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How to save big on shipping your packages for the Holidays or at any other time

Updated on November 24, 2011

Do your homework before heading off to ship those packages; you can really save a bundle

These days shipping a package or packages can really give you sticker shock. Shipping can now easily end up costing as much or more than what you paid for the contents to begin with.

Here are some tips we use to save some rather surprising amounts in shipping cost.

Having an online business like Cottage Craft Works .COM means all of our products reach our customers through shipping. Shipping and logistics becomes one of our largest cost factors as the packages get larger and longer. We always are looking for new and innovative ways to deliver our products at an affordable value.

It is amazing to see the number of people who will be so organized and frugal to spend days comparing prices, looking for the Black Friday specials, fighting the crowds and driving across town to save that 10%-25%. Those same people will then return home package the items to send to family members across the country, cart them off to the closest shipping store with no clue on how much they are about to spend to ship them off. It is no wonder gift cards have become so popular.

As with everything else people are gravitating to convenience which often is provided at a premium added cost. Shipping centers are sprouting up in strip malls all over the country because customers don’t want the hassle of driving and standing in line to ship packages. By having a shipping center pack it and ship for you can really put your cost over the top. If you procrastinate or wait to the last minute, the cost can quickly jump.

Before leaving home, weigh your package and take the measurements. Log on to https://wwwapps.ups.com/ctc/request to find the UPS estimated cost, then Log on to http://postcalc.usps.gov/ to check the US Postal Service estimated Cost and Log on to https://www.fedex.com/ratefinder/home?cc=US&language=en to check Federal Express estimated cost, use the quick estimator or you will need to create an account with Federal Express. The other two sites do not require a log on to calculate shipping cost. You no longer have to figure out the old complicated "Girth" measurement, these sites use simple length, width and height box measurements along with the boxed weight.

For packages less than 5lbs and packages that are over 36” long we have found the US Postal service to be our lowest cost. We can still ship small boxed items for around $5.30 and envelopes for under $3. UPS or Federal Express will cost double to triple those amounts. For example to ship a 2lb box from Texas to Indiana Federal Express will cost $14.57, UPS will cost $22.12, USPS will only cost $5.20 using one of their flat rate boxes and those boxes are even free. We also find the USPS online shipping calculator to be the easiest to use.

We also find a wide range in shipping cost for other items as well. Another example is shipping one of our Amish Perpetual Calendars to NJ using UPS cost $43. USPS was only $23. The same when shipping a collapsible Hall Tree to North Carolina, UPS wanted $65; we shipped USPS for $19.95. On the other hand we shipped an oak medium size pet bed to California, UPS was $72. USPS would have cost $107. You just really have to check out each package.

When using UPS or Federal Express try to always ship to a business or commercial address. If you are shipping to relatives ask if their employer would mind having a package shipped to them at their office. Those big brown and red white and blue trucks running around to individual homes are expensive to operate, those costs are passed on to you and sometimes at even a premium cost depending how far the home is away from the distribution centers, such as a remote rural residence location.

Doing your homework in advance will give you a good idea on what the cost should be compared to the rates given to you at the shipping center. These shipping centers really make their profits from convince factors and added options. The calculators do not calculate extra features such as deliver conformation, and insurance. UPS and Federal Express do provide insurance and tracking, but is that worth the extra cost or not? Depending on time available, UPS Ground, USPS Priority or Parcel Post will be your most cost effective shipping method.

Clerks will try and push you into shipping quicker and some will just automatically assume you want 2-3 day shipping at higher rates. Sometimes you will have to ask is that the best rate? The chances are good for small packages shipped by USPS priority mail to reach their destination within 3 days anyway.

Time is always a factor, try to ship early and not procrastinate so that you can ship at the lowest rates available. Much like trying to book an airline ticket the closer you get to the actual needed date the shippping cost skyrockets.

When shopping for items you will need to ship, think small and what will it weigh? Long items like golf clubs, fishing poles, sleds etc. may not weigh much but because of the length will not fit on automated conveyor systems. These packages have to be handled all the way through the shipping points, thus are charged a premium shipping charge for oversize items.

If you like to handcraft large items for family members, shop for the box first, checking the maximum weight and size the shipper will take without additional charges. Then make the item to fit the box, including the packing material. UPS and USPS will take up to 70lbs. For example we special designed our reproduction J & P Coats spool thread cabinet to ship in a box just under the size and weight for standard UPS shipping. We are currently in the redesign of our popular folding step-ladder-ironing board chair to come apart and ship in a box at standard UPS rates. Currently it has to ship assembled, it only weighs 37lbs but because it is 42” tall the oversize charge pushes the shipping cost to well over $100.

If you are shipping International allow extra time, as much as 15 days to pass through customs, and always check USPS Priority Mail rates first. You will need to pickup customs declaration forms at the post office to place on the box. Pick these up now and fill them out in advance to save you time.

If you have a large item or items to ship, think how it can be placed on a pallet. With the invention of shrink wrap several boxes can now be stacked on a pallet and wrapped into one shippable unit. Pallets are often free as business want to get rid of them. If you have a box over the UPS and USPS weight limits, but can still be picked up, you will need to use truck freight.

Once the weight and height is determined you, as an individual can go online and shop rates using shipping calculators posted by major truck freight brokers. One such site is http://www.freightcenter.com The same standards apply as business or commercial pickup and delivery locations provide the most cost effective quotes.

Truck freight will charge extra if a lift gate is required to pickup or deliver the pallet, or the driver has to deliver inside or uncrate or unpack. The most cost effective quote will be curbside or loading dock delivery. Most truck brokers can arrange to have the party called on the receiving end to schedule a delivery day and delivery time window.

When we need to ship a full size wagon or buggy we will try and arrange to have a farm equipment dealership close to the customer to take delivery. They are equipped with loading docks and are very adapted to loading and unloading equipment and wagons. The cost is always minimal compared to a residential delivery and unload. With the savings the customer doesn’t mind going to the dealership to pick it up.

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