Introduction: Cheap Bed Substitute

Picture of Cheap Bed Substitute

A new bed for $10 in 5 minutes.

Having blown $300 on a mattress, I wasn't about to blow another $300 on a bed frame or box springs. I had all these archive boxes that I used for moving, so here's a cheap-ass substitute.

Its as strong as a regular bed, environmentally-friendly and great for people who move frequently. And you instantly have 10 boxes worth of storage space under your bed!

Step 1: Buy Materials, Assemble and Finish Construction (5 Minutes)

Picture of Buy Materials, Assemble and Finish Construction (5 Minutes)


1. 10 x archive boxes from Officeworks or Staples (about $10)
2. 5 minutes
3. Lack of shame
4. Mattress

Just arrange the boxes in 2 rows of five with lids on (if you're an even bigger bum, you could do without the lids by just flipping all the boxes). Was considering taping the boxes together, but that actually takes work, so I skipped that. The boxes are very strong, even when not taped together.

I put on the mattress and jumped up and down, but the boxes were really stiff and didn't deform at all. It was as if I had placed the mattress on solid concrete blocks.

Note the elegant blue stripe in the middle, which is very hip this season.

Step 2: Hiding the Shame

Picture of Hiding the Shame

Picture of girlfriend covering the boxes with a bedsheet. I would have skipped this step too, but the girlfriend was adamant about hiding the ugly boxes (and using this cheap bed substitute).

I think this bed is great because you instantly have 10 boxes worth of storage space under the mattress.

Step 3: Add Mattress

Picture of Add Mattress

Add mattress. The bonus is that this bed, with the mattress, is exactly the same height as the bed next to it (which is a standard bed frame from Ikea).

If you don't even want to buy a mattress, you can tape together a bunch of free padded envelopes from Fed-Ex, like this guy:

When you want to move, just flatten all the boxes, or you can use them to move!


nineurea (author)2016-09-15

Has anybody considered using a wooden Fence pallet adding or not legs?

What about those top PADDED Ottomans which hold 80 to 120 kg each and have a hollow inside useful for storage?

peepla (author)2016-08-17

Love the " lack of shame" comment....i woukd have said " creative flair," instead.

peepla (author)2016-08-17

Good idea. Could also use plastic boxes like you get from the store. It works

matt392 (author)2012-12-26

Lack of shame! Ha! Great Instructable. Very innovative.

zigzagchris (author)2012-12-19

your fedex furniture link is broken, i was really excited to see it..

Absolut Zero (author)2006-12-18

As a former mattress salesperson, I would not recommend this to anyone that wants to keep their mattress in top shape. A mattress will last much longer (8-10 years - thereby getting more bang for your $300) if paired with a boxspring. It has a specific function - to dissipate the forces exerted on the top of the bed and provide a constant, level surface.

My suggestion: If you plan on spending just $300 on a mttress, negotiate the boxspring be included in the sale. Most people don't realize the pricing listed is for the set (but an unscrupulous salesperson will gladly sell only the mattress for same price), and if you purchase mattress only, you get NO WARRANTY. So when the banker's boxes crumble in a couple of months (warping the mattress in turn), you'll have to pony up another $300 for the same crappy mattress.

Live and learn.

Many boxsprings are nothing more than a cheap pine frame, a cardboard cover and maybe $20 worth of fabric.. Plenty of people who work making mattress and box springs can attest to the poor quality and huge markup on these things... Oh well get what you pay for these days don't we...

Gnosis (author)MD_Willington2009-03-05

I think it is not good for the body's electrical field to be sleeping on top of metal metal, imho. I would make a platform that does not use metal screws either.

RedSnertz (author)Gnosis2010-05-26

Should I put magnets in it?  Do you have a suggestion for a pattern to put them in?  Maybe an ankh, with the loop under the pillow?

Hycro (author)RedSnertz2011-01-03

I think she sleeps on a foam "mattress" or maybe air/water bed...

MD_Willington (author)Hycro2011-01-03

She sleeps on the planet earth one big huge iron ball with a monster magnetic field... how's that working out?

racster (author)MD_Willington2011-11-27

MD_Willington- HYSTERICAL!!!

I haven't laughed so hard in a while.

