I may have loved it more before Facebook because it was a sure way to make connections with friends and family who live far away at least once a year. But, despite the whole social media explosion of recent years, I still love Christmas cards. There is nothing more exciting than going to my mailbox during the month of December and finding a handful of cards from the people I love.
Because Christmas cards are one of my favorite things and I've diligently sent out cards every single year of my marriage—this year marks our 17th annual Christmas card—I have managed to streamline the process so it goes quickly and smoothly every year.
The number one secret to not being stressed about your Christmas cards is starting early. So just remember that as you read through the rest of the steps: Start early. December 1st is not early. For some things, even November 1st isn't early enough. Start early.
1. Keep your address list updated year-round
The beauty of social media is that you are usually more aware that people have moved. I know not everybody is super active on Facebook and they often don't mention a move, especially if it was just to a different home in the same area. But most people do mention a move. If you see someone on your Christmas card address list mention they are moving, ask for their new address.
I actually tend to just make note of those who have moved and then sometime in October I quickly email or message everyone to get their new addresses. I prefer this method because most people are pretty quick to answer and then I get all the addresses sent to me at once. It's easier to update your address list this way.
Either way, pay attention all year long! Inevitably I miss a few each year and usually get 4 or 5 cards sent back to me—which is great! It means I know to find out the new address and can update my records for those people early.
I keep my address list in an excel spreadsheet on my computer. I also make sure to put it on my external hard drive each year after I have sent cards out. With over 100 addresses on it, it's not something I want to lose in the event of a computer crash!
2. Include Christmas cards in your Christmas budget
I don't know how you do your Christmas budget, but we set aside a little each month for Christmas. We have a final savings goal that becomes available beginning in November and that number includes gifts for the kids, gifts for each other, gifts for our families, gifts for neighbors and friends, Christmas food, and Christmas cards.
When we were still in school, my Christmas budget was much smaller than it is now, but I still set aside a portion for cards. Make sure to budget for them!
3. Take your photos early
This year, I took some photos back in July that I loved and so I decided right there and then that they would be the Christmas card for the year. Sadly, the perfect Christmas card photos do not present themselves to me so early every year. And some years I really have to work for them. But I do try hard to have the photos finished before Thanksgiving, because on the years where that has not happened, I am scrambling during the craziest time of the year to get my cards done and it becomes stressful. This is about keeping it stress-free—so take your photo early!
4. Design and order your cards before December 1st
When I saw my very first ad for Minted, I fell into a deep and abiding love. At the time, I was designing my own cards because that was what I could afford. But I always strived to make them look as Minted-y as possible.
Now that I can budget for my favorite Christmas cards, I let them do the designing.
Not only does Minted make beautiful card designs, they are also in the business of making things as easy as possible and alleviating your Christmas card stress. For instance, I love that you can choose the photo you want to use and plug it into their website so you can easily see which designs work well with it.
With hundreds of beautiful cards to choose from, this just makes things so much easier! In the screenshot above, I selected cards with one photo and a portrait orientation, and then uploaded my own picture. Even though there were still 11 pages of choices, it was so much easier to quickly see which ones I loved. (Hint: I loved several on this page, but none of them was my final choice.)
I ended up choosing a design called Simple Message for my 2015 card. It fit what I had envisioned for the photo, and it fits my personal style, too. I like things simple and understated. Didn't it turn out lovely?
There are lots of options for personalization. You can choose a different card shape (I stuck with plain old straight edges for this year), or you can add something on the back. I chose to add another of my favorite photos from the photo shoot with Mele Kalikimaka as another greeting. The muumuus and the ukuleles pretty much dictated that! But you could add a quick note about your year, a photo collage, or just choose one of Minted's pretty graphic designs.
Once you've decided on a design, Minted makes it super easy to personalize and order. And, should you happen to accidentally keep the sample family name on your cards, their customer service is great and they will help you cancel that order pretty quickly. (I don't know anyone who could be so stupid—oh, wait, I guess I did that last year. Oops!)
5. Buy your postage in November (or even earlier)
The holiday-themed postage stamps usually come out in late September or early October. I know my post office runs out of many of the designs by early December, so I try to purchase them early (which reminds me, I need to head to the post office and get my Peanuts stamps for this year!).
6. Write your newsletter before Thanksgiving
If you like to send a newsletter with your cards, it should be written by Thanksgiving. Or perhaps over Thanksgiving weekend. I like to get my cards out on December 1st, so in order to have copies of the letter made and to have time to get all of the envelopes stuffed, Thanksgiving weekend is a hard deadline.
Unfortunately, I do not write the newsletter in our household. The Maestro has a long standing tradition of writing hilariously quirky Christmas letters, and if I took it over, I'm afraid my entire Christmas card list would revolt. I have people asking me when the cards are going out—not because they want to see the beautiful design I chose this year, but because they want to read my husband's crazy entertaining letter.
So sometimes he doesn't get to it early enough and my cards go out later than I wanted. But it isn't for the lack of trying! (And a little bit of nagging.) Anyway, it's much less stressful to write the thing early.
7. Make time for addressing, stamping, and stuffing envelopes
This part isn't hard, but depending on how many cards you're sending out, it can be incredibly time consuming. As soon as I receive my box of cards in the mail, I am addressing, stuffing, and stamping them. Even if the letter isn't complete, at least all the cards are inside the envelopes, the stamps are affixed, and they are addressed.
The stuffing and stamping are both excellent mindless TV watching activities. Otherwise you might be bored to tears.
The addressing is the worst. I have handwritten it all, printed labels out on my computer, or even printed directly on the envelopes from my computer. It all takes a ton of time. And it seems like as my Christmas budget has increased, the time I have has decreased at the same rate.
So, for the past two years I have taken advantage of Minted's FREE envelope addressing service. Yes! I said free! Not only do they have gorgeous Christmas cards, they will address your envelopes in matching fonts for absolutely free! All you have to do is upload your address spreadsheet and your envelopes will come magically addressed.
They will address your envelopes for free, but if you want the return address printed as well, that is an extra fee. But an extra fee I was totally willing to pay for because it meant I didn't have to do it! (And my return address really is printed on that envelope, I just photoshopped it out.)
Last year, instead of paying for my return address to be printed on the envelopes, I paid for some cool wrap-around labels. They were less expensive, and I loved how they looked, but they did take extra time to apply.
|Last year's photo card, labels, and envelopes—someone moved without telling me!|
You can choose to have the envelopes match your card (as I did last year), or you can choose something different (which I did this year). Everything is really easy to customize.
No matter what you decide, make sure you plan the time for putting them all together so they are ready to go in the mailbox on December 1st!
Now, please excuse me while I go stuff a few envelopes and send another nagging email to The Maestro about the Christmas letter.
To design your own card at Minted, click here: Minted Holiday Cards.
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