Get Free Shipping Materials From The Post Office

If you’re going to be mailing stuff, why pay for envelopes and boxes when the USPS will send you great ones for free? The USPS will send you Priority Mail flat rate boxes, shoe boxes, envelopes, video boxes, address labels, stickers…. as well as all the various forms you might need… for free.

So, if you sell things on eBay or otherwise do a lot of mailing and have been paying OfficeMax for envelopes and boxes… don’t. Order this stuff, it’s awesome.

Priority Mail Shipping Supplies [USPS]
Express Mail Supplies [USPS]


Edit Your Comment

  1. rickspeaks says:

    Our tax dollars….hard at work….

  2. enm4r says:

    Are these any different than the Priority and Express boxes/envelopes that are already in the Post Office?

  3. ribex says:

    @rickspeaks: From the USPS site: “Many people do not know that postal operations are not subsidized by tax dollars.”

  4. jeffj-nj says:

    Wait…. Seriously?! They’ll just send you free boxes? Coming from someone who’s moving soon, this is fantastic news! I wonder how many boxes they’d be willing to send me. Because whatever that amount is, I think that’s the amount I need.

    And then, so I don’t feel horrible, I’ll re-use the boxes for mailing stuff. Yeah, that’s it.

  5. B says:

    Also, if you get enough of it, it makes a great fort.

  6. KDB says:

    FYI, the USPS is funded by its own revenue from selling postage so your tax dollars are not involved here.

  7. ancientsociety says:

    These are the “Flat Rate” boxes available at most post offices for free. Basically, if it fits in that package, no matter how much it weighs, it ships for $X.

    most of these sizes have been around for some time. They just added the smaller ones though.

  8. jeffj-nj says:

    I guess the catch is that they’re not that big. The largest box they have is 3/4 of a cubic foot. But still… free… boxes…

    That’s awesome.

  9. Abusiveelusive says:

    I got these awhile back.

    I never got them out of the bigger box they were sent in. But I guess someday they might be useful!

  10. KSE says:

    wonder if the boxes would be free if the post office wasn’t a government mandated monopoly? Wonder what stamps would cost for that matter…

    It’s possible tax dollars don’t directly fund the USPS, but they sure as hell protect it from competition (and ruin any chance for efficiency).

  11. miborovsky says:

    Yummy. Free stuff is always delicious.

  12. LipstickLibrarian says:

    And Global Express! Wonder of wonders…

  13. Papercutninja says:

    Do be aware that these boxes are meant for the USPS service marked on them, and any usage other than that is unlawful. Also, don’t complain that postage is going up when you order 500 Priority mail boxes for free and you just use them to store your hummel figures.

    Having said that, it RULES. I’ve needed boxes to send stuff out and these saved me time and effort.

  14. I get free FedEx boxes,. so what is the deal?

    The cost of the box is included in the cost of shipping. Most of these are the fixed rate $8.10 Priority shipping, which is a great deal.

  15. miborovsky says:

    @Papercutninja: Indeed. “I understand that Express Mail, Priority Mail, Global Express Guaranteed, Global Express Mail and Global Priority Mail packaging is the property of the United States Postal Service and is provided solely for sending Express Mail, Priority Mail, Global Express Guaranteed, Global Express Mail and Global Priority Mail. Misuse may be a violation of federal law.” However, it is unlikely that they would be able to determine what use you put their boxes to unless they violate certain rights of yours. For a person needing boxes for ebay and such, though, this is excellent.

  16. kaikhor says:

    But don’t you have to pay for shipping?

  17. Skiffer says:

    @Papercutninja: I once got a UPS shipment that was in a USPS box…which had been assembled inside out so there were no USPS logos on the outside :)

  18. kaikhor says:

    @kaikhor: I meant don’t you have to pay for shipping to receive the supplies (obviously you have to pay shipping when you put items inside and send it to someone)

  19. miborovsky says:

    @kaikhor: Nope. At least, I just ordered a 10-pack of boxes and my grand total including S&H was $0.00.

  20. DjSnipSnip says:

    Not even if the shipping was for free. I had a few experiences with USPS losing my mail including an incident where they had lost an “express mail” item. I paid $20 for a letter that got lost in-route by and I quote “an act of God”. It turned up 45 days later. I don’t care for them refunding the money because when I spend $20 for a letter; it is because the letter is very important. Unless I am mailing to a post box office, I’ll stick with FedEx or UPS.

  21. geeoph says:

    I am always shipping stuff out for my business so I stoked up on envelopes and different sized boxes. I just got roughly $200 worth of boxes and envelopes for free!

