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Save Big Money on Shipping With These Important Tips

Ways you can shave costs and improve your bottom line by making smarter shipping decisions.

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For the savvy small-business owner, finding ways to save money on overhead expenses is a no-brainer. But often it's in the everyday details where much of your hard-earned (or bootstrapped) money is being wasted. In particular, shipping costs can quietly eat away at your business's expenses without your even knowing it.

The trick to saving on shipping costs is knowing what products and services are essential to your business and figuring out how to minimize what you spend.

Here are four important ways business owners can keep their shipping costs down and make sure they aren't leaving money on the table.

1. Work your negotiation power.

Business owners too often don't take advantage of their ability to negotiate prices down with vendors. Each of the shipping carriers you choose from has vendor representatives who can discuss and negotiate costs with you depending on the volume and frequency of your shipments. Don't shy away from trying to lower those costs.

For example, you can negotiate down ground minimum charges with your carrier, according to Trevor Outman, co-founder of San Diego-based parcel consulting service Shipware. Dimensional weight pricing, residential surcharges, and large-package surcharges are some of the other tacked-on fees that can often be negotiated down when talking with vendor representatives.

2. Never guestimate.

Always take advantage of resources and tools to help you more precisely determine costs and shipping time. If you're sending a large volume of packages, consider investing in a postage meter that will allow you to more precisely weigh and label packages. Also be sure to take advantage of shipping tools offered by carriers. For example, USPS's Shipping Assistant app can calculate delivery times and help you keep track of and verify deliveries. Software services like ShippingEasy, InterShipper, and iShip can provide shipping costs and online freight quotes to help you make better-informed decisions in your comparison shopping.

3. Don't pay for services you don't need.

Keeping an eye out for added-on charges on your shipments can help prevent overspending and help you formulate a better long-term strategy. "Because no two shippers are alike, the surcharges that have a material impact can vary from one shipper to the next," Outman writes in Supply & Demand Chain Executive. "Understanding which accessorial surcharges are your top offenders is important."

For example, Outman advises keeping an eye on zone usage rates. If you're shipping cross country more often than within your 150-mile radius, it might be wise to consider moving your inventory closer to customers with something like an outsourced fulfillment center.

4. Tap into carrier perks.

While offering your own custom packaging may seem like a way to get exactly what you're looking for, oftentimes using the standardized packaging provided by your carrier can save you considerably on costs. This will help you avoid additional dimensional fees should your packaging not meet FedEx or UPS standard measurements. But this doesn't mean you have to get rid of your own personalized touches like gift boxes or unique packaging.

These carrier perks can help you save on costs:

  • Opt for a standard padded envelope that you put your package into rather than sending it in a non-standard box to cut costs over time.
  • Use online and prepaid shipping services to get discounted rates on prepaid shipping labels, which can save you as much as 20 percent on costs.
  • Take advantage of free USPS supplies and pick-up service when paying for your shipping online.
With the plethora of data, services, and online resources available to you, it's important to make sure you do your due diligence. You'll save your business money simply by cutting shipping costs as much as possible.

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