The United States Postal Service never sleeps.
In just a single day, millions of letters, packages, and parcels are handled by the USPS.
In your average business day the USPS adds 4221 new delivery addresses to its database, making sure that more and more Americans are able to take advantage of the USPS mailing infrastructure.
181.9 million pieces of first-class mail alone – first-class mail alone! – are handled by the USPS every single day. Hundreds of millions of pieces more are handled across Priority, Overnight, Media, and other specialty USPS services as well.
At the end of the day, the USPS averages handling about 20 million mail pieces every hour. That shakes out to about 330,000 mail pieces handled every minute or nearly 5500 mail pieces handled every second.
To say that they are pretty busy is the understatement of the century.
Combine all of this with the fact that the USPS also changes or modifies the addresses of 120,000 people or businesses every day, processes north of 270,000 money orders on a daily basis, and does nearly $1 million in online postage stamp and retail sales through the USPS.com website and it’s not hard to see how busy they really are.
Unbelievably, though, the USPS continues to offer incredibly low price mail services to all Americans – giving them the opportunity to send letters, postcards, packages, and parcels without spending a small fortune on postage along the way.
This is made possible in large part because of the small army of letter carriers that the USPS employees.
More than 75,000 letter carriers are currently employed by the post office, many of them driving their route but almost 10% of them – nearly 7500 – walking their route on foot and making sure that pieces of mail get to every single address in the system, no matter what.
Unbelievably, the USPS does all of this without accepting any tax dollars whatsoever from the federal government.
To learn a little bit more about how all this can be possible – and how much it costs to send a letter these days – we put together this detailed guide.
How Much Does It Cost to Send a Letter?
Each year the USPS assesses just how much they have to charge for postage, and while changes aren’t all that uncommon they almost never involves significant jumps over the previous year.
2020 was no different, with your average first-class letter being able to be shipped for the extremely affordable price point of a single first-class stamp – priced at $0.55 (the same exact price that it was a year ago).
This means that if you’d like to send a simple letter to anyone in the country – anywhere in the United States, including in Alaska or Hawaii – you’ll only have to get your hands on a standard envelope and a single first-class stamp.
Stamps can be purchased at any local post office but can also be ordered online. It’s not hard to find both deals and discounts on stamps, either – especially when you order on the web. It’s not hard to bring the first-class price point down even lower than $0.55 when you order in bulk.
Believe it or not, it’s even possible to purchase “Forever Stamps” that guarantee and protect first-class delivery for your letters no matter how much the price of an individual stamp may increase in the future.
The beautiful thing about these Forever Stamps is that they can be purchased today and used tomorrow, a year from now, a decade from now, or a generation from now and will still be valid for your first-class delivery.
Try and find a deal like that anywhere else.
When you get right down to it, expect to spend at least $0.55 on first-class mail with your letter as well as whatever it costs to put that letter in an envelope.
All in you’re probably looking at a total cost of less than one dollar to get your letter from your local post office or postal box to any other address in the United States.
Current Postal Rates for Letters (2020)
As we mentioned a moment ago, USPS Postal Service rates fluctuate from year to year (most of the time).
Below we highlight the currently available postal rates for 2020. These prices are subject to change in 2021 (and beyond), though the price jumps usually aren’t very big or significant.
Even still, it’s not a bad idea to have a look at current postal rates through the USPS website before you move forward.
First-class mail is an incredibly popular solution for mailing letters United States, specifically designed with small envelopes and likely packages in mind.
Currently the price of a single first-class stamp sits at $0.55 for a 1 ounce package or envelope, and these stamps do not ever expire. You’ll be able to use the stamps the same way you can use Forever Stamps, even if the price of postage goes up in the future.
Letters and packages that are heavier than 1 ounce are going to be more expensive than that single $0.55 stamp, though.
You can expect to spend anywhere between $0.55 and $3.80 on first-class mail depending entirely on how much that package, parcel, or letter ends up weighing.
It is important to know that you cannot send anything through first-class mail that weighs more than 13 ounces, though. After that, you’ll have to bump up to Priority Mail (at least) to have your mail delivered through the USPS.
Priority Mail letters can be sent alongside packages and parcels through this specialty service, with guaranteed delivery between one and three business days after you have sent your letter out.
A lot of people choose to take advantage of this service for a couple of different reasons, not the least of which is the free addition of USPS tracking and formation included with every letter you sent out.
Flat rate envelopes and boxes are available free from the USPS, with Priority Mail delivery services starting at $7.50.
