Avoiding Post-Office Mania

Now that many of your gifts are likely ordered, and wrapping is underway, shipping is the final step before your loved ones open their bundles of joy.

The past few days, I have run to the post-office multiple times…and each time encountered chaos!  For instance, yesterday, the automatic self-service machine was out of order, there was a snaking line of >30 people, and only 1 post office worker!  (The other just went on break).   I’ve learned some tips & tricks along the way that are intended to help anyone save both time and money with their shipping escapades:

FlatRateBox1. Flat-Rate Boxes

Fantastic creations!  You can purchase them at the post office, and regardless of the weight of the contents (most are limited to max 20 pounds), you pay one flat rate.  Multiple times, this discovery has saved me $$, and is the economical way to ship lighter-weight items (think clothes, books, accessories, etc).  You can even pre-order these boxes so you have them on-hand all year.

**AutomatedMachine2. Automated Machine

Don’t be afraid of the automated self-service machine!It’s designed to make your shipping process easier than waiting in line.  After a few quick questions about the dimensions and weight of your item (as part of the machine, there’s a scale and ruler for you to utilize), with just a few clicks, you can be out in a jiffy.(Just cross your fingers it’s not out of order…)**

3. Pre-Address your items

To save yourself the most hassle, get everything ready to be shipped BEFORE you set foot into the post office.  Unless you’re purchasing last-minute shipping supplies (such as Flat-rate boxes in #1 or foam envelopes), go with your shipments already addressed.   Writing out the return and to: addresses before you even set foot into the post office will save you time and the awkward juggling of multiple packing items.  Also, don’t assume that the post office will have supplies like scissors, packing tape, etc on hand for you to use.  If you don’t do the work at home, come armed with these necessities.**

4. Paper grocery bags are your friend

It can be a hassle to find boxes to ship items in!  For rectangular shaped heavier items than are tolerated by the flat-rate boxes (think various electronics or toys that come in a box of their own, bulky sweaters that you wrapped in a gift box from the store, etc), an effective way to mail them can be using paper grocery bags.  Once your item looks beautiful in wrapping paper, just wrap it again using a paper grocery bag (inside out), and then use a permanent marker to address it.

5. Mailing Internationally?  Fill out customs forms upon arrival at post-office

Jump on this one before you waste time waiting in line.  Otherwise, when you finally reach the desk, you’ll be told to move to the side to fill out your paperwork.  Generally the customs forms can be found in the center island of the post-office.  Find this ahead of time and fill it out while you stand in line, so by the time you’re ready to be helped, your paperwork is complete.  It will save both you and the post-office employee a provoking moment.

6. Shipping Cut-Off Dates

Holiday 2009 shipping cut off dates can be found here.  For Priority Mail, you’ll want to make sure you take items to the post-office by the morning of 12/21.

Happy shopping, and happy shipping!