- Don't ship it next day unless absolutely vital! One of the biggest ways to get cheap shipping is simply avoid options such as 2-day and next day shipping as these are always the most expensive and more often than not avoidable. If you know you package has to arrive before a specific date than make sure to send the package out enough in advance so you don't have to pay that extra rate. One trick is to just use Priority Mail through USPS. It's not a guaranteed two days but in most of my experience there is a good chance of your package arriving in two days, sometimes three depending on how far it has to go. Mailing your package far enough in advance to avoid next day shipping is a very simple and easy to remember tip for cheap shipping.
- Print postage online. This is something that has only come about recently with the increase of online users and availability of access to the internet on such a wide level. There are websites that offer you special discounts if you print your labels and pay shipping online but you sometimes have to pay them a small fee to do so, but for high volume shippers it can still be much cheaper. For the occasional package I would recommend just using the Post Office website as they now allow you to print your labels online and usually for somewhat of a discounted price, it may just be a few cents but when searching for cheap shipping every little bit counts.
- Recycle packaging materials and be creative. This is a big one in my house and I really think it can be the most beneficial. If someone sends you a package and the box is still in good shape then save it! That's one less box you have to buy when you need to ship something, just take the label and any tape off and store it until the time comes that you need it. This also applies to things like shipping bubbles and packing peanuts, why throw them away when you can recycle them? Avoid using things like newspaper that will add unnecessary weight to you package and cause you to pay unnecessary postage. A little creativity can also help as far as finding substitutes. I've even heard of people using taped shut zip-lock bags as packing material. Cheap shipping is something that is totally in your hands and if you want to save money all you need is a little creativity.
- Condense packaging. Don't send more packages than you need to. There is a minimum fee that you have to pay for each package you send so it is generally much cheaper to send one slightly bigger box than two smaller boxes. Using priority mail the test I did showed a savings of $6.25 by sending one 10 lb box instead of two 5 lb boxes. Now this may seem like common sense, why send two when you can send one? But I've had people ask me this question before so I thought I'd put it in the list. Just remember when shipping those Christmas presents that to get cheap shipping just send one big box with packing bubbles instead of multiple packages.
- Compare shipping rates. This would seem like a no brainer but I've encountered many of people looking for cheap shipping that only ship through one carrier. I can pretty much guarantee that one carrier won't be the cheapest in every situation and unless you are shipping to the same address every single time then I highly recommend comparing shipping rates. This will not only ensure you the best price but will also help you get the package there as soon as possible. Services like Shipping Sidekick show you when your package is estimated to arrive as well as how much each of the different services cost. This is a very easy and often the most overlooked step to cheap shipping and should never be underestimated.
- Take advantage of cheaper rates. One of the biggest ways to save money is to use special shipping rates such as media mail. This is a service offered by the USPS that allows you to ship things like books and DVDs or any other sort of media for relatively cheap. Now if you need your package to arrive in a timely manner avoid this option as it takes far longer but if time isn't an issue and you just want cheap shipping than this is definitely the option for you.
- Be smart about how you send it. This is more of a way to save money outside of actually shipping the package. When shipping something the postage isn't the only cost involved as you generally have to drive to the carrier's location, stand in line and then drive away. Well if you are smart about when and how you ship something you can save money in this regard as well. Make sure to try to ship during off-peak hours. Try to avoid mornings, lunch hour and right after work as these times will have the longest lines. If you can't leave work for a few minutes to send a package then arrange for a pick-up. Most services will allow you to leave the package by your door and just arrange for them to come pick it up when they are in the neighborhood. This is a usually a free service they offer and saves you gas money and time.
So when it comes to cheap shipping these are just a few helpful tips that have saved me money in the past and I hope some of them will be of use to you as well.