Obviously that’s quite a bit more expensive than the $0.55 you would spend on first-class mail for your letters or postcards, but you get a lot more wiggle room when it comes to the size and weight of your letters and envelopes.
A lot of folks like to use Priority Mail to send pictures, flash drives, and other pieces of media attached to their letters – particularly with the flat rate option. You can send envelopes and boxes that weigh up to 70 pounds through the Priority Mail service at the USPS, too.
That’s going to work for pretty much any kind of letter you can imagine!
The addition of $100 worth of mail insurance is another nice bonus that comes free of charge with your Priority Mail delivery.
Priority Mail Express
If you absolutely need to have a letter delivered overnight that you’ll want to choose Priority Mail Express from the USPS.
Significantly more expensive than first-class mail, prices with Priority Mail Express begin at $26.35 – with flat rate envelopes available as well.
Sure, that is a whole lot pricier than $0.55 per letter but you do get guaranteed overnight delivery so long as you drop your letter off at the post office before 10:30 AM. If you miss the 10:30 AM deadline you still get guaranteed second day delivery, which is still a lot faster than even Priority Mail is most of the time.
Priority Mail Express increases your overall mail insurance included on your packages and letters, too. Instead of the $100 protection you get with traditional Priority Mail you get $200 worth of insurance, and still get to take advantage of complementary USPS tracking information you can check and verify anytime you’d like.
Those that want to send their letters with physical media attached – including books, audio recordings, video data, film, photographs, or anything else that needs to be handled in a somewhat sensitive way – are going to want to think about using Media Mail.
This is a very cost-effective solution that provides a little more care and a little more protection for your most sensitive information, letters, and documents.
Prices for this form of mail delivery through the USPS begin at $2.80, with flat rate envelopes and boxes available from the USPS as well.
If your letter is going to be longer than eight pages or heavier than 13 ounces and you don’t want to pay $7.50 (the baseline for Priority Mail) it might be worth going with Media Mail even if there’s no extra media included in your envelope.
Shipping with Media Mail is a little bit slower than Priority Mail, however – and even slower than first-class mail. Both of those services offer between one and three business day deliveries as a general rule of thumb, but Media Mail as a general delivery average of between two and eight business days.
Just be aware of that before you decide to take advantage of this particular service.
How to Send Letters in the Mail
With digital communication services so popular these days there are a lot of people that haven’t ever sent a letter through the mail – including an entire generation that’s been raised almost entirely on email and social media alone.
Here’s how to send letters in the mail regardless of the type of mail delivery service you choose through the USPS.
For starters, you’re going to want to begin the process by getting your hands on a standard sized envelope or postcard.
Standard sized envelopes and postcards are available at every post office in the country, and are usually available online, and office supply stores, and even department stores.
There are nonstandard sized envelopes and postcards available as well, but these may not be the perfect option for you going forward.
Sure, you get a little more space and a bit more size to work with when you go in a nonstandard direction. But anything that will not comfortably fit through automated mail processing equipment then needs to be handled by the USPS by hand – and that’s going to increase the cost of mailing significantly.
After you get your envelope you’ll want to make sure that you properly address it to your recipient.
Start by carefully printing the delivery address directly in the middle of the envelope, beginning with the name of the individual or the organization that you are mailing this letter to. Follow that with their street address, their town and state information, and then their ZIP Code.
Be sure to include your return address in the top left-hand corner of the envelope as well. This guarantees that if there is a deliverability problem your letter is returned to you instead of just from away or “lost in the shuffle”.
Finally, apply postage to your envelope (including first-class stamps if that’s what you’re going to use to send your mail) and either drop it off at a local post office, in a PO Box, or put it in your mailbox and make sure that the flag is in the upright position.
After that you are good to go!
Looking for a More Modern Approach to Mail?
If, for a number of different reasons, you are unhappy with the way you receive mail from the USPS – as well as packages and parcels from companies like FedEx, UPS, and DHL – and don’t want to deal with a PO Box any longer new might want to check out all that US Global Mail has to offer.
A modern solution that includes mail scanning, mail forwarding, digital record-keeping, check depositing, and package acceptance services (as well as a whole host of other benefits) US Global Mail is one of the most trusted modern mail alternatives to USPS services.
You can learn more about all that they have to offer on the services page of their website. A quick Google search for reviews will also show you just how many thousands of people are using the service right now as well as how overwhelmingly popular it is as a modern alternative to a USPS PO Box.