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Postage prices are amazing, aren't they? I have shipped a lot of things around, and it still floors me. I have tricks for making it as low as possible, but it is still feels high, until you realize it is going across the country, and has really good odds of making it there intact, in a timely manner, in which case you realize it's REALLY cheap. You can't drive a piece of pottery to Oregon for 20.00.... Just a bit of perspective.  :D

Try to let the buyer choose the shipping, I have been known to pay high shipping on things I want now, and to ask that things ship slow and cheap when I'm not in a hurry.

I came up with a start for this Wiki, I'd LOVE it if others would comment, and I can add that information to this.

Tricks for shipping cheaply:
USPS flat rate boxes
The post office has flat rate boxes that go priority mail, or you can use any box for a price calculated by box size (L x W x H) plus a weight and destination factor.
There are tools on the USPS website: postal calculator to give you the numbers, it does take some math and a scale.
The quick version of the math is:
If it's heavy or big, flat rate is probably cheaper. If it's light or small, flat rate is very expensive.
If it's in the middle size and weight wise, if it's going a long way, flat rate is cheaper, if it's not going far, flat rate is expensive.
If it needs to get there fast, flat rate is probably cheaper. If it can take it's time, flat rate is often expensive.

Minimize box weight
Putting things in boxes costs the price of the weight of the box, use the smallest box you can, and find the lightest boxes you can for things that are not fragile. There are shipping bags available that I like for shipping things like T-shirts that will not break.

Combine items
Combine any items you can, if you have multiple things for sale here, see if your buyer want to buy anything else also. if you are posting new items every so often, you might ask the buyer if they want to wait a bit and see if you post anything else they'd like shipped with it.






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steward & bricolagier
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Thoughts on this:  there's a thread in cottage industry that is worth looking though for relevant information  How to calculate postage and packaging (shipping) price.

And I started writing about packing, and it got messy. This is what I had, if someone can make more sense of it.
Packing things to ship: I was at UPS one time, shipping artwork, and the lady told me to "pack it so well that I can drop it from four feet up, onto concrete and you will not flinch." That's excellent advice! Not always easy to do, but if you don't want it to break, assume it will be dropped from 4 feet onto concrete and pack for that. I go for totally immobilizing things, if they are moving at all, they are more likely to break. If it's multiple items, don't let them move against each other.
An example from this last big move I did (nothing broke!) I start by arranging the items on a table, and move them around, stack them, play with them until I see the tightest way they can go together. Get a box that will fit them like that, plus about 1/2 inch on each side. Wrap each item in newspaper, tuck it all in tightly. Stack them in the box the same way you had them. Then start adding more newspaper. Wad it tightly, and stuff it until you simply cannot force any more in, anywhere. get all the cracks full and tight.

Can anyone help me on all of this?

Thank you!!
Pearl, who seems to need more tea this morning
 
pollinator
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What I can offer here doesn't necessarily lead to lower cost shipping.  I'm an artist often shipping high dollar value packages.  My experience is in shipping so it arrives undamaged and how to find lower insurance rates.  For me the insurance is often the most expensive part of shipping.

First, I was taught that one should expect your package to be dropped from 6 feet up, not just 4 feet!  Depending on what you are shipping you may not want it packed too tightly.  You do want things packed so they don't slide or move around certainly.  However if something is very tightly packed then the energy of an impact will get directed into what you are shipping.  You want your packing material to be able to absorb the force of impact rather than conduct it through.  I tend to use bubble wrap or crumpled paper.  If I get styrofoam I will generally reuse it for packing, but I don't like to seek it out.

In the art world, at least for those shipping sculpture, another important standard is to double box the work.  You pack the product in the inner box with appropriate packing material and adequate spacing from the side of the box.  Make sure there is an address on the outside of the inner box in case it gets loose from a damaged outer box.  Then you pack this box inside another with at least 1 inch of packing material all around.  This is creating a strong security buffer zone to absorb impacts.  There is a company I use for insurance on high dollar value boxes that strictly require this sort of packing or the insurance claim will be void.  The also require that you not indicate in any way that there is anything valuable in the box, including recipient addresses.  For example if I was shipping to Joe's Art Gallery I would write the address as Joe's, Joe's AG, or perhaps J.A.G.  I suspect there aren't many here shipping packages valued at over $1000.  If you are it might be worth looking at opening an account with Parcel Pro for insurance needs.  They focus on the jewelry industry who often ship very high dollar value packages.  

For most people doing insurance values under $1000 you might want to look at InsurePost.  I know they are good for the US.  I think they do Canada too, but I'm not sure.  Generally with this sort of service you can ship via your normal carriers but insure through them for lower rates.

Now if you are shipping bars of steel, as I have done often enough with tools, one should realize that any movement within the box will let them function like a battering ram with every stop and start of the truck, plane, etc.  I used to work for a company that made hand tools for the sewage and septic industry.  There was a lot of shipping loss due to this, until he found a packaging type that could withstand that.  I won't get into that solution here since it's not really available easily to the average person.  What I've found worked for me was to just take scrap cardboard and completely wrap all the tools into one tight bundle.  Then I would pack it into the shipping box really tight so it had no chance of sliding around inside.  This is where I think packing really tight is a good idea.  I also found USPS flat rate shipping and excellent value for this sort of package!!!  I would use generous amounts of tape on that package too!
 
master steward
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Another way to reduce shipping costs is by reusing packaging material, and to use lighter packaging material, and use the smallest package you can.

Paper packaging material can be heavy. Just a few sheets adds weight. If you have old plastic bags or bread bags, these are lighter than paper. One could even blow up the bread bag and tie it to be like the little packaging bubbles. They don't look as nice as paper or standard packaging material. But, depending on the buyer, they might not mind.

