About 20 billion cards, letters and packages are sent by U.S. mail every holiday season, according to the National Mail Order Association. Taking part in the annual card exchange is a treasured holiday custom and an important way to stay in touch with family and friends. Here are some holiday card greeting ideas for the crafty, the harried and everyone between.
A quick and low-effort way to send holiday greetings is to purchase boxes of cards from a store, stuff them into the provided envelopes and mail them. There are cards for every budget and personality. If you plan to personalize store-bought cards by writing a message in each, allow yourself enough time to finish the task by your mailing deadline.
Most drugstores, online photo services and major chain stores like Wal-Mart and Costco offer photo greeting card designs on their websites that allow consumers to upload one or more digital pictures into a preset template. Most designs can be customized with a greeting or message. The cards are then printed and shipped to you or picked up in the store. Some designs cost just pennies per card and are ready in an hour. The downside of this card-and-photo-in-one option is its popularity---several people on your mailing list may also be sending out the same design, just with a different picture and greeting.
Holiday greeting cards made by hand let you choose your favorite colors, patterns, saying and mood. Card-making veterans create works of art with elements like fancy paper, rubber stamps, ribbon and decorative punches. These may be the most unique cards your friends and loved ones receive all year, but it can be time consuming to assemble them and expensive to purchase materials. If you make your own cards, get started a month or two before the holiday season to avoid last-minute stress. An alternative is to make cards only for your closest family and friends and send store-bought cards to everyone else.
E-greetings arrive almost instantly or can be sent on a specified date, making them perfect for procrastinators, holiday travelers and people who forgot someone on their mailing list. Sites like Hallmark Smilebox allow users to upload multiple digital pictures and their own music into a template that plays the photo collage on the recipient's computer. Online cards save on paper and postage, but a drawback is that not everyone on your list may be able to receive or view the card. The Greeting Card Association also says that most Americans prefer the old-fashioned handwritten card or letter to one sent by email.
Card Mailing Tips
Preprint address labels for everyone on your holiday mailing list. You can download address label templates for Microsoft Word, and once you take the time to input your contacts, you can print a yearly batch of address labels in seconds. Save on postage by buying stamps in bulk from retailers like Costco. And before purchasing or making cards, be sure they are not too big or heavy to send with standard postage.