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I hate shipping my eBay sales. I mean, it’s a problem I’m grateful to have, but when I sit down to send out orders I feel like those things are already sold. The mission is done and I need to find more things to sell.
So what would add insult to injury when it comes to shipping eBay orders? Spending too much money on shipping and shipping supplies.
When I first started keeping books for my eBay sales I was astounded at the amount of money I was spending on shipping. It amounted to thousands of dollars per month.
Since I was maxed out on the number of items I could list per day I figured that the best way to increase my profits was to decrease my expenses, and that started with my shipping situation.
Getting eBay supplies for free or really cheap is becoming more and more necessary if you want to stay competitive on the platform these days. Getting cheap shipping supplies has the same effect on your bottom line as getting the items that you sourced for cheaper.
Imagine if you had a 20% off coupon every time you stepped into a thrift store. You’d dominate, right? That’s the power of cheap shipping supplies for your eBay store.
So, let’s talk about 10 ways you can get free or really cheap shipping supplies for sending out your orders. I’m not saying that this is going to save or transform your business, but it has made a difference in mine!
The Cost of Shipping on eBay
Before we get into the tips, I want to illustrate this article with an experience I had just this morning.
I just sold a mattress and needed to get a box to ship it in. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a local store that had a workable mattress box in stock so I headed to Walmart for shipping supplies and ended up buying 6 packing boxes, some heavy-duty tape, and plastic wrap.
In the end, it cost me a full $40 for shipping supplies (as well as $211 to ship the mattress). It was still profitable but buying shipping supplies is painful!
Getting Free Shipping Supplies For eBay Orders
When I started selling on eBay my dad got me a full pallet of boxes from a warehouse that was closing down. It took me almost a full year to work my way through that pallet but it wasn’t until I tried to replace it that I realized that it was a gift worth almost $1,000.
Boxes are expensive, especially when it comes to shipping large or fragile items. Buying heavy-duty boxes will add up at an alarming rate, especially if you have to have non-marked boxes for discreet shipping.
Here are some of the methods you should employ to get cheap boxes for shipping on eBay:
- Use your eBay Shipping Supplies Coupon. If you have an eBay store, you have a shipping coupon every quarter that you can use to buy eBay branded supplies (including boxes). If you don’t use it, you’re letting free money go to waste. You can find your coupon code here.
- Dumpster Dive. I don’t go out specifically looking for dumpsters to go through (anymore…) but if I’m passing by an open dumpster and see a bunch of boxes sticking out I’ll definitely take a look. Just make sure that dumpster diving is legal in your state.
- Get USPS Boxes. If you ship your items mainly via the post office you can get all the free boxes you could ever want…provided that your items are on the smaller side. You can create an account here and get free boxes delivered directly to your door….for free.
- Ask on Facebook Marketplace. If you need larger boxes, post a request on Facebook Marketplace or on a local Facebook page. People routinely have oodles of boxes left over after moving and need something to do with them.
- Reuse Boxes. Hopefully, you haven’t been throwing away your Amazon boxes! We reuse nearly all the boxes we get in the mail as well as all the boxes our extended family gets.
- Ask Stores. Stores throw out tons of boxes so, if you ask, you can often cut out the middle-man (the dumpster) and they’ll set some aside for you.
Now here’s another issue. Even if you get all of your boxes for free, boxes are the most expensive way to ship something on eBay. There are, in fact, two main reasons why boxes suck:
- They’re heavy. I’ve lost count of the time I’ve opened up a box to takeout out a bit of packaging or trimmed off the inner flaps to get the package under a pound-break-off-mark. A penny saved is a penny earned!
- They’re too spacious. Nothing I ship is actually the shape and size of a box. That leaves me with two options: fill the space with packing paper (which costs money and adds weight) or leave the space void (which might mean a damaged product). Neither option is great.
