Among the many, many things your online store has to manage, shipping customer orders is a pretty big one. And, one of the most difficult parts of shipping out those orders is dealing with the potential delivery charges. If left untracked, those costs can derail not only your shipping budget, but your entire operation. That’s why it’s important to be aware of how delivery services charge for your shipments, and most services today use dimensional weight. If you understand it and use it correctly, you can keep your online store’s accounting in the green.

What’s dimensional weight?

Dimensional weight, also known as dim weight, volumetric weight or cubed weight, is a pricing technique used by courier and postal services. They take into account the length, width and height of a container and create an estimated weight the container should carry. From there, they charge customers for whichever is greater: the actual weight of the package or the dimensional weight.

So how do you manage dimensional weight and keep shipping charges to a minimum?

Use a smaller box

Placing a small or lightweight object in a large box will likely trigger dimensional weight charges, as the estimated weight will be heavier than the actual weight. That’s why it’s a good idea to use appropriately-sized boxes for your shipments. Though every delivery service uses their own equation to determine dimensional weight, shipping your product in as compact a box as possible will minimize delivery charges.

Use a mailer envelope

Not everything needs a box, and using mailer envelopes are a great way to reduce the difference between actual weight and dimensional weight. How many times have you ordered something tiny, like a battery or a memory card, only for it to come in a huge box? Because of their low profiles, mailer envelopes reduce delivery charges for small or flat items. Use bubble mailer envelopes to hit that sweet spot between delivery costs and product protection.

Give exact dimensions

If you don’t explicitly mention your shipment dimensions on your shipping label, some delivery services will use a laser scanner to determine size. If the computer rounds up to whole numbers, it may record your shipment as being bigger than it is, and increase dimensional weight charges. Don’t leave it up to the computer, man.

Consider: multiple shipping cartons

It might seem efficient to put multiple products into one shipment. But, imagine you’re putting several stuffed animals into one large box—you’re placing several lightweight items into one roomy container. And what happens when your actual weight is lower than your dimensional weight? Yup, that’s right, you trigger dimensional weight charges. Using several smaller boxes might be more packing work, and means multiple shipments, but the cost savings can really add up over time.

Consider: multiple shipping providers

Remember how we said every delivery service tends to use their own dimensional weight equation? That means you can get markedly different shipping costs depending on what you’re shipping and who you’re shipping it with. It can be worth your time to determine if using multiple delivery services will benefit your bottom line. 50 cents cheaper a shipment may not sound like much individually, but imagine the savings when that adds up across your fiscal year.

Delivery charges are never a fun thing to talk about, but they’re necessary when it comes to budgeting for your business and its future. Being aware of how dimensional weight works, and how you can use it to your online store’s advantage, can save you plenty of time, money and headaches.