Now that busy season is behind me, I am spending time with my family and building our holiday traditions. We have a holiday bucket list every year, which includes sending out holiday cards. This is a task that can be a bit tedious, but as a former project manager whose family also once owned a mail house, I want to share my process and tips to make this easy for you!
Holiday cards are something I personally look forward to every year. I love to send them, and the whole family loves to receive them. The kids love getting mail, opening the envelopes, and hanging the photos and cards our family and friends have shared. As much as I love making and sending our own holiday cards, it can be a chore without the proper process. Here is my process with a few tips that speed up and simplify card sending for me every year.
- Planning, Early November
- Brainstorm what you want your card to look like. Any good brainstorming session starts early so that you can plan appropriately. I used to aim make the card recipient giggle when they opened their card. Recently, my goal is to send an updated family photo with season’s greetings for our family and friends. This means we have to have updated photos taken, obviously. You will also want to think about the colors and style for your photos if want your outfits to match your card design.
- Budget for your cards. Let’s face it, money is a factor in most life decisions so planning ahead is always important. Typically the best deal on cards is the Black Friday through Cyber Monday holiday. If you want to save, you will want to plan to order your cards during those sales. In addition to budgeting for your physical cards, you also want to consider the cost for address labels, stamps, and having photos taken if that is the route you choose. If you have fall family photos, I would argue that since those photos have other purposes like gifts and artwork for your home, that entire budget should not be factored in for cards, but certainly a portion can be counted. If more custom or themed holiday mini sessions are your plan for holiday card photos, then one could argue to budget an entire session fee. Though, you will likely gift those as well.
- Create a timeline to be mindful of. Since holiday dates are fixed, it’s easy to work backwards. You know that you want family and friends to have cards in hand before Hanukkah, Christmas, or for some, the New Year. As you can see, I have recommended timelines for you throughout this outline which is based on planning for the Christmas holiday. You should move your timeline forward or back as you need.
- Lists–this season is full of them! Make a list of family and friends, or review the one you may already have. I recommend using Google Docs or Excel for this. Don’t forget any new friends, teachers, babysitters, or coaches your children may have. This will tell you how many cards you need to order. Tip: Google forms is a great way to request updated addresses! Simply create a survey and send the link to your family and friends, then let them do the rest!
- Design & Ordering, Late November – Early December
- Card design can be done by your photographer, a bulk order card company, or yourself. Some photographers will design your card and handle the entire ordering process for you. This way, you can just take the stress of this entire part of the task off of your bucket list. With the proper design knowledge, you can design your card yourself and upload and print a custom design. Perhaps the most common, is to pick your favorite bulk card company, find a design you like and use their interface to create and order your card.
- Ordering your card is an obvious next step. You will want to be mindful that labs can take anywhere from 2-5 days for printing. Then, standard shipping takes 5-7 business days. If you are on the later side of ordering, you will want to budget for expedited shipping–which adds up.
- Don’t forget the stamps! When you order your cards, it is wise to also head over to usps.com to order the stamps you need for your cards too. That way you aren’t adding an extra errand to your to do list when you already have enough to do already. Shipping typically isn’t more than $1.50 and is well worth the time.
- Extras? Do you need to buy special pens, labels, or printer ink to address your cards? Do that now too.
- Addressing & Mailing Your Cards, Early to Mid December
- Double check your mailing list. You already have a list you created and updated addresses if you followed my planning advice above. Double check those and make sure everyone has gotten back to you. Tip: Do this before your cards arrive.
- Addressing your cards can be done a multitude of different ways. Hand written addresses are incredibly personal. This method may be incredibly time consuming if you have a large number of recipients on your list. If you would like to address your cards before they arrive, labels are a great option. This is particularly smart if you are pushing mailing deadlines, so that you can pop on labels, stamps and put them right back in the mail box. My personal favorite way to address cards is to print addresses right on them. Tip: Utilize Microsoft’s mail merge feature for printing labels or envelopes (there are great tutorials online.) Save this list so that all you need to do each year is check your list, update addresses, and print.
- Stuffing your envelopes can certainly be tedious. This part of the blog is full of pro tips! Enlist the kids to help. My grandparents used to own a mail house and while much of the mailers they sent out were printed, folded and stuffed by machine, small jobs were done by hand. As kids, we would sit down in front of the TV with our grandparents and help them. My grandmother taught me an amazing technique for bulk processing. This part should only be done AFTER the addresses are on your envelope. Think of yourself as the machine you truly are! You will need envelopes, cards, shallow dish with water, stamps and a sponge or wash cloth.
- Open ALL of the envelopes. To do this, you want to face the flap side of the stack up, hold the envelope flap and slide each envelope fold under the next flap. Lift all of the flaps together and, tada! They’re all open! You can do this rather quickly once you’ve mastered the action.
- Grab your stack of cards. Take each card one by one and place them inside of the envelope, pretty side facing you.
- Now to seal the envelopes. Tasty, right? False. You don’t have to lick them! Grab a shallow dish of water and a small sponge. Dip and wring out your sponge so it is only damp. Lay out 5 or so envelopes at a time and run your wet sponge over the glue part of the envelopes, then immediately close the envelope. Do this until you are done stuffing and sealing all of your envelopes.
- Don’t forget the stamps!! You’re almost done, and this part is simple!! Stamps go on the top right and since you ordered your stamps when you ordered your cards, you can just pop those suckers on without having to run to the post office!
- Mail them off! Congratulations, you’re done! Pop your cards in the mailbox and lift the flag, or take them to the post office yourself. Either way, say goodbye to your cards and pat yourself on the back!