Shortly after we got married, I told Hubby that I wanted to be a grown up and start sending holiday cards. 🙂 The first year our cards arrived in time for New Year’s. :/ The second year our cards arrived between the end of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve. This year I managed to get them in the mail during the first couple of days of Hanukkah. Even with Hanukkah starting before Thanksgiving this year, I’ve been increasingly more timely with my mailings so I’m hopeful that next year I’ll be able to make sure all my cards arrive before Hanukkah begins. How have I been improving my timeliness you may ask? I’ll tell you!
Tip One: Plan Ahead
Pictures are pretty much the main ingredient for a holiday card in my family but plenty of people buy pre-designed cards. Either one is fine but that is the first decision you need to make and you’ll want to figure that out early because if you do decide to use a family photo, that usually takes planning. Will you coordinate outfits? Can you find a deal for the photographer? And if you decide to use pre-designed cards, where what do you want them to say and where will you find them at a good price?
I started planning in October. We wanted to take Babe’s fall pictures with her Halloween costume so we decided to throw in an extra wardrobe change and do the holiday photo at the same time. It saved a trip (and, depending on your photographer, that can save a session fee) and meant that the cards were in my hands before November!
Pro tip: I just learned that a new friend of mine prints a year-in-review type note on the reverse of her custom photo cards. What a clever idea!
Tip Two: Use Technology
Use a spreadsheet (if you don’t have MS Excel, you can use Google Drive for free) to store your address list and track what you’ve mailed. I’ve made a sample spreadsheet that you can download to get started:
I had the spreadsheet already that first year (it started as the invitation list from our wedding) but I hand-addressed everything. That’s the delivery and return addresses for all cards. Sorry Emily Post, no middle-class homemaker has time for that these days! That brings me to tips three and four.
Tip Three: Get a Return Address Stamp
Vistaprint often has a free stamp (you pay shipping which is usually $6.99) or you can pick one up at Amazon for about $10 (after shipping). I picked this up between years one and two and have found that it comes in handy all year long. I honestly wish I’d have picked one up sooner. What didn’t occur to me until this year (it actually dawned on me as I was trying to figure out when I’d have time to address all my birth announcements) was tip number four.
Tip Four: Print Delivery Addresses on Labels
We use the Avery 8160 mailing labels and run a mail merge to get the addresses from our spreadsheet into MS Word. (You need the 5160 MS Word template to do a mail merge). If the mail merge is more than you want to deal with (though it really isn’t difficult) you can just copy and paste the information from your spreadsheet to the Avery template.
Pro tip: Print out the MS Word file on regular paper first to make sure that everything lines up with the labels. Those labels are not cheap and it burns me when I waste a whole sheet because of a misalignment!
Tip Five: Overstock!
Not a year has passed that I mailed my cards to everyone on my list and closed the book. Of course I add a few names to my list throughout the year but my list usually grows the most in December. I don’t receive a card from every person I send to but I always seem to receive cards from someone I missed. Lol! I’ve given up trying to estimate how many I really need without going over. I just round up to the next big number. Last year I had around 50 people on my list so I ordered 80 and only ended up with a few extras. This year I had about 70 on my list so I ordered 100. (I’ve mailed out 94 already!!!)
In addition to ordering extra cards, don’t forget to purchase extra stamps as well! Now that the USPS only sells Forever stamps, any extras you have will never be short for future mailings so they’ll definitely get used next winter, if not before.