Strategically Simple Christmas Cards

xmas card21

n high school and college, I handcrafted Christmas cards.  And by handcraft I mean I painted, glittered, and wrote personal notes on each card.

Enter the real world, a job, some babies, and enough moves to give us Christmas card recipients in most of the lower 48 and my handcrafting days are over.

But digital photography and online card options have vastly improved since my school days—and I figure the extended fam would rather see pics of my kids than a hand-painted manger scene–so I’ve come to appreciate the photo card.

And, with some strategery, I’ve found it possible to say Mele Kalikimaka via mail without stress or breaking the bank.

Stress-Free and Budget-Friendly Christmas Cards

Plan Ahead

As in, buy your stamps and get your family pics done in October.  Or September.  This both avoids the holiday rush and spreads out the dent in the budget.

I realize it’s now early November.  So just bookmark that thought for next year, ‘kay?

Keep Family Pics Simple

If you want photo cards but hiring a professional photographer isn’t in the budget, ask a photo-literate friend to snap a few.  We’ve done this most years and have always been pleased with the results.

Probably because all I want is a picture that proves I’m part of the family (because Mom’s always the one taking them, right?) and in which everyone looks pretty decent.PeacePennantFront


Do you enjoy thick cardstock and great graphics?  Or are you content with a nice pic on photo paper?

Do you have a long list of recipients or do you mostly just send to family and close friends?  Is high-quality photography important or will you forgo a picture this year?

Make a Budget

Prioritizing helps with the budget; if you’re not picky about trimmings, you can afford to send more cards.  If you prefer heavyweight stationary and great design, you’ll probably need to shorten your list.

Incidentally, this year I (belatedly) realized that 5”x5” cards/envelopes require extra postage.  Sigh.


Consider List Length

Would I love to send cards to tons of people?  Yes.  Would Hubs fall over at the bill for that?  Yes.

And frankly, because I’m a closet stationary snob and want the pretty cards, I can’t afford/justify the cost of sending a ton either.  So, my own rule is that I don’t send cards to local friends–who know what my kids look like and to whom I can say Merry Christmas in person.

Maybe when I let go of my stationary standards and go back to photo paper, you’ll get a card.  ‘Tis the season for such priorities, right?

Send ‘Em Early

Like, right after Thanksgiving early.  That way you’re done and have one less thing to worry about in the weeks before the holidays.

Too soon for your taste?  Then just stamp and address them over Thanksgiving and send whenever you feel is best.


My Favorite Photo Card Sites

  • Mpix: A great balance of affordability and selection.  I got last year’s cards from Mpix and was really happy with them.  Budget notes: Pick the smaller card size for a better price and sign up to receive coupons.
  • Mixbook: This year’s choice because their promotions were better than Mpix’s.  I loved their options.  Budget notes: Beware the oddly-shaped, additional-postage-requiring cards.
  • Shutterfly: My old standby, they often have 40% off sales.  Budget notes: Photo paper cards can be a steal here, especially with coupons.  Their stationary cards are not a steal.

Other Simple Ways to Spread Holiday Cheer

  • Send a family photo printed on thicker paper as a postcard. Cheaper postage, no envelope needed.
  • Write a short family newsletter on pretty paper and include a pic.
  • Forgo paper altogether and send a card online via Paperless Post.  They’ve got great designs and it’s more budget-friendly than paying postage.

Do you send cards for the holidays?

All cards via Mpix

About Jenn

Jenn is a mommy of three and wife to her best friend. She enjoys good books, dinner guests, elevenses, and proper apostrophe use.

  • Oh man! So timely for me. Just looking at some of the more expensive sites and realized that even with their deal, it would be way too much money. But they are so darn cute. I have trouble spending money on something someone will likely throw away, so last year we did a few keepsake baby’s first Christmas photo cards from the more pricey site for us, grandparents, aunts, great grandparents etc. We will likely do the same this year, or just send out a bunch of cheapos 😉

    • Allie, for reals. I get all excited when I see the discounts, but when you do the math, it’s often still pretty crazy. I like the idea of doing a few nicer ones and then sending more budget-friendly ones to the masses :).

  • brenda venable

    Christmas time is the best for re-connecting with extended family and w/ friends you’ve met along the way. A photo of the children is always appreciated and throughout the years seeing those children grow up and hearing what they are doing is greatly appreciated. Not everyone stays in touch and as years go by, you begin to miss those that are no longer on your list. Taking the time & effort now says a lot about you and how live your life and what’s important to you,
    At least that’s my take on it.

  • Yes. Good word. =) This is on my list for November! And that is so true about the unusual shaped pictures. Also, is apparently a great place to get prints and they have a deal on right now. =)

    • Ak, I love Minted but even with the deal it’s still more than I’m willing to spend! I’m have unfortunate blend of high standards and frugality :).

  • Thanks for the reminder that I need to get on this! I know that the cost of mailing and the cards themselves can be expensive, but I wish that more people would get back into the habit of sending out cards again. December is such a fun mail month, it’s great to get something personal in the midst of all those bills! 🙂