Thursday, November 12, 2009

Send A Gift; Save On Postage

Tip #207 - Send A Gift; Save on Postage. It is that time of year again – the holidays are around the corner and the post office lines will be that way, too, soon. As November and December approach, more and more people are will be sending gifts to family and friends across the country and around the world. If you only send packages sporadically, it can sometimes be overwhelming on how to send it – First class? Parcel? Overnight? Which method is quickest, and maybe more importantly, which is cheapest?

As a seller on eBay, I have wrapped and sent my fair share of packages, so I will share some information I have learned over the years about shipping items. Generally, the quicker you want an item to get to its recipient, the more expensive it is. But not always. Express Mail is like overnight delivery and that is almost always the most expensive. I have never shipped anything this way, but if you need something to get somewhere in a huge hurry, then this is the way to go if you want to stick with the US Postal Service. There are other shipping options besides the USPS, such as UPS and FedEx, so you’ll want to compare prices. If it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight, FedEx might be the way to go. I used to ship items with FedEx on a daily basis through work and have been very satisfied with their service. Another time when I like to compare prices with the Post Office is when I have large, oversized packages. We have found that FedEx or UPS can often be a better deal than the Post Office in these cases.

But suppose you want to just ship a present of a winter scarf to Great Aunt Ida across the country. Let’s assume you are organized and have allowed plenty of time for it to arrive and you wish to pay as little as possible. Parcel Post is generally the cheapest way to ship a package if you have the time, but there are exceptions. If an item is 13 ounces or less (you can check it on a scale at the post office) you can ship it first class mail package. For an item that light, first class mail package is the way to go. If the item is heavier than 13 ounces, though, Parcel Post is usually the cheapest way to go.

If you are not so organized and want to get something to someone in a few days, then Priority Mail is your best bet. It should take 2-3 days to get anywhere in the country. Cost is based on weight and distance from your house. The other nice thing about Priority Mail is that the Post Office provides the box or envelope for you to ship it in. If you don’t have a box lying around or somewhere to pick one up, then this alone might make Priority Mail worthwhile. Priority Mail prices start at just under $5. However, there is another Priority Mail option that might be better. They have something called Priority Flat Rate which is what it says it is – a flat rate for a specific sized box. A small Flat Rate Box is about $5, a medium box is about $10, and a large box is about $14 to anywhere in the country. So, if you have a very heavy item that is small, a Flat Rate Box might be your best option – possibly even better than Parcel Post.

The best deal for shipping items, however, has to be Media Mail. Media Mail is reserved for sending media – books, DVDs, CDs, and other media types (no magazines or other materials that contain advertising). Media mail is a great bargain regardless of the weight. Send ten pounds of books across the county and it would cost almost $30 for Priority mail; about half that at $16 and some change for Parcel Post, while it’s just under $6 for Media Mail. So if you are considering a gift and don’t want to spend a lot in postage, think about sending media.

The last piece of advice I have for shipping items is to look to buy items online. If prices are the same or better including shipping when compared to a brick and mortar store, then it pays to buy the item and have it shipped directly to the recipient. It beats paying for shipping twice.

The cost of postage has increased quite a bit in recent years, so make sure you take it into consideration when buying a gift for someone far away. And then look at all of your shipping options at the USPS website before sending off your gift.

In Real Life (IRL) – As I said, I have a lot of experience shipping items from my eBay business. As with everything else, there was a learning curve that came along with packing and shipping. Fortunately with all shipping options being online, it is much easier to compare shipping rates. In addition to the actual packing and shipping, my experience comes in handy at the point of purchase. I have learned to look for gifts that are cheap to ship.

--Books make great gifts because I can send them cheaply. Same goes for DVDs, computer games, and CDs.
--The smaller the item, the better. Priority Mail charges extra if the size is above a certain dimension. And if it’s small enough to go Flat Rate, you can save a bundle.
--The lighter the item, the better. Shipping a souvenir t-shirt is preferable to shipping a pound of salt water taffy.

I have also learned how to save even more money.

--If you are computer savvy, set up an online account at the post office. You can get discounts by print your labels at home.
--By printing labels at home, you can often leave your packages with your mail carrier and save a trip to the post office.

So for this upcoming holiday season, make sure that if you are trying to save money, you consider the shipping costs as well as the cost of the gift. No matter how good of a deal it is, it’s not worth it if the cost of shipping is going to be astronomical. For more frugal ideas, check out Frugal Fridays.


Adventure Mom Janna said...

Very Helpful.

Also I live on the island of Guam and even thought the USPS will tell you 2-3 days with priority mail it usually takes 5-7. When it comes to shipping internationally give yourself plenty of time or order online and have it shipped directly.

I love saving too!

Jennifer said...

I've found it cheaper to send Cd's and DVD's by first class rather than Media (especially for sales). They are normally only about 3-4 ounces.

Michele said...


You're right. At a very low weight, first-class is cheaper than Media Mail. I think at about 5 ounces or so Media Mail becomes cheaper. I have found the same thing to be the case when I am mailing one CD!

My Boaz's Ruth said...

Note, if you are sending MEdia rate do not put a letter or a card or anything in there. Just the book.

Lenetta @ Nettacow said...

Great tips! I find myself getting cranky that it costs so stinking much to send things, but it sure could be worse. Sorry I'm slow in getting over here to tell you that I linked to you. :>) Thanks!

Mike Loshe said...
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