To paraphrase the great J.Lo, my love don’t cost a thing, but care packages sure do. Now, I could be wrong, but I’m like 85% sure that was the original line for that song, but producers, you know? Ok, fine. Neither do I. But I do know deployment care packages and let me tell you, those stinkers can get pricey!
While we’re all for making sure our loved one feels appreciated, we do need to be mindful of our budget when filling and shipping care packages. Deployments can be long (some over a year) and the cost of all those boxes adds up so why not take advantage of some budget-friendly hacks?
Over the past few years, I’ve sent a lot of deployment care packages and usually spend between $30 and $50 per box (not including shipping). Through some trial and error, I’ve come up with a few tips and tricks to save money that can help you too!
Saving money on deployment care packages
Flat rate boxes.
I know I’ve shared this tip before, but it’s so good and important that it deserves to be repeated. The US Postal Service will ship flat rate boxes to any military installation (with an APO/FPO address) for a standard (and relatively cheap) fee, no matter the weight. For example, I can send a large flat rate box to Iraq for the same cost as if I were sending it to Georgia. That’s really good!
One of the best ways to maximize this money-saving tip, be sure to take full advantage of the box’s size! I packed everything in the photo below into a large flat rate box for my husband so believe me when I tell you that a lot fits. Keep moving items around until you find a way to fit everything you want to send.
This sounds a little like a given, but it’s a tip that you always have to keep in mind, even when you’re not actively shopping for care package ingredients. I keep a mental list of items that my husband really likes to get while on deployment and always check to see if they’re on sale when I shop. Then I buy in bulk for future care packages, knowing that I can hold on to them for months. This works really well for snack foods, sports drinks and even toiletries.
Don’t forget that you can also buy care package decorating supplies on sale too! Craft stores regularly have sales and coupons you can take advantage of to reduce the cost of decorating your box. You can also purchase decorating supplies after their peak season. For example, buying patriotic stickers and paper after 4th of July will save you money and allow you to decorate boxes in the future.
Spread out those purchases.
I love individually packaged items for care packages because they’ll stay fresher longer and I can split them up over multiple boxes. Sending two or three packs of trail mix at a time gives me a little more bang for my buck because I’ve only purchased once, but shipped multiple times. Plus breaking down bulky packaging into smaller items helps fit more into the flat rate box.
I’m not an expert coupon user by any means, but it seems silly not to use them when they come in the mail every month. They make coupons for just about anything these days which can be super helpful for care package shopping, especially when toiletries are involved. Combine them with a sale and you’ve got enough left over for your own little deployment treat!
Coupon codes for online shopping, coupon apps like the Target Cartwheel app or even a military discount are all great resources for saving a little bit with each purchase.
The $5 bin.
This tip may vary depending on your store, but my local super center has a $5 bin filled with cheap movies. I’ve found a few good ones to send as an occasional treat in my husband’s deployment care packages. Plus at just $5, I don’t care if they make it home after deployment. You can also find similar bins for books or CDs.
Another fun option is Target’s dollar spot (or similar sections in other stores) for fun (and cheap) seasonal additions. You may not find a ton of super useful or needed items, but a few fun treats will definitely end up in your cart!
Bonus tip: small things have big impact.
Some of my husband’s favorite care package items have been the cheapest. Packets of family photos, long letters or hand drawn cards are very cheap but go a long way to making deployment care packages great and the deployment itself less lonely.
What’s your favorite money-saving tip when it comes to care packages?
Want even more care package ideas? I’m giving away 165+ ideas (plus what to put in them) here.