Postage Meters

There are two primary postage meter companies: Pitney Bowes and Hassler. Both provide excellent products which can help an organization stamp its outgoing mail very efficiently. The United States Postal Service is getting into the business with Stamps.com, by which you can print out your own postage in your office.

The problem is not in the efficiency but in the effectiveness of having a postage meter. Meters are designed to be time savers; that is their whole purpose. There isn’t much direct savings in using a meter except to accurately weigh outgoing mail to get the correct postage. However, organizations use first-class postage probably 85% or even 95% of the time, so that figure is well known. It should be easy to add the correct postage almost all the time. On the other hand, every organization has examples of someone running an envelope through the meter and then realizing there is a much higher figure on the meter left from a previous user, and those errors sometimes cost lots of money.

Meters rent for about $150 a month to several hundred dollars per month. In a year, that is at least $2,000, which translates to about 4,347 first class stamps (2013 postage is at 46 cents).

$2,000 is a lot for small to mid-sized churches, especially when that money doesn’t save the church any money, just some time. I believe that churches with smaller budgets (and thus smaller postage budgets) should not have a postage meter at all. It will take time for the staff to affix the correct postage and for the staff to go to buy several rolls of stamps, but the time saved is much less than $2,000 (or more if you’re renting a bigger meter).

Also, postage meters typically have a five-year contract, and contracts automatically renew (I hate that feature!) if you don’t cancel several months in advance. That locks you in for another five years at $2,000 a year. Another situation is that postage meters get the new postage rate when it goes up. The church office could instead buy the “forever” stamps at the current rate and use them for several months. Yes, that only saves you a penny or two per letter ,but “a penny saved is a penny earned.” And using www.stamps.com from the USPS is like paying a premium for your stamps and the convenience of not leaving your office. This costs $16 per month for small users so if you use $200 of stamps each month, your average first-class stamp costs 50 cents (4 cents more than the current cost).

Here’s my recommendation:

  1. Call your postage meter company to cancel your contract (even if you have several years to go, do it now so  you don’t forget later).
  2. Wait until your postage meter contract expires.
  3. The week before your postage meter contract ends, go buy a month’s worth of stamps and give the stamps to the heaviest users in the office. Do not buy too many; you don’t want to have too much money tied up in stamps in case some of the stamps “walk” out of the office.
  4. Then about once a month, resupply your office with the needed stamps. If you send packages, you may need a postage scale (available from any office supply store) and a variety of stamps of various amounts (but not too many of those).
  5. Then, use the money budgeted for the postage meter for something else in the office.

Lead On!

Steve

I am a strategic thinker, a short- and long-term planner, and I am experienced in creating and managing operating budgets, endowment funds, and giving campaigns. I believe that church finances must be efficient, effective, and excellent.