Thursday, November 18, 2010

Simplifying the Holidays...Christmas Cards

                        (Card courtesy of HoHumCards)

To send or not to send.....that is the question!

One of the widespread traditions of Christmas is the sending and receiving of Holidays Greeting Cards.
Americans shell out big money throughout the year, but especially over the Winter Holiday Season buying and sending Greeting Cards.

Not only does there seem to be a Hallmark store on every corner, but even Grocery stores are now selling greeting cards.  You know it's got to be a lucrative product if a grocery store starts selling cards along with all the other non-food items they now stock.

Depending on how extensive your card sending list, this tradition can be more draining on your wallet than you realize.
First there is the cost of the actual cards and envelopes.  Have you looked at the price of premium cards lately? ECK!
Then there is the cost of the postage....1st class stamps seem to go up in price every year nowadays.  And if you buy those expensive fancy oversized cards, you'll pay almost double for postage.
And don't forget to figure in all the time you need to shop for the cards, address the cards and mail the cards.  And if you write a personalized message or enclose the dreaded Christmas Letter, the labor/time factor gets even bigger.

So let's step back and ask ourselves a few questions.....

Why are we spending money and time on this traditional activity?
1.  Do we send cards because we always have so it's an automatic Holiday chore?
2.  Do we send cards because it's something that others just expect of us?
3.  Do we send cards to connect with friends and family who live some distance from us?
4.  Do we send cards to "show-off" to our friends and family?

Ascertaining our motivations behind sending Holiday Cards is key.  If we want to participate in the ritual of Christmas Cards we need to be doing this for the right reasons.  The only 'right reason' to be sending cards, seems to me to be #3.

If we find that we need to continue this tradition, we then need to ask ourselves this question....

Can we change anything about this activity to make it cost less, take less time, and/or make it less stressful for ourselves?

To bring down the expense of the "old way" of doing Holiday cards we might consider these points....

Cutting down on the number of cards we send out.
    If we are using Cards to stay connected to loved ones who live distant from us, then only send cards to those people and not the folks we see often or live close by.  Cut the cost of cards/postage by giving loved ones who we will be in physical contact with during the season an in-person Christmas Greeting only and ditch the cards and their costs.
   Another way to cut the card sending list is to only send cards to people who send us cards back.  I know it sounds childish....a bit of "well if you don't send me a card, I won't send you a card!"  Face it, some people just don't care about cards and those people are usually those we send cards to every year but never reciprocate by sending us one.  If we take them off our list it might actually prompt them to contact US, if only to ask why we don't like them enough to send them a card anymoe....but at least it will get them to take the initiative and get in touch with us first!  And the point here is to reconnect so that still would be a win/win in my

Find cheaper or frugal ways to "do" the Cards.
   If you can't bring yourself to ditch the Card Thing, then consider ways to make this tradition hurt less in the wallet.
    Consider spending less on the cards.  Figure out how much of your Holiday Budget you can allocate for Card sending, deduct the postage you need to purchase and that will tell you what your card buying limit should be.  Stop trying to out "shine" everyone else's card choices by getting the glitziest and most expensive cards and the ones that are over-sized and need extra postage to boot.  Look for the card bargains instead.  Always buy your cards by the box and not the individual ones since those will cost you much more.
Shop for cards at discount retailers(the "Marts")and Dollar type stores.  Even better hit up true Outlets and Clearance stores(Odd Lot, Big Lots, etc.), Thrift Stores, Yard/Garage Sales and  Estate Auctions. 
   The best place to find cards is always the free places....ask on a Freecycle type group or ask family who save stuff because "you never know when you'll need 'insert an item here'".  I bet you have a packrat relative who has a big stash of cards who would love to supply you with cards!

In addition, if you can think ahead for next Holiday Season, shop for your cards during the After Holiday clearance sales when items are marked down from 50-75% off.  Or save the Christmas cards you receive this Season, remove the front of the card(as long as there is no handwriting on it's reverse side)and turn it into a Postcard.  Sending a postcard Greeting will also cost you less in postage so it's a double win!

