In the digital age, it seems we hardly use snail mail anymore. However, one of my favorite things while on a music tour is sending my girls postcards and letters from all the different and wonderful cities I travel through. Here’s a list of some of the common stores where you can buy stamps while on the road.
- Office Supply Stores
- Online at stores like Amazon
Indeed, a lot of us even pay our bills online. But even in 2017, snail mail isn’t completely unavoidable, so it’s important to understand how mailing by post works and, most especially, how stamps work, since they’re a crucial part to the whole snail mail process.
Stamps are usually sold in sheets or booklets, because it’s obviously more convenient than buying one stamp at a time. Typically, stamp sheets start out around 20 stamps, but some come with smaller amounts of stamps, and stamp booklets can have 100 stamps or more in them, and are usually bought when people know for certain they’ll be mailing a bunch of post—like for wedding invitations, for instance. The number of stamps sold is one thing that factors into the price of stamps—and that’s the easy part.
Each individual stamp also has a price. The “standard” stamp in the United States is known as the “Forever” stamp. This is because it’s the stamp for the current first class postage rate. First class postage rates change quite often; the reason these are called Forever stamps is because even though you bought them at the current first class postage rate, they will still be good forever—hence the name. Right now, as of this article, the current Forever stamps are 49 cents. The price may change at any given time, but if you were to buy a Forever stamp right now, that stamp will still be good no matter what, because it’s a Forever stamp.
There are other stamp price ranges too, broadly categorized in over or under the Forever stamp price. Since how much postage (in other words, stamps) you need is based on a certain formula, mainly regarding weight, distance, etc., large packages may need a large stamp denomination so they’re not covered in stamps. On the other end of the spectrum, the stamps under the current Forever stamp price, such as 10 cent stamps, are for “additional postage”; for instance, you might use these if a Forever stamp almost covers it but you need just a little more.
How much stamps cost you at any given time depends on how many you buy and what the current Forever price is, if you’re buying Forever stamps, which is what most people do to ensure they always have the right postage. If you were to purchase a 20-stamp sheet of Forever stamps at the current 49 cent rate, you’d be paying roughly $9.80, which would be jarring back in the day when people mailed letters all the time, but is pretty reasonable by today’s standards.
How to use stamps
Think of stamps as the price you pay to get a letter delivered. The Forever stamps, noted above, change in price frequently, but are always good—forever—once you buy them. A Forever stamp will ensure that any domestic mail weighing less than an ounce is paid for and will arrive at its destination. For items that are over an ounce, you will have to add additional stamps (such as a 10-cent stamp), and for big-ticket items, you’ll want to use a postage calculator to be sure you have enough postage applied to the package.
To use a stamp, peel off the back of the adhesive and affix it to the top righthand corner of your letter. It should be to the upper right of the place you have addressed the letter to be sent. Some stamps still use the old adhesive where you have to lick it or wet it to get it to stick. For a professional touch, use water to wet it—never lick mail a stamp you might be sending somewhere that needs to make a good impression. It’s just yucky.
Going back to the number of stamps you need, it can be confusing if you’re mailing anything more complicated than a standard piece of mail to be delivered in your own country. In cases like that, use an online calculator or go inside the post office to have them calculate the postage you need. This will ensure your letter gets to where it needs to be. And if your mail is super important—like a payment or something official—definitely calculate the postage if need be, because it’s not worth the risk that it be undelivered.
How to mail
Believe it or not, mailing a letter is actually the easiest part for most. Once you have your letter addressed correctly, with your return address included, and your correct postage stamps affixed, you’re ready to mail your letter. You can drop your letter in any of the blue US postal service boxes that are for outgoing mail, and it will be delivered. If you want to play it safe, you can also go inside your post office, where they will likely have two slots—one for local mail, one for non-local mail. Slide your letter in the correct slot and you’re good to go. For those times you need to be extra safe or need help with postage, take the time to wait in line and talk to a postal worker—they can help you, and it’s highly recommended if you’re mailing internationally.
Why do we need stamps?
You may be wondering why we even need postage stamps at all in today’s world. While we’re used to firing off emails and paperless billing, it’s important to remember that when it comes to snail mail, real people are doing the heavy lifting and they obviously have to be paid for the service they provide. Your stamp is proof that postage was paid for and it’s mandatory that you have the correct postage stamps on your letters and packages, or they won’t be delivered. Stamps also cover administrative costs and insurance costs in case someone loses or steals your letter, which is another reason they’re so important to the whole snail mail system at large.