How to Save Money on Shipping Costs

shipping a package

Get real-world tips to save money on shipping costs, whether you ship a few packages a month or hundreds of items a day. From packaging your items to choosing a carrier, these 10 hacks can help keep things affordable.

1. Consider Media Mail if You Can

If you're shipping books, CDs, papers, and other educational media, you may qualify for a little-known secret of the shipping industry. Media Mail, offered by the US Postal Service (USPS), is one of the most cost-effective options for shipping these items. It can take a bit longer than other shipping options, and there are specific rules about what you can and can't ship. It's also only available for domestic shipments.

2. Find Free Packaging Supplies

Packaging materials can add up, whether you're sending a care package to your kid in college or a shipment of jewelry from your Etsy shop. To keep costs down, look for free packaging supplies. Consider repurposing boxes and bubble wrap from the packages you receive, and talk to local grocery stores and other merchants about getting their boxes when they're done with them.

3. Look Into Carrier-Provided Packaging

Some carriers provide packaging as part of their shipping cost. It's always important to compare your options, but consider options like USPS Priority Mail/Express boxes and FedEx free packaging. To use these boxes and materials, you need to ship with that carrier, so these options are only ideal if the carrier offers the best value for your needs.

4. Use High Quality Packaging to Reduce Breakage

Even though it's great to use free packaging when possible, it's also important to consider the quality of the packing materials you choose. If you are shipping something that may be damaged by rough handling, you may lose money replacing items broken during shipment. You can eliminate this waste by investing in higher quality packaging in the first place.

5. Measure Your Packaging

Most carriers base their prices on the size and weight of the packages being shipped. Cut down on size as much as possible by choosing your packaging carefully. In general, it's a good plan to measure the items you are shipping and choose the smallest box you can. Very light items like clothing can also ship in bubble mailers, which add almost nothing to the weight of the package.

man measuring a box

6. Try Out a Postage Meter

A postage meter allows you to precisely weigh your packages so you can choose the best option for mailing them. It can also help you avoid guessing and paying extra postage for envelopes and smaller items. You can buy postage meters in varying sizes and options. According to the USPS, there are several postage meter options you can consider, depending on the size of the items you ship.

7. Choose Your Carrier Based on Your Needs

Some carriers are cheaper for smaller packages, which others are the most cost effective for larger parcels. Some are cheaper for express shipments or weekend delivery. According to Cheapism, the cheapest way to send a five or 10-pound package cross country in two or three days was the USPS. However, things changed when the package was large or heavy. In these cases, FedEx Ground and UPS Ground were more cost-effective. The take-away is to compare options and choose the carrier that offers the best prices for your specific situation.

8. Don't Rule Out Regional Carriers

If you'll be shipping the item within a certain region of the country, Cerasis reports that regional carriers can be your most cost-effective option. Consider the following regional carriers if you don't need to ship your parcels very far from home:

9. Plan Ahead to Avoid Rush Fees

All things being equal, no matter which carrier you use, you'll usually pay more to get something to its destination quickly. Sometimes, rush shipping can't be helped. However, if there's any way you can plan ahead, it pays to do so. For instance, according to, shipping a package First Class Mail with USPS starts at one dollar, but shipping the same package Priority Mail Express starts at over $22.

10. Consider Your Options for Insurance

If you are shipping something valuable, you may end up paying a significant amount to insure the package over the minimum provided by the shipper. Generally, carriers will automatically insure your package for up to $50-$100, but you'll need to pay more if you want more insurance. Bankrate reports that third-party insurance carriers like Shipsurance can offer significant cost savings. If you ship valuable items often, this may be a good way to save.

Plan Ahead to Save

Shipping doesn't have to cost a fortune if you plan ahead. Whether you ship for your business or simply want to send a package across the country, keep these tips in mind to save money.

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