If you need to ship packages, whether it is because you are selling old books, movies, and games or giving gifts, you can quickly print all kinds of shipping labels absolutely free. Services such as FedEx or UPS already allow you to do this, so the focus of this post will be on the United States Postal Service. While several companies offer pay services such as Endicia or Stamps.com, this guide will show you how to print labels without paying any more than the postage required for mailing.
It is possible to print postage-free labels (that is, labels without paid postage) to take to the post office for payment later. This is useful, for example, for First Class mail when you don’t have an accurate scale to measure the exact weight of the item in ounces. By printing a postage-free label, you can pay for the postage at the post office and have them weigh it, ensuring you do not overpay. As a bonus, you can get electronic delivery confirmation for only $0.18 on First Class and Media Mail, cheaper than the normal fee of $0.65 to $0.75. The only danger is that not all postal employees know about the difference, and in some places such as university post offices, they may not scan the label to read the price. Therefore, I would recommend going to a real post office where every package is scanned and/or being prepared to stand firm and educate the employee about the electronic delivery confirmation fee.
There are a few software products available that let you print postage-free labels. While the USPS web site used to have this option for Priority and Express mail services, it is no longer available.
Mac: Swordfish Express
The Mac solution for this is Swordfish Express, a free program provided by buyolympia. It eventually became Endicia for the Mac as of version 2, but the free version 1 still exists and works well.
Windows: USPS Shipping Assistant
On the Windows side of things, USPS offers its own Shipping Assistant. This tool is Windows only, which means Mac users would have had no way to print postage-free labels if not for Swordfish Express above.
Labels with prepaid postage can also be printed free of charge. This allows you to drop the package off at the post office or a collection point with no waiting. By printing electronically, you still benefit from the cheaper $0.18 delivery confirmation, but without the potential complications of untrained employees.
Click-N-Ship is provided by USPS and allows you to print prepaid labels for Priority and Express mail, as well as international mail. However, if you want to print labels for cheaper services such as First Class or Media Mail, you are SOL. That is, unless you know about…
PayPal actually offers a prepaid label service that does not charge you any extra overhead fees. Normally, this is for shipping eBay auction items. However, if you access the link directly, you can print postage for use with any package. The best part is they allow First Class and Media Mail as well, letting sellers on Amazon and Half.com rejoice.
Summary of Options
In total, I’ve presented 4 options for printing labels, 2 each for with and without postage. To summarize, they are: