Let me sing you the song of my people. It goes:
I love sending care packages… but they’re so expensive!
I can’t spend a bazillion dollars on these care packages!
But I also want to make sure my loved one feels loved…
I can’t refinance our house because of care packages.
Ahhhhhhhhhhh! Help. Me.
Okay, okay. You got me. It’s not a real song. (I hope you’re laughing because I’m cracking myself up over here.) Anyone who has sent care packages in bulk or over a sustained period of time knows that they can get really expensive. Really fast.
I polled the Jo, My Gosh! community and asked how they deal with expenses incurred by sending care packages. I was so excited to see so many different ideas presented by people who have really been there, done that, and handed over their cash.
Break out the coupons
“I shopped a lot with coupons and ad matching and such between WalMart and Walgreens. I found a lot of good snack deals at Walgreens for when I was putting together care packages where he requested food!” -Taylor
What can I say–ad matching? It’s brilliant! You’ll need to have a little bit more of a plan than just going to the store and pulling things off shelves, but it’s a sure way to save yourself money! Check out Ibotta, a cash-back app, too. It used to be just for buying groceries, but has expanded to a ton of other stores– including JoAnn’s (where you can buy care package materials!). It combines with coupons and sales, so you save more money on top of what you’re saving in the store.
Make it homemade
“I’m just going to make as much stuff as I can homemade and handmade and buy the rest. It will save money and make it more sentimental. My wife doesn’t eat sugar, snacks, or soda, so I’ll have to get creative with food.” -Kelsie
Depending on diet or preferences, it can be tough to figure out what to make and send. Cookies, granola bars, and nut mixes can be sent easily and will keep for the duration of most shipping times. There are also a lot of healthy items that can be purchased, shipped, and prepared/eaten that meet most diet restrictions.
Check out these recipes and ideas for homemade goodies:
- Gra-yes-la bars (get it? They’re granola bars without the NO!)
- How to dry blueberries
- Superfood granola
- 72 Healthy Foods for Care Packages
- 27 Mailable Care Package Recipes
- Microwavable Foods for Care Packages
Send a gift card
“Email gift cards!” -Lesley
Skip the costs of shipping and email goodies directly to your loved one! Of course, this might not be the best thing to do if your loved one doesn’t have regular access to email (like a submariner!). Consider Barnes & Noble and Amazon cards so they they can load books, movies, magazines, music, and movies onto their devices.
Make it fit so it can ship!
“I shove as much as I can into each box, if it fits it ships! Those boxes were like playing Tetris hahaha. And when he gets them, he doesn’t know where to start to pull the first thing from!” -Alli
Did we just become best friends, Alli? This is exactly what I do every time I send a care package using Priority Mail. Remember, weight doesn’t matter when you ship Priority– size does! That means, if you’re going to ship a large box and, you should pack it as full as possible. Play care package Tetris. If you can, make your packing material useful or entertaining too. If you can/need to, remove items from boxes to save room in the box. Wait until you have enough to ship a large Priority box.
Ship it separately
“Anything that can be shipped directly to the ship I have it go that way. Everything that can’t I put in my care package!” -Liz Anne
Liz Anne is way smarter than me. I sent John nothing directly through a store while he was on deployment– it never even dawned on me to do that! Shipping direct can save you extra fees– and in some cases, it may even save you the shipping costs completely. Many shops now ship to APO/FPO/DPO addresses. Be careful– some may have specific, special directions for how to order and send to those addresses; you’ll want to make sure that you follow them exactly.
If you’re purchasing and shipping online, you can save more money with Ebates. I’ve saved hundreds of dollars on online purchases– and yes, it really does work and there are no strings attached. I promise. (You can combine Ebate with codes, sales, and coupons, too.)
Use dollar stores
“The dollar store, when putting together a themed package I always start there first.” -Rebecca
Dollar stores are a fantastic place to find decor, holiday-themed gadgets, hygiene products, and snacks. Buy cheap wrapping paper or plastic tablecloths and easily decorate the inside of the box with this hack. (I used it all the time when John was deployed.) You can find a bunch of fun, inexpensive time-wasters (sodoku books, yoyos, water balloons)– you know, the things that are fun to ship, but you don’t necessarily want to spend a king’s ransom on. Dollar stores are also the perfect place to begin looking at cheap, disposable holiday decor to ship or use for care package decorations— especially if you know it’s going to be shared and/or thrown away. If you’re looking specifically for care package decorations, make a bee-line to the teacher/craft areas of the dollar store!
Be careful– sometimes dollar stores aren’t necessarily cheaper than other stores. They may just offer less of a product rather than the same product at a cheaper price. It’s also easier to buy a lot more at a dollar store because, it’s only a dollar, right? Watch your bottom line as you play Supermarket Sweep through Dollar General so you’re not left surprised at the cash register.
Ask a postal worker
“I’m in NY and use regional rate box c boxes. The absolute cheapest way to ship! $11 for a box that is twice the size of a large flat rate box.” -Camilla
Camilla’s got a great point! While Priority boxes are usually the best way to send a care package, explore your options. Depending on the weight, size, and location you’re shipping your box, it might be better for you to send a different way.
Only sending books or magazines? Shipping media mail can drastically reduce your rate. Sending some thing light and small? Sending first class might be your best option. Mailing a few states away? You might be able to use regional rate boxes instead.
The best way to find out the most frugal way to ship is to make friends with the folks at the post office. Ask them for their suggestions based on the package you’re sending. It could shave a few cents– or a few dollars– off the package. And that adds up!
It was such a comfort during John’s deployment when I was able to send care packages to him. It helped both of us get through a difficult time: it brought home a little closer to him and it made me feel like I was able to do something to help him, even when we were so far apart.
Saving money and maximizing what I was sending helped me send as many care packages to him as I could. How do you save on care packages?