How To Keep Postage Costs Down

 Like me, I know many of you are big fans of handmade swaps. You might also sell your handmade products online. Postage is the one thing that can be a negative in amongst lots of handmade loveliness. I’ve learnt a few great tips and tricks over the past couple of years, and I hope some of these will help you too.

Obviously, a lot of this advice is given from an Australian perspective, because that is where I post from. If you have some tips and tricks of your own from your country, I’d LOVE to hear them! Please leave a comment!

Tip #1: Keep It Flat

Keeping your items flat allows postage in prepaid envelopes or as large letters. These envelopes are designed for documents, however if you keep your item under 200mm in thickness, it can go in the regular post as a letter or large letter, keeping the cost way down. For example, the most popular item in my etsy store is a two pack of bibs. Bibs are flat and light, and within Australia I can post them as a large letter in a postage paid A4 size envelope for $2.70. To send them as a small parcel would cost me $6.95. For international post, a parcel would cost me $13.95 but a large letter to the US costs me about $6.

Keeping it flat is especially important for those of you posting from the USA. Standard international parcels are now $23.95, so if you can send your items as a large letter it may help in keeping your price down.

For the last Sweet Pouch Swap, I kept my parcel as flat as I could. I designed a pouch that would sit flat, and I added sweets and a block of chocolate that would not make the package bulky.

Tip #2: Keep It Light

Once you get over 250g it becomes harder to send as a letter. You can send a small parcel, which is $6.95 within Australia or $13.95 to post overseas. So at this point bulk doesn’t really matter, but weight does. My rule here is to keep your items under 500g. Once you exceed that weight, postage skyrockets in price. For example, 501g to the USA from Australia becomes $25. To keep things light, I use my electronic kitchen scales at home. Once I have all my items ready to post, I weigh them, then use the Australia Post online calculator. Make sure you leave at least 40g for the parcel bag if you have to buy one. Once I know how much my postage will cost, I will have no nasty surprises when I arrive at the post office to send my parcel.

Want to calculate your post at home? Here are links to the Australia Post calculator, the USPS calculator, the Royal Mail price calculator , the Canada Post Find A Rate and the NZ International Post Calculator.

Tip #3 – Chat to your Postal Worker

There is no doubt that Post Offices around the world are very busy places. But I’ve found that if you ask a few questions, most people who work at the post office counter will go out of their way to help you find the cheapest price for your parcel. I once had a lady spend 20 minutes with me going through every possibility for the parcel I was sending to Japan. They have all the knowledge and know about the various pre-paid and weight options for your parcel. Be polite, give lots of smiles and the person at the counter will give you the cheaper rate for that 503g parcel! (That happened to me once. I could have kissed the post office lady.)

Tip #4 – Use Registered Post if you can

The biggest problem that occurs within handmade swaps is when the item doesn’t arrive. It causes a lot of stress for sender, recipient and host, and a lost parcel can mean hours of beautiful work wasted. If you can afford it, I would recommend sending your parcel via registered mail. Earlier this year I participated in the Covert Robin Swap and I sent my items to Dee in Queensland via a Registered Post prepaid 500g satchel. It only cost $8.25, which is not much more than the regular parcel price of $6.95. Well worth the extra buck for peace of mind.

From what I understand, most USPS parcels are trackable within the USA. With the Royal Mail, I think you need to pay for First Class postage to have your item tracked. (I may not be correct about this – let me know in comments if you know more about USPS or Royal Mail)

So that’s it! I hope that helps a few people – I know during the first round of the Sweet Pouch Swap I had a couple of people withdraw as they felt they couldn’t afford the postage. Others emailed expressing their shock of arriving at the post office and being charged way more than double or triple what they’d spent on materials and sweets for their gift.

Happy sewing, swapping and posting! Please share your knowledge of your local postal system in the comments!

27 thoughts on “How To Keep Postage Costs Down

  1. Posting to the UK/ Europe from Australia is even more expensive: $17.70 for a parcel under 500g and $38.05 if it goes over.

