Don’t you hate it when it costs more to ship a gift than the cost of the actual gift? I do. A few years ago I wrote a post about the cheapest ways to mail packages, but a lot as changed since then so I thought I would give an update. With Christmas fast approaching I know many people are waiting in long lines at the post office to ship their packages, and the post office isn’t always the best deal.
While this post is in no way comprehensive, it should help save a little bit of money on your shipping.
Cheapest Ways to Mail Packages
Almost every online retailer is offering free shipping this time of year. Amazon offers free two-day shipping all year round to its Amazon Prime
members and now you can receive free shipping if you spend $25 or more on select items. Other stores such as Kohls, Land’s End, Gap, Old Navy, Barnes and Noble, and many others offer free shipping if you spend over a certain amount. I try to buy as much as possible from Amazon.com, but for other items I always go through Ebates or Shop at Home. They often have a coupon code as well as cash back on my purchases.
USPS Shipping Options
The post office has several different shipping options. The cheapest shipping option is almost always Media Mail, but you must be mailing media. This includes items such as books, film, manuscripts, sound recordings, video tapes, and computer readable media- CDs, and DVDs. You can mail a 10 pound package for only $5.89 using Media Mail. The problem is there is no guaranteed delivery date, so if you are trying to get it there by Christmas this might not be your best option.
The cheapest way to mail non media via the USPS. Check the price though, many times parcel post isn’t much cheaper than priority and it is much slower. Parcel post is calculated by weight and location. You can see a parcel post rate chart on the Post Office website.
The USPS has introduced Flat Rate Priority Mail boxes. Basically whatever you can jam in the box you can ship for one price. So, if you box weighs 5 or 50 pounds you pay the same price. The priority mail boxes are free and are available at your local post office, or you can have them shipped to your door. The Priority Mail Flat Rate chart is below.
If you choose to use your own packaging you can send it priority mail too. Prices are based on weight and location and start at about $5. You can view the priority mail rate chart on the USPS website.
Priority mail is usually 2 to 3 day shipping, but it is not guaranteed.
If you are short on time but not on money, Express Mail is your best option at the USPS. Express mail starts at $13.65 for an envelope and goes up from there. You can send a flat rate envelope for $18.30. It is guaranteed overnight delivery to most locations and you get a refund if they don’t deliver it by the guaranteed day.
Other USPS Details
Insurance is not including when shipping via the USPS. You can purchase insurance for your packages, as well as other options such as delivery confirmation, tracking and more.
The post office will come pick up your packages as long as they are ready to be shipped. It is a free service as long as you are using Express Mail, Priority Mail, International services, Merchandise Return Service and Parcel Return Service. There is also an on demand service which costs $15.30 per pick-up. You can find out more about mailing packages from your home on the pick-up options section of the USPS website.
I love seeing that big brown truck pull up to my house, don’t you? The UPS has a shipping matrix that rivals most calculus textbooks, but the basic deal is, the heavier the package and the farther away it is going the more you pay.
The benefit of shipping via UPS (or FedEx) is that you know when the package is going to arrive, have access to tracking, and insurance is included in the price, up to $100 worth of coverage.
Below is an example of what 20 pound package shipped from Florida to Maryland would cost using the different UPS options.
- Next Day Air = $130
- 2 Day Air = $80.85
- 3 Day Select = $41.80
- Ground = $18.76
To compare, that same box shipped via the post office, priority mail would cost over $30 and get there about the same time as UPS Ground.
While UPS’s shipping matrix is complicated, it is actually very easy to calculate the cost of postage. Visit their website and use the shipping calculator to find out exactly how much it will cost to mail your package.
UPS will also pick packages up at your door if you schedule a pick-up.
FedEx is similar to UPS and you can find out their shipping rates on the FedEx website.
So, What is the Cheapest Way to Ship Packages?
My answer is still the same, it just depends on the size of the package and the destination. The Priority Mail flat rate boxes can be a great deal if you are mailing something very heavy, but you would probably do better using regular priority mail if you are shipping cotton balls or a feather boa.
UPS is usually the best option for shipping heavier items and provides superior tracking and delivery guarantees.
There is a website that will help you compare shipping rates for your package. The iShip website was not working while I was writing this post, but hopefully they will correct the problem soon and you should be able to use it to save some money.
Whatever you chose remember to read the shipping guidelines before you ship that nail polish or glue. There are many items that you cannot ship and you don’t want to waste the time or money shipping a prohibited item that will be returned.
This post is linked to Frugal Friday.