Thanks for the industry insider info. I think I'll go splurge and get another 2 archive boxes to prop up the overhanging bit, or just cover the ten boxes with a plank. Are mattress companies any good at honoring warranties though?

update: A friend saw my instructable, and needed to move, so he borrowed my ten boxes. The mattress is on the floor now.

b1russell (author)forgotpassword2010-03-08

OMG!  You CAN'T be getting proper support for your valuable mattress by just laying it on the FLOOR!  What are you thinking!  LOL

b1russell (author)Absolut Zero2010-03-08

I hate to tell you this, Absolut, but "box springs" are items of historical legend - or, possibly, cost prohibitive.  What is sold nowadays is properly called a "foundation" (and I don't mean a girdle, either) because there are absolutely no springs involved; it's just a box.  So I'll go with the platform or slat construction.  And BTW, I've been using my less-than-$300 mattress very comfortably for the past 11 years and counting.  There's no "only $300" about it.

flamesami (author)Absolut Zero2010-01-07

what are box-springs?
as far as I know , all the beds in my house are frames, slats, and matresses. they're all fine. (unless I'm wrong and the box-springs are hiding in there somewhere)

KD7CAO (author)Absolut Zero2009-07-15

This is absolutely bogus. You must have worked for Seep Experts since they have tried to screw me over the mattress I tried to purchase from them. First, the sales person tried to tell me that there was a Federal Law saying that I had to purchase a complete mattress set from the same manufacturer. I then of course did two things I said then you can't legally sell them as parts so I'll pay the single price for one part not the set, the other thing I did when he didn't agree to that was pull out my iPhone and show him no such law exists. I agree that the box idea is not that wonderful, cardboard won't hold up to the movement that I would expect to find on a bed (nothing kinky). But, it would be very easy and cheap to make another frame that matches the one you have already. Simple lumber from your local supplier.

komecake (author)KD7CAO2009-11-16

  You can definately tel that he/she is a young salesperson to actually believe the crap they tell you where you work. Haha. I remember when I thought Kirby Vacuum Cleaners were the best and you just COULDN'T have a normal vacuum cleaner. 

 I have had hand-me-down mattress' since I was born. The one I have now is over 16 years old. Ew? Yes, but it works fine and it's FLAT. There is nothing wrong with it other than it's probably full of dead skin. Haha.

abadfart (author)Absolut Zero2009-06-15

i break box springs (i party to much)

jesswalker9 (author)Absolut Zero2008-01-21

actually, as someone who's dated a former mattress salesman, i know this information to be completely untrue. boxes are a platform, a type of bed used commonly before the rip off that was a a box spring was invented and is still used in many foriegn countries. platform beds do not require box springs. when buying my new bed, he flat out told me how to not get ripped off by investing in a platform bed. this is total industry proaganda

weel (author)jesswalker92008-07-24

I can attest to the fact that, although I have seen box springs advertised here, I have never seen one in a Dutch home. The default is to but a mattress right on top of slates, which are either plain wooden boards or curved layer-glued bendy things (IKEA sells both styles, as well), or alternatively a local kind of tightly woven metal mesh link spring that is not sold in the US. I'm not sure whether box springs make things better, but it seems that a lot of mattresses will do just fine without them. Also, box springs gather dust in them, which is a bad idea if you have allergies. A platform bed, raised from the floor so that you can vacuum underneath it, is much easier to keep dust-free.

sideways (author)jesswalker92008-03-10

Agree with Jess. Had a king mattress in an old waterbed frame for 12 years, never a problem. Now I have another mattress on a platform for past six years. No problem there either. Both times I got a warranty too, even tho buying just a mattress. One salesman tried to tell me he "can't" sell me mattress alone....until I told him I'd go elsewhere, heh.

The boxes my matress rests on are sturdy and the lids are supported by a surplus of art supplies, fabrics, tools, and piles of writing. Wouldn't this create similar support to a boxspring, keeping the mattress relatively level? I'm not overly concerned about how long the matteress "will last"; as long as it's cushy and I'm exhausted&overworked;, we'll get along fine.

TimPo (author)2011-09-30

This is what we who really needit do!!
Cero fashion, 100% useful. Even more, if between the boxes and the cushion... what if some flattened boxes. And trying to avoid the sliding, maybe an elastic strip at the corners... I'm just divagating...

