Monday, May 30, 2011

Postage 101

This morning at the post office, I listened to a post office worker try to explain the best way to send a package to the young man in line in front of me.  Having been through Postage University, I could relate to the young man's confusion, as well as the postal worker's difficulty in trying to explain a complex subject simply.

Until I became a business owner,  I was basically ignorant about postage too.  Finding out the best and most economical way to ship to my customers has been an education.   I thought it might be useful to share some of my hard earned knowledge.  So here is Postage 101 for packages.  I am only  touching on U.S. mail (International is another story).

If your package is 13 ounces or less, your best route is First Class Mail.

If your package is more than 13 ounces, it gets more complicated.

Priority Mail Flat Rate packaging is free from the Post Office, and you pay one flat rate to ship it, no matter how much the item weighs.  There are different sizes of flat rate packages, and the cost goes up with the size of the package.

The small flat rate size package ships for around $5.00
Believe it or not, both of these flat rate packages ship for the same price

You can fit anything the size of a  video tape or smaller in the top box, and items like clothing, magazines, or up to eight yards of fabric in the padded envelope (ask me how I know).

The medium flat rate box, which is approximately  11-7/8" x 3-3/8" x 13-5/8"   ships for around $11
You can fit quite a bit in this box - toys, a quilt, lots of snacks for the freshman in college.

And  the large flat rate box, which is approximately 12” x 12” x 5 1/2”  ships for around $15
A sleeping bag would probably fit, a queen sized package of batting, Christmas presents for your favorite grandchild.

There are other style packages too.  Check out the Post Office web site to see them all and order packaging.

With a scale (a wonderful $30 investment for anyone who ships packages regularly) you can print your own postage through the U.S. Postal Service or Paypal.  You will also get a discount on postage.  The post office will even pick up the package at your door if you like.

Depending on the weight and what size packaging it will fit in, your item could also ship regular priority mail, (not flat rate).  This type of shipping costs are according to the weight of the package, and where it is going.  Again, the post office supplies free packaging (which look pretty much like flat rate supplies but without the words "Flat Rate"), but you might be better off using a lighter weight shipping envelope such as Tyvek like the one pictured in the foreground below.  Since regular priority mail is charged by the weight, packaging becomes an important consideration.
The Post Office offers free packaging for Priority Mail

You can order free packaging, calculate postage, and even print out shipping labels on the USPS site.  You can also print postage through Paypal if you have an account.  Either way, it is cheaper than buying it at the post office.  For example, Delivery Confirmation is only .17 through Paypal on many packages, but the same service will cost .75 at the Post Office.  Flat Rate Envelopes shipped from the post office cost 5.20, but 4.75 through Paypal.

Finally, there is Parcel Post shipping rates.  I do not use this service because it is slower, and usually ends up costing more than using Priority Mail rates.

There you have it.  Postage 101.  I hope the information was helpful.
Happy Mailing,


  1. That is great information, Kym! And thank you for keeping your shipping costs so low. That's one of the top 3 reason's you're my favorite place to shop. :o)

  2. Very useful! Here in Norway, if your package is 13 ounces or less, you cannot send it any other way than First Class Mail, haha. I guess they have decided to make it easier for us...

  3. Very useful post. When I was helping my mom start up her Etsy shop, I went to the USPS website and ordered a stack of EVERY size of flat rate Box (it's free!). As all my stuff is pretty small, I ship everything First Class, but as her shop sells an assortment of vintage items, it's nice to have all the different sizes at her disposal to test what type of packaging she can use for an item as she is listing it.

    Being able to print labels (First Class, too!) off Paypal isAWESOME. Unless Paypal decides that it hates you and decides that "Paypal Shipping is Unavailable". This has been my life for almost a WEEK! For a freaking week I haven't been able to print labels off of Paypal and PP support sucks.

    Anyway. Yes, it would be really useful to a new Etsian or other online retailer to familiarize themselves with the different shipping options. :)

  4. Thank you, that was very helpful.

  5. Thank you for this post! I am always so confused when it comes to postage!

  6. It definitely was helpful...thank you! I usually do the flat rate boxes/envelopes but sometimes I can do a regular mail for a little less. I have a very friendly "local" post office that doesn't mind weighing it for me and then letting me change boxes to get a better rate if I can. blessings, marlene

  7. I've shared your Postage tips as one of this week's Fresh Picks at Craft Buds. Thanks for sharing!