Thursday, November 17, 2011

Do You Need a P.O. Box?

A lot of people get P.O. Boxes - are they really necessary?

I got rid of my P.O. Box this year.  It just seemed like an unnecessary expense, for a number of reasons.  While the actual cost of the P.O. Box was only about $100 a year, the actual cost, in terms of having to drive to the Post Office every day (about 5 miles) added up to about another $312 a year in gasoline, plus wear and tear on the car.  And if you throw in the time taken to drive there and back, it was a time bandit, as well.

Many folks use P.O. boxes because they travel a lot - perhaps going to their vacation home, or living "on the road" in an RV.  But many more keep a Post Office box mostly for romantic reasons, or because they want to have a generic address for their business or the like.

In a recent promotion for the USPS, a cardboard display at the local office argues that a P.O. Box offers anonymity - you don't have to give out your local address, if you don't want to.  It is an interesting selling of paranoia in this fear-driven age.  But of course, your name and address are largely a matter of public record, if you own property, for example.  And if you live in fear of people finding out where you live, perhaps you need to get a grip on life - unless you are already in the witness protection program.

My parents had Post Office boxes for many years.  When moving to a new town, they were handy if you had not yet bought a home.  And my Mother used to argue that it gave you an opportunity to socialize and meet people.  And this is true - our Post Office is certainly a place to meet folks!

But the Post Office will deliver mail directly to your home, for free.  Why pay for something that is offered at no extra charge?  Why drive somewhere when they will drive to you?

So, I got rid of the P.O. Box this year.  It was a bit of a PITA to chase down all the change of address forms for the few remaining organizations and institutions that insist on communicating by mail.  But in the long run, saving over $100 a year - or close to $500 a year, with travel costs - is well worth it.