Ways to Get Free Shipping Supplies for an eBay Business

If you're shipping a lot of items, the costs can add up

Shipping supplies, including cardboard boxes, tape, packing peanuts, and bubble wrap.

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An eBay business comes with all sorts of expenses including listing fees, final value fees, Paypal fees, labels, printer ink, packaging materials, and of course, shipping supplies. Successful business people are always looking at the bottom line and analyzing expenses to create a larger profit margin. There are quite a few creative ways to get free shipping supplies and cut expenses on a regular basis.

USPS Priority Supplies

When shipping USPS Priority Mail, supplies are free. You may only use these supplies for Priority Mail – not for first-class, parcel select, media mail, or international shipping. The post office strictly forbids turning the materials inside out to use for other classes of mail. You may think this is a clever trick, but turning boxes, Tyvek envelopes, or padded flat rate envelopes inside out is considered misuse of mail supplies and you can be fined.

Regular Priority Supplies (not flat rate or regional) can be altered as long as the Priority mail fee is paid when the item is shipped. If you have an item that doesn’t fit in a priority box, it is ok to make a box in the correct size using priority materials because Priority Mail shipping costs are based on weight and distance.

Flat rate and regional rate supplies can only be used as-is and cannot be altered because the flat rate and regional rate fees are predetermined. In other words, the post office will refuse a flat rate or regional box that has been altered. Don’t do it.

FreeCycle Supplies

This is a community forum where the goal is to keep items out of the landfill. Members post when they have moving materials left over, have packing materials to share, or for some other reason have an abundance of boxes or packing materials that are in good condition and reusable. Members can also post wanted ads asking for specific items.

Freecycle is safer than Craigslist and everything is free – no negotiating needed and no cash changes hands. Freecyclers are earth-friendly people who want to dispose of items in a responsible way. Nevertheless, always meet your trading partner in a public place and in a well-lighted area.

Local Furniture Stores

Large pieces of furniture are usually wrapped in heavy brown paper or bubble wrap. These pieces can easily be cut down and used for smaller items. Boxes containing lamps, vases, small mirrors, and other small home décor are perfect for shipping.

Ask the manager if you can come by on a regular schedule to pick up packing materials. Some managers will refer you back to the dumpster where you can carefully retrieve clean reusable materials on top of the dumpster pile.

Dollar stores have great boxes for media mail, parcel select, first-class, and international shipping. The boxes are sturdy and small – perfect for household items, kitchen items, small sporting goods, lots of clothing, or small electronics.

Independently Owned Boutiques

Look for boutiques in your area that sell breakable items. Those items are usually shipped from suppliers in boxes and wrapped well in cushioning material to prevent breakage. The boutique owners may gladly give you the bubble wrap, foam sheets, packing peanuts, or air pillows to re-use.

Also, you can develop a relationship with the boutique owner. Pay attention to what they sell in their store to get ideas for new product trends and what might sell well on eBay.

Grocery Stores

Another great place for boxes. Also, ask to have your groceries bagged in paper bags as they are perfect for wrapping breakables. Paper bags can be used for wrapping, crumpled up and used for cushioning, or used for dunnage. Brown paper bags are reusable, recyclable, and earth-friendly, unlike plastic.

Avoid the Liquor Store

The post office does not allow anything to be shipped in liquor boxes. Liquor boxes are great for moving and storage but aren’t allowed in the mail.

It isn’t always necessary to spend money on boxes or packing materials. Use your ingenuity to think about how to get free supplies. $50 a month not spent on shipping supplies equals $600 a year added to your bottom line.