Whether you are retiring early, living overseas, or moving abroad you will find that there are certain times when living in a foreign country can be a real pain in the Southern regions, and I mean that anatomically not geographically. What situations arise that can lead to this kind of pain? One situation is when you realize that there is something you want or need and

a) You can't find it in the country you now live, or
b) You don't want to pay that much money for that item, or
c) No one you know is coming to visit soon that could act as burro for you, or
d) You are not going back to your home country anytime soon to get the item.

Actually, come to think of it, that list could be a lot of 'and' statements instead of 'or' statements. Regardless, you want and/or need something that is not available for one reason or another. In the past you would most likely just order the item over the Internet or perhaps through a mail order catalogue. Now that is not possible or is it?

For many of these situations it can be advantageous to maintain some type of U.S. address, but preferably not a P.O. Box. (Having a P.O. Box is notoriously difficult to receive items through the mail.) Just having some type of U.S. address is only a part of the battle. (Did you notice I didn't say, "Half the battle"? That's because there are many parts to this particular 'battle.') You also need to be able to have that item, or mail in general, forwarded to your new location on a regular basis. How do you accomplish that?

One of the proven techniques is to use a "mail forwarding" business. These businesses provide you with a U.S. mailing address that can receive regular mail, magazine subscriptions, junk mail, and packages from friends or the Internet. Of course these services are not non-profit organizations. There is a fee associated with that service, and the fees vary from company to company. These services usually have different levels to their plans which can stipulate, for example, how much you can receive for the included price before overage charges accrue, and how frequently the mail is forwarded to your new location. Some services allow you to electronically view the outside of the envelope or item and then elect that the item is tossed (why pay for junk mail to be sent to you?) in the garbage. Usually these services prefer that you tell them in advance that a package is coming, and what the contents are.

You should research the available companies. In your favorite search engine you can use "mail forwarding" to be presented with a vast array of companies providing this service. Which one should you select? Good question. It would seem prudent that an established company with a good reputation be used because you may be directing sensitive documents to this location; bank statements, credit card statements, etc.

Be forewarned that is not legal to send "monetary instruments" to these locations to be forwarded to you. That would include never sending cash (duh!), or checks, or what the U.S. considers "monetary instruments." Checks, whether they are blank, filled out, or endorsed, are considered "monetary instruments." Don't send them through the mail, especially to a foreign country! Ever! Especially if the amount of the monetary instruments is over $10,000 USD then there are other considerations. Amounts over $10,000 USD must have accompanying Customs declarations, from the U.S. and to the target country. It is a huge hassle regardless of the amount and you run the risk of fines and/or seizure of the documents.

Other types of mail can successfully be sent through these mail forwarding companies. In about two weeks or so you receive your item. Before ordering an item research what items are on the exclusion list. Then, be aware that there may be Customs duty charges in the country you now live for receiving that item. If your item is over the weight limit of your plan, or larger than the 'normal' limit, there may be additional charges too.

There can be times when, even after having a mail forwarding service for mundane items, it is cheaper and less hassle to go ahead and pay a little bit extra for the item where you now live. You may in fact save some blood pressure points.