Saturday, October 22

Calculating the Cost of My Postcard Habit

It's that time again, time to send out another batch of Postcrossing postcards. Yes, it's exciting and fun, but...

I don't want to sound ungrateful, but there are times when a hobby resembles a chore. Look at World of Warcraft: gamers have spent (by now) six million years, in aggregate, fighting their way up the ranks in Azeroth. I've read so many complaints of people who spend eight hours a day their job, drive home, and their WoW guild demands another six hours for a high-level dungeon raid. (Yeah, I used to play, but I never got into guilds because the only ones that would have me were petty, backstabbing little gangs of unreliable teenage boys, with all the social graces that attend.)

Now, Postcrossing. You start out being able to send out five postcards at one time, and you had to wait until some of them were registered before you could send out more. But once your sent total went up to 20, you could have six cards out at once, and so on, and so on. I'm up to 13 cards out simultaneously, and most of them go through--I think I've talked about the problems with sending cards to China. (Also, flimsy postcards only serve as appetizers for all the postal processing machines in their thousand-mile trips. Voice of experience.)

All but two of my cards have been received. That's eleven postcards I get to write today (or whenever I get around to it). I already have a dozen booklets of designer postcard sets, so I don't have to run out and spend eleven USD on new cards, though many users would prefer a map of my state to whatever artsy-fartsy cards I like to send. But then I've got to look at sparse user profiles and compile personal messages for each person I'm assigned to write. Many Postcrossers don't do that, I've gotten cards that just say "Happy Postcrossing" or "Greetings from England." But participating in this program is part of my belief in quality correspondence, the dying art of thoughtful expression, and I want these cards to be a treat to receive. Coming up with nine unique expressions, however, in response to "I love Justin Bieber" or "no ads cards please" can be daunting.

Once that's done, I like addressing the postcards because I'm good at it. I like any opportunity to practice clear, controlled handwriting. But then the stamps: I no longer buy 98¢ stamps because they only come in one design. I'm sure Postcrossers overseas have had their fill of this solitary design. The solution is easy: buy two sheets of First Class stamps and one sheet of 10¢ stamps, and that will get any postcard to its intercontinental destination.

So: eleven postcards (not counting US$11 for them), plus overseas rate postage for each... that's US$10.78. I guess that's not terrible, once a month--and it does take about a month for the majority of the cards to reach their respective destinations. But if I did have to buy new cards each time, and if I had to buy postage for all 13 cards, that would be US$23.74 each month.

...I guess that's still not terrible. That's, what, four lunches at the cafeteria at my work, or two reasonably nice dinners at a neighborhood restaurant. If I only ate out twice a month, I'd feel better about myself. And that's still only one-fourth what I pay in bus fare, and I've got to take the bus in order to get to the job site that earns me money for bus fare and postage stamps.

Perhaps I just had to work that out on my own, say it aloud and see it outside of my head. It's not that bad. And considering how SE Asia's been flooding ever since August, it's a pretty lame complaint to have anyway.


Sue said...

Yeah. It's cheaper than most obsessions. I am also at 13. Sometimes I amuse myself by waiting for ALL 13 to be received before sending again, which can take a while. But, I get the cheap thrill of bright and colorful stamps in my po box as payback for my postcrossing investment.

I consider it a cheap thrill. Thanks for your post.

Christian Fredrickson said...

There are so many great returns for this investment. I just got my first postcard from Chile! Its ID was in the 5000s. Like you said, I've gotten so many remarkable postage stamps from around the world--a really nice set of Russian stamps held on just long enough to reach my apartment, then flaked off in my lap. I pasted them into a place of honor: the front cover of my address book.

Twelve of my 13 have found their homes (one to Russia is halfway to expiring). I should go pick out my cards now. Thanks for your comment!