give them away to another person you know is moving or sell them on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. (You can also look here to buy gently used boxes before you move. Just make sure they don’t have any bugs or mold on them.) Another option is giving them to some kiddos to have fun with. “They can use moving boxes to build a puppet stage, costumes, or even a fort,” says Lyons.