Pull out the piggy banks - postage stamps for first-class mail are going up by one cent beginning Sunday.
The rate changes will also affect the cost of both express and priority mail, money orders, return receipts and post office box rentals.
The new 34-cent letter-rate stamps are now available at all post offices and other distributors including Longs Drug Stores and Mail Boxes, Etc businesses. One-cent stamps are also available to allow excess 33-cent stamps to be used.
Jeanette Tascon, a supervisor at the main Lodi Post Office, said customers are not "making a big deal" out of the increase, which she called "not a big difference."
"It's inevitable," said customer Tim Thalken of Lodi. "All prices are rising. And a penny's not that much."
Since mid-December, Lodi post office workers have been selling the new stamps to customers as a courtesy, said service clerk Linda Moreno, who has already memorized the new rates.
Some customers have made rude comments regarding the increase, she said.
"They think we're going to get money out of it," Moreno said. "But they should stop and think about it; there are some things going down.
"Some customers have even said that the cost (of a stamp) should go up to an even 35 cents. I guess it's easier for some to pull out a quarter and a dime."
The new stamps, marked "USA FIRST-CLASS," will be replaced in later printings with the 34-cent denomination.
But Art Kamenar of Lodi was in the post office Thursday buying more 33-cent stamps.
"I bought too many penny stamps, and now I've got to use them up," he said. "I already bought the new 34-cent stamps."
Don Kundert, also of Lodi, already had bought his new postage stamps and said he didn't have to purchase any one-cent stamps.
"I worked it just right," he said.
The new rate increase ultimately adds up to approximately 13 cents a month, since the average family sends about 13 pieces of mail in a 30-day period, said Karen Kalush, Lodi's interim postmaster.
Other postage rates increases include the cost of overnight express mail mailing going from $11.75 to $12.25 and two-day priority mail, weighing up to 1 pound, increasing from $3.30 to $3.50. The $3.95 flat rate will remain the same.
International airmail sent to Mexico and Canada will increase 12 cents beginning Monday.
The current first-class letter rate is 48 cents.
With the exception of money orders, return receipts and mailing certificates will also increase by as much as 80 cents.
"All of the services went up," Kalush said, adding that the increases are in line with higher operating costs. "We have to break even."
The good news is some rates are going down. For example, the cost to rent a small post office box will decrease about $1 per month, Kalush said.
The cost of mailing a postcard will remain at 20 cents.
The last rate increase for first-class mail was January 1999. At that time, the 32-cent postage fee set in July 1996 increased by one cent.
Periodic rate increases are required to cover the postal service's operating costs. The department has not received any tax money for operation since 1982.
Despite the postal service's effort to keep costs low, Kalush said a hike was inevitable.
"We've been trying to reduce our costs by performing better on the operational side and using automated systems, but the price of gas and other things really impacts us, so we couldn't avoid an increase," she said. "We have to, to keep planes flying and trucks rolling."
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