How to get more from your mail
Even in the age of email, old-fashioned “snail mail” is still an important and well-used service. However, traditional mail has its hassles and limitations. These include issues like misdirected items, damaged parcels and messy mailboxes. Thankfully, there are a few great high-tech ways you can improve your postal experience. Here are some tips to help you better track, direct, protect and declutter your snail mail.
SEE YOUR MAIL ONLINE
You don’t need to visit your mailbox to check on your snail mail anymore. Services are available that can alert you to incoming mail or even allow you to view the contents of letters – all from the convenience of your Internet-connected devices.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) offers the free Informed Delivery service. If you sign up, you’ll receive a daily email with a summary of your incoming mail. This includes scanned images of the exteriors of the letter-sized pieces that will be delivered to you that day and tracking info for any packages that are on their way to you through USPS.
To receive notifications about inbound packages from other carriers, you’ll need to sign up for their services, such as Delivery Manager from FedEx and My Choice for UPS.
Private paid services such as PostScan Mail go even further, allowing you to redirect your mail and have its contents scanned and uploaded for you to read from an online account.
These options may be especially useful if you travel frequently or have multiple addresses.
GO PAPERLESS FOR BILLS AND STATEMENTS
Bills are no fun no matter how they’re delivered, but receiving them by snail mail may be the least appealing option. Hardcopy deliveries can create extra clutter and are susceptible to being delayed, lost or stolen.
Instead, consider opting for paperless bills and statements instead. Many utilities, subscription services and financial service providers offer this option, which typically means you’ll receive a monthly email with your bill or statement or a notification that it is available to view on the company’s website.
If you make the switch, be sure to keep paying your paperless bills on time, and consider setting up automatic payments to help ensure you never miss a payment.
PROTECT YOUR PACKAGES WITH A PARCEL BOX
Are you worried about package thieves or rainstorms getting to your deliveries before you do? If so, a parcel box may be the solution. This is a secure, weatherproof container for receiving your incoming packages. While there are many purpose-built options, the do-it-yourself route may be cheapest. You can simply purchase a waterproof garden tool storage trunk, place it on your porch with an unlocked padlock and post instructions for the delivery person to deposit your packages and then lock them up.
HOLD OR REDIRECT YOUR MAIL
The hold mail and address change services from USPS are nothing new, but they’re still important tools for managing your mail. Both services can be activated from the USPS website.
If you’ll be out of town for a while and don’t want mail piling up at your address, the Hold Mail service allows you to stop delivery of your mail for three to 30 days. When initiating the hold, you may choose to have your accumulated mail delivered at the end of the hold or held at the post office for you to pick up.
UPS also offers the option to hold deliveries, as does FedEx. The Access Point service from UPS and hold at location service from FedEx also allow you to have your packages delivered and held at local businesses for you to pick up.
If you’re moving or otherwise want your mail forwarded to another address, the Change of Address feature from USPS allows you to redirect your mail for 15 days to one year. While this service is a convenient catchall, it’s still best to have your inbound mail addressed directly to its final address, so don’t forget to notify all the relevant parties after a change of address.
Snail mail may lack the speed and convenience of high-tech communication, but with the help of these tools, you can benefit from the best of both worlds.