Shipping customer orders on time is one of the most critical parts of your fulfillment process. And it’s vital to optimize the shipping process to keep customers happy.
Consumers are always looking for brands that offer them faster shipping times with minimal shipping costs (thanks, Fulfillment-By-Amazon.) While meeting these expectations isn’t always easy, business owners can lower shipping costs by reducing costs at individual stages of the fulfillment process.
One part of the shipping process where business owners can cut costs is packaging by getting their hands on free shipping supplies. There are a few promising ways to score some serious free shipping supplies, and we’ll take a look at those now!
How to Choose the Right Shipping Supplies
Good shipping practices balance safety and budget. Your packaging needs to ensure that items arrive safely, but you can’t use too many shipping supplies because it’ll raise costs.
Here, we’ll take a look at the three critical elements of good packaging for product shipping:
You have two main types of containers when shipping products, which are boxes and mailers. To ensure your items arrive safely at their destinations, you want them to fit snugly in their containers, so choose the smallest box possible. In addition to ensuring your items’ safety, small shipping boxes incur lower shipping costs.
Cushioning and Void Fill
Cushioning like bubble wrap, air pillows and packing peanuts fill the empty space in your containers, so your items don’t get jostled around during transit. These cushioning methods ensure that your products stay in place while the box is being moved so they won’t get damaged.
Special Care for Fragile or Irregular Items
Some items need special treatment to ensure their safety during transit. Here are some ways you can handle fragile or irregular items:
- Multiple items in one box: Wrap each item with foam or bubble wrap so they don’t get scratched when bumping into each other during transit.
- Delicate or fragile items: Wrap especially fragile items in bubble wrap or styrofoam sheets and fill the box with packing peanuts to ensure they stay in place.
- Items with sharp edges: Dull the edges by placing folded cardboard or using a reinforced double-wall box to prevent the edges from breaking the packaging.
- Wallpaper, posters, or rugs: You can’t fold items that shouldn’t have creases. Instead, roll them up and deliver them in tubular shipping boxes.
Where to Buy Cheap Shipping Supplies
You may need to buy your own shipping supplies if you handle shipping and delivery without third-party logistics (3PL). Here are some great places to get packaging materials and supplies:
If you’re only shipping a few items, your local office supply or stationery stores usually sell the things you need. Prices between stores may vary, so shop around to find the best deal.
Big Box Stores
Big box stores like Target and Walmart have locations all over the country, which makes shopping for shipping supplies easier. These stores also offer bulk shipping supplies for reasonable prices.
Online retailer Amazon sells all kinds of shipping supplies, from poly mailers to cardboard boxes, at reasonable prices. For instance, a 25-pack of cardboard boxes is just $21.99 and can go even lower if you have the relevant coupons.
eBay offers self-branded packing supplies like boxes, mailing envelopes and packaging tape to help its sellers deliver their goods. While it’s easy to access, eBay Shipping Supplies doesn’t have the best prices – a set of 25 cardboard boxes costs $31, for example.
To find better deals, you may need to look through eBay listings and search for sales and auctions that sell low-priced packing supplies.
Carriers That Offer Free Shipping Supplies
Many different carriers offer business owners free shipping supplies. One thing to keep in mind with each carrier is they only let you get free supplies if you use their services. For example, you can’t walk into the UPS store with FedEx’s packaging and expect them to let you ship it.
Let’s see what each one is offering.
How to Get Free Shipping Supplies From UPS
The advantage of working with a UPS store is they provide different boxes for each category of mail services. All you have to do is walk into your local UPS store, and they’ll provide packages for free.
How to Get Free Shipping Supplies From FedEx
You can get free shipping supplies from FedEx by going to their retail locations or ordering shipping supplies online. The packaging is complimentary when you ship with FedEx.
Are FedEx Boxes Free?
Yup! FedEx offers free shipping boxes and free shipping supplies in great variety. These boxes are free in small, medium and large sizes.
How to Get Free Shipping Supplies From USPS
The United States Postal Service offers shipping boxes and envelopes for free through its website. You can get boxes and envelopes in various USPS-standard sizes, which makes shipping easier if you deliver products through USPS.
However, there is a restriction to keep in mind when getting free boxes from USPS. When shipping your products, your mailing service must match the service listed on the package. For instance, using a Priority Mail Express flat rate envelope means you can only use USPS Priority Mail Express service.
Which Shipping Boxes Are Free at the Post Office?
The free boxes at the US Post Office include different USPS Priority Mail Boxes like the priority mail medium flat rate box and other free USPS boxes like the small flat rate box and the large flat rate box.
Where to Get Poly Bags for Shipping
You can buy poly bags wherever shipping supplies are sold. Some of the best places to look for poly bags include:
- Local stationery stores or dollar stores
- Large retailers like Walmart and Target
Does USPS Have Free Poly Mailers?
The USPS does not offer free poly mailers, but you can get similar items like padded envelopes from its website.
USPS Poly Mailer Shipping Costs
Poly mailers are often used for lightweight items, so the cost of shipping poly mailers is generally very affordable.
How to Get Free Shipping Supplies from DHL
DHL is one of the most prominent names in international shipping. If you have a DHL account, you can order free shipping supplies from its website. Available items include boxes of various sizes, envelopes, flier bags and waybill sleeves.
Tips to Keep in Mind With Carrier Packaging
Free carrier packaging is excellent, but it’s not a ‘no-strings-attached’ deal. Here’s what to keep in mind when using free supplies from carriers.
Use Specific Mailing Services
When you’re getting free shipping supplies from a carrier, it’s often complementary, which means you are limited to a specific mailing service. Again, you can’t expect to get free supplies from FedEx if they know you’ll ship with UPS.
Use Only Specific Carriers
Carrier-supplied free boxes come with shipping labels and stamps, so other carriers can’t use these boxes.
Don’t Order More Supplies Than You Need
We know it’s tempting, but carriers offer free shipping supplies and expect etiquette from their customers. So, don’t order more supplies than you need, even if they’re free. If it takes too long to get shipping supplies, head to your nearest customer center to pick up the supplies when needed.
Alternative Methods to Get Free Shipping Supplies
If you don’t want to commit to a carrier, there are other ways you can find free shipping supplies.
Reuse Old Packages
A great and cost-effective way to source your packaging is to look for reusable old packages and take off their old shipping labels. You can look up free packaging ads on websites like Craigslist to reuse packaging that would have otherwise gone to the landfill.
Get Old Boxes from Local Stores
You can get free shipping supplies and old boxes from local stores. Depending on what type of packaging supplies you require, you could swing by your local furniture stores, grocery stores, boutiques, etc. This practice is especially popular with the community of recyclers and is a sustainable move for the environment.
The advantage of free shipping supplies is that since you can reduce your shipping costs, your business can lower the shipping charges that customers incur. Remember, customers are looking for faster shipping times and minimal costs, so you can drive sales by presenting them with attractive shipping options.
Free Shipping Supplies FAQs
What shipping supplies does a typical business need?
Most businesses need shipping supplies like boxes or envelopes, package cushioning and tape. Here’s a quick checklist of shipping essentials every business should have:
- Cardboard boxes
- Poly mailers
- Bubble wrap
- Packing peanuts
- Packing tape
- Plastic wrap
- Shipping labels
- Markers or pens
How do you get free shipping supplies like boxes & mailers?
You can get free shipping supplies from carriers like USPS, UPS and FedEx by ordering through their website. Then, you can have them delivered or pick them up at the nearest office.
What should I know when using free carrier packaging?
Generally, mail carriers only accept free packaging from their own brand. So, for example, you can’t use a UPS box to deliver goods through DHL.