With a new address every 13 weeks, having your mail catch up to you can be a challenge. There are many methods to help you get mail in a timely and complete manner.
One of the best ways to lessen problems with your US Mail is to get as little as possible. Traditionally, bills are among the things found in the mailbox most often. Most can be sent to you via email. Your email address follows your computer, and you, eliminating the need to make arrangements as you wander around.
There is still some types of snail mail that isn’t easily converted to email. For these, you will have to decide which alternative is best for you. For most, there are money and scheduling concerns to be considered.
Friends and Relatives
Many traveling nurses pay rent to a friend or family member to establish their tax home. Using this as their physical address can be an easy and cost effective way to get mail. Your “landlord” can box it up and send it out as needed. It is seamless and easy to keep your friends or family up-to-date on your whereabouts.
This also simplifies things for tax purposes, as you get mail at your tax home. You can add a little to the rent to cover sending things along and going to the post office. A plus from your family member’s standpoint is that it guarantees you will call them often.
Things to consider include they might get tired of running around to post offices on your behalf. Families and friends can have their issues, and a disagreement may leave you scrambling to make other arrangements.
Post Office Options
The US Postal Service (USPS) offers programs for mail forwarding, with differing levels of speed, accuracy and expense. The cheapest is changing your address. You can use the service for as short as 15 days, to up to 6 months, with an additional 6-month extension possible.
The main benefit is that it costs only $1.05 to set up through the USPS.com website. The downsides are a lag time between the time it arrives at your home post office and when you receive it. During the transition from one address to another, things may get lost.
Another option is the Premium Forwarding Service (PFS). Mail is packaged every Wednesday and sent via Priority Mail. There is an enrollment fee and you pay $21.10 each week of service. While there is a lead-time, it is often shorter than with change of address. You also get a weekly email with tracking number, and is much more expensive than address changes.
In both cases, you have to make new arrangements every move that can potentially cause timing problems. PFS can be set-up to hold mail for a week or two to avoid delivery to your old address late or new address early.
Using Private Mailbox Providers
There are also third-party companies, or private mailbox providers (PMB) that accept mail. Most of these are in a storefront but give you a street address. They will send the accumulated mail to you as often as you request at your current location.
These can be expensive and are not available in all locations. They are safe, secure and can receive packages from all carriers. Most are franchise operations, so there is some exposure due to the risk of the location going out of business. You must also coordinate as your address changes. You can search online for mail forwarding services to find more information. The major players in the field are UPS Stores, and Mailboxes, Etc.. There are also many local stores providing these services.
Apps for That!
As with most everything else, there is also an app for receiving your mail. Virtual mailbox (VM) services act in many ways like a storefront PMB. Unlike the stores, your mail arrives at the provider’s facility. The envelopes are scanned and uploaded to your VM for viewing and managing from anywhere via smartphone, tablet, or computer.
With VM, you have more options. You can have them open specific mail, scan, and email it to be printed out or saved to disk. For mail that you deem sensitive, they can forward it to your current address. If you get junk, you can tell them to toss it out without bothering you.
Virtual mailboxes can be less expensive than some other options because most of your mail is scanned and emailed. You pay to have forwarded only those pieces important to you. It can be easier because you don’t have to contact someone every 13 weeks to update your address.
Search online for “virtual mailboxes” to find information on providers. You might want to check with your tax advisor if you can’t get a VM near your "tax home" to see if that might cause problems in April.