Shipping supplies play a crucial part in any online brand selling physical products. However, it can also be quite expensive. As business owners, we are always trying to find ways to save costs on shipping without impacting the customer experience.
However, a lot of us (myself included until recently) are not aware of the free shipping supplies offer by the big shipping companies. We can all blame Amazon, since it has become so convenient for us to shop there that the first thing most of us do when we need shipping supplies is to search there, even before Google. The other reason is that it often sounds too good to be true.
In short, big shipping couriers have large budgets, so they can offer us free shipping supplies as incentives, so we would end up using their services. Some would come with certain requirements, others less so. That is why we have put together this guide to share with you all the possible ways to get free shipping supplies for your business.
How much does it cost for packaging to ship out a package?Here's an estimated breakdown of some typical packaging, excluding all the fancy add-ons such as tissue paper, stickers, stamps, etc.:
- Small box (4" x 4" x 4"): the box itself ($0.50) + tape ($0.2) + shipping label ($0.03) = $0.54
- Medium box (12" x 6" x 4"): box ($0.60) + tape ($0.2) + shipping label ($0.02) = $0.84
Typical packaging cost to ship out an order (not counting shipping cost)
- If you ship out 1 order/day, that's 30 orders times $0.54 = $16.2 in basic packing supplies.
- If you ship out 10 orders/day, that would be 10 × 30 × 0.54 = $162/month in basic packing supplies.
- If you ship out 50 orders/day, that would be $810/month in basic packing supplies that could be saved using one of the methods below.
This money can be spent on other business expenses such as new supplies, equipment or paying for subscriptions such as Shopify, email marketing services (Klaviyo, Mailchimp etc.), or multiple Google Workspace accounts!
4 carriers that offer free shipping supplies
All major shipping companies offer free shipping supplies. There is no minimum, which is great news for small businesses getting started.
Free Packing Supplies From Major Shipping Companies
With USPS, you can get 68 different types of Flat Rate Shipping Supplies for free. Since they are also displayed in every branch, you can literally walk into the branch, grab a few boxes and walk out without having to ask the staff.
These are some of the free packaging available at USPS:
- Envelopes, including padded envelopes
- Triangular tubes
- Mailing labels
- Forms (customs forms, mail receipt form…)
- Military Shipping (more on this later)
- Registered Mail Envelopes These supplies will cater to 3 main mailing services: Priority Mail, Priority Express, and Global Express.
These are Flat Rate Shipping Supplies, meaning you will pay a flat fee for whichever mailing service is labeled on that shipping box/envelope/tube. E.g. A Priority Mailbox is only intended to send items via USPS Priority Mail service, and Priority Mail Express is only for sending via Priority Mail Express service.
The good thing is that since it's flat-fee pricing, and you can take the packaging home to measure before shipping, you would know the shipping costs well in advance without having to measure or weigh the package.
UPS is a lot more flexible compared to USPS since you can use the packaging supplies for any shipping options. Here are the box sizes available for free at UPS:
- UPS Express Box (Small): 13" x 11" x 2" (33 cm x 28 cm x 5 cm)
- UPS Express Box (Medium): 15" x 11" x 3" (40 cm x 29 cm x 8 cm)
- UPS Express Boxes (Large): 18" x 13" x 3" (46 cm x 32 cm x 8 cm)
They also have the UPS Express Tube for sending posters, maps, drawings etc., which are 38" x 6" x 6" (97 cm x 15 cm x 15 cm).
Common Shipping Supplies You Need for Your Small ShopAside from the common supplies at USPS mentioned above, you can also get self-adhering pouches and especially shipping labels. This is a huge advantage for shop owners since every online business needs shipping labels.
The labels are available in 3 sizes:
- UPS CampusShip or WorldShip Labels – Roll: 4" x 6" (10 cm x 15 cm)
- UPS Connect Labels – Fan-Fold: 4" x 8" (10 cm x 20 cm)
- UPS World Ease Labels – Fan-Fold: 4" x 11" (10 cm x 28 cm)
Similar to UPS, FedEx also offers free FedEx Express packaging supplies to their customers, and you can order them online. Alternatively, you can also drop by one of the FedEx Office® or FedEx World Service Center® locations (limited quantity available at those locations).
The FedEx order page is more clearly laid out with the recommended weight limit for each type, along with a search filter section on the left to help you find the supplies you need quickly.
I, personally, found the weight limit recommendation very helpful to avoid any unexpected overcharge. E.g.: With the
You need to have an account with FedEx, which can be done in 2 steps: Create a User ID and then Open a Shipping Account. The reason for this is that you can have multiple shipping accounts (say, for different businesses) under the same User ID once you log in.
Are there any differences between the white boxes and brown boxes at FedEx
Yes, the white boxes (as well as tubes and envelopes) are available for free, while you need to pay for the brown ones.
DHL covers a wide network of international shipping options compared to the above companies. Although their services aren't quite as extensive as FedEx or UPS, but they're definitely worth checking out if you need to ship something internationally.
These are some of the free packaging materials available at DHL:
- Shipping labels
- Padded pouches
- Tube mailers
You need to have an account with DHL. It can be done fairly quickly over the phone by calling their Customer Service line at +1-800-225-5345.
Free Military Care Kit Shipping Boxes
The USPS have a range of free shipping materials for Military Care Packages to help you send care packages to your loved ones. The best option is definitely the Military Care Kit, which comes with:
- 2x Priority Mail APO/FPO Flat Rate Boxes. 12" (L) × 12" (W) x 5-1/2"(H)
- 2x Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate® Boxes (top-loading). 11"(L) x 8-1/2"(W) x 5-1/2"(H)
- 2x Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate Boxes (side-loading). 13-5/8"(L) × 11-7/8" (W) x 3-3/8"(H)
- 1x Roll Priority Mail tape.
- 6x Priority Mail address labels.
- 6x Customs Form Envelopes.
Tracking is included with every Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express shipment.
USPS offers free shipping materials for Military Care Packages
Check out the full range of packing supplies for the Military Care Kit available at USPS.
Other best options for shipping in small volume
Reuse old packages
A lot of times when we run out of boxes, we would reuse the Amazon boxes or other boxes we received in the mail to send out items. As long as the boxes are in good condition, they should be OK. Don't feel bad about giving those boxes a second life!
You can put your own branded stickers on your boxes or bags, so your customers would recognize them easier.
Ask local stores for old boxes
Many retailers offer free boxes if you call ahead. Grocery stores or fashion stores are often the best, as those boxes are often relatively strong and can hold up well.
How do I order free shipping supplies?
You can either order online with free shipping or pick up supplies at your nearby USPS/FedEx/USP/DHL or UPS location.
What are the shipping supplies you can order for free?
You can order a wide range of shipping supplies for free: Boxes, Airbills, Pouches, Mailers, Triangular Tubes, shipping forms, and labels.
Apart from USPS, all the shipping companies above also offer free shipping forms and stickers such as customs forms, COD (Collect on Demand), heavy stickers, etc.,
How long does it take for the shipping supplies to arrive?
It varies between shipping companies and the time you order (holiday season shipping would take longer to arrive), but generally speaking, it takes around 4-7 business days for the shipping supplies to reach you.
Do I need to pay for the shipping of these supplies?
No, you don’t need to pay anything for shipping. All these shipping companies provide free delivery of their shipping supplies.
Shipping from Canada to the U.S.? Check out this article on Free Shipping Supplies in Canada!