Frugal, Personal Finance, Saving Money

Don’t Buy Envelopes: Strange Ways to Save Money

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.

6 thoughts on “Don’t Buy Envelopes: Strange Ways to Save Money

  1. Who would’ve thought …until now…pretty darn good even the total making of one on your own; I will definitely be putting more of these to the side for such an occasion. Thank-you

  2. You need to be careful when using someone else’s envelope for your own purposes. For instance, I started using envelopes my brokerage sent me for purposes of investing money and used them for other mailing purposes. I didn’t realize that the bar code on the envelopes automatically routed my mail back to the brokerage house, regardless of the address I’d used on the front of the envelope! I only learned this because the brokerage sent me a letter telling me about it. So check for bar codes first.

  3. Good thoughts. When reusing a business reply envelope: if there are black bars (not a bar code, though) on the very bottom of the front of the envelope, be sure to black these out. They are an automated code that USPS uses to automatically deliver the envelope to the original addressee. I remember years ago listening to a Christian radio telethon, and hearing about a donation that arrived very late – some thrifty soul had decided to use a preprinted “Focus On the Family” envelope but changed the address to the telethon radio station. Because of the bars on the bottom, it had been automatically delivered to “Focus On the Family”. Those kind folks not only put it in a larger envelope and sent it to the station in time for the telethon, they included a letter of explanation in case any other viewers had the same idea.

  4. to get a variety of envelopes hit the stores the day after a holiday and the person that is changing out the cards say from thanksgiving to christmas will be glad to give you as many as you want and whatever sizes needed too. They have to send the cards back to the company and the envelopes are tossed so they are free for the asking. I use a lot of bigger sizes for my photos as I am a photographer the different colors are great for other projects like name tags for speakers etc.

  5. Learned from the Tightwad Gazette by Amy D: carefully unglue the envelope, turn it inside out and glue or tape it back up. all printing etc will be on theinside. This is not professional but it’s great for friends, sending swapped coupons, etc. Saves labels too.

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