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Penny–wise Postage Tips

In a time of ever–increasing postage rates, businesses must mail smarter to save money. These penny–wise postage tips will help minimize your mailing costs – more than you might imagine. "The average small company can save one month’s postage each year by mailing more wisely."1

Check addresses

If you're sending out a direct mail campaign, check to see if all of the addresses are still valid. According to the United States Postal Service (USPS), 17% of Americans change their addresses each year. The USPS will even check and update your mailing list. Don't have a computerized list? For a fee the USPS will review your printed list and update it, as well. To learn more about either of these services, contact your local post office.

Use a postage meter

Avoid guessing games; many electronic postage meters will automatically calculate current USPS first and third class, Parcel Post, Express Mail, UPS, Federal Express, and other rates.

Using the correct amount of postage offers many opportunities to save money. If you do not use a postage meter, you may place too much postage on a package. You might also place too little, which means the item will be returned to you, not only requiring more postage, but also delaying the arrival of the package at its final destination

Pack items properly

Don't skimp on packing supplies such as bubble wrap and peanuts, especially if you don't plan to insure the packages. These materials cushion items and help prevent breaks.

According to the AllBusiness.com article, Minimize Your Shipping Costs, "broken shipments can be expensive. You must replace the damaged items and pay additional shipping [charges] to deliver them. To avoid costly problems, use at least two inches of filler material around each item — more around delicate things — and pack your shipments in sturdy boxes.

Use standard size envelopes

Yes, an octagon–shaped envelope may attract more attention, but it will also cost more to mail. When possible, stick to standard #10 envelopes.

The USPS specifically recommends avoiding "square pieces. They are mailable, but they don't fit well into mail processing equipment and you may have to pay a nonstandard surcharge (only for first–class mail)."

Mail pieces must be at least at least 3 ½"high x 5" long x .007" thick to be deliverable. If you try to mail something smaller, such as a 3" x 5" index card, your item will be returned to you and the postage will have been wasted.

If you're trying to save money by mailing postcards instead of letters, remember that postcards can be no more than 4 ¼" high x 6" long x .016" thick to qualify for the postcard rate. Any larger and they'll need first–class postage.

Consider bulk mail

"The Postal Service offers discounts for bulk mailings because you do some of the work that otherwise would have to be done by the Postal Service (for example, sorting the mail by ZIP code or transporting the mail to a different postal facility)."2

To take advantage of bulk rates, you must send large quantities of mail.

Type of Mail

Bulk Rate Minimum

First–class mail

500 pieces

Standard mail

200 pieces or 50 pounds

Parcel post

50 pieces

Presorted or carrier route bound printed material

300 pieces

Presorted library mail

500 pieces

Presorted media mail

500 pieces

The USPS also requires a mailing permit and charges an annual fee to companies and organizations that use bulk mail. However, if you mail enough — the bulk rate should pay off.

Negotiate prices

If you use a private shipping company, negotiate what you pay for shipping. The more you mail, the better your position will be for haggling.

Plan ahead

Avoid sending letters and packages overnight. Consider using overnight shipping for emergencies only. If your overnight costs are particularly high, implement an office policy that requires department managers to sign off on any overnight deliveries.


1Gruner, Stephanie L., Direct Mail: Penny–Pinching Postage Tips, Inc., January 1, 1996
2What is Bulk Mail? Is it Right for You?, Business Mail 101, www.usps.com

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