    Glad to see some kickbacks from my tax dollars!

  22. Falconfire says:

    @KSE: You have to understand the reason why its a government mandated monopoly in order to comment about it.

    It exists as it does BECAUSE of past practice by other companies where they would buy up all the cheap routes in the country, and leave the rest to the USPS where those people had to suffer with much higher postage because it was not offset by the cheaper routes.

    By being a monopoly the USPS can offer a flat rate to everyone, something the other services had no intention of doing.

    The funny part of this was it was also intended to reduce “extraneous” mail that was cluttering up the mailboxes. This is the 1930’s term for spam… which today makes up the bulk of the USPS’s pay since the killing of the urgent mail market by FedEx and UPS in the 1980’s.

    Another interesting aspect is that FedEx and the USPS actually work together now, and much of your mail might actually be shipped via a FedEx plane, and in return a USPS carrier might be the one to deliver your FedEx package.

    The politics of the mail service is a lot more complicated than your comment really betrays. Nor should you go lumping in your areas poor service with others. When I worked for them, we worked our ass off getting the mail to people, sometimes I worked till 6:00pm after a 8:00 start time I had so much mail and so few people where available to help out.

    The USPS is extremely efficient as well. About the only thing thats hand sorted is local mail, as anything shipped across country goes through machines that not only sort out where its going, but actually builds the carriers route for them. Much of the problems we actually had in delivering the mail was as a result of two major issues, improper letter labeling, and improper packaging, both the blame of the user not the carrier. I cant tell you how many broken wine bottles resulted in practically whole bags of mail damaged or destroyed despite you being EXPLICITLY TOLD NOT TO MAIL LIQUIDS.

  23. bastkitty says:

    The Flat Rate for shipping with your “free” boxes is $8.95. It’s fine if you ship heavier items but if you ship light, you’re going to pay $2-4 more than you would if you were buying your own boxes. It really depends on your shipping habits or business. I ordered them too and found out the hard way. Boxes are expensive but if you buy wholesale it’s way cheaper than going USPS priority.

  24. jharrell says:

    I can attest to this one… free and unlimited. The only person that will hate you is your local mail man when ho has to deliver the hundreds of boxes to your door. Be nice.

  25. jharrell says:

    @jharrell: That would be “he has to deliver” (dvorak can jack you sometimes. – Why can’t we edit comments?)

  26. electriccatherder says:

    Note that these materials are only for Priority Mail (First Class for packages) and Express Mail use. You’re still on your own if you’re shipping items as Parcel Post, Media Mail or the like. I haven’t heard of the Postal Service refusing a Parcel Post shipment for being labeled Priority Mail, though it may be in USPS regulations.

    UPS and FedEx provide complimentary packaging for their express services as well, so it’s not a matter of the USPS monopoly on First Class mail– It’s a courtesy to volume shippers and it keeps the carrier’s brand visible to the customer.

  27. hop says:

    the boxes aren’t bad, and you can wrap them in plain brown paper if you don’t want to send them express mail……….

  28. rjhiggins says:

    No competition? That would be news to FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc.

  29. bohemian says:

    The boxes are great. We went through tons of them when we did ebay. Our rural route carrier hated us though. He actually had to get out of his car and take a box to the porch.

  30. MorgueReader says:

    I don’t like using the post office, but it’s the best option I have for shipping overseas. Unfortunately they take 2 or 3 weeks to deliver the “free” materials, and most people can’t wait that long. It’s a really great advertisement for their shipping services, isn’t it? (UPS delivers their “free” labels and the such the VERY next day. Guess would I prefer to use!)

    On top of that, my local post office is always out of things such as CUSTOMS FORMS and tell me I should order them online. Which I do. And then I wait and wait for them to show up.

    Now I’ve finally gotten smart. I’ve been ordering 100 customs forms every other day for the last four weeks. They’re finally showing up now. I’ll continue doing this until I have 5,000 on hand, which will take care of my needs for a full year.

    (Yes, this is probably screwing someone else, but is it my fault the Post Office can’t deliver their own products in a more timely manner?)

  31. Thrust says:

    @KSE: Protected from competition, lol. I send more thru FedEx and Puro than post mail (And Canada Post doesnt suck half as bad as USPS), and it typically costs less on parcel. Letters arriving in half the time make it better for the higher letter price too.

  32. MrGromit says:

    They used to give free tape away, too. Man, that stuff made the *best* packing tape…

  33. drdavidge says:

    There really are free things in life sometimes. I have a few cases of these boxes in all different sizes they are great for mailing things with priority mail (quick 2-3 days in the US).

