Well, it's happened: postage has, once again, gone up. If you're like me, you probably send a letter through the mail once or twice a month, which means that the postage rate increase is now burning a massive 2¢ hole in your pocket. On the bright side, I generally pick up any pennies that I see on the sidewalk, so I should be able to make up the difference with about a half mile of walking.
I'm joking about this, but there was a time when the postage change would really have upset me. For a while, I used to sell a lot of items on eBay. One of the ways that I set myself apart from my competitors was by offering a standard fee for shipping and handling. If my buyer lived in the next town over, I made a fair bit of money; if he lived in Montana, I ended up losing dough. When the Postal Service used to up its rates, I had to up my rates, which made my flat rate fee seem a little less like a deal.
My fellow Walletpoppers have suggested some solid ways of undermining the postage increase. For example, Tom Barlow noted that, currently, "Forever" stamps are outperforming numerous stocks, and that buying large amounts of them is a nifty way to save a lot of postage money. However, as Tracy Coenen noted, it really doesn't make that much of a difference for "casual postage users" such as myself. Moreover, as my daughter has a tendency to affix stickers to the cat whenever she gets a chance, I prefer to minimize the number of stamps that I have laying around the house.
Another solution that neither involves a long-term stamp commitment nor a postage-laden kitty is electronic postage. Basically, you open an account with a company that is licensed to sell electronic postage; among others, this includes Stamps.com and Pitney Bowes. You buy the company's proprietary machinery and begin printing out your own stamps. Although electronic postage carries a startup cost, it certainly pays dividends in terms of time and effort, particularly when you consider how long the average post office visit takes (in my neighborhood, it's about an hour).
The postal service is also working to sweeten the deal. Express Mail users who print their own postage save 3% off the price of sending a package, while Priority Mail users will save 8.2%. Beyond that, even regular stamp users will save money by minimizing postage overpayment. Obviously, electronic postage isn't for everyone, but if you send out a lot of mail, it could help you save a lot of money.
Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. His favorite stamp was the one for National Proctological Awareness Month. He bought a couple hundred and used them to mail all his bills.
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