Sending a package can cost a pretty penny. Boxes, Bubble Roll, packing tape, labels and postage can add up fast. When it comes to saving money, is it possible to cut costs without sacrificing the integrity of the package? Yes!
We asked packing and shipping experts to give us their top tips for cost-effective shipping, and found that a little work on the front end often results in significant savings in the long run.
1. Purchase Appropriately
- Use a correctly sized box, generally one that gives 2 inches of clearance, according to Sabrina Savinski, product specialist for the mail and ship team at Staples. You want enough space to pad the item, but not so much that it requires a whole lot of filler, which increases supply expense. Plus, a too-big box requires more postage to send.
- Use the right filler. Opt for padding that gives your package the protection it needs, such as Bubble Roll, peanuts or packing paper. You need a lot of filler, which can mean paying a slightly higher price for packing products, but it lowers the risk of damage and the related replacement costs.
- Use heavy-duty packing tape, not duct tape or wrapping tape. Sealing the box with tape specifically designed for shipping ensures the box doesn't open in transit, says Savinski.
2. Sniff Out Savings
- Cut coupons, search sales and look for bulk discounts in stores, circulars and online. "If you don't buy in bulk, you're burning money," says Allen Walton, frequent shipper and CEO of eCommerce Web site SpyGuy Security in Dallas. Purchasing large quantities requires a higher upfront cost, but the price per item is often much lower.
- Ask your local Chamber of Commerce and trade or industry association if they offer member deals that can further reduce your overall costs.
- Always check rates to see if you can save by shipping on alternate days (weekends vs. weekdays), with another carrier or with extended delivery times.
3. Reuse and Recycle
- When trying to save money on shipping, reuse packaging material only when it's in good condition, warns Savinksi. "Otherwise it won't protect the items inside from damage," she says. Then determine whether the material is "sanitary" — devoid of organic residue that could invite bacteria, suggests Sean Sabre, senior vice president of supply chain sourcing at TBB Global Logistics in New Freedom, PA. Scuff marks or residue from previous labels may give a worn look to a box, but it may still be perfectly suitable for shipping. "Just because something is soiled does not mean it can't perform as it was engineered," he says. But, Walton adds: "If you're selling a premium product, or want the customer experience to be perfect, don't reuse a box."
- If you can't reuse the box or envelope, recycle it (you can even recycle Tyvek® envelopes) or repurpose it. Donate corrugated cardboard and packing paper to a local community garden to use as weed control or compost.
4. Reduce Costs
- Use a postage scale and meter to ensure you're packing efficiently and avoiding extra charges, advises Leslie H. Tayne, founder and managing director of the Tayne Law Group in Melville, NY. Her firm mails reams of time-sensitive legal documents, letters and payments daily, so she knows every penny spent on postage counts. Guessing wrong means you over-pay — or conversely, your package is returned for additional postage, causing delays and risking customer satisfaction.
- When shipping or mailing costs run high, Tayne suggests "charging customers for shipping, or giving them the option of certified or insured mail at their own cost."
- Purchase insurance for valuable items. Yes, it costs more, but just a few lost or damaged packages may be more expensive than the overall cost of insuring parcels every time.
Put this advice to work and you're sure to find the most cost-effective ways to transport your goods safely.