Buying boxes can break a moving budget, but it’s not hard to find clean, sturdy boxes for free. You just have to get creative and think outside the box.

In fact, free boxes are plentiful. Here are 10 places to find as many as you need for your move.

10 places to find free moving boxes

1. Friends

This past summer, Kristi Ernsting and her husband moved across town into a larger house in Overland Park, KS so they could have more space for their two active boys. She watched Facebook for posts that mentioned moving and scored boxes from friends who had recently moved and were thrilled to get rid of the extra cardboard.

“I took the boxes off their hands,” she said.

2. Neighbors

One of the best places to get free moving boxes is Nextdoor, a site and app that allows neighborhoods to create private social networks. Business owner Shannon Robeson, who runs Natures New Green, which sells supplies for urban and organic gardening, saves all her extra boxes and offers them free on Nextdoor.

“I offer my extra supplies there first,” she said.

3. Freecycle

The Freecycle Network is a great way to get free stuff, including moving boxes. Robeson also uses Freecycle to unload extra boxes.

4. Craigslist

While she got some boxes from her Facebook friends, Ernsting got even more on the “free” section of Craigslist. “People post boxes there regularly,” she said.

Cardboard boxes

5. Large Apartment Complexes

Tenants regularly move in and out, and also receive packages, so the recycling room should be overflowing with cardboard. Stop in and ask the manager if you can take a bunch of boxes.

6. Local Stores

A liquor store is a great place to get sturdy boxes, some of which contain divider inserts, said Eileen Roth, author of “Organizing for Dummies” and a professional organizer.

“Those divided boxes are great for vases, glasses, and other tall or breakable items,” Roth said, adding that they also work well for bathroom items like shampoo, conditioner and shower gel. “The tops are often cut off, so be aware that these might be boxes you will move in your own car,” she said.

Other retailers also often have surplus boxes:

  • Big box stores. Stores like Walmart, Home Depot and Best Buy are known as “big-box stores” for a reason.
  • Book stores. Book stores have boxes that will work well for packing your own books, CDs and other media.
  • Dollar stores. Dollar stores have boxes in an array of shapes and sizes.
  • Grocery stores. Grocery stores can offer heavy duty banana boxes, egg boxes and detergent boxes.
  • Pet stores. At pet stores, you can get large boxes that work well for packing clothes, bed sheets and towels.

Many grocery and other large stores use machines to crush their surplus boxes, so show up early in the morning while employees are stocking shelves, Chantay Bridges, a Los Angeles real estate agent, recommends. If boxes already have been smashed, ask a manager to put aside some boxes for you.

7. Work

See if you can get copy paper boxes, which are good for packing books, dishes and other heavy items.

“Most offices receive several boxes delivered on a weekly basis,” Bridges said. “Check with each department to see if they’ll hold a few for you.”

8. Dumpster Diving

Behind some retail stores and other strip mall businesses, you’ll find recycling dumpsters marked “cardboard only.” Never climb inside a dumpster, only take what you can reach easily.

9. Local Hospital

Hospitals regularly get shipments of medical equipment and supplies in sturdy boxes. Call your local hospital, ask for the warehouse receiving department and see if they’ll save some boxes for you.

10. Colleges or Universities.

You can check with the mail room at your local college or university to see if they have surplus boxes. Or, check with the campus recycling center or initiative to get the locations of recycling drop off points on campus.

Allie Johnson