    I also use these for scrap cardboard and you never know when you are going to need it. I keep some in my trunk for the winter in case I get stuck in snow, I use them to line my car when transporting large or dirty things so my seats don’t get damaged or dirty, I even created some “duct work” for an air conditioner to port the cool air to exactly where I want it to go. The possibilities are endless.

  34. drdavidge says:

    BASTKITTY: Only a few of those boxes are flat rate boxes. The other ones are regular.

  35. jgodsey says:

    Yes but you are restricted to Priority mail.
    if you are shipping books or dvds or other forms of Media you can’t use Priority boxes for Mediamail.
    and if the item is under 13ounces you will want to go 1st class which will be cheaper and you will need your own packaging.
    Parcel post is very expensive and Priority will often be the same price or cheaper if you use the flat rate sizes.

    and it’s a federal crime to use the priority boxes for any other shipping than priority. they may over look once or twice but they will get you if you make a regular thing out of it.

    another way to save on shipping is to purchase postage online if you check the USPS postage calculator you will find TWO different prices, one for home printed postage and one for the WINDOW at the post office.

  36. KSE says:

    Falconfire, there is a simply solution to the cream skimming problem. Get the government out of the mail business. The government is only left with the expensive routes if they remain in the business…which they shouldn’t.

    Thrust, the USPS is protected by law from competition. It is illegal for anyone else to deliver first class letters or deliver anything to US mail boxes, which is why couriers and package deliverymen must deliver everything in person, thus making the process more difficult and cumbersome, indirect protectionism for the quasi-government monopoly. Additionally, there are direct protections, as non-USPS carriers have a government mandated price floor of $3 on letters.

    While the post office doesn’t receive “direct” subsidies, they receive a plethora of “indirect
    subsidies that cost the taxpayers upwards of a Billion dollars. From tax ememptions to legal perks to parking ticket exemption to below market Treasury loans. The “self-sufficient non-taxpayer funded” has sucked in billions of federal dollars.

  37. txinfo says:

    I used to use this all the time, especially before I moved. I ordered 150 of the larger priority boxes, anc they worked great. You can get all the tape you need – if you don’t mind it having the priority mail logo everywhere. Other than that, it’s a great service.

  38. kingoman says:

    @KSE: “protect it from competition…” So what about UPS, FedEx, DHL, …? Those are direct competitors to USPS Priority Mail.

    The USPS (as well as most of their competitors) have been doing this for years. The cost of the box is insignificant next to the postage you’ll pay when you use it.

    Of course, that’s not counting cheap bastards who get a hundred of them for their own use. Priority Mail would probably be cheaper if people didn’t do that. I’m sure the USPS knows how many Priority boxes they gave out last year and how many were shipped. They’re only mildly competent at delivering mail, but I bet they can do math.

  39. MeOhMy says:

    Does anyone actually believe that privatizing/deregulated letter delivery will actually solve the problem? It will be just like privatizing/deregulating other industries; a few startups will offer services at a loss in an effort to lure people to them before failing or being bought out leaving the consumers with what they started with, only now more expensive.

    The problem isn’t that it could be managed better.
    It’s that having a human being hand-deliver letters to every single person can never actually be made efficient.

    If we could just figure out some way to send the vast majority of our letters in some sort of electronic way, perhaps using the Internet, we could make this work. People could use these “e-letters” most of the time. Things that must be phsyical (certified mail, packages, etc) can be picked up at centralized depots.

  40. KSE says:

    Kingoman, do a touch of research into the myriad of laws that protect the USPS from direct competition, or just read my post from a few minutes ago. Just because there are competitors doesn’t mean there is true competition.

    And Troy, yes. A series of private firms competing for your postal dollars would necessarily perform the task more efficiently at a cheaper cost. They would have to or they would not be able to compete with the fully privatized existing USPS. The one this the USPS has going for it is economies of scale, something it’s directors have fully admitted to not taking advantage of in the past 30 years, since you know, they had no incentive to do so.

    If we find a way to send a bulk of our mail via electronic means no problems will be solved, and the taxpayer drain from the USPS would likely increase as their profits fall (see Amtrak) as the Government is unwilling to let failing programs die natural economic deaths. Those indirect subsidies would quickly become direct subsidies.

  41. HungryGrrl says:

    flat rate was increased by $4 this year- it used to be a mere $4.85 or so. Now it’s almost $9. It’s no longer a very good deal. It’s handy for Ebay and VERY HEAVY small items (like lots of magazines) but otherwise I’m gonna go back to regular Priority Mail. Or UPS…

  42. weave says:

    Eliminating the government protection against competition in first class letters would mean people in rural areas would have to pay much more for their mail than people in cities, and then they’d cry foul.

