To stretch your marketing budget this year, head first for the mail room. "Postage is one of those things that's often overlooked," says Dan Francis, CEO of St. Louis Pre-Sort, a Missouri business that sorts and puts bar codes on mail for 400 corporate clients. Francis says the average small company can save one month's postage each year by mailing more wisely.

Pay attention to details. Tell employees to fold mail and use a standard business envelope instead of a 9-by-12-inch envelope. You'll save 5¢ per piece plus the price of the more expensive envelopes. Mailings that aren't time sensitive should be shipped third class, not first, to save 6¢ a piece.

Consider size when creating direct-mail pieces. Mail that has been presorted but doesn't meet post-office size guidelines is slapped with a service charge of 5¢ a piece. Contact a design analyst at your local Postal Business Center and ask for the free guide The Small Business Guide to Advertising with Direct Mail.

Clean up your mailing list. The 96 Postal Business Centers around the country will perform a onetime free service: they will take your mailing list (up to 50,000 names) and insert the correct postal bar codes and standardize addresses. You can also incorporate the bar codes using a program such as My Professional Mail Manager, from My Software Co. Either way, you'll likely qualify for the post office's automation discount.