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35+ ways to save on shipping costs


This week I wanted to share with you some tips on how to save on shipping costs from your e-commerce site. As you know, if you ship products to your customers (which most of you do), shipping charges can really add up!

Here's a quick tip that you can implement right away to save on shipping charges

If you are shipping packages that weigh less than two pounds, it's best to use the USPS services (First Class or Priority Mail). If you are shipping packages that weigh more than two pounds (usually for wholesale orders), it's best to open an account with FedEx or UPS since, at this weight, they are less expensive than the Post Office.

If you go this route, make sure to sign up for a UPS or FedEx account online (at www.ups.com or www.fedex.com) and print your labels ahead of time instead of going directly to their physical store. You'll pay up to 50% more if you ship directly from the store without an account. You can still drop them off at their store to be picked up, but make sure to already have a label that's already been printed and pre-paid online.

Also, keep in mind that it costs less to use FedEx and UPS to ship to a commercial/business address than it does to ship to a residential address. And, stores like Mail Boxes Etc. charge A LOT of fees to ship your products, so avoid them if possible.

 

How to save on shipping – More than 30 tips

Use USPS flat rate boxes

We use USPS flat rate boxes to mail our packages. We also use a service called ShipStation, which syncs up with our website and allows us to create labels easily. Using this gives us discounted rates on our shipping as well. I was a bit skeptical about the flat rate boxes at first, however, they seem to be the cheapest option for us. We sell skin care and beauty products so they tend to be on the heavier side, and after doing a lot of research, we found that these would work the best. I have no complaints so far! – Thanks to Stephanie from DermWarehouse

Purchase a label printer

Two ways that we found to save the most on shipping charges and shipping costs are, purchasing a label printer can not only speed up fulfillment times but also decrease your cost from having to buy expensive packaging slips that stick on the outside of the package. We use Dymo XLW also lets us customize the label for extra branding. Secondly, we use Shopify Shipping, which is a dedicated feature within Shopify's platform that easily lets you print labels from supported carriers. Shopify has preferred rates with each carrier. We're saving $1-15 USD on average for items we ship nationally and internationally. – Thanks to Kellan from thePnut

Safety is our priority

I ship two main things. Glass terrariums, and terrarium kits (bags of soil, gravel and moss – no glass). Due to the fragile nature of glass, these have different requirements, which affects how money can be saved. Each business will have different requirements. For me, it is safety which means I need a reliable service which offers tracking and has a low rate of lost parcels. For my terrarium kits, delivery time is important to ensure the moss does not die, but also cost, as the item is only $10, shipping must be cheap. Packaging – this is part of the process, reducing your packaging cost is a great way to save on delivery. This can also reduce size/weight which can decrease costs for some services. A good example would be ensuring your box is just the right size for your product, or looking for a cheaper alternative to void fill (packing peanuts) such as a newspaper. – Thanks to Adam from Geodesium

Avoid locking yourself in one carrier

The best way to save money on shipping and postage is to avoid locking yourself into one carrier. Instead, we recommend choosing the best carrier for each order individually. While it may seem time and labor-intensive to reassess your shipping choice every time you receive an order, different shipping carriers can offer drastically different rates based on the weight, dimensions, and destination of your package. USPS, for example, doesn’t charge residential fees whereas FedEx and UPS do. That can add up to a substantial amount of money over time. By leaving yourself open to all your options, you’re better able to cut costs and go with the most advantageous rate. – Thanks to Dave from OnlineLabels.com

Use zone skipping

The most effective method to save in our business is zone skipping.  We ship rather large products, so dimensional weight and even actual product weight make our rates quite expensive when shipping across the country.  Zone skipping is a consolidation service where you gather all the packages going to a distant region and send one LTL freight shipment (in our case) to the consolidator offering the service in that zone. The consolidator then ships the packages from their distribution center to our customers within that same zone, drastically bringing down shipping cost per package. Of course, this does not work for express shipments, but the savings from zone skipping help us cover the high cost of express when needed. – Thanks to Mario from CeremonialSupplies.com

