Posted on October 29, 2015 by Dennis Salazar

Reducing the Cost of Shipping E-Commerce and Subscription Boxes via USPS

Recently we have received several inquiries regarding USPS tier shipping which is their version of UPS’s “DIM (dimensional) Weight” rate program. Essentially it means that the larger a package is, the more it will cost you to ship it, and that package weight and shipping distance are no longer the only factors determining shipping costs.

We have worked with hundreds of companies shipping an endless variety of products, and the one thing they all have in common is their need to minimize shipping costs. In almost all cases the shipping cost is likely to exceed the cost of the packaging being used and in some cases, it can even exceed the cost of the product being shipped. That is why managing your shipping cost has quickly become the single greatest objective for everyone in the e-commerce or subscription box markets.

How Is USPS Tier Pricing Calculated?

Cubic footage of any box being shipped is determined by multiplying the OUTSIDE (rounded DOWN to nearest ¼”) length x width x height and dividing that total by 1,728. That typically results in a digital number less than 1.

Example: Our stock 7-7-2 box has actual inside dimensions of 7-1/8” X 7” X 2-1/4” and the outside dimensions are 8” X 7.375 X 2.75”. We round them down to 8” X 7.25” X 2.75” and when we multiply them and divide them by 1,728 the result is $.0923. That is a GREAT box size because it is just under the .10 tier limit. You can read more about the brackets and calculations at this USPS web site link where you will find this chart:

Priority Mail Commercial Plus—Cubic

Large Envelopes (flats) & parcels


Cubic Ft. Range Up To Zone1,2
Local, 1 & 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
0.10 $4.58 $4.65 $4.74 $4.99 $5.23 $5.47 $5.82 $6.98
0.20 4.99 5.12 5.28 5.50 5.70 5.91 6.30 7.56
0.30 5.22 5.61 6.12 7.64 8.39 9.09 9.96 11.94
0.40 5.40 6.31 7.24 9.13 10.73 11.77 13.26 15.91
0.50 6.18 7.21 8.35 11.50 13.41 14.82 16.97 20.36

BTW, for your convenience, we have added exterior cubic footage to all of our stock die cut mailer boxes on our store.

Engineered and Designed for minimum shipping cost

designed to be under .1 and .2 cubic feetCheck out the link below to see our new Min-Weight™ boxes we just created for Universal Yums. Not only has the weight been reduced, both were sized and designed to fall under a specific tier limit. Tell us the objective and it is very likely we can help you accomplish it.

How to Beat Tier Priced Shipping Costs

Here are a few suggestions that will enable you to minimize your shipping cost while maximizing its effectiveness:

  1. Understand the way the system works for your specific carrier of choice. Know the rules and make an informed decision on which one you choose and what level of service makes the most sense for you, your customers, and the products you are shipping.
  2. Right size your box. Avoid the “I want a larger box, just in case” approach. We understand for some subscription boxes the items being shipped vary from month to month, but set an affordable size limit and stick to it. If the volume or size requirements change, adding a second or different size box may be the most economical choice.
  3. A custom size MAY make sense for you. A custom size cutting die is usually one time cost of around $800 but if you can save $2.00 per box and you ship more than 400 boxes in one month, the die will pay for itself in one month.
  4. Consider packaging options other than boxes. That may sound strange coming from a company that specializes in branded shipping boxes but we will admit that sometime a mailer envelope is less expensive to buy and ship.

As always, when in doubt, please ASK us because there may be a style, or board grade that can dramatically reduce your shipping costs. Resist the temptation to self-diagnose when our decade’s long expert advice is free for the asking.

Please feel free to visit our gallery to see examples of some of our custom printed packaging. You can contact us at Salazar Packaging or call us at 630-551-1700.

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