Deployments suck. And that’s the truth.
But what also stinks is the costs associated with shipping care packages. The longer they’re on deployment, the more money and time you spend on care packages. But savvy military spouses know there are hacks and tricks to get those boxes shipped for free (or at least cheaper)!
It might take a little bit of time, organization, and ingenuity, but there really are ways to bring down the costs of care packages to make it more inexpensive for you and less of a strain on your deployment budget.
Your Complete Guide to Cutting Costs on Military Care Packages
Truth time: you will likely have to spend some money on care packages. But when you follow these super simple (I promise!) tips, you’ll save a ton of cold hard cash!
Here’s what you’re going to find in this guide to sending cheaper or more inexpensive military care packages:
- FREE USPS mail supplies
- FREE care packages
- Pro tips for cutting costs generally
- Companies that ship care packages to deployed troops
How to score 100% free packing materials
Just sending a few a care packages can really eat into your budget and, honestly, your time.
You’re hunting down boxes to fit the things you want to send. Tetris-ing all those carefully selected gifts into the box. After all of that, you’ve got to close and securely tape the box(es) shut!
When you arrive at the post office, you might be surprised by the total. (And not surprised in a good way.) That’s because you used a non-USPS box!
Care Package Pro Tip: Always use USPS flat rate boxes
USPS packing boxes are where it’s at for shipping care packages to your loved one on deployment or OCONUS.
If you want to really to ship smarter, head for the flat rate boxes! They live by the motto “if it fits, it ships!” What that means is that you can stuff those boxes and envelopes pretty full without increasing the price to ship the package. Whether you’re shipping a box full of feathers or one with hand weights, they will cost the same.
Note: If you’re sending care packages within CONUS (military-speak for the Continental United States), check with your post office for the best rates and ways to ship boxes. In certain situations, you might that sending regional rate mail might actually be less expensive than a USPS Priority flat rate box.
Care Package Pro Tip: Order a free USPS military care package kit
USPS offers a special military care package packing kit. In each kit, you will receive free USPS supplies including six flat rate boxes, six flat rate envelopes, customs forms, and packing tape. It’s everything you need to send 12 care packages.
Plus, all of this will be shipped right to your door, again, for free.
This kit has been super popular over the years because it saves time and money. You won’t need to spend time running to the post office to get the empty box or envelope, just to go right back to the post office to ship the package. You’re cutting one whole step out of your care package sending to-do list!
Here’s how you score your very own USPS Military Care Package Kit
First, visit the USPS store and search for military care packages. Add the kit to your cart. You can add up to five kits at a time. When you checkout, you can create an account or continue as a guest. I opted to continue as a guest this time. You’ll need to add your name, contact info, and shipping address.
When finished, that’s it! Your military care packages are officially ordered. You should receive tracking updates from USPS so that you can anticipate when your military care package packing supplies will arrive.
Now unfortunately, we can’t take care of the actual shipping cost for you. However, when you follow these simple tips, you will see a significant savings in your overall care package shipping costs!
More Ways to Save with USPS Shipping Supplies
You ordered free USPS shipping supplies but you’re just not going to use all the different sizes of Priority boxes. Your jam is the medium-sized flat rate boxes or you’re totally digging the padded envelopes.
You can also order mass quantities of almost every single kind of USPS packages online at no cost to you, including free shipping.
It’s as simple as going to the online USPS store for bulk shipping supplies. Pick the type of box or envelope that you’re going to use most often. Add them to your cart and checkout.
The end. Your packing materials will be delivered right to your door for free.
You also don’t have to order online. Instead, head to the USPS location closest to you and grab a bunch of boxes or envelopes at once. This way you’ll always have a stash at home for those last-minute care package needs.
How to Send a Completely Free Military Care Package
Sometimes you just want to treat your loved one deployed overseas. But also you’d like to do it really easily and, if possible, for free. Well, then, you’re going to love these seven super simple suggestions!
Note: not all programs are guaranteed to accept or fulfill your request for a care package or free sample(s). Jo, My Gosh! has not received compensation from these companies and is providing these suggestions as a service to our community. If you have questions or concerns, please direct your questions to the individual organizations listed, not Jo, My Gosh! We cannot answer organization-specific questions.
This build-your-own custom care package business is built around supporting troops. Troopster is founded by a veteran couple and is committed to sending deployed troops care packages for free. Get started by requesting a free care package. In order to request a box, you will need to know the details about your loved one’s deployment, including length and mailing address.
Troops who are deployed can also request care packages for their entire unit. Once requested, care packages can take anywhere from 2-12 weeks to be shipped. Care package shipments rely on donations and “adoptions” of units.
The USO does a great job of making sure that service members are not without care packages and other reminders of home. Families can’t request care packages with the USO, but official unit representatives can request a variety of different boxes.
There are three different options available:
- Care Package: toiletries or snacks packed into a desert tan fabric container that connects with most military issued gear and serves as a hygiene bag in a pinch
- Operation Phone Home: prepaid international calling cards are sent to the whole unit
- USO 2 Go: supports troops in distant locations where there is no USO office
If this is something your unit or your spouse’s unit would benefit from, contact the FRO or forward the information to the unit command.
Naper Nuts & Sweets
Send caramel corn to your military loved ones, thanks to this small, family-owned shop in Naperville, IL! Call 630-355-5330 to request a care package from Naper Nuts & Sweets for your loved one on deployment or stationed far away.
