Have you ever been waiting in line at the post office, and then you see someone jump right past the queue, and drop their package off at the window? What are they doing? Can you become that person?
What they did is print their postage at the office, or at home, and taped it to their box. The process takes a bit of time, but the 5-15 minutes you spend buying postage is a half hour saved at the post office.
Tools You Need
To print your own postage, you need a few basics.
- A postal scale or a food scale.
- The USPS.com site, or Paypal.com. Both sell postage.
- A printer.
- Some packaging tape. You can get it from the dollar store.
- The package, and maybe a mailer bag.
Prepare the package, and tape it closed – but don’t seal it completely. You might forget something.
Weigh it on the scale. If it weighs less than 1 pound, you can use “First Class Package” rates to send it.
If it weighs more than 15 ounces, you need to use Parcel Select Ground or Priority Mail.
Go to usps.com, and look through the menus for “buy postage”.
Follow the instructions, and pay for the postage.
Then, go to the post office. The first time, you should wait in line, because you won’t know the system.
Pay attention to the windows. Usually, one is not occupied, and there’s a pile of packages at the window.
From the line, try to make eye contact with a clerk, and give them a look of “I have this package with a label on it, can I drop it off at that pile over there” and point to the package, and then the window.
Usually, they just nod “yes”. Go and drop it off, and get out of there!
Next time you go, you can make a beeline to the drop-off window, and take care of business in less than 2 minutes. My personal best was getting from the sidewalk to the window, and back out, in 90 seconds.
There’s a small risk that the package won’t be scanned, and the tracking won’t work. It’s happened to me before, but it’s very rare, like 1 in 500 pacakges.
Some people pre-print, and then insist on waiting in line to get the packages scanned. I never do that.
Home Pick Up
In some places, you can request a pickup of your packages. It depends on different factors, and, due to COVID-19, the USPS seems to have tightened up the pickup service, and aren’t doing residential pick-ups.
If they resume it, the system is pretty simple. You go to usps.com and look for the “schedule a pickup”. There’s time limits, so to get an afternoon pickup, you need to prep the shipment in the morning.
Priority Mail Flat Rate Boxes
In my opinion, these are generally not a good deal. You get better rates with Parcel Select Ground, generally. Additionally, if you buy postage through paypal.com, you can sometimes get a shipping discount that makes Priority Mail price competitive with Parcel Select Ground.
There are situations where Flat Rate is cheaper, mainly, if the items weigh more than a few pounds, flat rate is a better deal.
Most items, however, weigh under three pounds.
Sometimes, though, Flat Rate is expedient. If you need to get documents sent in 3 days or less, with tracking, Flat Rate envelopes are easy to use, and the extra couple dollars to skip the line is worth it.