Let’s face it; sending holiday cards is fun in theory, but actually doing the work can be exhausting and stressful, especially in the US, where we have a shorter Christmas season. By the time the Thanksgiving dishes are done, we’re already running out of time to get it all completed by Christmas Eve. And that kind of holiday stress just isn’t any fun at all.
However, I still adore sending Christmas cards. So I figured out a way to do it without much stress at all. The key: start early! Since sticking to this timeline, the task isn’t stressful; in fact, it’s rather fun. And being one of the first things I do for my favorite season of the year, they never fail to get me excited for what’s to come!
Late September: take your photos
Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to take and edit your own photos, if you so choose. Whether you hire it out or shoot them yourself, just remember to allow enough time to do any necessary edits in post-production.
- TIP: A great option is a mini session with a professional photographer, in which they dedicate an entire chunk of time to shoot multiple shorter sessions at a staged location for a smaller price tag. Some are in apple orchards or tree farms, others are in studios with beautifully wrapped packages and Santa costumes. If you decide to go this route, start looking in the summer, as many of these highly coveted sessions sell out before fall even starts.
Early October: design your card
I use Tiny Prints (now owned and operated by Shutterfly). Other options are Minted, VistaPrint, even PicMonkey has cards nowadays. Each of these companies offers literally hundreds of design options and price points. Designing can take me awhile, as I have to shop every possible option and play with placement like the designer I am. I give myself a couple weeks to get this part done.
- TIP: There is no rule in which you have to get all of only one type of card. If you love more than one design, order more than one! We typically order at least two options: a traditional card for family members and coworkers, and a more whimsical card for close friends.
Mid-October: place your card order
By ordering early, you’re ahead of the rush, so your order usually shows up quickly. This year, I placed my order on Monday, and they were delivered to me by the following Friday. And I didn’t pay any extra for faster shipping. My goal is always to have my cards, envelopes, and postage in my hands no later than October 31st.
- TIP: Online printing companies always – ALWAYS – have sales and promotional offers running. Sometimes, it’s as simple as adding your email to their email list, but it’s super easy to get a percentage off your order. Bottom line: never pay full price. If there isn’t a sale now, there will be another soon. Pay attention!
- TIP: Pay a little extra to have the company print your return address on the envelopes. The cost isn’t very high, and it’s definitely worth the extra sanity and hand cramps later.
- TIP: Consider splurging on the custom photo stamps. We always do this for two reasons. A) People LOVE it! It’s the thing we get the most feedback on, and it’s so easy! And B) No having to remember to get postage at the grocery store or standing in line at the post office. This way, my stamps are shipped directly to me. DONE.
The first three weeks of November: stuff, stamp, and address your cards
By breaking up this time-consuming task over several weeks, it never seems too daunting. This year, we’ll send a total of 80 cards, but I will only stuff, stamp, and address 5-6 cards each night, giving myself a break over the weekends. That small handful takes me fifteen minutes a day, tops, which I usually do while I’m relaxing after dinner anyway. It barely feels like a to-do list item at all.
The day before Thanksgiving: send out all your holiday cards in the outgoing mail
This timing means your cards will arrive to most of your recipients on the first day or two of the Christmas season. Not only will they be a pleasant holiday surprise to your loved ones, but YOU’RE DONE! You haven’t even served the Thanksgiving turkey yet, and your Christmas cards are completely finished. It’s a great way to kick off the season ahead of the curve!
Now, if only I was any good at hand lettering…