Send by freight

One of the things we do to save on shipping is to send by freight instead of UPS or FedEx. For this to work, the order needs to be large enough to make sense. You can even split up an order on different freight trucks, but only do this if the customer agrees to it as they may arrive at different times. – Thanks to Dustin of ShippersSupplies.com

Negotiate with multiple carriers

Shipping cost is one of the most important factors to staying competitive in the e-commerce's industry. Through experience, I was able to find ways to trim my shipping cost. Most small business owners are unaware they have negotiating power. Don't be afraid to negotiate with multiple carriers to see which company will give you the lowest rates. Because when carriers know they are vying for your business they will have an incentive to offer more competitive pricing. Another thing to help lower the cost of shipping is using the packaging provided by the carriers. UPS, FedEx and USPS all offer free boxes and bags. I was able to save over 65% of my packaging cost just by switching to Flat Rate Boxes provided by USPS. You can also use recycled packaging to lower your packaging costs. Remember to always negotiate for better rates as your business continues to grow. – Thanks to Lisa Chu from www.blacknbianco.com

Reuse packaging

As a small e-commerce business owner, I've often struggled to pay for packaging to ship my products. I've managed to save money on packaging costs simply be reusing packaging that I get in the mail. Bubble wrap, packing peanuts and boxes can all be expensive when you're having to buy them regularly, but these items can all be reused multiple times. I even ask friends and family to give me their spare packaging too! – Thanks to Max from Fish Tanks Bank

Ship by First Class Mail

There a number of different ways to ship products. Which shipping option is best for your business obviously depends on the size, shape and weight of what you are shipping. For most businesses shipping tangible products, they will either use USPS First Class Mail or USPS Priority Mail. First-class mail is usually cheaper so if your products qualify for first-class mail, use that instead of priority mail. Don't pay for a more expensive shipping service than you need to! – Thanks to Andrew from The Kratom Connection

Belong to a professional association

If you belong to a professional association, see if they have negotiated a discount with major private carriers.  I enjoy a good discount with UPS, one benefit provided by Green America, a nonprofit membership organization promoting ethical consumerism, which I joined. –Thanks to Reena from Eco-Artware.com.

Be as accurate as possible with weights and descriptions

We have found that the best way on how to save on shipping is to be as accurate as possible with our weights and descriptions. The more accurate we are the consumer saves by not being overcharged and we save by not underestimating what our shipping will be. – Thanks to Jennifer from ShowMeDecorating.com.

Know your box size

Know your box sizes, especially if you ship both fright and ground. Make sure boxes that are small and light enough to be shipped ground do get shipped ground — this is a common mistake many shippers make, assuming that a large/heavy box should go freight. Obviously, the more boxes that get shipped ground the more money you will save, but also, the better your customer service will be because freight shipments can be a customer service nightmare. – Thanks to William Shuhaibar from TheBathOutlet.com

Outsource your shipping

There are many ways you can save money on shipping, such as outsourcing to Amazon FBA and similar services who handle shipping for you. Outsourcing via drop shipping or by using a 3PL may appear more costly due to the fees, but they'll save you in the long run. When you outsource, you don't need to shoulder expenses such as personnel, warehouse rentals, and more. Outsourcing to Amazon FBA or a similar service ensures reliable delivery and satisfied customers, plus you don't have to store your own products. – Thanks to Chad from Skubana

Ship Boxes by Cubic Weight

One of the most efficient ways to reduce the cost of shipping is to use the Cubic Weight system. Carriers like USPS provide discounted rates for customers with high volume who ship small, heavy packages. Priority mail packages weighing less than 20 pounds and measuring less than .5 cubic feet volume are eligible. In the simplest of terms, your customers pay for the actual size and distance the box is traveling rather than how much it weighs. – Thanks to Kevin from ShipMonk.com
 

Use FedEx SmartPost or UPS SurePost

SmartPost and SurePost are less expensive than traditional ground service. Delivery prices are determined by the way your subscription boxes reach their designated locations. The most expensive part of delivery is mail carriers driving their massive trucks to your customer’s home or office. Standard delivery services from FedEx and UPS add surcharges based on the delivery area, which can quickly drive up your shipping costs. SmartPost and SurePost eliminate these surcharges by picking up the package from your location and delivering it the final zone. From there the customers' local USPS branch will make the ‘last mile' delivery. Then your customers' local mail carrier adds those packages to his daily route. SmartPost is one of the most efficient ways for you to deliver your package and more than often translates into extra savings for you. – Thanks to Kevin from ShipMonk.com
 

