One of the things about the holidays I enjoy most is receiving photo cards from far away friends. I love to see how my friends (or in most cases, their children) have changed from year to year. I also appreciate the time and creativity people expend creating their cards. Some friends really go all out, splurging on high end paper, professional photography and the like. Others simply insert a color snapshot into a standard holiday greeting card with a scribbled signature. It’s rare the number of friends who craft their cards by hand, but some still do!
With the popularity of social networking sites and other technologies that have made mass communication easy and cheap, I fear the holiday card may soon fall the way of the handwritten note. There seem to be fewer cards in the mailbox already this year. I know I’m streamlining my own Christmas card list in an effort to save a little money and I’ve probably been scratched off a few lists myself. I can practically hear my old college roommates saying, “I haven’t had a phone call from Erin in 2009. Scratch her.”
Usually I send around 100 Christmas cards and the postage alone could afford another gift under the tree or a donation to my local food pantry. Add in the cost of making a beautiful photo card—ranging anywhere in price from 50 cents to $2 each—and you can see the why the temptation to skip the cards can be so great. And yet I find cards are still a wonderful way to connect with friends and family so I am not ready to give in. When I made my card last week, I discovered a few tools for making the whole process a little easier.
1. Compare prices at online photo card shops before you start creating your card. I actually started making my card using iPhoto on my Mac because it was the fastest and easiest option. But when I went to buy the card, I realized it was going to cost me over $150, well over my budget. Then I checked out Shutterfly, where I have created my holiday cards in the past, and got the price down to less than 48 cents per card.
2. Search for online coupon codes and save. Retailmenot.com offers a host of coupon codes with a success rate for each. I get so many promotional offers in my e-mail every day that I can’t possibly use. Usually I delete them in an effort to clear out my inbox. But then when I do need a code, I can’t find it! Retailmenot.com is a great place to find codes that will save you money. I saved almost $15 on my card order using one of the active codes if found on the site.
3. Use free tools to manage your card list. WhitePages has launched a Holiday List Manager that helps you easily locate those lost contacts, add them to an aggregated holiday list, and when you’re ready, print labels. Check out Microsoft Office online for great holiday templates for your card list, return address labels, and much more.
4. Order Stamps online. The US Postal Service Web site sells Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza and winter holiday stamps from their Web site, saving you valuable time. Of course, you have to register with the site, which can take a few minutes (especially if your password doesn’t include 8 characters, one capital letter, one lowercase and one number) but I am not going to hold that against them!
5. Share your card on social networking sites. After your mailed cards have reached their recipients, post your card to Facebook or share a link to the online card via e-mail. This is a great way to reach those casual acquaintances and anyone you may have erroneously (or willingly) left of your mailing list this year.
Are you sending holiday cards this year? Are you scaling back in any way? What kind of cards do you like to send and receive?