I’m obsessed with my adorable, Norman Mailer-esque, whitewashed mailbox that prettily perches on my front lawn. Unfortunately, my lovely mailbox is home to nothing but junk mail (and bills, bills and more bills). Six days a week, it gets filled to the brim with catalogs, credit offers, advertisements, promotional mailers and other forms of junk mail. In addition to being annoying, junk mail “costs” you in a variety of ways. First off, there’s the environmental cost of junk mail. Check out these staggering statistics compiled by NYU Law’s Sustainability Program:

  • The average American household receives 848 pieces of junk mail per household, equal to 1.5 trees every year—more than 100 million trees for all U.S. households combined!
  • 5.6 million tons of catalogs and other direct-mail advertisements end up in U.S. landfills annually.
  • 44% of junk mail is thrown away unopened, but only half that much junk mail (22%) is recycled.
  • Junk mail destroys 100 million trees a year—the equivalent of deforesting all of Rocky Mountain National Park every four months.
  • Largely due to deforestation, junk-mail manufacturing creates as much greenhouse gas emissions annually as 3.7 million cars.

In addition to the environmental costs of junk mail, here are some other ways junk mail can cost you:

  • If “pre-approved” credit offers fall into the wrong hands, they can lead to identity theft and an unauthorized person taking out a credit card in your name
  • Junk mail can lead to increased taxes and garbage/recycling fees. As is, Americans pay 370 million each year to dispose of junk mail that doesn’t get recycled.
  • Junk mail can obscure important mail. More than once I’ve missed out on a social invitation or a bill because they were hidden in a stack of junk mail and I accidentally threw them out.

Check out the tips below to save on these startling costs.

1. Register for free with the Direct Marketing Association (DMA)

Direct mail is unsolicited advertising sent via mail. On DMA’s website, you can sign up for their free service to reduce up to 80% of direct mail. The service separates direct mail into four categories:

  • Credit Offers
  • Catalogs
  • Magazine Offers (subscription offers, newsletters, periodicals and other promotional mailings)
  • Other Mail Offers (donation requests, bank offers, retail promotions and more).

For each of these four categories, you can choose whether or not you want to receive mail from companies one at a time or from all companies you haven’t purchased from or donated to. Your choices will be effective for five years.

2. Be careful when you fill out forms

If you’re a Krazy Coupon Lady, then you probably love signing up for sweepstakes and promotions for things such as freebies, rebates, discounts and coupons. When you fill out the forms for these promotions, look for the language on the form (usually placed at the bottom of the form or written in a smaller font size) about signing up for mailers, emails and other types of solicitations. Next to this language, there’s usually a box to check or uncheck, indicating whether or not you want to receive these types of communications. If you don’t want further communications from the company, make sure you clearly indicate your preferences on the form.

3. Opt out of direct mail credit and insurance offers

I always get a ton of those “pre-approved” credit card and insurance offers (which are known as firm offers) in my mailbox. Do you? Not only do these direct mail firm offers make you more vulnerable to identity theft but are also misleading—as you aren’t technically “pre-approved” for the credit card or insurance policy, but rather only conditionally approved. Also, these firm offers typically aren’t the best deals as they often come with high fees and high interest rates. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), consumer credit reporting companies are permitted to include your name on lists used by creditors or insurers to make firm offers. However, the FCRA also provides you the right to “Opt-Out”, which prevents consumer credit reporting companies from providing your credit file information for firm offers. At OptOutPrescreen.com, you can sign up to opt out of receiving these offers either for a 5-year period or permanently. The website’s service is free to use. If you change your mind in the future, you can go back on the website and choose to “Opt In”.  You can also call 1-888-OPT OUT (or 1-888-567-8688).

4. Opt out of catalogs at CatalogChoice.Org

I personally love getting catalogs as I love to relax and flip through a catalog for some “window shopping.” On the other hand, some people hate getting catalogs in the mail. On CatalogChoice.org, you can search by company name to opt out of receiving catalogs and other forms of direct mail from that particular company.

5. Opt out of catalogs by contacting Abacus

When you make a purchase from a catalog, your name and mailing address is typically given to Abacus, an alliance of most catalog companies. To get off of Abacus’s mailing list, email abacus@epsilon.com, stating that you wish to be removed from their mailing list and include the following information in your email: full name (including your middle initial), current address and previous address if you’ve moved within the last six months.

6. Fill out the Temporary Change of Address Form when you move

On the USPS website, they offer two types of change of address (COA) digital forms: a permanent COA form and a temporary/12-month COA form. Since USPS will provide your permanent COA information to third parties, don’t fill out the permanent COA form when you move. Instead, fill out their temporary COA form and then notify select companies of your new address on your own.

7. Contact companies directly

Services such as DMA typically only reduce your direct mail by 80%. To get rid of the junk mail that has fallen through the cracks, you can always directly contact each individual company that’s sending you junk mail. If there’s no contact information provided on the piece of junk mail, you’ll have to do some research online to find it. In my case, even after registering with DMA, I was still receiving unsolicited sweepstakes mailers from Publisher’s Clearinghouse and Reader’s Digest. To stop junk mail from these companies, contact Publisher’s Clearinghouse by email at privacychoices@pchmail.com and Reader’s Digest Sweepstakes by phone at 800-310-6261.


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