21 Days to a More Organized Christmas: Mail Your Christmas Cards–or not!

As a child, one of the highlights of Christmas was receiving all the Christmas cards and letters from friends near and far. We’d keep the letters in a basket, string the cards around our living room, and put the family pictures on the refrigerator.

Sometimes, the Christmas letter was our only real communication with friends from our past. But it kept us up on their lives and gave us a small sense of connection, even though our paths had drifted apart.

It was always exciting to hear of marriages, babies, grandchildren, trips, new jobs, and exciting adventures. It was fun to see how the family pictures changed over the years. And it was always somewhat of a thrill to see how many strings of cards we’d be able to hang up.

Many people opt not to send Christmas cards or letters any more. There are many valid reasons given: “We’re too busy living life to take the time to write about it.” “We can’t afford to mail cards since postage has gone up so much.” Or maybe, “We didn’t get a decent family picture.”

I definitely think that Christmas cards and letters are an optional aspect of Christmas and I totally respect people who have chosen not to send cards in order to keep Christmas simple. That said, I think that we’ve become so used to texting and Facebooking and emailing, that sometimes we forget the joy of sending and receiving real physical mail via the postal service.

Creative Christmas Letter Ideas

If the thought of writing a detailed letter is overwhelming to you, here are some creative Christmas letter ideas:

Put together a Top 10 list from the past year.

Make a graph of some interesting facts from the past year.

Create a newspaper-style letter with short stories and tidbits from the past year.

Other Simple and Inexpensive Ideas

If you’ve decided that sending a Christmas letter isn’t your thing or mailing out a lot of cards or letters is outside your budget, here are some other ideas:

::Send photo cards.

We’ve skipped sending a letter for the past few years, but we have sent out photo cards. It’s a very simple way to send a Christmas greeting and share pictures of our family with dear friends and those we don’t get to see often. Plus, with deals like the one available from SeeHere (20 photo cards for $1.49 shipped!), creating photo cards can be very inexpensive!

::Send out your letter as a PDF via email.

Can’t afford to mail your letter? It’s perfectly okay to send it out as a PDF attachment via email. Be sure to include some sort of teaser in the email you send out so that people will be sure to open the attachment and read the letter! :)

::Post your Christmas card on Facebook.

Jenae’s family decided to post their Christmas picture/card on Facebook this year in lieu of sending out a Christmas card. This might not work for everyone–especially if most of your recipients are not on Facebook–but it’s definitely an inexpensive option!

Do you send out a Christmas card or letter or do some sort of creative alternative? I’d love to hear what works for your family!

photo by yvestown

Practical Application

1. Decide whether or not you are sending out a Christmas card or letter this year.

2. If you decide to send out something, get it created or written sometime in the next 48 hours.

3. Create your address list (if you’re mailing cards) or the email list (if you’re emailing out your card/letter) and save it in a file to have next year. (I did not set up an address list on the computer until this past year and it’s been a lifesaver to have all the addresses in one place and a place to file new addresses as I collect them. Believe me, the whole scraps of paper thing wasn’t working too well!)

4. Mail or email your cards out by the end of this week so that they will arrive before Christmas.

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Comments

  1. says

    I still love to send out Christmas cards…and I love to get them, too! I even have a “wall of fame” where I keep all the photo cards we get. It’s a great reminder to pray for different families throughout the year.

    Of course, we like to use some for crafts, too!

  2. Jen says

    I am making my own cards but not sending as many as I used to, it is very costly to make and mail them. I enjoy receiving cards store purchased or hand made or photo cards too !

  3. says

    For the last 15 years, I’ve written a letter and made a photo Christmas card. The one year that I thought I might not do it, I had a lot of people mention that they looked forward to the letter and picture so I did it anyway!

  4. says

    The last couple of years, I have put together a quiz. Friends can e-mail me back their answers and I give that family a prize (usually homemade jam). One year we did a mad lib. We left out key words in our Christmas letter and put in the parts of speech they would need to fill in the letter. Again, we had friends e-mail us their version. This was a lot of fun!

    I also have a couple of binders that are filled with 20 years worth of Christmas letters and photos. I love looking back at the photos and reading what each family was doing over the years.

  5. says

    I think Christmas cards are a cost that everyone should try and budget in. I sent out a 24 photo cards for about $17-18 this year. It was fun, and I know distant relatives really enjoy it. Actually, I love getting Christmas cards in the mail too! I love to hear the highlights of people’s lives, but no one really sends them. If anyone is interested, here is how I made and sent my cards for less than .60 a piece:
    -Bought the photo cards (the ones were you insert your own photo) at Target last year after Christmas for 90% off. So one was .89 and one was .69. Cards are the last things to go it seem.
    -My husband set up the camera on a tripod to take a nice photo of us in front of our Christmas tree. You could have a family member or friend come over and take pictures for you too. Price: free
    -I then ordered copies at Walgreens for .10 a photo. If I had planned earlier, I could have gotten a better deal, I am sure.
    -Placed a stamp on them and stuck them in the mailbox.

    Time taken: Probably about an hour. I wish I would have typed out a nice letter to go with it.

    Just my two cents :)

  6. Aimee says

    The past two years I’ve sent a family photo card with an update in May or July. We can take a great family photo outdoors and I don’t have to worry about taking care of Christmas cards on top of everything else at Christmastime. Plus then you can wait for coupons/deals on photo cards that you really want if there isn’t a specific time you have to send them out.

  7. says

    Christmas cards are one of my biggest expenses (my list is 130) and I keep trying to pare it down, but I just can’t! We have too big a family I guess! Plus, I like to get Christmas cards so I can’t complain too much!

    The biggest expense is postage as I usually take my own photo (although this year we got a family photo taken, but not specifically for Christmas), create my own 4×6 photo card in photoshop and then order them with my prepaid or free prints for less than 10 cents each at Shutterfly.

    I write my Christmas letter short so I can get 2 to a page and print them at Office Depot with a coupon (using that tomorrow!). I get my envelopes in bulk at Costco and usually print my own labels…

    All told it costs me about .55 per person to mail all my Christmas cards so I’m pretty happy with that!

  8. Cynthia says

    Although I think Christmas cards are a major hassle and I complain the WHOLE time I am doing them, I do put a lot of effort into making sure they are perfect. I don’t want to miss an opportunity to be witness for Christ. This is a good time to remind everyone why we do celebrate CHRISTmas. I take great care in choosing a card and choose one with a biblical message and a verse in it. To keep costs down, I buy them a year in advance and get them on clearance. I also buy address labels at the same time. I always include a picture which I have taken. We usually do a mini photo shoot at a nice location, with a nice background. This year we are also including a birth announcement along with the group photo. I keep all of my addresses in a Word document and just print labels for the envelopes. Computerizing the process makes it way less time consuming. When we get new cards I check the return addresses against the database and update as necessary. I’ve even considered making a stamp with all of our names on it so that I don’t have to sign all 100 cards. Maybe next year.

  9. NaDell says

    I make a postcard in Microsoft Powerpoint with pictures on one side (including one family photo and a few to show some personality) and a super short write up about each family member on the other side. They are normally printed four to a 8 1/5×11 page and I print them in color (on one side for the pictures) and b&w on the other. The copy shop cuts them, and I address them, stamp them (it’s cheaper to mail postcards than normal stamps) and I hand deliver the ones who I take goodie plates to or who I know I will see. I have a large list (at least 130), so for postage it’s about $40 to mail them.
    I love that our card is short and sweet and tells just enough about our family. I also include our blog address so if anyone wants to hear more stories or see more pictures, they can go there throughout the year.

  10. Jen says

    I know there’s no shortage of deals on Christmas cards/photos, but it’s the postage that kills me. It’s not in my budget this year, so I just sent a few cards to great grandparents, etc who are not on facebook. Everyone else will just see our photos on facebook, and I do a personal blog, so I do feel like I do a good job of keeping friends and family up to date on our lives!

