Thursday, December 11, 2008

Free Shipping Supplies - Saving Money on Shipping

Howdy Folks,

Today is Thursday, and I’ve decided to use Thursdays to talk about some little tips, tricks and secrets concerning selling online and shipping those items you’ve sold. Today I’m going to focus on saving money on shipping. As shipping rates continue to go up, they are becoming more and more of an issue with online sellers, especially with eBay now pushing hard to get their sellers to offer free shipping on as many of their items as possible.

So how can you save money on shipping? Well, one way is to really pay attention to how you ship. Make sure you know the different rates for the different services. Often you will find that a less expensive method of shipping will still get your package to its destination just as fast (or almost as fast) as a more expensive method. I have found that in many cases a package sent parcel post will arrive in many parts of the country as fast as priority mail. Also, books and some types of media, such as recorded CDs, Tapes, DVDs, and other items, can be sent media mail which is far less expensive. Be sure to check postal regulations for the exact regulations. Suffice to say, it can really save you money to learn the various methods of shipping and the costs involved with these methods. You may want to print up a poster containing the various methods and rates, and post it up on a wall near where you do your packing and shipping preparation.

Another way to save money on shipping is with your supplies. Remember, spending less on shipping supplies gives you the ability to offer lower shipping rates, which in turn increases your sale possibilities, which in turn increases your profit margins. And isn’t this what we all want? So let’s take a look at some different methods of saving money on shipping supplies.

Free Boxes

One of the best ways to get free, new boxes is from the United States Post Office. The USPS will give you free Priority Mail boxes. Yep. I said free. Although this is rapidly becoming common knowledge among online sellers, many people still do not know about this, and the post office doesn’t seem to go out of their way to let folks know. Now, naturally not everything will be shipped priority mail, but its nice to have a supply of various size priority mail boxes available to use when you need them.

Another way to find free boxes is to simply go get them. I try to go out once a month and check the cardboard dumpsters behind the local strip malls. Now, it’s important to stick with stores that do not sell perishable items. You don’t want boxes that have been stained or contain remnants of oil or rotted food. I stick with stores such as party supply stores (such as Party City), or hobby and craft supply stores (such as Hobby Lobby or Michaels). These boxes are usually in good shape, often come in a variety of sizes, and if you time it right, you can catch them either on the day of or the day after their inventory shipments come in. Many times if you just go in and ask the store manager, they will set aside these boxes for you. Another big plus in getting boxes this way, is that many of these boxes will be full of bubble wrap, Styrofoam peanuts, or other packing materials that are just as free as these boxes, and just as useful.

Another great place to find free boxes are the cardboard recycling centers. Check with your local yellow pages or simply do a Google search for cardboard recycling centers in your area, and find some that are within driving distance. Always call first, and ask for permission to come down and take some boxes. More often than not, these centers will be more than happy to let you take as many as you need. Plus, a quick friendly phone call can go a long way towards establishing a good contact that, once established, will provide you with an unlimited source of free boxes of varying sizes.

A brief note about utilizing these free “pre-owned” boxes. First, nobody likes to receive their items in a beat up, over-used box. So be sure to pick only boxes that are in good shape and sturdy for what you will be using them for. Also, you should be aware that the USPS will not accept boxes with pre-printed lettering on them. If this is an issue, simply purchase a large tipped black marker and black out any logos, slogans or other words that have been pre-printed on the box you are using.

Free Packing Material

As I’ve already mentioned, when searching the cardboard dumpsters for boxes, you can often find huge amounts of bubble wrap, Styrofoam peanuts, and other package cushioning material. Furniture stores are also a great place to find used bubble wrap as are produce stores. Boxes of bananas are often shipped with bubble wrap to protect the fruit. Simply make a few telephone calls to local stores or produce suppliers and ask them if you can have their left over bubble wrap. Office managers and Receiving Department Managers for local businesses are also great places to find free packing material. Make a telephone call to some of these folks and ask them if you can have their used packing material.

Many of us receive packages on a fairly regular basis, either from our online purchases (both personal and for inventory). Always save any bubble wrap or Styrofoam peanuts, boxes, mailing tubes, or CD and DVD mailers that these items come in, and re-use them.

Newspapers and Junk Mail can be shredded, either with a shredder or by hand with scissors, and used as fill material around the item being shipped. I do not recommend using this shredded paper as cushioning material, but it can be used to fill any dead air spaces around an item that has already been cushioned with bubble wrap. Always make sure to wrap your item before using any shredded newspaper, as the newspaper may stain the item if placed directly on the item. Also, never use shredded crumpled personal documents, for obvious reasons.

Another possibility for finding free packing materials is to post an ad for “Wanted: Used Bubble Wrap and Styrofoam Peanuts” either at your local community center, community bulletin board, Laundromat, church, or workplace bulletin board; or online at sites such as or

Purchasing Shipping and Packing Materials

If you absolutely have to purchase shipping and packing materials, then always be sure to shop around for the best deals you can find. Often is cheaper in the long run to purchase these supplies in bulk, or when they are on sale. Remember, every penny saved increases your profit margin.

A Final Note

A good way to save at least some time on shipping is to organize your shipping routine. Experiment with various methods and find one that fits your schedule to such a degree that you can create a streamlined shipping routine. I have found that when I take in new inventory, I photograph it, measure it, write a brief description, and then I package it to be ready for shipping. I then place a sticky note on the outside of the box identifying the contents of the box and I can then place it on a shelf and have it ready for immediate shipping. It stores better, and lessons the time I need to get it out the door when it has been purchased by one of my customers.

Well, I hope that you have found this article helpful and informative. If you have the opportunity, take a minute to visit my Bonanzle Booth and my eBay Store (there are links at the upper left of this page) and have a little look at the items for sale there. Until next time, thanks for checking out my blog articles, and have a great day.


Whiskey Jack

Today’s Word of Wisdom: “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.”

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