Last post we talked about why it’s a good idea to eventually buy a thermal printer so you won’t need to ever buy ink or tape to print and attach your shipping labels. Today’s post is going to be about the materials needed to pack, and ship out items. Make sure to read this whole post since it took me three years to figure out the most efficient system. You can save hundreds of hours by doing the steps and using the tools I recommend in the posts.
For the first couple of months that I sold on ebay I would buy tape by the roll at the Post Office. One roll of packing tape costs about $3.50 at the post office. That’s crazy pricey!
After a while I stopped buying tape by the individual roll since it was starting to get really expensive. I knew that there had to be a cheaper way to get tape.
I decided that buying tape in bulk would save me money, so I invested in a tape gun and 6 packs of tape. Doing this saved me about $100 each quarter, so I was feeling good. A year after I started selling on ebay I decided to open an ebay store, and now I get a shipping coupon every quarter. I now use the shipping coupon to buy tape so I rarely spend money on tape anymore.
The moral of story is that buying tape in bulk is better than buying tape by the indivdual role. But buying tape with an ebay shipping coupon is better than both. Either way, make sure to get a tape gun since ripping tape off with your teeth sucks.
Newsprint is clean, white packing paper. In my experience, it’s the best filler to pack and protect items for shipping.
If you’re shipping something fragile it’s a good idea to first wrap it in bubble wrap and then pack the shipping box with newsprint.
About a month ago I was at a yard sale and a couple was selling a box of camera equipment. They had gotten the box from their grandson and had no knowledge or use for camera stuff so they sold it to me for $25. Here are two camera lenses that I got from the yard sale, and recenlty sold for more than $550 each:
I first wrapped these lenses in bubble wrap and then shipped them packed in newsprint (I also insured the package) and they arrived to the customer in perfect shape.
When I initally started selling I would get stacks of clean newspaper from dumpsters behind office supply stores. Sometimes I would also find clean bubble wrap from the dumpsters. I love dumpster diving and getting shipping supplies from them is a good way to reuse things instead of throwing them out.
I still get packing supplies when I find them in dumpsters, but now I much prefer buying newsprint in bulk. Foraging for shipping supplies in dumpsters can be messy and time consuming- it’s time saving to just buy the newsprint. Also newsprint looks cleaner and more professional than using newspaper to pack things.
I work part time in a health food store, so I also get some brown paper shopping bags each time I’m at work (no my boss doesn’t mind). I also use these bags to pack things to ship them. Using brown bags is a small thing that you can do to save a bit of money on packing paper.
As recently as 4 months ago would ask my friends and family to bring me boxes from their houses and offices so that I could use them to ship my items. I would then store these boxes in my parent’s basement since I didn’t have room in my apartment- even when broken down flat, dozens of boxes are still bulky, and I didn’t want to bury my roommate alive in my boxes.
I knew that I could get free Flat Rate Priority boxes at the post office, but I didn’t know that it’s possible to order these boxes from their website for free. You do need to sign up and make an account which sucks (although it’s free). After you make an account look at the assorted shipping boxes and envelopes they offer and order the one’s you need. The Post Office will then ship you these new priority boxes for free. I know it sounds almost too good to be true, but this program also helps the Post Office- they get more business by providing the boxes so people will use their services. Priority Mail automatically comes with $50 insurance, which is another hidden benefit of using these boxes.
These free boxes can be cut apart and taped together in weird shapes to fit your items that you need to ship. Be sure to remember that if you cut apart a Medium Flat Rate Box it no longer can be shipped as a Medium Flat Rate Package- it has to be shipped as standard Priority Mail. When using any Priority Mail box make sure to use it for only packages that are being sent through Priority Mail. The post office will not accept CDs that are being sent Media Mail, or a shirt that is being sent as a Flat Rate Package, but are in a Priority Mail boxes.
I still use some second hand boxes that my friends and family give me, but now I mainly use the USPS boxes. For packages that are being shipped through the USPS’s Media Mail, First Class, or Parcel Select (another option) programs, or UPS/ Fedex I use second hand boxes since you can’t use the Priority Boxes with these shipping programs.
I sell a lot of clothing. But I don’t use boxes to ship clothing. I use these ebay branded self sealing poly-mailers. I use my $50 quarterly coupon and buy four boxes of these mailers (which come in packs of 100) and they last me about 5 months. These mailers are self sealing, and weigh less than one ounce. They are perfect to ship with First Class Mail since the package needs to be under one pound to use this shipping option. I used to buy padded shipping mailers from Walmart, but by now buying these poly-mailers I save a lot of money on packaging. Make sure to get the 12?x 15? mailers as these are the perfect dimensions for shipping clothing. I also ship many more things in these mailers like small electronics (like calculators), small toys, books, and video games.
If you don’t have a thermal printer I highly suggest investing in one since it will pay for itself in the first month with the time saved by not having to print and tape the label to the package, and the money saved on printer ink.
It sucks to have to spend money on business supplies, but look on the positive side. Everything talked about in this series is cheap, can be written off as business expenses on your taxes, and will make your business function 50 times better than trying to completely boostrap your business!