MADISON, Wis. (7/12/10)--Just as predictable as the latest rate increase request from the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is the negative reaction by consumers to the news (Associated Press
July 6). Don’t let the complaining fool you, though. In many cases, the good ol’ U.S. mail remains a delivery bargain. Skeptical? Consider this: The cost of mailing a one-ounce first-class letter has risen from 3 cents in 1932 to 44 cents today. But when adjusted for inflation a 3-cent stamp sold in 1932 would cost 48 cents now. In other words, it costs less
to mail a letter today than it did 78 years ago
. Even so, consumers more and more prefer e-mail and private delivery services for correspondence and shipping. This shift has caused USPS to rely more on junk mail revenue. It eventually could force the service to radically restructure or even privatize. But until then, and before you choose the Internet or a private shipper, the Credit Union National Association's Center for Personal Finance editors suggest that you compare those options with the U.S. mail for cost and impact:
* Check out the USPS online. The well-designed USPS website allows you to conduct a lot of business remotely. For example, you can calculate postage, buy stamps and supplies for delivery to your home or office, arrange for package pickup, and track and confirm shipments. * Do the math. Letters aren’t the only way the USPS might save you money. The service offers flat-rate shipping that, for example, allows you to send up to 70 pounds in a 12 inch by 12 inch by 5.5 inch USPS box anywhere in the country for $14.50. That’s a lot of fruitcake. Better yet, you could send it to someone with a U.S. military or diplomatic corps address anywhere in the world for only $12.50. * Imagine the impact. Sure you can send an e-mail instantly. But think about the effect on the recipient of your thanks, birthday wishes, party invitations, professions of love and friendship. Taking the time to communicate on actual physical paper in your own distinctive handwriting can give added meaning to your personal message, especially as this kind of correspondence becomes rarer.