If you’re like me and you sell pretty much anything you don’t use anymore on eBay, then you do a lot of shipping. I hate to eat into my profit margin by paying for shipping supplies, though, so over the years I’ve found ways to minimize their cost. Whether you’re shipping things for your small business, online sales, or cross-country birthdays, these tips will help you keep your shipping costs as low as possible.
Purchase a digital scale to make sure you can weigh your items as accurately as possible. This way, you won’t overspend on postage and you won’t have orders returned to you for insufficient postage. Digital scales are expensive at office supply stores, but you can find a wide variety of scales at different price points on eBay.
Skip the post office: Who wants to waste time and gas money or deal with the hassle of going to the post office? The USPS will pick up your shipment from your door for free as long as you have at least one Priority or Express mail item in your shipment and no single package weighs more than 70 pounds. The only catch is that you have to schedule the pickup a day ahead of time. And if your mailman doesn’t care, you can even ignore the Priority/Express item rule.
Don’t buy stamps from Stamps.com: Stamps.com, an online service that allows you to print all classes of postage from your computer, can be a great service, but they charge a premium for pretty much everything. Just to use their basic service costs $15.99 a month, plus whatever postage fees you incur. One of the items they sell are their proprietary stamps (Net Stamps), with the idea that you can weigh your letter and only print exactly the amount of postage you need instead of, say, wasting an extra 41 cent stamp when you only need ten more cents of postage.
However, when you combine the Stamps.com monthly subscription fee with the fee of $3.99 for 125 stamp labels, you probably aren’t going to come out ahead. If you purchase a digital scale and a variety of stamp denominations, you can simply use the free USPS Postage Rate Calculator to avoid putting excessive postage on your mail. You can purchase stamps online from the USPS in denominations such as 1 cent, 10 cents, 1 dollar, and more.
Buy old stamps from eBay: If you want to save even more money on postage, you can buy older stamps in a hodgepodge of denominations from eBay. I haven’t done this myself yet, but I understand that you can save around 10% on stamps with this method. Plus, you’ll always have the right combination of stamps for your mail. To avoid headaches, keep in mind that items over 13 ounces that bear stamps (as opposed to a shipping label) cannot be placed in mailboxes or given to your mail carrier. They must be taken to a post office.
Use free online tools instead of paid subscription services: Instead of spending $15.99 a month on a subscription to Stamps.com, use the USPS’s Click ‘n’ Ship service to print Priority and Express mail postage. As long as you know the weight of your item, you can easily print a shipping label for it right from the USPS website with no fee.
Use PayPal for media mail and parcel post shipments: If you don’t want to pay for a Stamps.com subscription and you can only use USPS Click-n-Ship for Priority and Express mail, how do you cheaply and conveniently ship media mail and parcel post packages? If the item weighs less than 13 ounces, go ahead and put stamps on it. If your package weighs more than 13 ounces, ask a friend or relative with a PayPal account to send a penny to your PayPal account and mark the payment as being for “goods.” When you receive the payment, PayPal will take the penny for its service fee, but then you’ll be able to print a shipping label through your PayPal account. You don’t even have to use the name or address of the person who sent you the penny on your shipping label-you can change it online.
It can take a while to adjust to a different way of mailing things, but once you get used to it, I think you’ll agree with me that the savings in time and money are worth the effort.
Like Saving Advice? Subscribe!
Subscribe to get the latest Saving Advice content via email.