It just doesn't make sense.

First-class postage stamps could rise to 49 cents starting in 2014 under a proposal by the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service. The increase would raise about $2 billion in additional revenue a year.

Under the plan, first-class mail postage would rise 3 cents, or 6.5 percent. Pricing for other mail, including postcards and packages, would also rise on Jan. 26.

The Postal Service's governing board said the increases are needed due to the "precarious financial condition" of the Postal Service, which is under congressional mandate to fund billions in future retirement benefits of postal workers.

The rate hike will require approval from the Postal Regulatory Commission because under federal law, rates cannot be raised over the the rate of inflation, currently about 2 percent.

Why not increase the price of postage stamps by 4 cents? Why not make the rate 50 cents instead of 49 cents?

The bulk rate could remain slightly less, but it would add even more cost effective with a nice round figure of 50 cents for postage stamps.

Recently, the Postal Service proposed other cost-saving measures, including ending door-to-door delivery for millions of consumers.

First of all, it's harder to calculate the price of stamps at 49 cents than it would be at 50 cents. For example, if you buy seven stamps, many people will need a calculator to confirm the price whereby the cost of a 50 cent stamp can be figured in their head.

Second, every time somebody buys stamps they will have to wait for the postal clerk to give them change.

Third, stamp machines would be easier to operate if the stamps are 50 cents instead of an odd-numbered cost.

Considering how few stamps the average consumer uses, that extra penny won't put any family into the poverty bracket.

As part of the rate increase request, the cost for each additional ounce of first-class mail would increase a penny to 21 cents while the price of mailing a postcard would rise by a cent, to 34 cents. The cost to mail a letter to an international destination would jump 5 cents to $1.15.

Many consumers won't feel the increase immediately. Forever stamps bought before an increase still would cover first-class postage. The price of new forever stamps would be at the higher rate, if approved.

The Postal Service also said it would ask for adjustment to bulk mail and package rates in a filing with the commission Thursday. No details were immediately provided.

The agency last raised postage rates on Jan. 27, including a penny increase in the cost of first-class mail to 46 cents.

Even with the rate increase, the Postal Service expects to operate in the red by billions of dollars this year.

Making stamps 50 cents instead of 49 cents won't make a lot of difference in that deficit, but every little bit helps.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com