Frugal Living 
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Buying Discount Postage Stamps

Tons of postage stamps on a box.Did you know that you can buy postage stamps at a discount? It’s 100% legitimate and there’s nothing unethical or dishonest about it.

Stamp collectors often buy collections at a discount and sell all the non-collection quality stamps at a discount to be rid of them. You can buy postage stamps at a discount by buying these non-collection quality stamps from them. The savings aren’t astronomically huge, usually around 10%, but every little bit counts.

(Click to continue reading…)


 The Home 
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Request USPS Hold Mail Service Online

Did you know that you can request to have your mail held through a form online? I had no idea! This saved me a trip to the post office (and a 15 minute wait in the line that is always there regardless of what time I go).

You can get same day service if you submit it by 2:00 AM CST! The service is limited to certain zip codes but fortunately mine was included. Scratch that one off my list of errands today.

Online services FTW!

Going away for a while? Request Hold Mail for the time you’re gone, and we’ll keep your mail safely at the local Post Office™ until you return. Schedule the service up to 30 days in advance, or by 2AM CST (Mon-Sat) on the start date. Each address can have one Hold Mail scheduled at a time. All mail will be held, rather than an individual’s mail.

One word of warning, you may not be able to use this at some ZIP Codes so check availability first (unfortunately, that means filling out every field in the first box).

USPS Hold Mail Service Form


 Personal Finance 
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USPS Mail Shipping Classes Explained

USPS Mail TrucksOver the course of the last few weeks, I’ve been mailing a bunch of documents and packages back and forth between my parents and myself. Some of these packages have been important from a sentimental perspective, some have been important from a financial perspective, and some were just some routine things that weren’t important at all. While my faith in the United States Postal Service is a little shaky, they’ve had a good enough track record that I’d trust them as long as I didn’t test them by mailing too much! In all those instances, we had to decide on how we were going to mail it – certified, registered, express, priority or regular? What’s the difference? The differences are actually pretty substantial and it’s important to understand what each is trying to accomplish so you don’t overpay.

Certified Mail

The package is trackable and a signature is required on delivery. The point of certified is if you can’t completely trust your recipient or you need a timestamp of when a package is accepted. This makes it perfectly suited for official letters because the post office will track when the letter was delivered along with a signature by the person who accepted it. If you don’t need either of these things, certified mail is a completely waste of money.

Registered Mail

Registered mail is the only one that guarantees delivery and they claim to put it under “tight security from the point of mailing to the point of delivery,” plus insurance of up to $25k against loss and damage. If what you’re shipping is over $5,000 (that’s the normal insurance limit) and you want USPS shipping insurance, registered mail is the one for you. If the thought of having to mail your item or letter scares you, you’ll probably want this insurance.

Express Mail

The package is trackable (if you print the label online) though no signature is required on delivery. Guaranteed to get there as promised or your money back. If you want speed, this is your best bet. The guarantee is a money-back guarantee, it’s possible that the package will never get there.

Priority Mail

The package is trackable (if you print the label online) though no signature is required on delivery. An interesting tidbit, any package over a pound is automatically considered priority mail even if you want to do it first class. Both are transported together and it is not treated any differently than regular mail. The 2-3 day delivery timeline is an estimate and not a guarantee, you’ll need Express Mail for a money-back guarantee.

First Class Mail

This is essentially everything else and is what I call regular mail. It’s called First Class because it’s the “best” of the shipment options that aren’t Express or Priority. Some examples of other classes are Media Mail and Parcel Post… both are slooooowwwww.

Confusion…

I think two things confuse people the most about shipping with the USPS:

  • People think Priority Mail means it’s guaranteed to get there in 2-3 days, it really gets there as quickly as it would’ve if you shipped it First Class. If you have something that is less than 16 oz. and you ask for Priority Mail, you’re paying more for the sticker.
  • People mistake Certified Mail for Registered Mail. If you’re filing some document, certified mail is what you want. If you’re mailing a $25,000 necklace, then registered mail is what you want.

