Weigh shipping before you buy the gift

Save on Holiday Shipping

by Shari Smith


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At the top of your holiday to-do list is "ship gifts and cards." You might groan, picturing the excruciating lines at the post office and the huge bite from your budget. Don't be a scrooge! These holiday shipping secrets will turn you into a shipping whiz.

First, plan ahead. Make a list of all the out of town folks who need gifts. Shop for them first. Choose prudently. That 12-pound set of bookends is the same price as three paperback novels by Aunt Bessie's favorite author, but there would be a huge difference in shipping costs. Always consider suitability, cost, and weight before choosing gifts.

Online shopping has boomed with countless retailers offering free shipping to entice buyers. Choose this option for the best of both worlds: on time gifts without leaving home!

If your gift choice does not come with free shipping, minimize the damage. Some sites will offer a reduced rate if you reach a minimum purchase, which might mean only a few dollars more. Do your research before hitting the "Buy Now" button.

Avoid anything that's heavier than your youngest child, awkward, gigantic, or extremely fragile. These could end up costing more to ship than the gift itself. Look for lightweight items like clothing, soft toys for children, puzzles, paperback books, and light, unbreakable decor.


If you are stuck with traditional shipping, pick a sturdy box and place your gift inside. Cushion with bubble wrap, tissue, plastic grocery bags, or shredded paper. Include your name and address on the inside of the box, just in case the outside label is unreadable or is separated from the box. The post office only opens it as a last resort, but with an inside label, you will at least get the item returned to you. Tape securely.

For extra protection, wrap the box in paper. You can use plain paper grocery bags or the Sunday comics for a cheerful alternative. Check with the carrier first. Some will not accept packages wrapped in paper.

Affix easy-to-read labels. Use large printing or type. Squares of plain paper or index cards work well. Be sure to tape the labels carefully.

Pick your postal mailing destination wisely. Packaging stores can charge whatever rates they want, typically double the standard rates of the United States Postal Service. To avoid long lines at our small, understaffed post office, I ship from the grocery store. The rates are quite comparable and the convenience can't be beat.

Ship early! Procrastinators pay big bucks for next-day shipping or faster service. More care is taken early in the season versus the last minute panic of frantic shippers. Send your holiday cards early as well to avoid the rush and to free up your time.

Another option is choosing gift cards to insert in your holiday cards. Choose easy to redeem cards that don't expire so your recipient will avoid any hassles. This way, they can choose exactly what they want or need with no fuss or fear of returning unwanted items.

Instead of spending a fortune on holiday shipping or running all over town, celebrate the holidays with your loved ones. Cross one more thing off your to-do list. You're a superstar shipper!

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