  11. says

    We made a virtual Christmas card video. I posted it on my family blog, emailed it and put it on facebook. I think it will be something the kids will love in years to come. I love getting Christmas cards, so I still send out a photo card too.

  12. Stephanie says

    Great ideas. I want to start doing the newsletter type. I hand give cards to all the family and friends and neighbors we see regularly. I send by mail the international cards. All total, about 30 cards per year. I haven’t received any cards this year, so yes, fewer and fewer seem to be sending them. I got all my cards for free with photo deals this year. Thank you to this site and another (H2S). I have also made several photo collages as gifts and hope a few more deals come up. The biggest issue I have is keeping up with taking photos. Especially since my camera is acting wonky. Hint hint Santa. LOL. Merry Christmas to all.

  13. says

    I love sending and receiving Christmas cards. I sent 40 this year. I did a product review / blog post for Tiny Prints on my Columbus Frugal Living Examiner website and in exchange they sent me a code to order 50 customized holiday cards. I was able to put in a photo of each of my two children and write my own message. The cards were beautiful and since I reviewed them, I didn’t have to pay for them. So I just spent money on the postage. When you have little kids, everyone wants to see their pictures. Photo cards are an easy way to do that.

  14. says

    i love mailing and receiving cards! Ive only got 2 this year :(

    with deals i was able to get 30 photo cards for under $2 this year…i mailed 10, handed out 9 and i have 11 left in case i forgot someone

  15. Patrice says

    Ooo!!! I LOVE thst middle one! I wish I was “computery” enough to make one of those myself! If anyone makes a template for one, let me know. Would love to buy one!

    • melissa says

      Same here. I use Word for all my newsletters and can do the basics, but I have no idea where to even start making a newspaper type thing or including graphics. Would I have to buy all new software? I’d also love to include pictures IN my newsletter, but don’t think I have the software to do that either. Anyone have suggestions for how to do this, reasonably priced?

      • says

        I’d love to know, too! We are usually able to get photo Christmas cards done for free with deals online, but I love those newspaper-style and top ten newsletters. If anyone knows of a program or template for creating one, I’d love to hear about it! They’re gorgeous! What a great idea!

        • Patrice says

          I just spent the morning working on it and I think I’ve actually figured out how to make one very similar in word using text boxes and tables. If you ladies want to email me at mypocketfullofposies@yahoo.com, I can send you what I came up with and info on how I put it together.

      • Patrice says

        I just spent the morning working on it and I think I’ve actually figured out how to make one very similar in word using text boxes and tables. If you ladies want to email me at mypocketfullofposies@yahoo.com, I can send you what I came up with and info on how I put it together.

  16. says

    I buy my Christmas cards at thrift stores and yard sales. You can usually get a ton for under $1 that way. I only mail Christmas cards to family that live out of state or friends that have moved away. I could not afford to mail everyone a card.

  17. Marcin says

    It’s a nice touch to send someone a Christmas card if you didn’t talk to them for a while. It’s like saying “Hey, we’re alive, here’s a card to tell you we’re still breathing and not six feet under!” so yea, it’s nice to know that they are still around and they took out some time to send you a card. :)

  18. says

    My personal card-recipient list is awfully small, so I decided 2 years ago to also send one to everyone in my church (small church–about 130). But then the cost gets crazy. So last year, I used a Vistaprint deal to design my own Christmas postcards. On the cards I directed people to my blog if they wished to read what’s going on in my life. This year, I designed Thanksgiving postcards instead and had fun surprising everyone! I got tons of comments on what a great idea it was.

  19. Sarah T. says

    Our church sets out baskets (A-G, H-M, etc.) each year during December so we can drop off our cards in them and pick ours up. It really cuts down on postage.

  20. says

    I didn’t grow up in a house where cards were sent and received (we’re Jewish) so I never really knew the joy of Christmas cards until I married my husband (who’s not Jewish). I love getting them and, for a while, I was sending them. It’s a practice that I’ve fallen out of due to Facebook, texting, etc and I’m kicking myself for not doing it this year. It’s still a rush to go to the mailbox and get something that’s not a bill! I need to bring that joy to others.

    I love these creative ideas for next year’s cards!

