It seems like several vloggers have videos explaining this, and instagrammers are also doing it. Here’s a blog version. I’m going to explain a bit about how to attack the problem of understanding postage rates, without getting too deep in the particulars.
Before we even discuss rates, you must follow the first fundamental rule of shipping:
Always print postage through Ebay
The site gives you access to commercial rates, which are lower than the rates you pay at the counter. Also, by printing at home, you save time by not waiting in line – you can be in an out of a post office in three minutes.
This also means you must spend around $10 to buy a scale. I use a food scale that goes to 10 pounds, and it’s been good enough for almost everything. You can augment the small scale with a bathroom scale to weigh heavy items.
The Broad Categories of Weights
They key to learning postal rates is to learn one type of postage rate at a time. I’ve divided up three categories. There are way more than three, but these are the three to learn first.
- Stuff under 16 ounces ships as First Class Packages
- Stuff over 16 ounces ship with Parcel Select Ground
- Stuff over 3 pounds might ship with Priority Mail Fixed Rate
We’ll ignore heavier items for now.
First Class Letters, and First Class Packages
Nearly all of us know about First Class letters. They start at around 49 cents, for one ounce, and you pay more if it weighs more. The letter goes everywhere in the 50 states for one price. This is called a flat rate postage.
The postage is based on weight.
First Class Packages are small boxes or large envelopes or thick envelopes (greater than 1/4″) that are priced similarly to letters. They start at around $2.60 for a 1 oz package, and go up to around $4 for a 16 oz package.
Just like the First Class letters we all know, one price sends the object anywhere in the USA.
Parcel Select Ground (and Retail Ground)
Parcel postage is based on weight and distance. So, a 1 pound package from my home in Los Angeles to San Diego would be around $6. Sending the same package to Maine would be around $6.80.
A 5-pound box to San Diego would be $7.17. Not too much. The same box to the East Coast is over $15! That’s more than twice as much.
Parcel Select Ground (PSG) is the cheapest way to send, but it’s also the slowest way to send (excepting FedEx Smart Post, which is even slower). So, you send off the box, and it can take 9 days to get to its destination. While this may not matter for most objects, it is risky for fragile items: the longer it’s in transit, the more likey it is to be damaged.
Priority Mail Fixed Rate Envelopes and Boxes
If you want to send a 5-pound package across the country, it’s time to look at Priority Mail Fixed Rate Envelopes and Boxes. These are boxes provided by the post office. They are FREE BOXES. Boxes cost between 50 cents and 2 dollars out in the market, so this is an awesome deal.
Not only that, but all these PM boxes arrive at their destination between 1 and 3 days.
They allow you to send packages of up to 70 pounds for one flat price. So they are a flat rate based on the volume of the shipment. They work like First Class letters we all know, because you pay one price, and it gets to the destination.
The only problem is that these boxes are pretty expensive to send. Here are the prices:
- Envelope: 6.95
- Padded Mailer: 7.20
- Small Box: 7.15 (this is around the same size as the padded mailer)
- Medium Box: 13.60
- Large Box: 18.85
So, you can save money with these whenever the object is small and heavy, like a power adapter for a laptop. You can save money when it’s big and heavy, like a part for a car.
You can also save money when you’re shipping across the country. However, note that on Ebay, there’s competition, so, shipping across the country is a huge disadvantage because you’re basically $5 more expensive than local vendors.
You can also save time when you’re shipping nearby. PM boxes arrive in one or two days when the origin and destination are cities only a few hundred miles apart. So, that’s a competitive advantage for people in the know. Things like computer or car parts that people need right away should be sent PM.
I offer PSG as a money-saver for people who are somewhat nearby and are patient.
Next, we’ll get into Priority Mail types. This is a bit more complicated, because rates vary with distance, but there are also price breaks.