13 Tricks to Make Your Care Packages Better and Cheaper

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I don’t like wasting money… But I also really like spending it… especially when it’s on people I love.

When John was on deployment, I loved sending him care packages. I sent a lot. (And I spent a lot.) And because I sent a lot, I learned (eventually) how to make care packages more efficient and less costly. I’m sharing some strategies this week about how to do that.

Care Package Storage System. It’s so easy to pick up a great item for a care package, only to come home and toss it somewhere you’ll definitely remember it (read: under the bed, behind the sofa, in the pantry…) But a few weeks later, your easy-to-remember spot turned into a losing game of hide-n-seek with an inanimate object.  Do yourself a favor and get a plastic tote box and keep all your care package items in the same place because no lost items means no wasted money.

Dollar Stores.  If you’re not shopping at a dollar store, you’re probably spending more than you need to. A good rule of thumb when shopping for a care package is to always check out the dollar store first, then fill in any gaps at your go-to shop. You might be surprised what you can find, like gum, candy bars, socks, mailing materials, wrapping paper, and cards.

USPS Priority Mail. If you’re mailing something heavy, grab a free Priority Mail box at the post office. The boxes are free and have a flat shipping rate based on size, not weight, so a box of circus peanuts will cost the same to ship as a box filled with cans of your service member’s favorite baked beans. Take advantage of this and stuff your Priority Mail boxes to the gills.

Be a Girl Scout.  Okay, you don’t need to don a uniform or build a fire. But when you’re shopping, always be prepared… to pick up items for future care packages. If you keep an eye out for sales, clearances, and discounts, you can build up a stockpile for future boxes. Shopping the day before you want to send a box will almost always result in paying more than you need to for items you don’t really want but pick up to fill the box.  If you’re always prepared to find a deal, you may earn a care package merit badge.

Buy in Bulk. If you know you’re going to be sending quite a few care packages over the course of a deployment, buy materials in bulk. Packing tape, tissue paper, and markers are cheaper by the dozen (or at least by the 3-pack).  The same goes for those simple staples you can toss into any box, like gum, candy bars, socks, or water flavoring packets. Buying in multipacks will not only save you money, but it will help to build up your stock.

Plan Your Box. Be intentional with what you want to include in your box and only send that.  Don’t try to fill a box just to fill it.  Inevitably, you’ll end up buying things that don’t fit your theme, aren’t necessities, or are simply junky trinkets.

Do the Research. Sometimes it’s a better value to put together your own box.  Sometimes it’s a better value to purchase and send a curated box.  Do the research to determine if it makes more financial sense to buy and send six bottles of hot sauce on your own or let a subscription box do the legwork for you.

Be Practical. We all want to include fun, unique goodies in our boxes, but if you’re sending too many items your service member doesn’t need or might not love, you’re wasting space and money. By all means, your box should include treats–but be relatively certain anything you send will be used and enjoyed. 

Spread It Out. You might be tempted to buy a bag of Blow Pops and dump the whole thing into one care package, but do you need to? Probably not. Split up the lollipops into a few boxes to not only stretch out the sweet treats, but also to limit overbuying.

Use Items as Packaging. Skip the bubble wrap and replace your packing materials with cushioning items that can be used by the recipient, like socks, t-shirts, or athletic shorts. Trading out disposable packing materials means you can send more usable items, and that means more value in every box.

Pack Smart. The last thing you want is for something to break or melt or ooze and ruin all the contents in the box. That’s not just a waste of money, but a huge disappointment, too! Be smart when you’re packing: if something has the potential to yuck up your other goodies, put it in a zip-top sandwich or gallon bag to avoid any messes.

Go Homemade. It’s so easy to think that every care package needs to be Pinterest-worthy, filled with the most adorable things you saw at the local gift shop.  NOPE. That is a great way to blow tons of cash. Try focusing on DYI approaches more often. Use your SO’s favorite section of old newspapers instead of wrapping paper. Skip the letter stickers and do your own lettering by hand with a marker. Instead of buying a card from the store, try making one by hand with cardstock. Is it a little silly? Sure, but it’ll save a buck and show a little extra love.

Find a Local Organization. Make sure the local military appreciation organization knows about your service member so they can send him or her a care package. This is also a great way to take care of your service member’s buddy who hasn’t gotten much mail.

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