“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds…” But, boy, do they charge a lot to do all that!

The United States Postal Service is something we all rely on, and mailing letters, bill payments, and packages can be a frustrating and costly addition to a Krazy Coupon Lady’s routine.

The holidays are right around the corner, and that means more visits to the Post Office to send out packages and holiday cards. But don’t panic! There are ways to save with the USPS.

  1. Use Media Mail. Shipping packages of books, CDs, magazines, and other informational/educational materials can qualify for discounted shipping known as Media Mail. Though this service is categorized as “business” by the USPS, individuals can still get media mail pricing when they ask for it at the service counter. A book weighing 13 ounces costs $2.84 to ship via First Class service—and only $1.73 via Medial Mail pricing! So if you are sending a novel to your best friend or a comic book for your nephew’s birthday, use Media Mail so you can spend more on the present and less on shipping it.
  2. Buy packaging supplies elsewhere. Boxes, bubble wrap, and decorative envelopes sold directly at the USPS window are pretty but pricey. Opt for cheaper packaging supplies obtained at drugstores with store coupons (like Walgreens and CVS), or—better yet!—reuse existing supplies. Turn brown paper bags inside out and cut along the seam instead of using costly rolled postal paper. Many larger-sized prepadded envelopes are also sturdy enough to be used more than once (just attach new labels!)
  3. Stick to Forever stamps. All stamps sold by the USPS are now “Forever” stamps, meaning they can be used at any time in the future, even when the cost of postage rises. So having a few extra booklets on hand won’t create problems in the future. But not all Forever stamps are the exact cost of postage. Some that support a specific cause (heart disease, animal shelters, etc.) cost more, with the proceeds going towards non-profit organizations. Also, stamps you create yourself and are personalized with words or photographs cost more than traditional postage.
  4. Use a postcard. Sure, the cost to mail a First Class letter is less than two quarters, but the cost of a postcard is only 32 cents! If you have 50 Christmas Cards to mail this year, why not make them postcards instead? This instantly saves $6.50 in shipping cost (not to mention the unnecessary paper waste from all those envelopes). Note: The maximum size for a regularly-sized postcard with the USPS is 6 inches long by 4 ¼ inches high by .016 inch thick.
  5. Consider add-ons carefully. Whenever I visit my local Postal counter, the clerk always tries to sell me on insurance, tracking, overnight delivery, etc. The cost of these services can increase the standard shipping price by 100%, 200%, even 500% and more! Plan ahead and send packages on time so it is easier to say “no” to these additional expenditures.
  6. Don’t guess on postage. Ever placed eight stamps in the corner of a package just to make sure the cost is covered just to avoid going to the Post Office? A Krazy Coupon Lady should never throw away money like that! Instead, use the free online USPS Postal Explorer tool to help determine mailer information and the cost to send a package.
  7. Cut-down on what you send. In today’s world of automatic bill-pay options, electronic funds transfer services, and online communication tools, perhaps some of what you send via “snail mail” isn’t necessary. Take stock of what you send for a month, and you may find that some of what you are paying to do could be handled for free electronically.

This is a guest post by Audrey from Texas
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8 thoughts on “Through Snow and Rain: How to Save at the Post Office”

  1. spennyp says:

    If you have something fragile inside, it is ALWAYS better to spend the little extra to get the insurance. And if the price difference between first class or parcel post versus priority isn’t much, go with priority. Not only does it arrive more quickly, but from what I have seen as a former USPS employee, Priority mail is handled more carefully. Delivery Confirmation also may not seem important, but one situation to always pay the extra (it’s under $1) is if you are selling an item online, such as ebay, Etsy, etc. I have had a buyer on ebay try to get a refund for an item I sold, saying it never arrived. Since I had delivery confirmation, I was not held irresponsible for the item. Priority flat rate boxes are also free at most USPS offices (and they tape it for free and give you free labels), so if you don’t have to spend the money on the shipping supplies you can afford to pay the difference for Priority shipping! :)

  2. usps employee says:

    Make sure if you ship Media Mail you are aware that it is subject to inspection by the post office to make sure it’s only books, cds & dvds. Media mail & parcel post are also the slowest way to ship things…even if it’s within the state it can often take a week or more. The other issue with media mail & parcel post is if you aren’t aware the person moved they will be charged postage due if the package is forwarded (this is free with first class & priority)
    If you send a lot of packages think about ordering free Priority Mail supplies at usps.com (free shipping too) Regional boxes are a little confusing but are cheaper than a flat rate box sometimes. Flat rate is also one rate up to 70lbs, so stuff that box to get the best value.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Also check the price of flat rate envelopes/boxes. I can often send something cheaper priority now than parcel post.

  4. Laudan Dehghanpisheh Kirk says:

    I do Christmas postcards- cheaper to have customized and cheaper to send out.