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Long before UPS, FedEx, DHL, and others, there was the United States Postal Service (USPS). And long before the ubiquity of emails, USPS mailed out our letters after we paid a nominal fee to purchase a stamp. These days, that nominal fee is not so nominal for those consumers who frequently mail off envelopes stuffed with letters or checks to pay bills.
According to the United States Postal Service website, effective January 22, 2023, Forever stamps went from $0.60 each to $0.63 each. Since debuting at $.41 in April 2007, the price of Forever stamps has risen by a few cents each year, with each increase blamed on low consumer demand, fuel prices, or competition from private carriers, such as FedEx, UPS, and the like. However, the recent $0.03 increase and the projected increases that will soon follow appear to be fueled by something more.
A $0.03 increase might not seem like a big deal, especially considering how much food, gas, utilities, and other things have gone up, but it is a big deal. And this is because it’s one of only a handful of $0.03 or higher increases on postage stamps imposed by the USPS in recent years.
Of course, this is in addition to the higher cost most of us are paying for food, gas, rent, and everything else that has gone up in the last few years. Since we are on the topic, the USPS cites the rise in inflation as one of the main factors in the decision to raise the Forever stamp cost from $0.60, which is what it’s been since July 10, 2022, to $0.63. According to USPS officials, postal customers can expect similar price increases every two years.
For those unaware, the United States Postal Service has been operating in the red for quite some time now. Rising inflation only adds to its existing financial woes. For context, a 2021 financial report shows the USPS will likely spend a decade climbing its way out of more than $160 billion in debt. According to the US Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), a one-time price adjustment on the cost of a Forever stamp is not enough to get the USPS out of the red and into the black.
The agency notes that bi-annual price adjustments, although they won’t make postal customers particularly happy, will help the USPS achieve much-needed financial stability in the coming years. These price adjustments also benefit individual USPS workers who are finding it more and more challenging to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table in the face of an 8.7% cost-of-living increase as of December 2022. And it does not end there; these price increases also make it easier for the USPS to keep pace with routine operating costs, which include fueling vehicles, purchasing cleaning supplies, and maintaining machines needed to sort, bundle, and prepare mail for couriers.
Available data shows the USPS Postal Regulatory Commission approved price increases almost across the board back in November 2022, and they included more than higher-priced postage stamps alone. Along with upping the cost of Forever stamps by $0.03, the approved price increases drove the cost of international letters and postcards up by $0.05 and the cost of one-ounce metered mail and domestic postcards up by $0.03. That said, it’s not all doom and gloom as far as First-Class Mail price hikes go.
The same data shows some USPS prices are going down. For example, the price of Priority Mail retail products, such as flat-rate boxes and envelopes, will be reduced. Some postal prices will remain unchanged, which is something to celebrate when you consider inflation is driving the cost of everything else up.
That said, the USPS did announce that there will be no price increases on their Parcel Select Ground or USPS Connect Local services. Long story short, the postal service is doing whatever it takes to become a more stable and profitable operation without compromising too much on the high-level customer service experience people have come to expect.
Along with being beautiful miniature pieces of art that look perfectly at home on an envelope, Forever stamps can help postal customers save money. If inflation continues to rise or if the USPS decides to, for whatever reason, raise the price of Forever stamps again, original Forever stamps, purchased at a lower price, can still be used to mail a one-ounce envelope.
For this reason, the postal service encouraged customers to stock up on them. And many did just that. Those who didn’t might be inclined to purchase them from a third-party seller selling them at a deep discount, but that might be a mistake. According to postal officials, many third-party sellers are selling counterfeit Forever stamps. They say these stamps are often sold in bulk quantities at 20% to 50% of their face value, with most sales occurring on social media platforms and various eCommerce websites. These counterfeit stamps can cause mail delays and may even make mail undeliverable.
Although most of us are only now hearing about higher Forever stamp costs and other price increases, the USPS has been working on the “Delivering for America” plan, a cost-cutting initiative aimed at helping to get the postal service out of debt, since March 2021. Along with the price hikes we know about now, that cost-cutting initiative includes adjusting mail deliveries and streamlining the sorting and distribution of mail.
The postal service also secured $10 billion in funding from the CARES Act during the COVID-19 pandemic, which will help them recover money spent on more frequent cleaning and sanitizing of mail vehicles, not to mention face masks and sanitizers for couriers. So far, the Delivering for America plan appears to be going according to plan. According to usps.com, as of the writing of this article, the USPS is on track to reduce operating expenses by roughly $91 billion and save more than $68 billion via revenue improvements by 2024. And there will undoubtedly be more to come as the postal service continues to work through the remainder of its 10-year Delivering for America plan.
In summary, the $0.03 increase in the cost of Forever stamps is but a small piece in a much larger and more complex cost-cutting initiative that will one day make the United States Postal Service great again. And this, by the way, is echoed by Postmaster General and CEO Louis DeJoy. In an official statement, he said the overarching goal of the Delivering for America plan is to improve operational efficiencies, service performance, and revenue-generating capabilities. He further says the USPS is already making strides in these areas and will continue to look for new ways to save, invest, and become more competitive in the mail and package delivery space.