Books for Soldiers
Deployed troops can request a free book, movie, video game and more from Books for Soldiers! Complete their contact form, for yourself or your entire unit, and this non-profit organization will send you the materials you requested.
Move America Forward
Since 2004, Move America Forward has been sending care packages to deployed troops overseas. Complete the contact form at Move America Forward to sign your service member, currently deployed to a combat zone, for a free care package.
Bravo Sierra, a “built tough” body care company, offers free trial kits. While not exclusive to the military, Bravo Sierra will ship one of three sets to you or your loved one, for under $7 for shipping. Choose from:
- The Good To Go Set: 3-in-1 hair/shave/body wash, hair grooming paste, deodorant
- The Daily Set: deodorant, face moisturizer, hair and body cleanser
- The Grooming Standard: hair and body solid cleanser, hair grooming paste, deodorant
Bravo Sierra has tested these products in the field with active duty troops and donate 5% of products to the MWR.
Pro Tips to Save You Cash on Care Packages
About 1/3 of the way through our first deployment, my husband told me to stop sending him boxes of stuff: “Babe, I just can’t use some of this stuff or don’t have the space.”
“How about I give you a list of things I need and then every so often you just send one big box?”
Care Package Pro Tip 1: Send Big Boxes Less Often
That sneaky suggestion from my spouse is how I learned about truly packing care packages and sending them less often. It’s a cost saver on multiple levels:
- You’re spending less on actual stuff for each box. Consider how much of what’s in every box is needed or wanted versus filler. I was buying just random things that my husband was just trashing upon arrival.
- You’re spending less on shipping. (And shipping is a pretty inflexible expense for care packages.) When you’re shipping less often, you’re spending less money. That is especially true if you’re waiting to ship boxes until they are truly stuffed with valuable items!
- You’re spending less time: fewer hours in the post office, fewer hours packing boxes regularly, less time in stores shopping all means that you’re able to spend more time doing other things.
Care Package Pro Tip 2: Send Cards and Postcards
Slapping one stamp on an envelope is incredibly easy and relatively cheap. Plus, you can shove kind of a lot of things into a standard sized letter envelope. My deployment care “package” game really changed when I made the swap from weekly care packages to weekly letters and postcards.
Yes, postcards. Stamps for postcards are cheaper than for envelopes! (You can download free postcards from Jo, My Gosh!)
Bonus: if you save your mail, it’s fun to reread later in life or pass down to future generations.
Care Package Pro Tip 3: Skip Snail Mail for Email
Mailing letters and postcards are cheaper than sending boxes, but email is for free. Also, it’s instant and can get you a response so much faster than waiting on USPS. Yes, not all deployed troops will have regular access to the internet or computers. But many FOBS and most ships or submarines likely have internet hubs that everyone can access.
And if you’re worried about communications blackouts, here’s exactly what you need to know.
Care Package Pro Tip 4: Let Amazon Send it For You
Do you have Amazon Prime? (Let’s be real: we all have it…)
Amazon ships to FPO/APO addresses via USPS. How do I know this? Because I’ve used Amazon to ship things around the world since 2010.
I first discovered the joys of free Amazon shipping to my deployed husband 11 years ago. He needed socks. I couldn’t find the kind he liked in real life, but Amazon 100% had what he wanted. I hit buy and the socks were magically on their way to Afghanistan.
Just. Like. That.
Shipping was free, too. Shipping to APO/FPO addresses is exactly like shipping to standard US addresses, but availability of APO/FPO shipping on Amazon might vary, depending on the product and vendor.
Let Someone Else DIY the Care Package for You
Yes, I love my spouse. Yes, I want to send him all the things his heart desires when he’s deployed. Yes, I am running around doing my own job, caring for our kids, making sure the dog isn’t eating socks and putting out (hopefully not literal) fires around the house.
So, no, I might not have time to craft a super loving care package regularly.
Yes, I will 100% pay someone to DIY a few care packages for me.
Full Disclosure: these options represent just a very small slice of pre-made care package options available. Search online for: pre-made military care packages
Hero Care Packages
There are tons of pre-made care packages available, plus you can also curate or custom order your own ideal box! Hero Care Packages start at $40 and cover all personality types and occasions!
Troopster isn’t just for donating care packages to troops. You can select and purchase or curate your very own custom box, too! Care packages start at about $20, with special options for different individual preferences.
Harry & David
Good news! The gift basket gurus at Harry & David have options that can ship OCONUS to APO/FPO addresses! From cookies to coffees to lemon curd (and everything in between), this is a great option for luxury food gifts.
Don’t let the name fool you: anyone can enjoy these special care packages! With prices across the spectrum and for a wide variety of interests, you’re sure to find something really cool at Man Crates.
Gift Basket Country
From baby showers to anniversary presents, Gift Basket Country has tons of curated options to suit your gifting needs.
Easily Send Military Care Packages on the Cheap!
Between using USPS’ free shipping supplies to sourcing free or done-for-you care packages, you’re about to rock this deployment and for a whole lot less money, too!
No matter what, it really is the thought that counts when you’re sending love to your deployed service member. It’s not the size of the care package or the cost of the items that matters at all. When it comes right down to it, your loved ones just want to know that they are loved, across all the miles.
Looking For More Care Package Ideas? Try These:
- 40 Ways to Save Money on Care Packages
- The Gigantic List of Free Care Packages for Deployed Service Members
- Here’s What Troops Really Want in a Care Package