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Shipping Gifts: As Easy As A B C

You may find you are running out of time during the holiday season. This Postal Service writer has practical advice to make sure your gifts arrive on time and in one piece.

I live in New Jersey.

My oldest son and his wife live in North Carolina, my daughter and her husband live in Texas and my youngest son lives in Ohio. In this age of mobility, it’s almost impossible to always be with loved ones over the holidays, let alone birthdays and other special occasions.

So, I’ve become an expert of sorts: gift giving from afar.

I’m not a money or gift card person. It would be easier, but I find the hunt for the right gift, wrapping it and getting it ready to mail the fun part of gift giving.

Even if you’re not like me and you don’t enjoy the ‘sending’ part, I have a few tips to help you get your holiday gift giving all wrapped up in no time.

A – Shopping  

It’s a little too late to say to shop early for this holiday season, but you can start your 2009 shopping the day after Christmas and I’m not just talking about wrapping paper, decorations and greeting cards.

Look online. I’ve gotten great deals from Lenox, Macy’s and other online merchants. The price of the latest electronics will plummet after the holidays along with the have-to-have toys.

This buy-ahead trick is great when planning for other occasions throughout the year including birthdays and anniversaries.

If you have the time, never pass up a clearance display — no matter what time of year. You’ll be amazed at the expensive candles, home décor, picture frames and clothing you can buy for pennies on the dollar because the store isn’t going to carry a product line any longer or no longer has all the sizes of a particular sweater. Buy winter clothes for next winter this spring; and next fall buy summer clothing for gift giving in warmer weather

B – Packaging

You can buy boxes, bubble wrap and "foam peanuts," but if you shop catalogs or online, your packages will arrive with all the packing materials you’ll need — including the box. But if you’re mailing a used box, make sure any addresses or barcodes are marked out. The best way to do this is with self adhesive computer label paper.

An easier way is to stop by your local Post Office and pick up Priority Mail and Express Mail boxes. You can also order them — free of charge — at What I do is order the minimum of any box size I think I might need including Priority Flat-Rate Boxes.

If you’re sending anything with a battery, make sure you take the battery out before starting to pack the gift for shipping.

With supplies in hand, the first thing you’ll need to do, unless you are shipping clothing or another non-breakable item, is put a layer of "peanuts," popcorn or wadded up newspaper on the bottom of the box.
Next, place your wrapped gift on this layer of cushioning and then put more packing material all around the gift. Do the same on top.

The last thing to go in your box should be your name and address and the name and address of the recipient in case, for some reason, the label comes off.  

Now close the box and shake. If item shifts, add more packing.

If you’re sending more than one gift, make sure there’s cushioning between the gifts too.
Now tape up the box using tape designed for sealing shipping boxes, not cellophane or masking tape.       

C – Shipping

I know what you’re thinking, but you do not have to drive to the Post Office, lug in your packages and stand in line.

Yesterday I sent six packages and never left the house.

I went on, signed into my account, printed out labels on Click-N-Ship and requested a Carrier Pickup. When I got home today, my packages were gone, a receipt for the packages was left in my mailbox and all the tracking numbers are safely stored in my computer.

Plus, I paid less online than if I went to the Post Office.

Labels can be printed on plain copy paper and tapped to the package, just remember not to tape over the barcode at the bottom of the label.

With your account, all your addresses can be saved for future use too.

And there’s still  time. The Postal Service recommends the following mail-by dates to ensure your gift arrives on time:

  • Dec. 16 — Parcel Post, the most economical shipping service
  • Dec. 20 — First-Class Mail
  • Dec. 20 — Priority Mail
  • Dec. 23 — Express Mail

Shop, package and ship — it’s easy to stay in touch during the holidays and all year
round with a gift-giving plan!


About the Author

Marilyn Jones has been a journalist for more than 30 years and is currently a freelance feature writer specializing in travel. Her articles have appeared in major newspapers including the BostonGlobe, Akron Beacon Journal and Chicago Sun-Times as well as regional travel magazines.

Visit her website at