NaturalCrafter (author)2011-05-26

Store banana boxes are very strong and we used to get these for moving some items. They are twice as wide and about the same height. Might be worth a try, though I liked the idea of the beer boxes and use for extra storage.

NaturalCrafter (author)2011-05-26

Having a corner wall probably helps keep the boxes together, but I guess one could tape the boxes together and that would keep them working together as a unit and not slip apart. Give us updates.

NaturalCrafter (author)2011-05-26

My son purchased a queen bed with a box for his bedroom. Later when he got an apartment, he took the mattress and left the box (but took the rails) So I called to ask why he didnt take the box and it was because it did not fit upstairs with a corner turn in the staircase. So I went into the bedroom fully intending on taking the box to make a raised bed for veggies. When I looked closer, I noticed that the box did have steel springs flat across the top even though the box itself was empty. It was built better than the box with wood slats and cardboard top we got with our Sealy. (we paid over $300 years ago!)
But after closer inspection I asked my husband to take his electric saw and cut a slit in the box on each side near where there was just a flat steel band which was part of the springs. I took it and folded it back and it made the bed half size so the box would fit up the stairs! I folded it out again to see if it would effect the box itself for use and it did not. So when he hauled it over to the apartment, we told him we needed help getting the box out of the car so he could take it up to his room. lol...He blew us off as pranking him, and even if we had it, it would not go up the stairs! So my husband carried it in and put it folded on the floor next to the steps. He got wide eyed but helped my husband carry it up the stairs. I got the frame locked together and then they put the box back in the frame unfolded. Then tossed on the mattress. My son dived onto it as hard as he could and went Ahhhhhhh! Thank you! We left him with a grin on his face.
We have a true set of springs in our attic with a frame but no covering in great shape. Platform beds are nice but I finally built my own box and matress a year ago and plan to do an instructables on this project.

tvhasben (author)2010-11-28

I did the same thing, except I went the rally cheap route. I had a queen size air mattress and went to the local bars Sunday mornings and got empty beer boxes. Bud, Miller, Blue Ribbon - they're all the same size. It takes 25 for a queen mattress. I filled them with the stuff I wasn't using at the time and had a comfy, cheap, off the floor bed.

jelleAtProtospace (author)2010-09-18

fedexfurniture domain is hijacked/lapsed. Please remove the link?

OrienteeringPro (author)2010-08-10

Just bought a six-pack from Target. My wife and I put our queen sized mattress and box-spring we got free on the six spaced out around the rim of the box-spring, and both of us slept just fine. We'll probably be getting another pack ($11) just in case, but it seems to be holding up just fine!

sbansban (author)2010-05-26

What are these archive boxes made of? Surely not cardboard - right? Can you please provide a link to the item at Staples or some other standard national chain store? Also, when you say "A new bed for $10" are you saying that $10 is the cost of ten boxes so each box is $1? The cheapest archive box / file storage box that I could find at is $10.99 - - these 9.5" H x 12.5" W x 7" D boxes are made of fibreboard and for an approximately queen size mattress (60" x 80"), you would need 55 of them which would cost $605!!

mlkersey (author)sbansban2010-05-31

I just made this bed today for my brother who is visiting for the summer, and I did indeed use cardboard boxes.   I had 10 from a previous move and bought 6 more of these:  (if that link doesn't work, go to the OM website and search for "BANKERS BOX STOR/FILE BASIC STRENGTH LETTER/LEGAL, 6-PACK.")  For a full size air mattress I used 16, but you just have to measure your mattress and use the box dimensions to determine how many you need.  I think the more boxes you use, the better the support would be.  As you can see, my boxes weren't $1 per - but it's still a way better deal than buying an actual bed frame, and when he leaves in August I can just fold them up again and use them next time I move.  It's such a great idea, and it supports my big dog and me so it's plenty strong.

Phoghat (author)2010-04-15
Is your mattress a twin size? I have a full size mattress, how many boxes would I need, 20? Could I put my ":foundation"  on top for a little extra height?

For an extra $30, on Overstock, they have an inflatable headboard that attaches to the wall
BobbyCage (author)2010-03-05


I will try this next time I move...maybe even find stronger boxes to lug the heavier items when moving.

