Now that I pay most of my bills online, have email, a cell phone, and a million other ways to stay in touch, I have very little need for envelopes. I rarely have envelopes in the house anymore and, on the rare occasion I need an envelope, I hate having to go to the store and buy a whole box just for one or two. I have two solutions to this problem.
The first is to reuse envelopes. Most commonly I use the envelopes that come in my junk mail. Even though these are preprinted, it does not mean that they can’t be reused. I simply print address labels and stick them over the preprinted addresses on the envelope. I use one label for my return address and another for the recipients’ address. The best envelopes to use are the ones that have only addresses on them. Envelopes that have corporate logos or other printing on the back or things like “order enclosed” printed on the front aren’t good candidates as they can confuse your recipients.
Even though many of these are postage paid, I always apply my own stamps. Using a postage paid envelope to send it to anyone other than the intended recipient is illegal. Simply place your own stamp over the postage paid stamp and you’re all set.
I also reuse envelopes that people send me. I use this tactic especially when I need larger manilla envelopes. I receive quite a few of these, but only occasionally do I need to send one out. I keep the undamaged ones and apply fresh address labels and postage when I need to send something out. Not only am I saving money, I’m giving a few envelopes a second life instead of immediately relegating them to the landfill.
You can also make your own envelopes. This is handy if you also make your own greeting cards or invitations. You can make them out of plain paper or get creative and use other craft papers you have lying around (just make sure your envelope is sturdy enough to stand up to the postal service). It’s very simple to make an envelope. Lay a piece of paper on the table. Fold the opposite diagonal corners in so that the ends touch. Then fold one of the remaining corners up so that it overlaps the corners you just folded. Use tape or glue to adhere that piece to the inner folds. You’ve now created your envelope. You have one remaining fold to make when you are ready to seal your envelope. Use tape or glue to seal your envelope once you’ve stuffed it. Square pieces of paper can make an envelope without cutting. If you use an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper, you will have to do some cutting to make the folds line up.
Note that I don’t recommend these tips for any sort of professional correspondence. If you need to impress a client or potential employer, send a real, unused envelope. You may be impressed with your frugal skills, but others are likely to view you as cheap and unprofessional. Beyond that, homemade or reused envelopes are a good way to save a little money or get by in a pinch. The person who opens your bill at the doctor’s office isn’t going care that it’s homemade or that you used an envelope from a credit card offer.