Do it yourself post-office

I find myself mailing out a lot of stuff beyond the bill-in-an-envelope that requires a standard 37 cents (current price of a first class domestic stamp) Bulky letters to Asia, packets to friends across the country, photo CD’s. Yet I’ve managed to avoid spending time in the post office queues (which can be slow even outside of the Thanksgiving – Christmas period.) You wanna know how?

1) It helps to have access to a postal scale, or a scale sensitive and accurate enough to 0.1 ounce to weigh the object to be mailed. I use the one at my work place.

2)Go to the post office (it’s a worthwhile one-time investment of time, trust me), and buy stamps of various denominations: 1 ct, 3 ct, 23 ct, 37 ct, 60 ct, 80 ct. A few $3.85 stamps for priority mail (parcels) will also be handy.

Some post offices have a retail section, where all these stamps are displayed hanging in shrinkwrapped packets. If not, you’ll have to stand in line to buy them from the regular window.

3) Whenever you have to mail something, weigh it on the postal scale, writing down the weight to the 0.1 oz (round up!).

4) Log onto to, and click on “Calculate postage.” It will take you through the domestic or international mail options, and ask for the weight and type of object you’re mailing. Enter the relevant info as you’re prompted and it will spit out a range of postage costs for your object and its destination, depending, on how fast you want it to get to its destination. Chose the appropriate price.

5) Calculate how many and which of your array of stamps will add up to the price of postage. I have a little Excel spreadsheet set up to do this.

(I always laugh when I see people stick two 37 cents stamps on a heavy envelope, because the price for each additional ounce above the first ounce is 23 cents. Why pay USPS more than you need to?)

6) Stick the appropriate stamps onto the envelope/package, in the top-right corner of course. And that you’ve addressed it and included your return address. Then drop it into any blue USPS mailbox.

Repeat Steps 3 through 6 as necessary.I have never had any problems.

Note this process does not work for domestic bulky packages (that don’t fit into the standard USPS mailbox opening.) Also it doesn’t work for international packages of gifts, because you need to fill out a green customs declaration form. (But CDs and photos can be sent internationally with this do-it-yourself process)

You also need to pay attention to the size limitations of the USPS mailbox; since September 11, some restrictions have been imposed on packages being mailed in through the mailboxes.


One thought on “Do it yourself post-office

  1. You’re so funny to be writing about the USPS. Here’s another tip: the envelope sorting machines also only like envelopes of a prearranged size and ratio. So square envelopes (like the ones we used for our wedding) need to be hand cancelled by staff and cost an extra amount of postage–.23 cents, I believe.

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