I once had a "frame" with just six concrete blocks - sprayed black- and three 2 x 8 boards and a board!

matter of fact, think I'll buy a king size mattress with a "new" frame" next time around

flannery (author)2009-12-02

My reading/sleeping nook is made of rubber maid storage boxes, then a cardboard to make everything even and a layer of memory foam.  I store blankets, by putting them between the cardboard and the foam.  I have "real" beds but sleep on this most of the time.  The hardness is better for my back.

HeaDCase (author)2009-11-19

I did this when my mom came to visit, tied 8 moving-boxes with cargo-straps and laid a mattress on top. What I found very helpful was to put a sheet of plywood (about 1sqm) under the matress on the boxes right under the middle where your, umm, center of gravity would be. I makes a BIG difference, helps distribute your weight.

skr17 (author)2009-09-09

dis site has v cheap beds...n matching bedrm furniture...
i bort a solid wite pine bed...but it was still at a decent price...i still hav it...its lasted v long...

skr17 (author)2009-09-09

i bort a cheap bed...but v strong...solid pine... from dis site..

dey also do matching bedside tables at v cheap prices...
i think dey hav a shop on ebay 2...

taria (author)2009-03-26

I think its a great idea, I look at it this way, if you don't have a bed frame and just get a mattress, then this is a good idea to keep it off the floor. You did a great job and gave me a great idea for my daughters bed. Thanks!

altomic (author)2009-01-09

i had a single mattress for my first move out bed and just propped it u p with 2 palletts found behind the local supermarket. really nice hard wood when sanded down.

Ann_Logsdon (author)2008-06-13

Try local and state archives for cheap, sturdy boxes of uniform size. Also, check with the Family Dollar and Dollar General Store chains. They often have very strong, ultra-reinforced boxes. They're smaller than archive boxes, but they'll support just about anything.

glou (author)2008-06-09

I built platform for my mattress 18 years ago. I have worn out two mattresses in that length of time but the box is still as sturdy as the day I made. It is one of the best $50 I have ever spent. When I have moved I just flip it over and fill the inside full. Great idea on the boxes...

DesBourgeois (author)2008-02-03

I think this instructable brought up the prices of archive boxes :P I've scourged the internet and can't find 10 for $10. Anyone have any links to cheap but sturdy boxes for sale?

pyroswmr (author)DesBourgeois2008-04-30

try craigslist or freecycle, many times people would throw boxes away after moving, instead of giving them a good second home. also, look around behind stores, many boxes can be gotten for free out of dumpsters and the like. If you run into any problems with the management, be polite and explain yourself, often they'll be friendly and set aside some for you instead of having you crawl through their receptacles. mmm.. receptacles..

rptbandgeek1707 (author)pyroswmr2008-05-30

IF you live in a relatively small town, look behind liquor stores - about twice a week, they throw out a ton of boxes!

miller5669 (author)DesBourgeois2008-05-27

I just sent away for a bunch of free postal boxes from - also free shipping.I'm not sure how strong they are. Maybe enough of them together would work.

shooby (author)2008-05-19

Great idea. For the sake of permanence, I'd probably use milk crates, with a big piece of cardboard over them. Nice to see people that have the good sense to make things that other people have the good cents to buy.

Vespere (author)2007-01-25

Great idea! I had a buddy who used milk crates (flipped over) for his bed base, and strapped them together with bungee cords. Worked great and when he had to move (he relocated often) he just piled his clothes & belongings into the crates. PS. Is that an ikea bed? I adore ours and so cheap!

copycat42 (author)Vespere2008-02-25

did the same thing in college, with some hanging file crates I bought @ wal mart.

stacybehrens (author)2008-02-11

my three kids were jumping on my bed and broke the wooden frame so I just had box springs and matress on floor. Can't put a metal frame on the head and footboard of this bed and didn't want to spend a fortune getting it fixed. I just went to staples and bought 24 boxes (king size bed) and put them under the box springs, put mattress on top and it looks perfect again and seems really sturdy. With the dust ruffle it looks like it's on a frame. The boxes were 6 for $7.00. so cost about 28 bucks. Can't beat that. Thanks for the idea!!

About This Instructable




More by forgotpassword:Cheap Bed Substitute
Add instructable to: