5 Tips to Keep Your Shipping Costs Low

With the cost of shipping increasing every year like clockwork, you’re probably looking for ways to get a little thrifty. Here are my five tips to keep your shipping costs low:

1. Up with the Envelope! Down with the Box!
Obviously there are instances when this simply won’t work. If you’re shipping large or fragile goods, there’s just going to be no way around using a box. But if you sell small, fairly non-breakable items, you will save a ton shipping in an envelope instead of a box.

Take one of my items. Let’s say this top weighs about 10 ounces.

by SmarmyClothes

If I wrap this item in a sheet of tissue paper, put it in one of my poly mailers (I get mine from threerb on Ebay), and toss in a few of my business cards, the final weight is 11 ounces. Light enough to ship inside the US via First Class.

Cost to ship
Inside US (1st Class) – about $3.50
To Canada – $8.24
Everywhere Else – $13.41

If I put it in a small box, the final weight is 16 ounces. That’s too heavy for 1st Class in the US, so I have to go up to Priority.

Cost to ship
Inside US (Priority) – $5.05
To Canada – $9.50
Everywhere Else – $15.08

My poly mailers weigh about 0.5 ounces. The box weighs over 4 ounces! And of course, the bigger the box, the more it weighs.

Most of my jewelry weighs less than an ounce- if I shipped it in a box, I’d be paying more to ship the box itself than the item in it! My jewelry is fragile, but not that fragile. Wrap your items well and they will survive just fine in an envelope. Bubble wrap is your friend!

2. Respect the Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelope
The cheapskate inside of my dies a little bit every time I receive something shipped via priority mail that isn’t in a Flat Rate Envelope.

If you can cram it into a Flat Rate Envelope (FRE), it costs about $5. And you can cram a lot of things in those envelopes! I could  squeeze at least 3 tops into a FRE. Let’s say it was three tops weighing the same as the above example- 10 ounces each. That’s 30 ounces or about 1.9 pounds. Anything over 1 lb gets rounded up to 2 lbs, so it’s a 2 lb package.

Cost to ship in a FRE
From MI to CA – $5.05
To Canada – $20
Everywhere Else – $24

Cost to ship when NOT in a FRE
From MI to CA – $9.88
To Canada – $29
Everywhere Else – up to $42

GOOD GOD, MAN! Do you see what I’m saying about the awesomeness that is the FRE?!

3. Beware the Flat Rate Boxes
Being such a devotee to the FRE, you might think I’m equally enamored with the FRB. But not always, my friend. Here’s why.

It’s not about the weight of the box, because it’s a flat rate.  But it does matter how much (or more accurately, how little) what’s inside weighs and where you’re shipping to. If you aren’t shipping something heavier than 2 or 3 lbs, you are probably better off using your own box or better yet- a large envelope!

My sweater coats can weigh up to 5 lbs, so let’s use one of those as an example.

Cost to ship:
Medium Flat Rate Box anywhere in the US – $11.30
Large Flat Rate Box anywhere in the US – $15.30
Plain Box or Envelope From MI to CA – $18.70
Plain Box or Envelope From MI to FL – $12.97
Plain Box or Envelope From MI to IL – $7.24

For the heavier coats, the Medium FRB is a good deal to most locations. But the heavier coats may only fit in the Large FRB, and then the FRB is only a good option if I’m shipping to the furthest mail zone.

4. Get a Scale, Dammit
I don’t know why people get squeamish about buying a scale. It costs $25 bucks, takes all the guess work out of your shipping charges, and you can ship from home!

Vintage Kitchen Scale by DelveChicago

Surely $25 more than covers what you pay for in gas for a year’s worth of post office trips. Not to mention no more lines!

5. Save Everything
I’ve used a fair amount of bubble wrap over the years, but I’ve only bought it once… when I started selling about 9 years ago.  I save every piece of useable bubble wrap that comes into my house.

Bubble Wrap Necklace by EclecticOrnaments

I save the bubble mailers, too, and re-use those as well. I save clean boxes that are a good size for the things I need to ship in boxes. I save plain plastic bags in the event I feel I need to wrap something in plastic (though generally, I do not). Wadded up plastic grocery bags (I still wind up with a box full even though I almost always use my fabric shopping bags now) make a great filler if you don’t have packing peanuts.


My name is Alexis. I have a craft addiction. This is my story. also check out: www.smarmyclothes.com (my clothes) www.whatthecraft.com (my tutorials)

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3 comments on “5 Tips to Keep Your Shipping Costs Low
  1. Lisa says:

    The Post Office says, coast-to-coast, approximately 7 lbs is where it is cheaper to use the Flat Rate Boxes. I always, always check it online (http://postcalc.usps.com/). Thanks for all the tips!!

  2. Tina says:

    I decided to only sell envelope-sized items after one day where I went to ship an item and the shipping costed more than the price of the item. After that I told my customers that item was too big for shipping and I would no longer make it. They all understood about costs!

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