    Royal Mail First Class is not registered, recorded or tracked. First or Second Class Signed For will give you proof of delivery for an additional cost on top of normal postage (so the equivalent of Australia's Registered Post) and tracking is available with Special Delivery at a higher cost still. It is possible to get a Signed For service on an international parcel but it is quite expensive.

    1. Christmas gets very expensive!!
      You can still do the large letter under 250g for $6.45 though. It's amazing how much more things weigh than you think they do. I've done a lot of thinking what to make people for birthdays this year, and then rethought to make them smaller/lighter/combined several into one parcel.
      But as my Mum likes to tell me: it might be expensive but it's cheaper than delivering it in person!

  2. Wow- thanks for all the tips & advice. This is my first international swap, and I wasn't even thinking about the postage cost. You just saved me a great amount of shock & $$$. Maybe I'll rethink my pouch…!

  3. You are very welcome! Don't stress too much about the pouch, it will be quite light. The main thing is to keep your eye on the weight of the sweets you include.

  4. Great practical tips for posting items. And a quick smile and chat is always worth the effort when it comes to saving a few dollars…which can then be popped towards the next swap…J

  5. Doesn't really apply to this swap but I once sent my brother a Christmas present from the UK to NZ and was told that it would have been half the price if I'd split it into two packages. Worth remembering!

  6. Thank you so much for this info! I do post swap items overseas and have found that keeping the parcels under 250g and marking the value as only $1 helps also.

  7. I just used your postage calculator- it would cost 23.95 to mail a large envelope from Pa, USA to Australia… I'm not sure if I can continue on, as money is tight & I thought this would be something fun & inexpensive to do. I'm very disapointed.

    1. Sorry to hear that Tammy 🙁 Make sure you send an email to Alyce from Blossom Heart Quilts and let her know. Keep your eye on the next one and we can allocate you a local partner so the postage will be less.

    2. yes, I emailed Alyce.I will always keep it in the USA from now on. I didn't realize- my son is in the Army, in Germany, but that's an APO, so still cheaper than if he had a German address.I am just super glad for all the people on here sharing their knowledge & experience with everyone.

  8. Great tips.
    If you live in Australia though Registered Mail is not quite what you expect. You may need to have insurance and tracking as well. I ordered some event tickets which were sent by registered mail (over $1300 worth). It took heaps of effort on my part to finally get them because they were stolen at the post office. Once located, things were explained to me. Registered mail means there will be a notice written for you and someone will sign for the article. There are no guarantees. There is no automatic insurance or tracking.

  9. Thanks for all the information – just about got my swap ready and will be weighing, maybe have to keep a few sweets behind! I also got excited and bought loads of stuff. Now to find a sweet smiley Post Office (definitely not the one near work)..

  10. I'm not part of this swap, but over here in Germany we can post up to 500g to anywhere in the world for EUR 3,45. That's Priority rate. If you want to send registered, it's EUR 7,00. But I tried that one and it can't be tracked through the number given from the moment it leaves Germany and it takes as long/even longer than the normal rate. Over 500g up to 1000g then costs EUR 7,00 too. When receiving it's always important my swap partners mark the shipment as gift on the customs sticker and the value below $25. Our customs departmenst are extremely strict and anything above that value gets held back by them and then it takes 6 weeks to arrive. And if totally unlucky you have to pay for it on top. I love swaps though, but am always prepared that it might take ages to reach me if coming from the USA lol!

  11. If you’re in Australia, get a letter gauge from from local post office – they’re available free of charge. It’s a thingy made made of cardboard with slots cut into it, and printed information Including letter size/measurements and weight.

    I can’t attach a photo here, and not sure if links are allowed but put “letter gauge Australia post” and you’ll see what it looks like. You just put an envelope into one of the slots, if you can push it through it’s a letter and will cost less, if it’s bulkier you have to send it as a parcel (more expensive).

    So at least when you go to the post office no-one will tell you that you have to pay for a parcel when it’s a letter (they do sometimes).

  12. Great advice. I wish this advice is share by people host swaps internationally. It would so much easier.

    1. Yes I agree! Postage can be very tricky and many swap participants don’t realise how expensive it can be, especially overseas postage!

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