Shipping is one of the less glamorous aspects of the e-commerce world. It’s expensive and getting more expensive all the time (notably this year from shipping cost increases from FedEx and UPS). All of these changes and cost increases are happening while customers expect shipping to be extremely cheap and even free in many cases. Anywhere you can cut costs on shipping should be fully taken advantage of, and there’s a few ways that you may not have heard about.
I’ve gathered some “shipping hacks” to do just that. It’s a mixture of free services, free products, tricks, and discounts for lowering the overall costs of your entire shipping process.
Make Your Money Spent on Shipping Work For You
1. Make money every time you ship – Savings amount: Varies
Shipping is covered by, or at least partly subsidized by your customers. Money on postage is something you’re always going to spend as long you’re running an e-commerce business, so why not have that money work for you?
If you use shipping software like ShippingEasy, you have a postage balance that gets refilled by a credit card. By using a credit card that gives cash back rewards or frequent flyer miles, you’re having a portion of each dollar paid toward postage benefiting you. Before you know it, you will rack up points to fly anywhere, or make a bit of an extra return from your shipping costs. The more you ship, the more you can earn using a reward incentive based credit card.
So if you’re not using a credit card with some sort of reward system and you run an e-commerce business, get one soon! You can even use a card with a smaller limit since shipping software allows for automatic refills.
To get started finding a suitable frequent flyer credit card to start getting points, check Nerd Wallet’s post on the best airline credit cards for 2015, they go into a lot of detail.
Free Shipping Supplies
UPS, FedEx, and USPS all offer their customers free shipping supplies which they will deliver straight to your desired address for free. This is mostly branded supplies like boxes, label pouches, customs forms and the like. However, UPS and FedEx also send free generic shipping labels that work for printing labels on any shipping carrier, effectively giving you free shipping labels for all major carriers.
2. Order free shipping supplies from UPS – Savings amount: Varies
UPS will send its customers with a My UPS ID free shipping supplies including boxes, pouches, forms, tags, and blank labels.
- Your own My UPS account (most e-commerce sellers should have an account already, if not go to UPS.com and create an account there)
- A physical valid address to receive packages
Type of items you can order
- Generic thermal shipping labels
- UPS branded boxes and specialty boxes
- UPS related tags and forms
- Shipping Reference Manual
How to get your free UPS shipping supplies:
In the UPS.com side bar menu, there’s a link to “Order Supplies”. Click that and you will be sent to a login page for your My UPS account. Login and it will pull up all the various supplies you can order for free. You need a My UPS account or you can’t even see the supplies to order.
UPS limits the amount you can order at one time, and will contact you if they think you’re abusing the free supplies they provide. Be sensible when getting your free stuff. The blank labels they offer work on any carrier, as they are just generic blank labels. Everything else has UPS branding or works specifically with UPS shipments.
One extra addition: A reader wanted to know which labels work best with the Zebra LP 2844 printer I talk about later in this post, and after looking into both FedEx’s and UPS’s offerings, UPS doesn’t carry generic labels that are compatible with the LP 2844. FedEx does, and in the FedEx supply section below I’ll show you exactly which labels to order from FedEx to print labels for any carrier.
3. Order free shipping supplies from the USPS – Savings amount: Varies
Perhaps less known than free supplies from UPS and FedEx, the United States Postal Service also sends its customers free shipping supplies. While their offerings are more limited, they are still free and they will ship them straight to your address.
- A physical address that can receive packages
Types of items you can order:
- Priority mail boxes and envelopes
- USPS branded labels and stickers
- Global shipping kits
Where to order:
Ordering is simple, there is a page dedicated to free shipping supplies on USPS.com.
4. Order free shipping supplies from FedEx – Savings amount: Varies
FedEx, much like UPS, also sends its customers free shipping supplies. Much like UPS, you need a FedEx ID and a valid address to receive the supplies. Where FedEx differs from UPS is they offer a wider variety of generic labels than UPS, and you can order them in higher volume. Again, don’t abuse the service and order more than you need.
- FedEx ID
- FedEx Account Number
- Valid shipping address
Types of items you can order:
- Branded FedEx Envelopes
- FedEx “Paks”
- Waybill pouches
- Generic shipping labels
- Thermal Shipping Labels compatible with the Zebra LP 2844
In FedEx’s top level navigation of their site, hovering over the “Ship” tab will reveal a menu in which you can press “Order Shipping Supplies”.
You will need to log in to your FedEx account to view the items to order. If you don’t have one register to start ordering.
Addition: Once you’re in the Order Shipping Supplies section of FedEx, scroll down to “Electronic Shipping Labels” and order the Non-DocTab Outer-wound Labels (Zebra 2844 and ZP500 Printers). Here’s a picture of what it looks like:
You can use these labels to print USPS, FedEx, and UPS compliant shipping labels on a Zebra LP 2844. Which leads me to the next section of where you can save money…
Severely Discounted Shipping Supplies
5. Discounted thermal label printers, Zebra LP 2844 – Savings: up to $350
The Zebra LP 2844, workhorse for label printing of many ecommerce businesses. Zebra thermal printers have the advantage of printing out shipping labels quickly and requiring no ink so you don’t have to pay for overpriced toner and ink to print proper shipping labels.
There is one downside to these printers though: a retail price tag of $450. While the investment is worth it in the long term, there is an abundance of perfectly functioning refurbished units all over the web for LP 2844 printers. You can get a fully functional Zebra label printer refurbished online anywhere from $100-$250, saving as much as $350 on your purchase. There’s obviously a risk with purchasing a refurbished unit, but there are warranties that usually come with purchase and 3rd party warranties that will keep your purchase safe for years.
Where to buy: eBay, Amazon, and independent sites all sell refurbished units. Try and buy from a trusted seller and add an extended warranty if available (SquareTrade extended warranties on eBay purchases are $47.99 for 2 years)
A small tip – when purchasing a refurbished LP 2844, make sure you get the USB version. Some older Serial port models still exist, and don’t work on recent operating systems like Mac OSX and Windows Vista/7/8, not to mention computers usually don’t even come with serial ports anymore!
To get started, here’s a search result page on eBay for LP 2844 thermal printers that can help you find one.
If you want labels for your LP 2844, I highlighted above that you can order them free from FedEx if you have an account with them, in addition they can be purchased on shipping supply stores and on Amazon. Here’s a few links to rolls you can purchase on Amazon to get you started:
Free label printing accounts and shipping discounts
6. Free shipping label printing accounts and discounted USPS shipping rates FREE – Savings: $15.95 per month and any savings on labels
A bit of self-promotion here, but if you ship out a lower volume amount of packages, less than 50 per month, you can create an account on ShippingEasy and get access to Commercial Base Pricing, a special pricing rate for USPS that allows you to ship packages out at special rates cheaper than retail, completely free. To see some example of the rates you can get, check our rates page.
All ShippingEasy accounts also come with a free Endicia account attached (which would normally cost you $15.95 monthly). On top of the rates and Endicia account, you get access to the full software full of shipping optimizations that let you cut down on overall shipping time. You can even hook your new LP 2844 printer directly to the app to speed up printing of each label.
So there you have it. Free supplies, cheap thermal printers, cash back rewards, and free access to special shipping rates and software. Combine all of these together and you’ll save a sizeable amount of money on your entire shipping process. A few minutes to apply these practices to your shipping process can net you some great saving over time.
We’ll continually be going over more ways to optimize your shipping and your e-commerce store in the future.
If you have any other tricks or ways you like to save money on your shipping, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know!
Latest posts by Oliver Trunkett (see all)
- UPS Matches FedEx Dimensional Weight Change for 2017 - November 22, 2016