Use discounts from a fulfillment center

Fulfillment centers like ShipMonk can negotiate a better rate with couriers due to greater shipping volumes. Additionally, not only will you benefit from their expertise, but you can also leverage the fulfillment service’s negotiating power on packaging and shipping costs. – Thanks to Kevin from ShipMonk.com

Use FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon)

I found the best way to cut costs on shipping is through FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon). Through sheer volume, they’re able to offer free 2-day shipping not just for Amazon Prime members, but also for my website sales as well. You can hook up an API for them to fulfill all your sales from your site, saving you valuable time and money. It’s the single best way to save on shipping. – Thanks to Zachary from www.testsure.com

Consolidate your packages

Package consolidation means shipping products in as few and optimally-sized parcels as possible. If it costs an e-commerce business $9 to ship product A (independently) to a customer and $7 to ship product B (independently) to that same customer, the cost of combining these SKU's into the same box will likely be $10-11. This is an incredibly important metric to monitor if you use an outsourced fulfillment center, especially if the fulfillment center charges a per-parcel fee, and is thus incentivized to ship as many parcels as possible, not necessarily combine orders into a single parcel (which benefits the e-commerce store). – Thanks to Jake from www.redstagfulfillment.com

Be strategic about the location of your fulfillment center

Strategically choose the location of your fulfillment center (whether a third party company or your own warehouse). An e-commerce store that's headquartered in Los Angeles, and imports electronics from China, which arrive at the port of LA, may naturally look for a fulfillment center in the LA area. This, however, can be a huge mistake. Besides the very expensive cost of land in LA, assuming the e-commerce store has a customer base that's not concentrated on the west coast, that store will likely see a massive improvement in their overall shipping expenses by selecting a fulfillment warehouse that's centrally located (to the United States). This is because the one time cost of $1k-$3k to move the imported inventory to a fulfillment center in Salt Lake City, UT, or Knoxville, TN, will be far less in the long run, than shipping out all orders from the LA area to customers in Ohio, New York, and Florida. – Thanks to Jake from www.redstagfulfillment.com

Ship books by Media Mail

If you are selling books, then Media Mail is your best choice.  You will pay a fraction of the cost with Media Mail over the more costly FedEx or UPS.  As long as the books are shipped in a secure box there are no problems with damaged books.  The longer the distance the longer the shipping time. Shipping from New York to Los Angeles is about 10 business days.  – Thanks to Bruce from www.muse-eek.com

Use a service like Shipwire

We've found the most cost-effective method for how to save on shipping is a warehousing & shipping company called Shipwire, which ties seamlessly into our shopping cart. Their software can tie in to just about any ordering system that exists. The Shipwire system automatically determines whether USPS, UPS or FedEx is most cost-effective based on the delivery address and ships it right out. Shipwire has cost-effective plans that can be ramped up as a company expands and they have been an unparalleled partner in our business since its inception. – Thanks to Jeffrey from www.thepeopleschemist.com

Get your shipping labels online

Purchasing your shipping labels online rather than at the postal counter saves a significant amount of money. It is also less expensive to include shipping confirmation with your online purchase than it is when purchased at the counter. USPS now allows you to schedule a pick up at the location of your choice, meaning no more trips to the post office several times a week. Just print your labels through your online provider, package your orders and schedule a pick up from your shop or front porch. Savings of both time and money overall. – Thanks to Lani from www.elledeedesigns.com

Use Priority Mail

When we researched how to save on shipping costs, we decided to go with USPS Priority Mail, due to the 2-3 day delivery service anywhere in the U.S. We really like using the USPS Priority Mail Regional Rate boxes, especially the top loading A1 box. It has a weight limit of 15 lbs and accommodates many of our orders. The Regional Rate boxes are also great for shipping via the military mail system to APO and FPO addresses.  One caveat is that you must be able to print your own commercial base price with a service like Stamps.com. – Thanks to Cory from www.aviatorgear.com