    I always enjoy how everyone is against government waste and spending until it comes to a program or service that benefits them personally.

  43. MeOhMy says:


    A series of private firms competing for your postal dollars would necessarily perform the task more efficiently at a cheaper cost.

    Until most of the series of private firms go belly-up or get bought out.

    But what do I know? I mean, it sure worked great for electricity and telecommunications. Everyone’s paying oodles less than they were before. No wait….they’re not.

    Don’t get me wrong – I agree in principle that the government should not be in any type of business like this.

    But I don’t believe for a second that privatizing the industry will automatically solve the problem. It will only solve the idealogical problem of the government running an industry.

  44. zolielo says:

    USPS is a natural monopoly which is good.

  45. timmus says:

    I ship out about 800 items a year via US Priority Mail and I couldn’t be any happier with them. The tales of lost items are overblown; our loss rate runs around 1 in 600 packages which is actually very good.

    Let’s see, 2 pounds of books from here to NYC:
    US Post Office: $4.60 + $0.00 box = $4.60, 2 days transit via air
    UPS: $9.79 + $1.10 box = $10.89, 3 days transit via ground, pickup fees extra

    We’d be an idiot to use UPS, and I have never understood why a lot of small merchants bother with them.

  46. Sinflux says:

    I can’t believe there are people that didn’t know about this.

  47. Falconfire says:

    @KSE: Yep you keep talking like that when we have decades of data now that shows deregulation fails each and every time.

    I guess you dont live in California. Or you dont use the airlines. And Im guessing you have not taken a loan out recently.

    I mean seriously you are assuming that one or two companies with delivery forces 1/50th the size of the USPS would even WANT to do the job. One average size postal office contains over 100 workers, thats about how many a district for the UPS has. Carriers alone could equal 12-20 per a town. Larger towns can have as many as 100 carriers (like Brick where I worked out of.) Citys can have as many as 300-500 PER CITY.

    The only reason the USPS is not doing hot vs FedEx and UPS and the like, is because those carriers only do a specific market and can tailor themselves to that market. If you where to deregulate the postal service, EVERYONE would have to do everything. UPS and FedEx would be dead in a year if they tried to do what the USPS does as a whole unit.

    Not to mention we would still need most of the administrative facilities of the USPS, as they are the only ones legally permitted to negotiate treaties and the like with other countries, which UPS and FedEx then follow.

  48. Namilia says:

    @rickspeaks: A commonly believed myth, the United States Postal Service does not receive any tax money and is self-supporting, this has been true since 1982. Most of its income comes from “bulk rate” mailings (junk mail), if it was not for them, postage rates would be higher than they are. It is an independent establishment of the executive branch of the Government of the United States (basically a government-controlled business.)

  49. Namilia says:

    @Falconfire: Lol, your last comment reminds me of the guy who told me that every night he prays that FedEx would take over the USPS XD You bring up a LOT of good points though, especially considering the USPS processes 182 billion mailpieces a year.

  50. krunk4ever says:

    Do note, it is illegal to use these boxes for anything other than USPS Priority Mail. USPS Priority Mail shipping rates are competitive when the item is light, but once you hit 4 or 5lbs, you’re might better going with using your own boxes and shipping via DHL or FedEx.

  51. coreyander says:

    @HungryGrrl: “flat rate was increased by $4 this year- it used to be a mere $4.85 or so. Now it’s almost $9.” — you are thinking of two different flat rate packages. The small ones cost the same as one pound, while the larger ones (which used to cost $7.00 and now cost $8.95) are the cost equivalent of a 3 to 10 pound priority mail package depending on where you are shipping from/to. So, if you are mailing a 4+ pound package from New York to LA it is typically more economical to use the flat rate box than plain priority mail. If you are shipping locally, though, it is sometimes more economical to use your own packaging and pay a lower per pound rate.

    @weave: Amen! People love to complain about “government waste”, but it isn’t like the private shipping firms are lining up to provide daily mail service to virtually every U.S. domicile.

    I’ve worked in mail order for a good number of years now and agree with timmus that the USPS is a great parcel delivery service, especially for smaller and specialty merchants. Sometimes UPS/FedEx/DHL has a better rate, but that is typically if you are shipping volume (as in hundredweight) or (more importantly) shipping to locations with their own scheduled UPS (or FedEx) pick up service.

    Also, Global Priority Mail flat rate can be a great bargain if you are shipping overseas, especially things that are dense and heavy. Almost all of the international orders I have processed in the last few years have been dramatically cheaper with Global Priority flat rate (either the large envelope or the box) than UPS, FedEx, or other USPS services.

