Being a digital nomad means having no permanent home; it doesn’t mean having no permanent address. While I do all my banking and other financial transactions online, I still need to be able to receive postal mail. Many hospitals still send bills in the mail, and some employers make W-2s available via hardcopy only. There are also my subscriptions to magazines such as Game Informer and Sierra, and renewals to the magazine I publish, Juiced.GS. How do I get all my mail while on the road?
Let’s take a look at some options.
As remote working becomes more common, an industry of services has developed to meet nomads’ needs. One such service is mail forwarding, which includes Earth Class Mail, DakotaPost, Escapees, and iPostal1. These companies provide a physical mailing address — some in the city of your choice (ECM offers 80+ destinations), some on just one (DakotaPost is in Sioux Falls, South Dakota). They can receive your postal mail and forward it to wherever you are in the world, though doing so still requires you have another address for them to forward it to.
Instead, most of these services will email you a digital scan of your mail’s exterior, similar to the USPS’s own Informed Delivery. You can then selectively indicate which pieces to forward (like magazines) and which to shred (such as non-profit solicitations). Some companies will also let you choose mail to open and scan the contents of, which is useful for bills and the like. If you receive a check, these companies can deposit those for you, too.
All these features come at a price, especially if you receive a lot of postal mail. Earth Class Mail, for example, charges $69 per month to scan up to ten pieces of mail; the next tier is unlimited mail at $129 per month. DakotaPost puts no such limits on your incoming mail, but they will forward it to you only once a month for $155; weekly deliveries cost $210 per month. (These costs can be offset by other benefits to having a permanent mailing address in a state such as South Dakota.)
Since I was already a resident of Massachusetts, I found it simpler to keep my address, vehicle registration, insurance, taxes, and accounting there. It wouldn’t be enough to have a post office box; some financial institutions require a street address for tax purposes. That meant finding someone who owned their own house who could ensure the longevity of their address and would be willing to share their address with me.
Fortunately, I still have relatives in Massachusetts, so, with their permission, I changed my mailing address to theirs. They will forward my mail to me twice a month for the cost of Priority Mail shipping, which I will reimburse, costing me only $20–40 per month. And since my relatives aren’t going anywhere, I know that their address will continue to be valid even after I settle down, unlike a mail forwarding service whose address I would cancel.
It may not be as fancy or immediate as a digital scanning service, and it does require finding someone who’s reliable and willing to be inconvenienced. But isn’t that the very definition of family?
Downsizing means mail, too
As an environmentalist, I’ve always been assiduous about opting out of postal mail, using services such as DMA Choice to add my address to do-not-mail lists. But this doesn’t prevent organizations with whom I have a prior relationship from mailing me. I take the initiative to email solicitors to ask to be put on their do-not-contact lists (or to put me on their email lists instead).
The less mail I get, the less burden it is for me, my relatives, and the environment.
Amazon and other packages
I occasionally find I need something I didn’t anticipate before hitting the road. I try to shop locally in each city, but some items can only be found online. It would be slow and costly to have those items shipped to Massachusetts and then forwarded to me.
Fortunately, most co-working spaces and extended-stay Airbnbs allow their residents to receive mail. I’ve used those addresses to collect my packages during normal business hours without issue. I just have to remember to remove the address from my Amazon account once I’ve moved to a new city!
Still, nomading is a good incentive to not purchase new physical objects. For that reason, I thought I would cancel my Amazon Prime account — until my mother reminded me it’s how she gets Amazon Instant Video streamed to her television. I decided that warranted renewing my annual membership.
Especially since I’m getting my forwarded from her household!
Do you still get much postal mail? How often would you need to check it? Let me know in the comments!