Reuse packaging

We always recycle boxes that our inventory comes in so that we can reuse them to ship to our customers. We reached out to a local newspaper printing business that often has excess rolls of unusable paper that we could use as packing material. Also, the local cardboard distributor collects foam scraps and sells them in bags that take up the entire bed of a truck for $15, which we use as packing material as well. Lastly, we noticed that not insuring our packages is actually more cost effective than insuring them, even with occasionally damaged packages. With these cost savings methods in place, we are now spending less than $1 per package shipped out for materials. – Thanks to Nate from www.GrowersHouse.com

Use Stamps.com

First, we ship everything via USPS (United States Postal Service) which is usually a less expensive method of shipping than UPS or Fed-Ex. Secondly, we started working with Stamps.com, and with that, we are provided delivery confirmation/tracking numbers for no additional cost as well as a free scale for us to weigh our shipments. Fortunately for us, sending out a t-shirt doesn't generally cost us more than $3.00 to ship anywhere in the US, so we are able to pass those savings onto the customer by offering free standard shipping, with no minimum order amount required. – Thanks to Lando from www.rockerrags.com

Use a scale

Use a scale prior to applying postage to every package.  We discovered those who pick & pack become accustomed to applying the same amount of postage to similar shipments, but it's easy to be deceived by small items. Since we ship via USPS almost exclusively, applying postage for 1 fewer ounce than needed can result in a returned package, added postage expense, and an unhappy customer.  Placing postage for an extra ounce is unnecessary and adds up over the course of a year.  Getting it “just right” has had a positive impact on our bottom line and on our customers' delight. – Thanks to Mark from www.visacuity.com/

Use multiple carriers

We ship our heaviest goods (2-20 lbs)  via FedEx, using a corporate account (FedEx gives discounted rates), we ship anything under 2 lbs USPS Priority (for roughly $5 per package), anything smaller and lighter than a 1  lb, we use First Class Mail USPS (usually less than $2).  We did this for a couple of reasons: 1- Fedex is the least expensive major parcel carrier and does not charge extra to pick up at a commercial location. 2-USPS provides free Priority shipping supplies and free pickup from residential and commercial locations. 3- We carefully monitored and balanced rates and carriers to ensure that we are getting the best price using the above formula. – Thanks to Audrey from www.stop-germs.com/

Package it efficiently

I have found that it is best to that is not too large; your item should fit in it comfortably without too much empty space.  Using light and airy packing material also helps to save shipping costs.  If this is not possible, making use of the flat rate boxes from USPS is a great way to go.  I like my packages to have an aesthetic feel to them when they are opened, so the placement of items in the boxes is important to me.  By using, or reusing, air packets this helps to keep my products in top shape and I can save money on supplies when I reuse them from materials I have ordered. – Thanks to Christopher from http://sinfulsweetsonline.com

Use Etsy's shipping service

I sell on Etsy and they give me the option of printing out a shipping label right from their site. I find that it is about half the cost of the post office and they mail a tracking number directly to my customer. By having all the tracking numbers emailed for me and the labels printed out at home, I can ship out my orders at any time, even if the post office is closed. This option saves me the most of amount of time and money, and as all small business owners know, every dollar we can save is one dollar closer to success! – Thanks to Jenny from www.shesacrafty1.etsy.com/

Use Endicia.com

Our e-commerce store is on the Shopify platform. For $15.95/mo we got an Encidia account which reduces our shipping costs considerably. Packages under a pound ship First Class Mail for around $2.75 (boxes are 6″ cubes) and packages over a pound ship Priority Mail for around $5.50. It integrates with the shop to eliminate potential typos and deals with the customs labels for International shipments. Shipping Easy is also available outside of Shopify or a store integration. – Thanks to Jen from hwww.purseandclutch.com

Buy your packaging in bulk

Buy all your packing materials in bulk, and be thoughtful about it. Whether you're shipping in branded boxes or clean and simple brown ones, equipment and supplies are expensive, and it's tough to balance a palatable cost with materials that fall within your brand's guidelines. What is our projected growth rate and how will this affect our outbound volume? Take the time to hunt for the best deal based on your findings (often the best deals are offered online), and buy deeply (if you don't get through all your materials this year, you will next year). – Thanks to Samantha from www.eluxe.ca/