(Photo by icanchangethisright)


 Personal Finance 
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USPS Price Hike – Stamps to 42 Cents

Looks like it’s about time to start buying those Forever Stamps now! The United States Post Office announced today that they’ve decided to current stamp price by a penny to forty-two cents, effective May 12th. Less than a year ago the USPS increased the price of a first class postage stamp by two cents to the price of 41 cents, all within its newly granted rights of being able to increase it within the rate of inflation.

With inflation at 2.9% last year, the USPS was allowed to increase the price of a stamp by a penny without any oversight as long as they give 45 days notice (they plan on giving 90 days). I don’t know why anyone (or even businesses) would need 90 days to react to a price hike but I guess that’s considerate of them.

Here are other notable increases (or unchanges):

  • Each additional ounce of a letter will remain an extra 17 cents (no change).
  • Cost to mail a postcard increases to 27 cents (+1 cent).
  • Large envelope of up to two ounces will now cost $1 (+3 cents).
  • Money orders up to $500 will remain $1.05 (no change).
  • Certified mail will now cost $2.70 (+5 cents).

If you haven’t picked up a few of those Forever Stamps, now’s a good time to buy some. I hardly mail any letters nowadays, mostly cards, and I probably won’t be getting any of Forever Stamps myself (too many leftover stamps from the wedding invitations and RSVP cards). I think that the USPS needs to rethink its strategy if it really wants to remain competitive in the shipping game. However, based on the behavior and performance of the staff at most post offices I visit, it’s clear that competitiveness is hardly a concern (government subsidies don’t hurt either!). :)


 General 
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Weekly Roundup: Are PhotoStamps Signs Of Excess?

The other night I mentioned to my fiancée that we could sign up for Stamps.com’s free 4 week trial and get $25 in postage, a digital scale, and $5 in supplies (the paper the stamps get printed on). $25 means we can send out over sixty letters absolutely free, but the only thing she cared about was whether those stamps would have the ugly bar code on it (yes it would, but I don’t think that barcode is ugly). I acquiesced, because $25 isn’t really worth the hassle and I already have a free scale from when I took advantage of this offer back in college, but that got me thinking about the USPS’s recent push of PhotoStamps at the post offices I’ve been to.

If the bar codes aren’t worth getting 60 letters for free, does putting a picture next to it make it worth paying $XXXX on top of the postage? So far, of the five or six invitations/save the date’s we’ve received, only one has used PhotoStamps and I honestly didn’t think anything of the stamps (I mean they were obviously a nice touch, but I’m someone who wouldn’t mind bar codes… a stamp is a stamp is a stamp).

What do you all think of PhotoStamps? Cute and worth the cost? A sign of minor excess?


 Personal Finance 
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5 Ways Paperless Personal Finance Saves You Money

I don’t know how JD comes up with the topics he does but practically every single one resonates with me and this one about pursuing paperless personal finance hit spot on. I only started truly dealing with personal finance issues such as bills, credit cards, and banking within the last four years and I’m pretty much as minimalist in terms of paper as you can probably. I’m so trusting of going paperless because many of the all-electronic processes had proven themselves in the last four years (in terms of earning user trust on their safety and reliability) so I just rolled into it. I think going paperless as much as possible is the way to go.

There are two reasons why you should go paperless: it’s good for the environment and it will save you money. Since most people are interested primarily with saving money and I like it when people try to save the environment, I’ll try to trick you into going paperless for your reasons even though I want you to do it for my reasons (shhh! this tactic is a scecret, don’t tell anyone!). If you want ideas on how to go as paperless as possible, read JD’s post for ideas.

Reason 1: Save On Envelopes & Stamps

Each bill you don’t have to send is one in which you don’t have to stick into an envelope, which usually is provided, and stick a 41 cent stamp on. If you mail off two credit card payments, a mortgage payment, a car payment, a cable payment, and a utility bill each month, that’s $29.52 saved each year in stamps alone. Don’t scoff at the thought that going paperless only saves you thirty bucks in stamps, would you pick up a thirty dollar bill if it were sitting on the ground? I would.

Reason 2: Avoid Fees Because Payment Systems Remember

One of the benefits of getting email notification of a statement is that when you get the email you’re generally at your computer, which means you can log on and schedule a payment. If you get a paper bill, you have to go get your checkbook, write out a check, put it in the envelope with the stub, put a stamp on it, and walk out to your mailbox. There are plenty of opportunities in that process chain to just put the bill down and take care of it later. If you’re online, just log into your account, schedule a payment, and have a nice day until the next notification.

