Tired of making trips to the Post Office? Would you like to streamline your shipping process? After shipping thousands of packages across the world, I’ve written a step by step guide to help you start shipping from home.
The most efficient way to ship packages is to ship from home by printing online postage. It saves time by reducing trips to the post office. It saves money because online shipping vendors offer discounted rates. You can leave your packages out for your USPS carrier, schedule a USPS pick up, or drop off. You will need to be able to weigh and pack your items at home which requires a scale and packing materials. I recommend shipping through PayPal which uses ShipStation or Pirate Ship. Pirate Ship is my first choice.
Before we talk about packing, it helps to understand the differences in Flat Rate, Regional Rate, and Calculated Weight pricing.
- Offered by United States Post Office (USPS) – set rate no matter where you are shipping from or to in the US.
- Must use Flat Rate boxes free from USPS.
- Small Flat Rate Box: Holds up to 6 Border Maker Cartridges.
- Padded Flat Rate Mailer: Border Punches, Multiple Punches.
- Medium Flat Rate: Best for heavier shipments going far from you but not always cheaper than UPS discounts.
- Large Flat Rate: Has never been the cheapest option. I don’t ever use these.
- Each regional area of the US is in a ‘zone’.
- Set rates based on the zone it’s shipped from and destination zone, calculated based on distance, not weight.
- Two types: A and B. A is smaller and cheaper than B.
- Shipping label must be paid for online. The Post Office will add a surcharge to ship from the counter.
- Until recently, the Regional B box was a go-to for shipping 12×12″ items, including albums. However in 2021, they made the box sizes smaller and increased the rates. Neither box will fit 12×12″ paper, pages, or albums. Sometimes it is still cheaper to use an A box but rarely is B cheaper. I no longer recommend using the B box.
- Pricing is based on size and weight of the package along with distance to the destination.
- Can use USPS free Priority boxes or your own packaging, either mailers or boxes.
- Items under 1lb can ship First Class. Over 1lb must ship as Parcel or Priority.
- First Class postage printed online includes tracking.
- Priority postage includes tracking and insurance.
If you are selling online, you’ll need to know how much shipping to charge your customer. You can quote using the USPS Shipping Calculator or the RATES tab on Pirate Ship by entering their zip code and yours. On USPS, it will give you the RETAIL amount of USPS shipping. Pirate Ship will show their discounted shipping rate. There is no quote function in PayPal. Both PayPal/ShipStation and Pirate Ship offer discounted shipping rates.
This is the scale I use from Amazon. I like it because the readout extends away from the scale. This feature is a must if you want to read your weight while the package is still sitting on the scale. I previously used this one, but I had to maneuver to hit the HOLD button then move the box to see the weight then REMEMBER the weight to enter it. The remembering part didn’t always go very well. Trust me the extra $5 is worth it.
I use padded mailers of several sizes, mostly to ship First Class. For shipping small items like one Border Maker Cartridge, I use the #0. The #5 fits 10×12″ or smaller items like stickers and embellishments. I use the #7 to ship 12×12″ paper, using a sheet of cardboard if needed for rigidity. The mailer is wide enough to hold several paper packs and long enough to fold over and offer extra padding. The Boxery is my go-to Amazon shop for all my padded mailers. They provide consistent service and shipping is always faster than advertised.
When USPS changed their Regional B box late last year, I scrambled to source some cardboard options. The size of the box matters for your final shipping rate so it’s ideal to have the smallest box possible to fit your items. When shipping several paper packs with a weight over 1lb, I use vinyl record boxes. They adjust for two different depths. I ship enough to justify the quantity of 100 for a box rate of 67 cents each. If you don’t need that many, there are other options like this one, that will cost you more per each.
This box is perfect for an album along with some extra paper and punches.
These 13x13x5″ boxes are deeper – a bit tight for an album but you can fit one. The 15×15 gives you plenty of room.
Packing Supplies and Labels
Packing tape is a necessity. Get a heavy duty option like Scotch Heavy Duty. Before you tape, you’ll need to fill up the extra space in the box to keep the items from shifting and the box getting crushed. I reuse all the air pillows and bubble wrap I get from all my shipments, but you can also use plastic grocery sacks or newspaper. Be sure you tape both ends of your box, even though the USPS free boxes have adhesive closures. Sometimes that adhesive doesn’t stick, and the box end opens…contents will get lost in transit.
Now that your box is packed, you’ll need a shipping label. I am considering buying a label printer, but for now I use regular printer paper. Print the label, cut it own, then tape it on. I print my labels at 75% so they can fit on the smaller mailers and boxes easily. You can also buy labels from Amazon to save the cutting and taping.
If you print much and have an HP printer, I highly recommend the HP Instant Ink program. I save so much annually by using this program, and best of all, I never run out of ink!
To print your shipping labels, you can print labels off the PayPal payment through ShipStation. I am not fond of the change from PayPal to ShipStation, but ShipStation is offering good discounts. Pirate Ship recently negotiated great USPS and UPS rates, so I print all of my shipping labels through them. If I print out of Pirate Ship, I copy the tracking onto the PayPal transaction for easy reference to both the buyer and the seller.
- Buy a scale and packing supplies. Order free boxes from USPS.
- Create a Pirate Ship account.
- Pack up items.
- Use the box weight / dimensions/ buyer’s address to create a shipping label in Pirate Ship.
- Print label, tape on box, and either drop off or give to your carrier.