Know your weight

Save money on shipping by using FedEx for purchases over five pounds.  For packages under five pounds, get savings by using USPS.  Use the lightest box or bag possible since some boxes can weigh three pounds or more.  Save money by using a box that fits your product exactly, so you are not paying to ship on the unused cardboard space.  To reduce the cost to Canada by USPS, we pack our weighted blankets in the smallest box possible since Canada Post factors in box dimensions in the cost. – Thanks to Eileen from www.cozycalm.com/

Ship online, not at the store

My best tip to save on shipping orders from e-commerce stores is to ship online. For USPS orders, we use Stamps.com which allows us to save time and money by being able to do everything from our home. We also receive the online price versus the in-person price by going this route. In the event that we have an order that's too big for USPS, we ship UPS as you can usually find groups that offer discount plans (such as the Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetics Guild) that allow you to save up to 30% which is huge when you're shipping packages on a regular basis. – Thanks to Ashley from www.thegnarlywhale.com/

Use USPS

When we decided that we wanted to do free shipping for our customers we needed to find the most cost-effective way. We met with UPS and Federal Express and couldn't believe how expensive it was to ship with them compared to the United States Postal Service. We decided on going with the good old United States Postal Service and have been so happy. For the first year we were in business I spent my days going back and forth to the post office and getting used to waiting in lines and small talk with the Postal workers. About six months ago, I looked into Stamps.com and was so surprised at the discounted rates that we could have been taking advantage of all along. Not only are we saving money, but also saving a lot of time. No more waiting in lines! –Thanks to Stacy from www.rainraps.com

Don't pay for insurance

When choosing shipping options and looking at how to save on shipping, it's important to consider insurance costs.  We've shipped thousands of boxes, and only had two lost packages.  So the likelihood of a package getting lost or stolen is pretty low, and we can keep costs down for everyone by insuring only high value packages.  For lower value packages, we assume the risk of loss ourselves.  We also manage risk of loss by sending packages that look “boring” on the outside. – Thanks to Adrianne from TurtleLove.com

Use the right type of Priority Mail

Many e-commerce sellers use USPS Priority Mail for packages under 5 lbs. going to a residence.  But did you know there are three types of Priority Mail that can help you with how to save on shipping?  With regular Priority Mail, Priority Mail Flat Rate and Priority Mail Regional Rate, it is hard to figure out which service is the best option to save money.  Make sure you research all Priority Mail options before you print your shipping labels.  Hint:  Priority Mail Regional Rate Box A is usually the cheapest option for packages weighing 3 lbs to 15 lbs. – Thanks to Eric from www.stamps.com

Bonus Tip

If you have an American Express card and ship via FedEx, you can save 5% each time you bill your shipment to your American Express card. I saved hundreds of dollars over the last four years doing this.

Do you have any tips for saving on shipping charges? Please share them below.


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  1. Thank you for this information!! It’s great that so many small business still rely on USPS for their shipping needs. Now off to see about getting that Stamps.com account…
    Kristen
    CocoBella Tees

  2. This is such useful information! Since I’m a start-up, I really appreciate it and will refer to it often. Thanks Andreea and everyone else for sharing!

  3. Thanks for this great info. Shipping has become one of the biggest thorns in the side of small business owners. There has to be a better way!

  4. This is perfect!!!! I wish every startup ecommerce business was aware of this blog! I wish I’d discovered it 2 years ago!! I would have saved myself all lot of time, frustration, road blocks & discouragement. Thank you for this!!

  5. Pre-planning is key for managing your shipping & saving money. Bulk shipping is easy, so my input is for small order fulfillment, which we now do a lot of for fulfillment of fundraising t-shirts. We love ShipStation, which includes a Stamps.com account. Take it from experience, leaving the decisions to your shipping department is a bad idea. DO THE UPFRONT WORK FIRST. We took the time to set order import automation rules that set up product weights and USPS shipment classifications based on weight & quantity. THE RESULT: we import our orders, they are immediately classified for lowest cost by First Class or Priority, then we print 8-1/2 x 11″ USPS Labels/Packing Slip combos in batches of hundreds or thousands, depending upon campaign size. The picking department now has one sheet for every order with picking instructions & labels all in one spot. The crew just drops the t-shirts in 1 of 4 preset container options, slap on the label and go. That’s how you save money on ecommerce shipping – know your costs & system efficiency.

