There I was, bustling around the kitchen making lunch for my daughter when our late morning routine was interrupted: Boom! Boom! Boom!
Milligan and I glanced toward the front door where the thunderous pounding had originated. “Holy cow!” I thought to myself, “There are only two groups of people who knock like that! This may not be good…”
Luckily, as I slowly opened the door, there was a stocky little lady in her late forties or fifties (with no badge). “Afternoon,” she said. “I've some packages for you… several packages for you. I'm gonna need some help carrying these around to the door.”
I started to tell her she must have the wrong house before I caught myself. “Whoa, that was fast”, I thought. Only 48 hours earlier, I'd been sitting in front of my computer cautiously ordering over 300 boxes of various sizes from United States Postal Office.
Free Boxes from USPS
For a while now, I've be aware the postal service provides free boxes when you ship through its Priority or Express Mail. Back when Courtney and I were purging all of our possessions in preparation for the year we spent traveling abroad, we had even stopped by our local post office to pick up several dozen of them.
But I recently discovered that the USPS will actually ship the boxes to you…for free! In fact, it's painfully easy. Currently, there seem to be two different ways to order free boxes:
- The USPS Online Store. If you're willing to take 30 seconds to register an account on usps.com, you can order directly from the post service. This gives you access to dozens of different box and envelope sizes. The website quotes you 7-10 business days, but my huge order only took 48 hours!
- USPS-eBay Partner Website. Alternatively, you can order free boxes with only your eBay account (no separate account needed with USPS). These boxes are also only for Priority Mail, but are branded with both the USPS logo and eBay's logo. Unfortunately, you can only order 6 different sizes with your eBay account, but there is a decent variety offered.
When you order online, you can select between a pack of 10 boxes or a pack of 25 for each different box size. You can also order between 10 and 100 envelopes in a single batch. I personally ordered an assortment of 25-packs from each site and received them all within two business days! Now I've just got to get through all these boxes!
While the boxes are really 100% free, you can only use the free Priority Mail boxes for… Priority Mail. USPS is very strict on this rule. You won't be able to use the boxes to ship Media Mail, First-Class, or Parcel Post. However, if in a fit of frugality you decide to use the boxes to wrap Christmas presents, you should be okay as long as no family members are undercover USPS agents!
Priority Mail is the default shipping method for many people who buy and sell on eBay. Packages normally arrive inside the 2-3 day quoted time frame, and the delivery confirmation and tracking (both free when ordering postage online) are important to a smooth transaction.
Whenever Courtney and I ship packages, whether it be through eBay or for family/friends, we almost always send them Priority Mail. So for us, we'll eventually weed through our new shipment of free boxes!
Avoid the Post Office Altogether!
If you're shipping a package via Priority Mail, the ability to order free boxes online means you can avoid the post office altogether! You could order the boxes, pack the item at home, print postage online, and even schedule a pickup for your outgoing shipment. That's right: USPS will come pick up deliveries that contain at least one package that is Priority or Express Mail.
I have to admit that being at the post office isn't one of my favorite pastimes. Courtney and I will continue to sell our unneeded stuff on eBay (we also sell stuff for our extended family); the process will just no longer include any trips to the post office. Being able to go through the entire shipping process from our home office is much simpler for us!
Oh — and if you know anyone in the Indianapolis area who could use some free boxes, let me know. I have a couple extra laying around!