So what is the solution? Don’t use boxes of course! I use boxes for anything fragile, pointy, or unusual. Everything else (meaning most clothing, bags, books, etc) goes into a poly mailer or bubble mailer.
Polymailers might be the ultimate cheap packing material for eBay. They cost pennies, don’t add weight, and are super fast to ship things in.
However, not all polymailers are created equal. I’ve purchased discount polymailers that weren’t sealed correctly (so the sides opened), were too thin and ripped, and had unusable adhesive. So, in this case, don’t go as cheap as possible.
If you need the absolute cheapest options that don’t suck, get these ones on Amazon. I typically buy two sizes of polymailers: 12″x15″ and 15″x19″ but if you want to simplify things and only get one, get the 15″x19″ option.
Now if you have a little bit more money and don’t need the absolute cheapest shipping supplies for your eBay orders (and maybe you care about the environment a little) you should really consider using biodegradable polymailers. They cost a bit more but you don’t have to feel like you’re destroying the earth when you use them. We use these ones off of Amazon.
There was a period of time when I got almost all of my packing material for free by swiping the “free newspapers” at the front of local grocery stores. When I’m not super proud of it, I did probably double their circulation and ad revenue! However, there are more acceptable ways to get your packing material for cheap or free:
- Free newspapers. Yes, the same ones I used to pick up in bulk. At the end of each distribution cycle (week or month) the extra copies from each location are retrieved and either thrown away or recycled. If you have a small-town newspaper, ask if you can have a bale of old newspaper to use for packing material.
- Reused packing material. Remember those boxes people send you? They usually come with packing material. Save it and save money.
- Blank news sheets. If you’re shipping in higher quantities, blank sheets come with two advantages: they’re super cheap, and they don’t bleed ink all over the thing that you’re shipping. We buy news sheets off of Amazon in 10lb increments.
As an aside, I once heard of someone who was just starting out on eBay and could barely make ends meet. When she needed packing material she popped up a bunch of popcorn and added it to the box. She then included a note saying that she used “completely natural and biodegradable packing material out of concern for the environment.” Innovation makes things happen!
Unfortunately, I don’t know of any ways to get free packing tape. You can get some awesome deals from shipping companies but, since I don’t usually qualify for those, I have to buy it like every other plebian.
The secret to saving money is to simply buy in as large of bulk as makes sense for your business.
The most economical level for us has proven to be buying tape a box at a time. I prefer 3″ tape t least 2mils thick and typically buy from sellers who throw in a free tape gun with each order.
I will, however, say that you should stick to a good tape supplier once you find one. We’ve had crappy (super thin) tape that didn’t hold and other tape that legitimately stunk up our entire eBay room.
You can check out the best packing tape for eBay here.
As with tape, the best I can do is to point you to a quality label supplier and tell you to buy in as large of a quantity as you can muster. Just remember that each label roll typically contains 220-250 labels. Buying a full box of rolls that lasts you for the next 5 years is not something I’d recommend highly.
We use these labels off of Amazon and they’re the best combination of price/quality that I’ve found.
The Most Ninja Tip for Free Shipping Supplies:
If you routinely ship with UPS you are in a position to save even more money on shipping supplies. If you have a UPS account (you can set one up for free here) you can call and get set up with a thermal printer. Depending on your volume the printer will either be free or around $2 per week! Now, at $104/year it seems like it might be a better idea to buy a Rollo that you own. However, UPS will also provide you with free boxes, thermal labels, label pouches, etc. All of which add up to additional savings!
You can check out a full tutorial here.
When it comes down to it, saving money on shipping supplies for eBay requires the same mentality as succeeding on the platform. You have to be innovative, explore new avenues, and put in the work. If you do things the same way that everyone else is doing them, expect to get beat.
However, the main expense is likely to still be the shipping service itself so be sure to use a discount shipper like Pirate Ship to get the biggest bang for your buck.
So get out there, drum up some free shipping supplies, or bite the bullet and buy in bulk.