Reason 3: Schedule To Pay At The Last Minute

Keep those hard earned dollars in your bank account until the last moment and have the bank remember when to pay for you. When you log on and schedule the payment, most places will let you pick the day you want to send it. Simply wait until the last day (I generally schedule it three or four days before the last day, just in case… though the just in case has never happened and I’m not really sure what could happen) so your dollars keep earning interest. While I can’t quantify how much money you’ll earn each year, it won’t be much but it’s better you than some company.

Reason 4: Electronic Payments Are Rarely Lost

The USPS processes gazillions of pieces of mail each year and a percentage of those are lost or mangled in processing and O’Doyle’s Law states that all bad stuff happens to you when it will hurt you the most (it doesn’t because I just made up that law but if there is a law for that I don’t know it), so put two and two together and realize that a physical payment is far inferior to an electronic one. With electronic payments, you get confirmation of a successful scheduling or payment almost immediately. If it’s “lost,” you generally know because the next page doesn’t load. When regular mail is lost, you generally know because you get a missed payment fee.

Reason 5: Electronic Theft Is Harder

It takes very little effort to steal your information when you mail a check payment. If you have a traditional mailbox, it just takes someone with enough stones to open up a stranger’s mailbox and snatch the envelope. Once they open it up, they have your name, address, bank name and your checking account number – all off your check. If someone wants to steal your information when you make an electronic payment, it’s impossible because you aren’t sending your bank information with your request every single time. You only register the bank once, it’s never displayed back to you for security reasons (in case you unwittingly give out your credentials to a thief), so they’ll have to somehow catch you when you enter that in and spend eons of time to crack the SSL 128-bit encryption (good luck, read this for more on SSL 128-bit encryption). The Law of Least Resistance says that a thief, given the skills to two both, would rather open your mailbox.

There are probably plenty of other ways that going paperless will save you money either right this moment or in the long run but those are probably the biggest. So even if saving the environment isn’t on the forefront of your mind (though it should be!), save yourself some of the other kind of green by going paperless and everyone wins.


 Personal Finance 
35
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Only USPS Can Deliver To PO Boxes

I guess I just never really thought about the logistics of delivery to a Post Office Box before but only the United States Post Office can deliver to PO Boxes. If you think about it, it makes sense because the only way someone can access the box is with a key (you) or through the back (the post office), UPS and FedEx can’t very well leave the package outside a bank of PO Boxes in the hopes that you, and not some enterprising thief, picks it up.

While I’ve never FedEx’d or UPS’d a package to a PO Box before, I bet that their software or their people would probably notify me that they couldn’t delivery… but what if they didn’t? What happens if you try to use UPS or FedEx to deliver? Return to sender? Anyone know?


 Personal Finance 
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Forever Stamps and Another Postage Rate Hike

On May 14th, it will cost forty one cents to mail a first class letter. Also on May 14th, you will be able to buy what’s been called the “forever stamp.” The forever stamp, which will cost forty one cents, will let you mail a first class letter no matter what the rates increase to in the future, thus it will be good forever.

With a forever stamp, you will no longer care about the current stamp price, because the Forever Stamp covers it no matter what the price.

I don’t send many letters and the only personal correspondence I send nowadays that even requires a stamp are cards, whether their holiday cards or birthday cards or thank you cards, it’s mostly cards. I avoid stamps by using bank billpaying services or direct debit whenever possible because, let’s be honest, while the USPS is 99.9999999% reliable, I don’t want important payments being part of that .0000001% error rate (and I’ve received some mangled letters before). The excuse of “it got lost in the mail” really doesn’t work with mega-corporations, they want their money when they say they want it.

So, how many freaking 2 cent stamps will you need and how many of these forever stamps do you think you’ll be getting? And how many people are ecstatic that you’re no longer paying for Lance Armstrong’s sponsorship in the Tour de France? (Nothing against the Tour de France or Lance Armstrong, I just think the USPS advertising on something like that, a bike race, is stupid especially when they were jacking up stamp prices and claiming loss of market share to competitors)


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