- Use smart packaging practices. The first step you need to do to save on shipping is to figure out exactly how big of a package you will need. The Post Office offers flat rate boxes and envelopes that ship anything as long as it fits in the container. If that isn't an option for you they also have free boxes that you can use for priority and express mail so you don't have to buy your own packaging. Take advantage of these free items as every little bit adds up when you want to save on shipping. Another good habit to get into is to save packages you receive if they are in good shape to help reduce the cost of shipping containers.
- Properly pack and measure your package. The most important thing when packing an item is to make sure it is secure so it's not rattling around. The people that load these packages don't necessarily just toss them around carelessly but they do get jostled, knocked over, and banged up so make sure your item is properly protected with some sort of packaging item. One way to save on shipping is to not use newspaper for packing as it adds unnecessary weight to the package that you have to pay for. The best thing to use is packing peanuts or an air based material like bubble wrap or large packing bubbles. Make sure to measure your package if you plan to check rates and shipping online as the dimension of a package can have an impact on price.
- Research special shipping options. There are many different speeds that you can ship a package, from next day air to media mail that can take up to 14 days. So figure out exactly when your package needs to arrive and choose the cheapest method instead of waiting until the day before it needs to arrive and paying for next day air which gets extremely expensive even with lighter packages. If you are shipping something like a book that isn't in any rush then choose media mail which is usually the cheapest option but can take a while to arrive. This is a vital step in planning to save on shipping.
- Look up restricted items when shipping internationally. There is nothing worse than paying to ship a package and having it returned due to restricted items and then having to pay shipping a second time. If you are planning on shipping internationally make sure you go to that countries website and find the restricted items page to save on shipping. Most Post Offices should also have a general list of items that cannot be mailed both domestically and internationally but when in doubt make sure to do a little research so you aren't paying for that package twice.
- Properly mark special packages. If you have something breakable make sure to put fragile on it or you may be paying to send a second one. This is a tip to save on shipping that many people overlook. The shipping company doesn't know what you have in that package so please label it! This goes hand in hand with tip #2 because the more protected an item is the smaller chance it has of breaking as well. Either write fragile on the package or have the clerk put a sticker on it but make sure every side has been marked. Also make sure you mark which side is up if it is vital to the item arriving undamaged.
- Compare shipping rates. A very important step to save on shipping is to make sure you get the best deal possible. Different shipping companies have different rates depending on where it's going and how heavy it is so be sure to compare the rates of all the major competitors, UPS, USPS, FedEx, and DHL. Shipping Sidekick is a service I've used in the past to compare the rates of all the major shippers.
- Print your own labels to save on shipping. In the past you had to either subscribe to online services or purchase special software in order to print your own labels at home but it's now becoming the norm and is even encouraged with incentives. The USPS has been known to offer free delivery confirmation, offer discounts on certain package sizes and more if you choose to print on line. The best thing about printing your labels online though is that it's absolutely free and you don't have to wait in long lines at the post office. If you combine this with setting a pickup time you will save on shipping in gas prices alone.
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