By Jo, My Gosh!

Here are my final 5 tips for saving money on care packages during deployment. I hope they work for you!

1. Use packaging that matters

No matter how skilled you are at Tetris-ing your care package, you will probably have nooks and crannies and extra space in your care package. Even if it’s small, use that space to your advantage. John appreciates when I use plastic shopping bags as packing material — he can reuse the bags and is always in need of them. Can’t fit the whole box of granola bars in intact? Open the box up and slip individual bars in the cracks between the other items. Write a whole slew of letters and wedge them into small spaces. Make sure that what packing material you do use either makes your recipient smile or is useful — don’t just send wadded up newspaper.

2. Get friendly with dollar stores, dollar sections, and clearance shelves

Face it — most of what you’re sending in care packages will either be consumed, thrown away, ruined, or left behind when your recipient comes home. Choose your expensive items carefully. If you’re looking for items that are disposable, check out discount stores. My five-and-ten of choice is Five Below (they always seem to have the funkiest, most interesting stuff), but I’ve also found helpful items at The Dollar Tree. Check the ends of the shelving rows at Michael’s and Staples — usually they will hide their heavily discounted clearance items there. Target and Michael’s also have pretty awesome dollar sections that have both raw crafting materials and gift items. (Watch the coupons for Michael’s– they will sometimes have coupons that can be used for total purchases, as well as their standard 40%-off one item. Michael’s also has a 15% teacher’s discount, if you are one.)

3. Use free materials

If you haven’t heard yet, the USPS will deliver care package supplies right to your door! They’ll ship you different sizes of the boxes and customs forms (which you can also pick up for free at any post office); however, their Care Package Kit also includes free packing tape. Packing tape is expensive. Spend three minutes on the phone and save yourself some dough. Click here for more information.

4. Send homemade!

Don’t be afraid of sending homemade goodies — both edible and otherwise. I sent John homemade Christmas ornaments, an origami picture frame, a picture-a-day calendar, not to mention the dozens of granola bars and cookies I’ve shipped.

5. Avoid single-serving foods when possible

Since single-serving products are almost patently more expensive than bulk ones, this is a great place to save money. Depending on the situation, this can be tough. John was in a situation where I could send him whole boxes of cereal and packages of cookies and crackers because he had a place to store them. I also made my own single-serving foods by measuring out the serving sizes and bagging them in small Ziploc® sandwich bags.

Jo is engaged to the man of her dreams, a sailor who’s currently deployed. Although time away is no picnic, Jo has taken that time to get creative with her care packages ideas, crafts, recipes and all sorts of helpful advice and information she shares on her Jo, My Gosh! blog.

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