There are few tasks I take more seriously than my annual holiday card. Each year, as soon as the first chill hits the air, I begin to dream of lavish showpieces with die-cut snowflakes, embossed lettering and professional photos of my family in matching outfits. However, each year like clockwork, Thanksgiving is long gone before I realize that pinning ideas to my ever-growing “Holiday Cards” board on Pinterest does not make it so. Thus begins my annual mad card dash.
If you are one of the sainted few capable of mailing cards the first week of December, thank you for having your life together so the rest of us can display cards before Christmas Eve. To my sympathizers, I urge you to remember two things about holiday cards: first, this should be a gesture aimed at connecting with friends and family on a personal level. Second, it shouldn’t break the bank or be filled with stress. Regardless of your delivery timeframe, I hope you’ll enjoy these tips to keep your card-sending fun and stress free.
Make a Plan
From budget to mailing lists, holiday cards require a fair amount of planning, so start as early as possible. (Or, if you’re like me, scramble clumsily at the last minute!) If you take a little time to settle these few items, the rest of the work
Set a budget and stick to it!
This is the most important step. Holiday cards have received a bad reputation for being expensive, but they are only as costly as you allow them to be. If you have a tight budget, watch for deals from online retailers—hello, 50 percent off and free shipping! Also, with the ever-increasing cost of postage, consider sending local cards only and hand-delivering each one. It could become your new favorite tradition!
Develop a mailing list and be realistic about it.
This is perhaps the hardest part of the process, at least for me. I grew up in a home where everyone was considered a dear friend. That means I have a gift for justifying why people should make the cut. My internal dialogue sounds something like this: “Oh, I can’t forget the sweet lady at the doctor’s office. She went out of her way to get me an appointment when I missed mine. And I can’t believe I almost forgot the handyman who came to fix the faucet three months ago. It would be so tacky not to include him.” Your list can become a dark rabbit hole, so remember to keep it personal. When in doubt, start with close family and friends. After that, let your budget determine the rest.
Eliminate work and stress!
Unlike previous generations, we have the luxury of online sites like Shutterfly and Minted. Many sites allow you to upload a spreadsheet of names and addresses so they can handle mailing, or if you prefer, they will preprint the address on an envelope and ship everything to you for final touches. Preprinted addresses might not be as personal as handwritten, but if you suffer from poor penmanship as I do, the postman will thank you and your recipients will forgive you.
Design and Preserve
Now comes the fun part: making it pretty! Holiday cards come in every shape and size. The possibilities are virtually endless so here’s some food for thought when designing your dream card.
Glossy versus Matte: The Great Debate.
Though many folks are partial to glossy photo cards, matte and recycled paper have become popular options in recent years. I recommend browsing and touching cards you’ve already received and see what you prefer. Glossy papers tend to be on the less-expensive end of the paper spectrum, so budget may ultimately determine your choice.
Use photos. Or don’t.
Photo cards are becoming more popular, but with that option comes great responsibility.
■ Don’t use blurry or unflattering photos. Remember that this card could be preserved for years to come, so don’t use a photo of anyone else that you wouldn’t use of yourself.
■ Don’t be scared of creative photos. Why not organize a themed photo of your loved ones dressed as superheroes or your furry, four-legged children situated by their stockings with care? Sites like Pinterest are chock full of ideas to get the whole family involved!
■ Use collages with caution. We’ve all felt the pain of narrowing down a year’s worth of photos; however, try to keep your selection between 3-5 images and ensure they are large enough to not require a magnifying glass!
■ If you don’t have time to take a photo, or if you don’t want to, there is no shame in sending a card without a photo; include a handwritten note instead for a personal touch.
Preserve the joy.
After you receive a holiday card, what should you do with it? I love creating displays or keepsakes so the cards can have a longer shelf life. Here are a few of my favorite ideas:
■ Bind them into a book. Simply punch a hole in the top corner of each card, or two holes evenly spaced down the side, and then connect them using an o-ring or ribbon. This cute treat can be placed on a coffee table for guests and your family to enjoy all season long.
■ Display them around the house. Whether you use a wall, door, staircase, refrigerator, or any other available surface, holiday ribbon is a great way to keep your cards organized. Cut a piece of ribbon to the appropriate length (like the length of the door) and secure using poster tape or a small tack. Then use clothespins to clip each card to the ribbon. Bonus points if you decorate the clothespins to be holiday-themed!
■ Create a display board. To transition a large photo frame (think 11×17) into a quick display board, remove the glass and replace the backing with chicken wire or corkboard. Voila—you have a board that can be used throughout the year!
Now that you’re armed with these tips and tricks, remember to enjoy creating and sending your stress-free, display-worthy, not-budget-busting holiday cards!