How to Get Free Shipping Supplies

Carefully packaging every item you ship is critical. No one wants to receive a damaged or poorly wrapped item. But proper packaging often isn’t cheap – it can cost up to $5-$10 per package when you total up the cost of boxes, bubble wrap and packing peanuts. Luckily, there are ways to pack cost-effectively yet still ensure that send safe, secure packages.

1.  Go to the Shippers for Free Shipping Supplies

  • The US Postal Service provides free boxes, envelopes and labels for Priority Mail which you can pick up at your local post office or have delivered to you free-of-charge. (To place an order, go to: http://supplies.usps.gov   (You can also order Express and Global Mail supplies and forms here.) One caveat— you can only use these boxes for shipping via USPS. You can't cover up the logo or turn them inside out and send them through another carrier or use them to ship via USPS Parcel Post.
  • FedEx and UPS also offer a very limited selection of free boxes and envelopes. Pick them up at your local FedEx or UPS store or order them through the web: http://www.fedex.com and http://www.ups.com.

2. Recycle

    Save packing peanuts from packages you receive in a large garbage bag — before long you’ll have an ample supply. Save “un-popped” bubble wrap, blocks of foam padding, and clean tissue paper (not newspaper). Don’t reuse these materials if they have an odor, since it might transfer to the contents of the package. Remember that your most important shipping goal is to deliver purchased items safely and securely in the best condition possible. While you shouldn’t reuse boxes in general, you may want to use old boxes occasionally for internal support if you have to double-box a delicate item. Just make sure they’re in good shape with no external damage.

    3. Check Bulletin Boards and Online Resources

    Check local bulletin boards and online resources for people giving away packaging supplies — you can also post a "peanuts and bubble wrap wanted" ad. Try craigslist and freecycle online, and physical bulletin boards at your workplace as well as local schools, churches, laundromats and community centers. Offices are another good place to find free materials— ask the office manager or receiving department if you can have their used peanuts, bubble wrap, or foam packing materials. Shredded paper can be used to cushion items. Make sure the paper pieces are long enough to be "springy" otherwise they won’t offer much protection. Do NOT use shredded newspaper or personal documents as cushioning material!

    4. Get the Best Deal When You Have to Buy

    If you have to buy new shipping materials, shop around for the best deal. Ask about volume discounts and free shipping.

    Smaller online merchants may give you better deals — search for "shipping supplies" and compare prices. Large office supply chains sometimes run online specials too, so check their websites. Trusted and cost-effective online retailers include:

    Check local outlets by visiting The Yellow Pages or by searching Google Local. You can find gems like The Packaging Store featuring discount boxes and shipping supplies for people located in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    Tips

    • Small, lightweight items like books and jewelry can be shipped in envelopes. If the envelope isn't padded, wrap the item in bubble wrap first. If you're using a paper envelope, place the item inside a sealed plastic bag first to protect it from rain and snow — Tyvek envelopes (the extra-strong material used in USPS Priority Mail envelopes) are waterproof so you can skip the plastic bag.
    • Proper cushioning will prevent damage if your package is dropped on the floor or if it slides around inside a delivery truck. Save money by first lining the box with tightly crumpled paper and/or shredded paper. Newspaper ink will stain, so if you use it, make sure that the item is wrapped or placed in protective casing and is not in direct contact with the newspaper.

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