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Is holiday shipping more expensive? Here’s what to expect and how to save

Sara Yonker

Sara Yonker

December 8, 2021

Is holiday shipping more expensive? Here’s what to expect and how to save

We may all have great intentions of shipping our holiday packages out before Thanksgiving, but intention and reality don’t always coincide. The most holiday shopping moves online, the more packages get shipped. The U.S. Postal Service expects to deliver between 850 million to 950 million packages from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Not only can this lead to mail delivery delays, but it can create another errand on your list of long to-dos.

Holiday shipping: Does shipping get more expensive at Christmas?

You aren’t imagining it. To combat the influx of packages and mail this holiday season, the USPS instituted a temporary holiday surcharge for much of the mail processed. These hikes went into effect back in October, but will expire in early January. Rates increase more for those classified as a “Zone 5-9” shipment, which means any package traveling 601 miles or more. 

How much are the USPS holiday surcharges?

The temporary rate increases include the following surcharges:

Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express Flat Rate Boxes and Envelopes: 75 cents

  • Zones 1-4, 0-10 pounds: 25 cents

  • Zones 5-9, 0-10 pounds: 75 cents

  • Zones 1-4, 11-20 pounds: $1.50

  • Zones 5-9, 11-20 pounds: $3

  • Zones 1-4, 21-70 pounds: $2.50

  • Zones 5-9, 21-70 pounds: $5

  • First-Class Package Service: 30 cents

How can I save money on holiday shipments? 

On top of worrying if your packages have a chance to reach their destination in time for Christmas, you also may face rising shipping costs. Here are some ideas on how to beat the system:

1. Ship direct to the recipient. It might sound nice to gift wrap and package all gifts for far-off family together into one big box, but you can skip a step if you ship packages directly to your recipients from online retailers. Many offer gift wrap and if not, isn’t a brown Amazon box all the gift wrap you need?

2. Order gifts through local delivery services. If you’ve realized you left someone off your list and doubt you have time to shop and ship something to them, here’s an alternative: Send them favorite meals, desserts, or even cocktails to their door. The pandemic sprouted up a host of delivery-on-demand businesses, so you can take advantage of many local options beyond flower delivery.

3. Arrange for curbside pickup. Maybe the gift-opening can be just as exciting if you tell your gift recipients they have something waiting for them, ready to be loaded into their car. Yes, this may ruin the element of surprise. However, you can also arrange for family members to act as your accomplices if you’re trying to get a gift to different people in other cities and don't have time to ship it to them or you're gifting them a bulky item that would

4. Use a virtual mailbox? Forward items to anyone. If you’re already an Earth Class Mail customer, you may not have realized that you don’t have to send your shipments to yourself. You can send your items anywhere, so skip a step and ship items to whoever you put on your list. 

5. Use flat-rate envelopes USPS Priority Mail’s flat-rate envelopes provide the least expensive, fastest way to ship items that also allows you to easily anticipate costs. These don’t require you to calculate dimensional weight and are perfect for small packages.

6. Avoid overnight delivery fees The earlier you can send packages, the better. Next-day air and overnight delivery cost more than other shipping options, so if you’re able to meet holiday shipping deadlines without sending something overnight, you can save money.

What’s the cheapest way to ship a package?

If these hacks don’t work for you and you have to ship something, the price depends on the item's size and how much your package weighs, as well as what shipping service you use. Here’s a quick guide:

  • If your item is between 2 pounds and 5 pounds, use USPS Priority Mail and fit it into a medium flat rate box. 

  • If your item is larger or heavier, try to fit everything into a USPS Priority Mail flat rate large box. If the item doesn’t fit into that box, FedEx and UPS will be less expensive. 

Let your virtual mailbox handle your mail

Gifts you may need right away, but you don’t always need the physical copies of your postal mail. With an Earth Class Mail virtual mailbox, you can get all your mail digitized and access it from anywhere, on any device. We can also ship you anything received at your virtual address anywhere in the world. Learn more about options here.

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