In this economy it is a wise idea to have more than one money stream. If you are lucky enough to have a job great, but a rental on the side or some other means of passive income is even better. For many people selling things through the Internet on sites like Ebay or Craig's list is a reasonable form of extra income. You can sell almost anything through these sites, set your own prices, and some are auction based allowing you to watch a price unexpectedly rise. It's fun. But beware of losing your hard earned income on shipping! If you have no idea how to estimate your shipping here are a few tips worth knowing:

If you ship to foreign countries and use any other shipping service than the US governmental system, ie the US Postal Service, your buyer on the other end may end up having to pay "brokerage fees" for delivery to be completed. FedEx and UPS both ship Internationally, so some buyers may ask for that service, and then back out of the deal upon realizing how much extra these fees are. These fees are different in every country, you have no control over them, so I would recommend you always use the US PS for foreign shipments.

In addition to "brokerage fees" many foreign countries charge prohibitively high taxes called
"duty" on incoming items. You do not charge these fees and you do not collect them, nonetheless, your buyer will have to pay his or her postal carrier this tax before they can receive their item in many countries, depending on what you are shipping and the local laws. To avoid this tax, some buyers request you ship the item as a "gift". Others will ask that you declare a much lower value that the actual value. Sellers Beware! This constitutes mail fraud, and it is a crime, I would not recommend doing business with anyone who asks you to commit a fraud. At the very least, of you can not insure the parcel for anything more than the declared value. If a parcel is lost, with a low declared value, you won't get your money from the buyer or the post office, so that is a poor way to save money.

The best way to save money shipping internationally with the US Postal Service, is to sell items that fit comfortably into the flat rate express mail envelope. Express mail is the only foreign mail service that comes complete with a tracking number and $100 insurance. Insurance is available with the (cheaper) priority mail international service, but by the time you add the cost of the MORE expensive insurance to the LESS expensive priority mail cost, it's a wash. The net effect is that you are paying the same amount, and so you might as well use express mail. It's much faster.

Recently the USPS has launched an ad campaign to encourage people to use the "flat rate" boxes for domestic mail. What is not so clear from the ad, is that the smallest flat rate box ($4.95 to anywhere in the US) is very, very small. It's a little bit smaller than an old fashioned VHS tape, and the box is very flimsy. If you are shipping something quite small and dense, you might save some money using this box, but you better tape it up well. If the box gets crushed and your item damaged the net effect is worse than if you just used a regular box. Most items small enough to fit in that box could also go first class, which while slightly slower, can be a lot cheaper. Delivery confirmation is available with first class parcels as well as media mail, either one is cheaper than priority.

Some people use the lay term "book rate" to refer to the inexpensive "media mail option." The reason the post office refers to it as "media" mail, is because all manner of media may be shipped at this lower rated mail class, such as records, tapes, VHS, dvd, magazines, newpapers et al. The only restriction is that the box may contain no more than the media and an invoice. You may NOT include letters, trinkets, stickers etc. Media mail is subject to inspection, which means any postal worker, at any point can open a parcel marked "media mail." If you have included extra items, not only are you guilty of mail fraud, but your items will be returned to you, not delivered. One last point about media mail, is that the heavier the parcel the more money you will save. It is an very inexpensive way to ship forty books, however for something as light as one DVD, it may be more expensive than regular first class. Using media mail for items a pound or more will save you money. Using first class will save you money on the items that are less than a pound.

The second or "medium" size flat rate boxes the post office offers are currently $10.70 to ship any where in the United States. A car battery fits perfectly into one of the medium size boxes, and the dense weight of a car battery would make it normally about 30 dollars to ship priority mail. It's a nice saving to use the flat rate box. But not every one realizes, for an item that is less than 2 pounds it is cheaper to use a NON-flat rate box. It might be as little as $4.90 to ship an item priority mail in a plain box, if it's less than a pound and shipping to a close by location.

Priority mail is rated on weight, distance and size. So a box larger than a cubic square foot might be quite expensive to ship priority mail, even if it weighs less than a pound. For large light things, parcel post is the most economical shipping choice. For a small very heavy item, the flat rate boxes can save you money. For an item being shipped to a nearby location, priority mail is not much more than parcel post, and a lot faster. For an item going from one end the country to another, the gap between parcel post and priority gets quite big.

If you ship 20 or more large items a day, look into negotiated rates with UPS or FedEx. Either shipper is able to offer discounts to large volume shippers, where are the post office is not. However, all shippers, big or small, can get a small discount from the USPS by printing labels at home from the USPS website, in lieu of buying postal retail at a post office.