    Wow. I have too much to say about shipping. Going to go have a life now.

  52. kmccoy says:

    UPS (and I think FedEx, too) makes me pay a “rural surcharge” on every package I send to my home in rural northern Minnesota. We’re not even worth the effort for any high-speed internet options other than satellite, and no mobile phone provider has erected a tower that provides signal to our area. Sometimes government-imposed monopolies are good at insisting that basic services are provided equally and fairly.

    And I think you people need to stop drooling over the idea of getting anything free and consider the economics and ethics of why that thing might be free. If you need boxes to use with the USPS, then take advantage of their service. But if you need boxes to build forts in your basement, then go spend your own money. Don’t ruin things for other people by abusing them.

  53. loraksus says:

    Maybe now eBay auction whores won’t be inflating shipping 200% while moaning “but we have to pay for the boxes too!”

    Then again, probably not.

    USPS will also pick up priority mail from your home for free. Just mentioning this in case a shipping rape apologist chooses to pipe in with a “but I have to drive to the post office and gas is so expensive omg!11!” comment.

    /has a few issues with bullshit shipping fees.

  54. crankymediaguy says:

    “I mean, [deregulation] sure worked great for electricity and telecommunications.”

    And for the airlines, banking and broadcasting.

    “We’re not even worth the effort for any high-speed internet options other than satellite, and no mobile phone provider has erected a tower that provides signal to our area.”

    It’s the exact same situation where I am on the Oregon coast. Far cry from where I grew up in New York City, but that’s the situation here.

    They’re not REQUIRED to give a shit about us, so they don’t. Please do not lecture me about the theoretical miracle of deregulation. As far as I can see, the tangible results of it are the Enron guys laughing on the phone about robbing “Grandma Millie” of her pension check. Remember that?

  55. foghat81 says:

    I’ve heard grumblings from two different post masters (one is my mother in law) that the USPS actually helps to subsidize *other* governmental operations (*cough* Iraq *cough*). The post office makes a healthy revenue and they turn part of it over to the government….so it’s kind of a one-way street. That was partly what was behind the last 2 cent hike…..a way to get some extra $$ for whatever the feds wanted to do :)

    I’m not saying it’s 100% fact, but I did hear this directly from two different post masters in two different regions, so take that for whatever it’s worth

  56. Namilia says:

    Foghat – I had a guy rant to me the same thing a few years back, that his “hard earned stamp money” was going to support the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in a war he did not support. The same individual found the “We Support Our Troops” sign in the Post Office’s window HIGHLY offensive and demanded it be removed (something I did not have the power to do as I did not work at the post office he referred to.)

    Then again this was a customer not a postmaster and his entire argument was centered around that “We Support Our Troops” sign. Still, it would not surprise me if some of the USPS’s income was being subsidized to other things such as the war. They said that Congress was making USPS open an escrow account for the price hike to 39 cents but did not offer a clear explanation for the most recent one.

  57. timmus says:

    @loraksus: “shipping rape apologist”

    Hilarious… that should be in Wikipedia.

  58. Mary says:

    You know, people using post office boxes for moving instead of mailing things increases their costs, which increases our postage…

    Just a thought.

    Seriously people, go to your local bookstore. Skip everything else, just go out to bookstores and ask for boxes. Unless they’re in the middle of an inventory cycle and returning things like mad, they’ll give you as many boxes as you ask for and bookstore boxes are the PERFECT size for moving, unlike priority boxes which are mostly odd shapes. You can pack a bookstore box with anything except loose paper, stuff it to the gills, and still be able to pick it up. Because it’s designed to be full of books and still have the average employee be able to lift it.

    Loose paper is doable if you’re strong or hiring movers, but I can’t manage it so I usually alternate. Loose papers are packed with lighter items like clothes to even it out.

    I’ve moved eleven times in ten years. Priority mail boxes are not what they’re cracked up to be. Their poster tubes are handy, because poster tubes are costly. That’s the only product of theirs that I use.

  59. WakefulD says:

    For people who are looking to use these boxes for moving (at least one or two have mentioned it in previous comments) – again, it is illegal to use these boxes for anything other than shipping through USPS.

    Although I think it’d be pretty hilarious to see someone try, seeing as how the “largest” of the boxes is 7″x7″x6″. JeffJ-NJ already pointed this out.

  60. consumerd says:

    my primary shipper is USPS. If I had one wish, I wish they would update their tracking system a bit better like UPS or DHL.

    I just wish they had better package tracking.