Since January 2019, the regular first-class rate for stamps increased to 55 cents. Depending on what you’re mailing, there will be plenty of times when you’ll wonder if you need one stamp or two. It’s inevitable! However, if you often make the mistake of overestimating the postage you need to send a letter, you are essentially throwing money out the window. While it might not feel like much when it’s “just a few cents”, these cents do add up over time.
Most letters that weigh less than one ounce nowadays can be sent with a first-class rate stamp for 55 cents. Adding a second stamp (when you don’t know the true postage rate for your letter), results in a very generous donation to the post office. Within this article, we’ll discuss a few other methods you can use to determine the correct postage, and ensure that your letter arrives safe and sound.
If you are sending a two-ounce letter, you are obviously over the one-ounce weight limit rule for one 55 cent stamp. A two-ounce letter costs $0.75 to mail ($0.55 for the first ounce and $0.20 for the additional ounce, per the January 24, 2021 price increase). If you place two 55 cent stamps on a two-ounce letter, you are overpaying at $1.10 (and you’ll never get that money back). You can imagine how quickly that can add up over time.
How Many Pages (or Pieces of Paper) Can You Mail with One Stamp?
When it comes to how many pages you can mail in a one-ounce letter, the answer is typically between four to six sheets of standard paper. Keep in mind that you also need to account for the weight of your envelope. As long as you are below one ounce (all-in), you’ll only need one 55 cent stamp. If you use heavy paper or larger envelopes, then the price of postage will increase.
If you’re anticipating the two-ounce rate, then you are looking at being able to mail about ten pages of standard paper with your envelope. If you aren’t sure about the weight of your envelope, keep in mind that every post office in the United States has a scale available. Experiment with the paper and envelopes you’re using and bring them all along with you to the post office. Here, you can mess around with different page quantities and envelope combinations. This is a sure-fire way to learn how to maximize your mailing efficiency.
Lacking a Scale?
While the solutions we’ve suggested above should work great if you have access to a scale, what if you don’t? If you cannot make a trip to your local post office (due to time constraints, for example), there are other strategies available to figure out the weight of your letter.
One way to do this is to understand the way letter paper is traditionally sold. Letter paper comes in reams, which means there are usually five hundred pieces of paper in every ream. Most reams of paper reveal a weight on their ream. Keep in mind that the weight on the ream can be a bit misleading because it’s not referring to the package’s total weight. Instead, the weight tells customers the total weight of the paper before it was cut down to the size of a letter.
When letter paper is packaged, its size is 8 ½ by 11 inches. However, it’s standard procedure for manufacturers to weigh letter paper when it’s still in its uncut size of 17 by 22 inches. Here’s how it breaks down:
Every uncut sheet creates four cut sheets once the process is complete. Therefore, the weight that you see on a ream of paper is actually four times more than what you physically have. The most prevalent letter paperweight you’ll see is twenty pounds (20# or 20lb). That means a ream of that same type of paper weighs five pounds once it’s been cut.
If your head is spinning after reading all of that, trust us, you’re not the only one! Scooping up a personal scale will always remain the most convenient method for prepping letters/packages for shipment. However, with the above information, you should be able to figure out how to calculate paperweights if you’re in a pinch (so that you’ll know how many stamps to use). It will take some mathematical calculations (and a lot of patience), but it’s certainly worth it in the long run, to hang onto your hard-earned cash.
Paper Weight Calculations
If you can assess how much a paper ream weighs, then you can figure out the weight of an individual piece of paper (by dividing by five hundred – since there are 500 sheets in a ream). For example, if your 20# paper ream physically weighs five pounds, then each piece of paper would weigh a total of 0.01 pounds. From there, for postal reasons, we’ll want to convert to ounces.
One pound of weight has sixteen ounces in it. If you want to know how much a sheet from a twenty-pound ream weighs, you will multiply that individual sheet weight (0.01lb) by sixteen (.01×16=.16). That means a single sheet would weigh 0.16 ounces.
If you purchase copy paper often, then you know it usually comes in twenty-pound reams of paper. However, if you aren’t sure what type of paper you are using (but it looks like it’s standard-sized), you can most likely estimate that your paper weighs five physical pounds per every five-hundred sheets of paper.
After you know how much each sheet of paper will weigh, you then need to take one more step. You’ll need to multiply that weight by the total number of paper pieces you plan to use. So, if you have ten sheets of paper and each piece weighs 0.16 ounces, then your total paper will weigh 1.6 ounces. Leaving a bit of room for the weight of your envelope, that means you’ll need two 55-cent stamps (much like we discussed earlier).
Once you know the total weight, you can double-check and confirm the U.S. Postal Service’s chart on current rates. With USPS, you’ll be fine with one 55 cent stamp for any letter that weighs up to an ounce.