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Friday, November 25, 2011

Here a Box, There a Box, Everywhere a Box Box!

I showed you a picture of my box closet the other day (bless you for still reading after THAT), and I thought I'd share a bit about my favorite free USPS priority boxes and what I use them for.

Did you know that USPS will deliver boxes to your door for free? You don't pay for the boxes, you don't pay for the delivery. The only catch is that you have to use them for priority shipping only. But more often than not, priority shipping is just a little cheaper than parcel post when paid online, so we're probably shipping priority anyway.

Let's start with the flat rate stuff first:

The regular Priority Flat Rate Envelope - I use this as often as possible. It's just thin cardboard, but you can shove a lot of stuff in there. I have shipped jeans, heavy sweaters, books, even breakables! If you've got small breakables, put them in a small flat rate box and slip it into this envelope. It will save you a few cents over the small flat rate box, but it will have the extra protection that a box affords. This envelope costs me $4.70 to ship ($4.95 at the post office and $4.90 without the USPS savings program).

The padded Flat Rate Priority Envelope - I use these even more often than I use the regular ones. These are good for everything that the regular envelope is good for, but what I use them the most for is sandals. As long as the shoe doesn't have a heel or a back on it, I just slip it in here and ship it for $4.90 ($4.95 without the USPS savings program). I'm not sure you can even ship these from the post office.

The legal size Flat Rate Priority Envelope - Pretty much all I use these for is larger shoe cream orders. I put the creams into a box and slip them in here. It costs 20 cents more to ship these than the regular ones, so I use the regular ones as often as I can. ($4.90 with the USPS savings discount, $4.95 without).

The Small Flat Rate Box - I almost never use these. Why? Because they cost $5.00 to ship. The regular flat rate priority envelope costs $4.70 to ship. This box slips perfectly into the envelope. So why would I ever pay $5 to ship it when I can slip it into the envelope for 30 cents less? Good for smaller breakables or smaller items that you don't want flopping around loose in an envelope.

 The Medium Flat Rate Box. This comes in two shapes: side-loading and top-loading. I almost never use these. Most of my inventory is 2 pounds or less, which means that even shipping clear across the country is only $8.20 for me. These boxes are $10.20 ($10.50 without the USPS savings program, $10.95 at the post office). So unless I'm shipping something heavier than 2 pounds that just happens to fit in these boxes, I don't use them.

The Large Flat Rate Box also comes in two shapes: top-loading and, more recently, board game shape. I have never used either of these. I got all excited about the board game box until I realized it was a large flat rate box. These boxes cost $13.67 with the USPS savings program, $14.20 without it, and $14.95 at the post office. You'd have to have some large heavy stuff to make these boxes worth it.

Now, on to the ever-confusing Regional Priority Boxes.

The regional A boxes come in two shapes: side-loading and top-loading. These boxes both ship for the same price as a regular 2 pound priority package. I was using the top-loading box ALL.THE.TIME for shipping shoes. These are the absolute perfect size and shape for most pairs of shoes. But once I signed up for the USPS savings program (this is starting to sound like a sponsored blog post....), the regional box A was actually a few cents more than a regular 2 pound priority package. "A few cents more" sounds petty, but when you ship 200 packages per month, that can add up quickly over a year. So the only time I use these boxes now is for items that are MORE than 2 pounds. The occasional hot rollers fit in here, or a heavy stack of books...  

The side-loading one I didn't use too often. I still use it for my Meltonian orders. I can fit a starter kit in here nicely, or 10-12 creams. Then I cut the box down and it slides right into a legal flat rate envelope. Other than that, I have a stack of them assembled and holding my poly mailers.

The Regional B boxes also come in side-loading and top-loading. I rarely use these, because they ship for the same as a 4 pound package. I rarely ship things that are heavier than 4 pounds, so I wouldn't see any cost savings.

The rest of the boxes I'm going to talk about are just regular priority boxes. They ship at regular priority shipping rates. But some of the box sizes are really convenient for specific things, and like I said - they are free.

These are boxes 1092, 1095, and 1097. They look the same. For all intents and purposes, they ARE the same. There are very subtle differences, 1/2" here, 1/4" there... I don't use them often. They also work well assembled and stacked to make storage shelves for poly mailers. They work well for Wilton cake pans, but I've started wrapping them in bubble wrap and shipping them first class. They also work well for latch hook kits, but if it's more than 2 pounds, you'd be better off using the Regional A side-loading box.

This is the box I use most, which stands to reason, since shoes are my niche. It's 15x8x5. It's just a little too big for most of the shoes I ship, but overall, it works well. It also works well for most hot roller sets, Care Bears with voice boxes (that shouldn't be sent in poly mailers), or tall mugs or glasses.

The priority video box is just a little bit bigger than a small flat rate box. I don't use it much, but I use it to ship up to 6 shoe creams. This box slides nicely into a regular-sized flat rate envelope. This would be a good box to use for small items that you don't want sliding around in an envelope.

The 12x12x8 is a good one to have on hand. It's good for plates, smaller square board games (like Memory or Yahtzee - just cut the box down shorter), boots, bowls, casseroles, etc....

Last but not least, the 7x7x6 is another handy one. It's perfect for mugs, but it would also be great for cup/saucers, Christmas ornaments, smaller bowls, knick knacks, or any other smaller item.

So there you go - that should be enough to get you started. Hopefully I've given you a few ideas to think outside the box (so to speak...). Go to the usps website and browse their free shipping supplies. Order a bunch. Get to know the different sizes. You can't beat free shipping boxes!


  1. For the last year, my local post office will not let anything ship in flat rate envelopes that are not completely flat. I've even had DVD cases rejected for being too thick. We seem to have different definitions of "If it fits, it ships." I am glad to know this is not a system wide USPS policy. I will have to try some other post offices. Thanks for this info!

  2. A great tutorial. Thank you for sharing. I will try using the Flat Rate envelope for clothing, what a great idea.

    I occasionally am able to ship items First Class, when they are 13 ounces or less. That is cheaper than Priority Mail with the same delivery timeframe.

  3. Hmm..I didn't realize there was a different price for the flat rate legal size envie. I just click flat rate envie. YIKES>

  4. Thank you so much for sharing. Awesome tips!

  5. Love this post and loved seeing your ebay room. I would also love hearing more about the USPS saving program you have mentioned in these posts. Thanks

  6. Sarah, here is a link to eBay's announcement about the savings program. You have to be a top-rated seller.