You’ve purchased the perfect gift. It is wrapped and ready to go. Then you realize that it is going to cost you $30 to send a gift that cost you $15. Or, you find the exact gift you want for $15, only to find that the shipping to Alaska is $39.99.
We’ve all been there. All of a sudden that bargain gift isn’t such a bargain, simply because of shipping cost.
You don’t have to be a slave to the shipping costs. Smart choices can save you money.
Choose the right gift — small or at least easy to ship. Bulky, large items will cost you more. The cost of shipping is a combination of the size of the package and how fast you want to get it. Of course the faster you want to get it, the more you’ll pay. However, if you are using the U.S. Postal Service, be sure to ask what each delivery type will cost you. I shipped a package a few weeks back that for one nickel more, I could get it shipped in three days rather than three weeks. Price all the options.
Consider flat-rate boxes from the U.S. Postal Service. These boxes come in three sizes and as long as you are shipping in the U.S., it doesn’t matter how much weight you’ve put in the box. The boxes ship for $5.95, $12.65 and $17.90, depending on size. Also, the boxes are free for the taking — just pick them up at your neighborhood post office.
These flat-rate boxes have been so popular that other companies are getting in on the deal. Now UPS and FedEx also offer flat-rate boxes. Be sure to check their prices and delivery guarantees.
If you are shipping, be sure to use a new, good quality (strong) box and tape it up securely. Put the shipping address on a slip inside the box as well as writing it legibly on the outside of the box. If the label is lost or illegible, your package will still be delivered.
If you are an Internet shopper, take a close look at shipping prices before hitting that “purchase” button. Many Internet companies offer free shipping or, if you spend a certain amount, the shipping is free. It may be smarter to consolidate your shopping at one company to reach that magic amount and save on the shipping.
Then there is Free Shipping Day. On Dec. 17, many online merchants will give you free shipping. The best part is that they guarantee delivery by Christmas Day. Check freeshipping.org for a list of participating merchants. You can also find shipping deals throughout the year at the same web address.
Whether you buy at brick-and-mortar stores or on the Internet, there are other options to save on shipping. Many stores have the buy it here and pick it up somewhere else option. Simply buy your gifts and have the recipients pick it up at their local stores.
If you have to pay for the shipping, reduce the number of times it must be shipped. Buy the gift and ship it directly to your recipient, rather than to you. That will save you one set of shipping costs.
Consider items that are virtually flat. Money, a check, or a gift card can be easily mailed in an envelope. You can put more inside the envelope if it only costs a stamp to mail rather than several dollars for a box.
No matter what you decide to do about shipping, remember that the most important thing is to get your items on the way as soon as possible.
Roxie Rodgers Dinstel is associate director of Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Questions or column requests can be e-mailed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 907-474-7201.