   If you are crafty and enjoy spending your free time on that sort of thing, try your hand at making your own cards.  Try to source cardstock paper for cheap or free.  If you have an assortment of pens, paints, markers, glitter, glues, rubber stamps and ink pads at hand already, create your own one-of-a-kind card creations.
Or design a card and using computer software, print out your own cards. 
Also, consider getting your kids to make the cards.  This will give them a creative outlet, give them an activity to participate in and all your friends/relatives will LOVE to receive a kid-made card, especially any grandparent types in your life.  But make sure you are around to supervise any card making session, especially if you don't want your dog, couch or expensive dining room table "decorated" too.

With both these suggestions, be sure to keep an eye on the cost.  If these alternatives will be higher than buying store made cards, perhaps craft cards for loved ones instead of purchasing gifts for them.  If the cards and gifts will be prohibitive to your budget, do one OR the other, not both.

Find alternatives to traditional Cards.
   Reinvent the card ritual.  Like I mentioned above, try sending Christmas Postcards instead of traditional "in an envelope" card.  Cost less money to mail.

   Or don't send actual physical cards.  In this electronic age, if your intended card recipient is "computer savvy" and has an email account, how about an e-card?  There are quite a few e-card sending sites on the internet, both ones that charge and ones that don't.  Since free goes further to keep you on budget, check out these free card sending sites....
*  --my personal favorite

There are other sites if you search around, as well as sites that charge a modest monthly or annual fee to belong and send cards: Hallmark, Blue Mountain and American Greetings are among the most well-known ones.
While some Christmas Etiquette guides warn against sending e-cards as a substitute for a real life card I disagree.  I have a sneaking feeling that those guides are sponsored by the folks behind the big name Greeting Card  businesses.  After all, they are the ones who have something to lose if the card buying public stops spending those billions of dollars on cards.   ;-)

So get your head wrapped around the whole Christmas Card issue and see if this is one area where you want to make a change this Holiday Season.
And be sure to...ahem..."address" it soon because the US postal system volume swells starting the day after Thanksgiving and if you elect to send cards, you want to mail them so that they arrive before Dec. 25th(or the 1st Day of Channukah if it's a Channukah Card, etc.).   Personally I try to mail all cards by the 15th of December.  If you are making up a master list for "Things To Do" for the Holidays, get your Take Care of Greeting Cards on that list early!

Do you have any tips or ideas about Holiday Greeting Cards?
Leave a comment and share your thoughts!



  1. We send out cards that I make every year. These aren't crafty cards, they're computer generated.

    We have many artistically oriented friends who all make or design their own cards, so it's sorta of a given that we all await our cards with some anticipation and wonder what everyone is going to come up with this year.

    For family members and others outside our circle, they have come to expect us to make our own cards but they have no clue why!

    I make my cards keeping in mind how much they will cost to reproduce (I try for free on my laser printer at work)) and also try to design something that will fit into envelopes I already have. Sometimes that means making a 'liner' for a plain envelope.

    This year, I'm making door tags. They'll fit into oblong ivory envelopes we have a surplus of.

  2. Great post!!

    We have been making our own greeting cards for years. It started many years ago when Hubby asked me to make a certain card for him to use and it was a hit. (I had worked as a graphic designer years ago.) Then, I found Hallmark Greeting software for the pc and bought it for the kids to play with. We all ended up using it for all our greeting card needs for years. Whe the software would no longer work on our pc....updated pc, old software... I actually purchase the new version of the software and still use it to make our cards.

    I try to find cardstock on sale and have a supply that I found on clearance last Spring, but even if I bought it for full price at Walmart, I can pay $.50/card. I think that is pretty good. (Of course, we could by $.50 cards at the dollar store, but we didn't create those. LOL!

    We only mail cards to family members that really appreciate them, like my parents and my MIL. We make cards for the kids, but hand them out at Christmas (with some cash inside.)

    I send ecards to several family members and friends. In the summer, I decided to spring for a membership for $9.99/year and have sent out a TON of cards. The selection is a lot bigger and nicer than the free ones. but the free ones are fun, too.

    We are such a card making family, that I made our wedding invitations many years ago, made Samantha's high school graduation announcements and just made her college graduation announcements. She was thrilled that they are more personal than the ones ordered through the school.


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