  21. Ac says

    So many fun ideas – love this post! We do a photo card each Christmas. It is expensive because I have a specific brand/site I like to use and we send around 100. That said, I feel like it’s the only time a lot of these people see our kids and it’s a nice way to stay connected. I love receiving cards from others. Have been kind of sad at the diminished number this year.

  22. melissa says

    Another thing I have found helpful is to have a family picture (or one of your kids if that’s what you do) ready when the photo card deals start rolling in. I think I ordered my first photo cards back in early October and I didn’t have “the” picture yet, but I had a really good one from April, so I used that. I ordered photo cards from 4 different places this year… 20 free from Rite Aid, several from Cardstore for $.39 each (that included a stamp! so that was awesome for the ones I’d be mailing anyway), 20 from SeeHere for $1.49. It’s a lot more reasonable if you can catch each deal as it comes along.

  23. Priscilla says

    I love getting Christmas photo cards. I throw away the ones that are just cards with no photos. The rest I keep for many years in a bucket. It’s nice to look at those cards 5 years later and see how others have changed throughout the years. I wasn’t planning on sending physical photo cards this year. But then we started receiving a whole lot in the mail already. So I feel guilty if I don’t send those people ours. I have decided to keep it to 25 only this year unlike 100 plus for last year.

    • Wendy says

      You might want to hang on to cards from special people, picture or no picture. I saved cards from my grandmothers and great aunts. They’ve been gone for over 10 years now, but I keep the old cards they sent with our Christmas decorations. It is precious to look through them each year and see their signatures and remember them.

  24. says

    I love getting Christmas cards, but have noticed over the years that not as many people send them. I understand why, but it is very joyous to get them in the mail. I did ours a little differently this year, I just sent out photo cards without a letter. I sent out just under 60 and only paid $12 for the cards themselves! :)

  25. BethB says

    We decided to send out New Year’s cards instead of Christmas cards this year. We’re shooting for early January. The idea is to spread out holiday cheer for the recepients and spread out the work for us. My husband is a graphic designer so he’s going to design a card the week after Christmas when he’s off and then we’ll have them printed at Target (or some other inexpensive place).

    My joke is this is my way of giving myself an out. If he doesn’t get the cards designed it’s not My Fault. Ha ha.

  26. says

    We send out Christmas Cards every year to family and friends. This year I did it a little different and ordered them online and mailed them directly to the recipient, the cost per card included free postage through American Greetings when they were having a Holiday Sale.

    We sent out 135 Christmas cards for $0.44 cents each (we spent the cost of a stamp for both the card and postage). The “hardest” part was taking 30 minutes to type in all the addresses but since I type faster than I write it really didn’t take long before all the cards were done!

    In the past I have always bought cards on clearance at the end of season and packed them with the Christmas items so I have them for next year. Then I would write a hand written note inside, put in a photo, and hand write the addresses. It felt a little strange not handwriting all the notes and addresses but the cards turned out really well and we had 3 pictures of the family on the card instead of the just one picture in the card.

    In the past even though the cards were bought on clearance I still had the cost of printing copies of the family photo and postage so I found ways to give out the cards without mailing them to help save us a little bit more. Our church does a Christmas Card drop box during the month of December and all the cards get passed out to the individuals and families the Sunday before Christmas. If I am traveling to see extended family I will bring all the cards with me and pass them out at the Christmas celebration. I have also given my Mom a stack of family cards to give to relatives that she was seeing at Christmas too.

    Each way had it own set of benefits. This year I enjoyed spending thirty minutes putting the card together, typing out addresses and being completely done this year (I didn’t have to bring any cards with me to church or family gatherings). Hopefully, I will find some good deals on photo cards again next year if not I know I can do it my traditional way!

  27. jessica says

    i loved the first card here soo much i had my husband recreate it and then sent it to walgreens for a fraction of the cost.. i paid $9.11 total for 20 cards with envelopes! so it can be done! just think outside of the box!

  28. says

    Sending Christmas cards/letters via e-mail is more eco-friendly, although it may not be as personal. If we have free weekend minutes, maybe we should just call people and wish them a Merry Christmas.