  6. My friend is starting his own business and he is having to send and receive a lot of packages. He is trying to save money on delivery, I should let him know that getting shipping labels online can save him money. He is wondering if he will have a lot of success with a delivery truck, and couriers.

  7. It’ always seems to be in the small details that make the difference. I wasn’t aware that the accuracy of the weight and descriptions of what’s being transported would effect anything. I think it’s amazing how something like this could save you money.

  8. Shipping is crazy expensive! I always reuse packing materials, it’s not only cheaper it supports Reuse, Repurposed, Recycle efforts!

  9. A super post. Shipping KILLS my profit. I’d love for someone to do a “Canadian” version, but most of your tips are still applicable. If you know of any good information (Shopify is Canadian, and they have some info) let us Canucks know! Thanks!!!

  10. Hi I enjoy reading your blog it is so informative. I get a lot of international traffic but find that my customers don’t fulfill their orders due to the shipping cost which is $18.38. How can I get my international shipping cost lower.

  11. Hey Guys,

    These are all great tips to follow. In addition, I wanted to offer our services to all business owners. Check out our software at parcelscan.com. Our automated software performs daily audits of all your fedex and ups shipments, identifying any packages that were delivered late to your customers. Once it finds one, it handles the entire refund process for you. I bet some of you didn’t know that if your package is 1 minute late to its destination, you are eligible for 100% refund of the shipping costs. ParcelScan.com handles the entire process for you. Best of all, we don’t charge any startup or upfront fees. We only take a percentage of the refund the customer receives, basically, we don’t make money unless we get you a refund. Check us out!

  12. I saw a few people on here looking for lower shipping rates. I work with Unishippers, we resell UPS shipping at a discounted rate and can get small to medium sized customers the high volume discounts. We also partner with about 40 freight companies for anything on a pallet. If any of you are daily shippers I might be able to help get significant discounts.

    1. Not sure you can help… I ship about 500 items per year on eBay…
      but rates at USPS have gone up considerably…may put me out of business, due the new zone & wt./size configurations put into effect in 6/2019… wondering if your business could help us…. Regards, Richard

  13. For online shop owners using woocommerce, there are a host of woocommerce plugins for shipping which turns out to be useful in meeting all shipping needs as well as saving some bucks by comparing different shipping methods. These can show real time shipping rates and also allow you to print labels yourself.

  14. Great tips! We use Shopify and I know there is an app that will check your FedEx, UPS etc bill every week for any extra surcharges and late deliveries and then file a claim on your behalf to get a refund. Has anyone else used a service like this and if so any suggestions. This particular app takes 50% of the savings and so I’m looking for something a little better. Filing a FedEx claim is a real pain and they don’t make it easy, so a way to streamline this would be helpful.

  15. I’m using a shipinar.com to compare the shipping carrier rate and purchase the discounted label from their website.
    You check the all major sales price from their website

  16. I remember when packages used to take ages to get from one location to another and I have been growing curious about how newer shipping systems function to deliver packages so quickly. I like that you mentioned the importance of being strategic regarding the location of your fulfillment center. A centrally located fulfillment center provides the benefit of being able to get your product to customers faster. Thank you for your tips regarding product distribution on a large scale!

  17. What about international imports from China. Does anyone have any information regarding which is the best courier to use? Thanks for your help.

  18. A note about stamps.com…it is the best because it shows you all the options & sizes if you’re not sure. (and now they’ve added UPS, too). When I 1st signed up, I think it was $19.99, but I didn’t think I’d use it enough to make it worth it. So I marked the option that I want to cancel, so when I did that, stamps.com said they hated to see me go & offered me to remain a member if they reduced the cost to $9.99/mo if I stayed (w/no decrease in benefits), so of course I said ok. So now I only pay $9.99/mo.

  19. Every suggestion listed is noteworthy – with so many options, it pays to find the correct solution. Shipping is an integral part of any e-commerce business and can make or break you – get it right!

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