Another thing is to save the packaging material and packages that you receive, and then reuse them! Order something online and get those plastic bubbles or bubblewrap? Don't toss them or recycle them! Put them somewhere and use them to mail your stuff! Save the bubble mailers and boxes that you receive stuff in, and use those to mail stuff out in.

For a while, my husband was mailing out hundreds of hot wheels every few months. We never once bought packaging material! He used plastic bags, reused old bubble wrap, got old packaging material from family members, and saved boxes from recycling at work. Like David Huang, my husband also double-boxed the expensive hot wheels. If the cards the hot wheels come in get bent, they're worth less. You then have to refund the buyer. It pays to package well and securely!

The bigger your box, the heavier it will be. Cardboard weighs a bit. If you can find a box that's just the right size for your item, use it! It is more secure and will need less packaging material, and will weigh less (and also be less large. Sometimes the larger the package, the more it costs)
 
pollinator
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USPS also has regional boxes, but they are not available at the post office--you have to order them online. If you are shipping 2-3 states away they were usually the best price.  If you are shipping regularly, ordering the boxes and envelopes is a HUGE time saver vs. having to go try to pick them up, especially if your PO doesn't keep many on hand.  and they are FREE--that often makes up for the extra price vs. UPS or Fedex for small items.

 
pollinator
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Does anyone know how to calculate first class parcel postage without going to a post office?  (I have stamps of varying values.)  USPS site only has more expensive rates on line, and I don't ship enough to pay the monthly fees for a print and mail service like stamps.com .  It used to be possible to do this through Paypal, and even get a discounted rate, but they seem to have discontinued that.  What's a small shipper to do?
 
Pearl Sutton
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Phil Gardener wrote:Does anyone know how to calculate first class parcel postage without going to a post office?  (I have stamps of varying values.)  USPS site only has more expensive rates on line, and I don't ship enough to pay the monthly fees for a print and mail service like stamps.com .  It used to be possible to do this through Paypal, and even get a discounted rate, but they seem to have discontinued that.  What's a small shipper to do?


I just went to the calculator, link above in the Wiki, and I can get prices for shipping random objects of various weights first class.... Possible they have updated the site since you looked last, or that you are shipping something weird that I didn't guess in the 4 random number sets I tried. I kept getting first class pricing. I WAS assuming I knew the exact weight though, I have a good scale.

And paypal discontinued theirs? Crap, I liked that.
 
Nicole Alderman
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We use a kitchen scale to weigh the hot wheels and my felt creations. Then we use the weight to calculate the shipping. It always seems pretty accurate.

I am bummed about how there's no longer one price to mail the same item to various states. It used to be something like $3.50 for small items. Now it's something over $5 to ship to the other side of the country. I understand WHY, but it's still frustrating!
 
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FYI - For international shipping of very large items such as cars, machinery, etc, sending it by sea is a LOT cheaper than air. A few acquaintances import collectable cars and other things generally from the US, and use full shipping containers – either 20ft or 40ft. Because it’s not based specifically on weight, they pack the container and every space inside the car with stuff e.g. spare parts, non-flammable consumables, purchases for other people e.g. someone may need a gearbox or engine.

This maximises the space and lowers the overall cost.

Shipping companies also provide a few choices: Full Container Load (FCL), Groupage (shared with other people), Less Than Container Load (LCL shared with commercial cargo.

It may take several weeks or months to arrive, but that’s the trade-off.

 
pollinator
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R Scott wrote:USPS also has regional boxes, but they are not available at the post office--you have to order them online. If you are shipping 2-3 states away they were usually the best price.  If you are shipping regularly, ordering the boxes and envelopes is a HUGE time saver vs. having to go try to pick them up, especially if your PO doesn't keep many on hand.  and they are FREE--that often makes up for the extra price vs. UPS or Fedex for small items.



I was also going to mention the regional shipping boxes and rates. Many people don't know about those; USPS seems to keep them a secret. :-) There are Regional A and Regional B boxes, with each coming in 2 or 3 different sizes, and with high weight allowances. I have found they are usually a cheaper way to ship than most of the other flat rate boxes. Besides having to order the Regional A and B boxes online (shipping them is free along with the boxes), you also have to pay for the postage online and print out the shipping label. Well worth the savings. And if you ship often, you are also able to keep a shipping history with your USPS account should you ship to the same person or company more than once.
 
Phil Gardener
pollinator
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For anyone new to the Regional A and B boxes, another part of the deep secret (after you order them, because they don't have them at the PO) is that when you go through the USPS postage "click and ship" calculator they aren't listed under the flat rate boxes but you have counter-intuitively pass over that button and go through "Calculate Price Based on Shape and Size", put in some weight (which doesn't matter because it's an "if it fits, it ships" deal) and then you can select the Regional rate options when you scroll down (which generally are presented most expensive first).  It is like they have to offer these options for some reason but they want to keep them as hidden as possible.  There also is a small padded envelope, fixed cost  option - for which you similarly have to preorder the envelopes from USPS before you can use them.  They are not available at POs.

My experience with counter service at the PO is that they try to charge me the most expensive cost possible.  I have heard stories of PO employees who are willing to suggest the cheaper options, but they don't seem to work in my town.  I do find first class rates on the USPS site for small envelopes but as soon as you go over a pound I only see Priority options on line - Paypal used to offer discounted first class package pricing but the direct links I used no longer seem to work.

Required tracking has also added to costs - it is nice to have but the lesser expensive options keep falling of the table to be replaced by more expensive services you can't decline.  If you haven't noticed, at this point the Govt is tracking EVERY piece of mail that goes through the system, and we are paying for that.  (In addition to tracking on packages, you can sign up to see, on-line, an external scan of every piece of mail they are delivering to your box each day).
 
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