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5 Ways to Survive a Postal Service Shutdown

How to Pay Bills and Send Birthday Cards if the USPS Goes Bankrupt

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Could you survive a Postal Service shutdown? You might have to.

Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe warned that his agency is so financially strapped that it might actually close its doors. "The Postal Service is on the brink of default," Donahoe said at a U.S. Senate hearing in September 2011.

The USPS has cut costs in the face of escalating annual deficits as its total indebtedness approached a $15 billion debt ceiling. It was also looking to close 3,700 facilities, end Saturday mail and cut delivery to just three days a week.

But there's still the chance of a total Postal Service shutdown. Here's how to cope.

1. Keep Your Netflix Movies Coming

Netflix
Netflix

Millions of Postal Service customers rely on their carriers to keep them in a constant supply of movies from the DVD rental service Xbox 360 and Wii, Internet-ready televisions and even iPads and iPhones. If you're worried about the speed of your Internet connection, don't. Streaming movies works will every kind of broadband service.

Hey, who needs the Postal Service?

2. Send That Birthday Card Online

Hallmark
Hallmark

When you care enough to send the very best, send Hallmark - on the Internet. There will be no need to lick a stamp or stick an envelope in the mailbox in the event of a Postal Service shutdown. Hallmark and lots of other e-card services allow customers to send birthday cards, condolences and other greetings online. Some are free. Some cost money.

Not that the greeting card industry is wishing for the demise of the Postal Service. Quite the opposite. Hallmark's president and chief executive office, Donald Hall Jr., told Congress in 2010 that his company sees itself as a partner with the agency. "We value the people who work at the Postal Service, the people whose businesses depend on the mail and the public that is connected by it," he said.

3. Use Email Instead of Writing Letters

GMail
Google

Seriously. Postal Service shutdown or no Postal Service shutdown, you should have an email account. It's the quickest way to communicate, and one of the very reasons the Postal Service is seeing dramatically lower mail volumes and coping with multimillion-dollar losses every year. The agency was handling about 167 pieces of mail in 2011, down 22 percent from just five years earlier.

"The way people work, interact, learn, communicate, do business, and live their daily lives is vastly different than it was for our parents and even for many of us," Donahoe told Congress.

Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! all offer free Internet-based email programs. There are plenty of other free email services out there, too.

4. Pay Your Bills Online

Bank of America
David McNew / Getty Images

What about your bills? Will you be able to pay them on time in the event of a Postal Service shutdown? Without a doubt, yes.

Most major utility, mortgage and credit card companies allow their customers to pay bills online at their websites. You can also pay your bills online through many major banks such as Wells Fargo, which provide free bill-pay services. Failing those two methods, you could call the utility, mortgage or credit card company on the phone and set up automatic withdrawals from your bank account.

There really is no reason to pay bills through the U.S. mail anymore.

5. Use a Courier

FedEx
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Hey, if you need to send a package the old-fashioned way, no problem. There's always UPS and FedEx, privately run courier services. Even the Postal Service relies on FedEx to ship mail across the country; the private courier runs the world's largest cargo airline and took in about $1.4 billion from the semi-independent government agency in 2010, according to published reports.

FedEx ships about 4 million pounds of Postal Service mail every day under a seven-year contract with the agency. The contract, reportedly costing the USPS about $1 billion a year, runs until 2013.

If they're good enough for the Postal Service, they're good enough for you. 

But if you need to ship a letter or package locally and in a hurry, try a bicycle courier.

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