To paraphrase the great J.Lo, my love don’t cost a thing, but care packages do.
Now, I could be wrong, but I’m like 85% sure the above was the original line for that song, but producers, you know?
Ok, fine. Neither do I. But I do know care packages and let me tell you, those stinkers can get pricey! While I’m all for making sure A feels loved and brightening his day, I do have to be mindful of my budget when filling and shipping care packages because a girl and a wiener dog gotta eat. Over the past few years, I’ve come up with a few tips and tricks to save money on care packages.
1. Flat rate boxes. I know I’ve shared this tip before, but it’s so good and important that it deserves to be repeated. The US Postal Service will ship flat rate boxes to any military installation for a standard (and relatively cheap) fee, no matter the weight. For example, I normally send a large flat rate box for just under $16. That’s really good! So pack those bad boys full and when you get to the post office, breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you’re not breaking the bank.
2. Shop sales! This sounds a little like a given, but it’s one that you always have to keep in mind, even when you’re not actively shopping for care package ingredients. I keep a mental list of about half a dozen items that A really likes to get while on deployment and always keep an eye on them for sales. When they do go on sale, I buy in bulk for future care packages, knowing that I can hold on to them for months. This works really well for snack foods, sports drinks and even toiletries.
3. Spread the wealth. I love individually packaged items for care packages. I know they’ll stay fresher longer when they get to A and I can split them up over multiple boxes. Sending two or three packs of trail mix at a time gives me a little more bang for my buck because I’ve only purchased once, but shipped multiple times. Plus breaking down a big box into smaller items helps fit more into the box.
4. Coupons. I’m not an expert coupon user by any means, but it seems silly not to use them when they come in the mail every month. They make coupons for just about anything these days which can be super helpful for care package shopping, especially when toiletries are involved. Combine them with a sale and you’ve got enough left over for your own little deployment treat! #eatallthedonuts
5. The $5 bin. This tip may vary depending on your store, but my local super center has a $5 bin filled to overflowing with cheap movies. It’s not an every care package kind of thing, but I’ve found a few good ones over the past few months. Plus at just $5, I don’t care if they never make it home after they’ve given A a break. You can also find similar bins for books or CDs.
6. Small things have big impact. Some of A’s favorite care package items have been the cheapest. Packets of family photos, long letters or hand drawn cards are very cheap but go a long way to making a care package great and a deployment less lonely.
Overall, I usually spend between $30 and $50 per care package (not always including shipping), but these tips often help me come in under budget. Hopefully you find a tip or two that will save you some money on care packages during your next deployment!
What’s your favorite money-saving tip when it comes to care packages?