How Changes at the Post Office Can Cost You

Just over a week ago, the USPS announced it would end Saturday mail service (excluding packages), effective Aug. 1. The cutback is one of the most drastic changes in the agency’s history, but it’s also one of several changes made so far in 2013:

  • In January, the cost of a first-class stamp rose by a cent to 46 cents.
  • International letters to Canada and Mexico increased to $1.10, up from 85 cents. Other international destinations increased from $1.05 to $1.10.
  • The Old Chelsea Station in New York, N.Y., listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was recently put up for sale.
  • The USPS is cutting hours at post offices in several rural areas. In Avon, Mont., for example, post office hours will be limited to four hours, opening at 8 a.m. and closing at noon, according to The Montana Standard.

The ongoing changes are the result of a $15.9 billion loss in the post office’s most recent fiscal year. The agency has seen significantly less mail volume as more Americans utilize the Web for communication, and blames much of its troubles on a 2006 law that requires it to make massive payments into its future retirees’ health care fund. In 2006, the agency began to make substantial job cuts, and has eliminated 168,000 positions since then. It also expected to close nearly half the nation’s mailing centers in 2012, according to 24/7 Wall St.

The USPS expects five-day service to save $2 billion per year – a nice chunk of change, but barely a band-aid on a $16 billion wound.

What does the change mean for your money?

“Consumers will have to be more careful about making sure mailed bill payments arrive on time,” Gail Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, told MSN Money. “Pay your bill the day it arrives if you’re paying by mail,” she suggests.

If you rent DVDs through Netflix, you’ll also be affected by the mail service changes. Someone maximizing a monthly $7.99 one-disc Netflix subscription – watching the movie the day it arrives and mailing it back the next day – would get one less disc in August, if the customer started the month with a disc in hand, MSN points out.

Hallmark will also be affected by the post office change – after all, one less day of delivery may lead to more people not bothering to send cards by mail. The card company has expressed its concern via a written statement on its website:

“While we know this option was one of many the USPS has recommended in the past, the Postal Regulatory Commission concluded that savings from this move would be much lower than the USPS estimated. Maintaining parcel delivery could further reduce or even eliminate any remaining savings.

In addition, this move does nothing to address the underlying organizational and operational issues that have led to their current financial crisis.”

In short, if you’re still relying on the mail to pay bills, watch movies, or say you care, keep in mind that starting in August, you’ll have to be a little more on top of your game.

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