A friend of mine recently sold something on eBay, where the maximum postage she was able to charge was £6. So imagine her surprise when she arrived at The Post Office to post said parcel to find that it was going to cost her a massive £12.85!
Royal Mail changed their prices in April 2013, and whilst the price of stamps and large letters remained the same, parcels are now split into different sizes, meaning anything that weighs under 1kg but is more than 8cm thick will see the price jump from £3 to £5.65. Ouch. But there are ways to beat this!
Firstly, you need some scales. I would strongly suggest you get some digital kitchen scales. I got mine for £10 from Tesco, but you can also easily find some in Argos, Wilkinsons, etc. They allow you to accurately weigh your items to work out the postage costs.
Then go and order your free parcel template from Royal Mail. Mine arrived on the following day (and I'd ordered it on a Friday). Having the guide means that I don't find myself rounding up the postage ‘just to be on the safe side' – I can easily measure items before listing them. If your parcel is under 45cmx35cmx8cm then it costs £3 to post First Class, done. Even better if it fits into a large letter slot as prices start from just 90p for First Class.
If your item exceeds those dimensions then the price will rise to £5.65 and if it exceeds 1kg (but is under 2kg) it will jump from £3 to £6.85. And if your item is over 1kg and exceeds the maximum dimensions then you
better take out a mortgage will be charged between £8.90 – £32.40. This is where it is cheaper to use a courier. Gone are the days when sending something via courier costs over £20.
Collect+ are my firm favourite! Their prices are transparent and they are one of the few couriers who don't care what your parcel dimensions are. You will need to print postage at home for them, but anything up to 2kg costs £3.99 to post (as opposed to Royal Mail's £8.90), 2-5kg costs £4.99 and 5-10kg costs £6.99. Your parcel also has compensation up to £50, whereas Royal Mail have decreased their compensation to just £20. With Collect+ you do have to drop off your parcel, but you can find a local drop off point on their website. I've found that in my area the drop off points are generally Spar convenience stores, Jet garages or Costcutter stores. Because not a lot of people use this service, you aren't queuing outside the Post Office door or stuck at home waiting for a courier to arrive.
If Collect+ doesn't take your fancy, then you also have Parcel2Go, where you put in your parcel's dimensions and weight to be shown a list of possible couriers who will come and collect your parcel and get it delivered. For comparison, a parcel that would cost £6.85 with Royal Mail will cost just £3.99 + VAT with the cheapest courier.
I've created a handy postage guide which compares Royal Mail and Collect +. It is an easy way to judge how much postage will cost you and whether you will be better off using a service other than Royal Mail.