  29. Caroline says

    I love getting Christmas cards and have noticed that we haven’t gotten as many this year. I made it my mission to pay less than $10 for the 80 cards we buy. That meant starting in early November looking for deals and ordering cards as soon as I saw them. Unfortunately I forgot to factor postage into my order so I went a little over budget but I ordered cards from 4 different sites and was really excited to see all the fun designs. My new favorite place to buy cards is http://www.cardstore.com. They have been having 50-60% off for the last few weeks and the best part is, shipping and STAMPS are FREE!! So I was able to send 20 cards for under $8 which is less than the cost of the stamp! I’ll be using them for all my cards in the future!

  30. says

    Sending Christmas cards caused a great deal of stress in my life so I opt not to do it.

    Instead, I made a list of everyone that I would normally send a Christmas card to and send them a homemade card some time throughout the year. Occasionally I’ll send it to them on their birthday, but most of the time it’s whenever I feel like they need a card.

    I love getting Christmas pictures, but I could do without most of the letters because of the way people write them. I love receiving the ones where people tell us a funny, “unperfect” story of their life.

  31. Sherri says

    For the past several years I have done an e-mail newsletter, with physical cards sent to older relatives who don’t use the computer much. That has worked out well for me, saving the cost of postage/photos, but it also means I can e-mail on the 23rd and it will still get there in time!

  32. Ruth says

    Typically, I send Christmas cards because we live states away from ALL of our family. So to try to stay in touch with our extended families, I send out cards usually with a picture of our family. Relatives love to see pictures of the kids, since they grow up so fast. I think the postage is worth it, since we are not flying home soon for a visit.

  33. says

    This is BEYOND cool. I wish I didn’t amil my Christmas cards already. I think I’ll have to make an email version and ship it out separately. I like how it’s formatted as a newsletter. Nicely done.

  34. Maya says

    In my cards last year, I typed the Andrews’ favorite things list. I listed 3 or 4 things that each of liked. for me, I had:
    Maya
    Couponing at CVS, Rite Aid, and Big Y
    Having a clean house
    Reading to the boy
    Slip-on children’s shoes

    I glued it to the inside of the card.

  35. Toby says

    YOU and your friends may be texting, posting on Facebook and sending and receiving digital Christmas cards. Please remember that the older members of your family do not participate in these types of activities. They also are the people who will most enjoy an update on your family and THEY will read your Christmas letter. They are a generation that communicated face to face or with hand written letters. Give them a phone call or drop them a line!

  36. says

    I read a few years ago that a lady decided to send out cards in jan/feb. It took the stress off of her and it was a nice treat for the recipient in the dry period between xmas and Valentine’s/Easter.
    So it’s not too late if you still want to send them out. And you can purchase them in the after xmas sales and there are lots that are more geared toward snowmen/penguins/weather than the actual holiday(if that makes you more comfortable sending them late).

  37. says

    I’m a graphic designer, so I made ours this year.

    I’m also a frugal momma, so here’s how we cut down on costs:

    Asking who preferred an email copy. More than half of our list said they would. Price: Free!

    Sending family postcards (postage is $0.29 instead of $o.44) with photos on the front and on the back, a link to a PDF version of our family newsletter, which is stored on my personal website (another option would be putting it on your blog and giving it a password so it isn’t public).

    For the two or three families who are not internet-savvy, I am sending them a full color newsletter with our postcard.

  38. Pru says

    I am one of those who opts to send cards later in the year … there is too much to do around Christmas so two years ago we started sending St. Patrick’s Day cards to celebrate my Irish heritage and take a little bit of the stress out of Christmas. Before that, I would always make & address my cards during July & mail them the day after Thanksgiving … this worked until summers became so busy with our daughter. My family & friends still are kept up to date & they get a little bit of “Christmas” joy on St. Patrick’s Day.

  39. KC says

    People are so different. I would never understand Christmas letters and yet, it seems to be a big thing. We are doing Christmas cards and love every minute of it and appreciate every single one received.