Holiday Cards on a Budget

I love getting mail any day, but I especially love getting holiday cards in the mail this time of year. My family never did it while I was growing up, so when Nathaniel and I moved in together, I decided to make it a tradition. The first few years we didn’t have that many people on our list, so I ordered them online. I could justify the price because we were only getting a few dozen cards.

2017 - Photo of us by Maddie Camilli. Photo of my fur babies just by me. I’m so glad I got this picture of them, as little Munch is no longer with us.

But as the years went by, our list got big. Especially after we got married. Last year we sent out 136. No joke! On average, the beautiful cards I see online tend to be a couple dollars a piece (with options for foil and borders which can drive it up, but they do usually include an envelope, which is great). But with a mortgage, a recent kitchen remodel, and trying to save money to do fun things, I just can’t justify spending $260+ dollars on cards. And that’s not even including postage.

2013 - Taken with a self timer. Can you find the hidden bunny?

I’ve also never splurged for a professional photographer. My sister, Maddie Camilli, is an amazing photographer, so I haven’t felt the need. I typically pay her back with a meal or baked goods. We’ve also just set up a tripod, and we’ve even just used fun photos from throughout the year before. Honestly my favorite was from 2016. We went on our belated honeymoon and I chose selfies from each country we visited in Europe and then put “Merry Christmas” in the native languages by each photo. No professional photos at all, and most of the pictures we chose were taken with our GoPro! I LOVE that thing.

If you don’t care much about text, you could always just do a photo, but I usually embellish at least a little. I use Photoshop, but if you don’t have access to that, you could probably use a word processor, or a free online photo editor. I like to find cute fonts (dafont.com has a ton of free ones), and sometimes I do Google image searches for free clipart, like holly leaves, stars, lights, menorahs, whatever! A tip, though, leave a little wiggle room at the edges - I’ve had text and snowflakes cut off because I put them too close to the edge and the printing process isn’t 100% perfect.

2014 - Combo of self-timer and adorable pet pics from the year

We (well, I) have found a good “hack” if you will these past few years. Rather than getting professional cards done, I design my own and get them printed as 4x6 photos. I’ve been going through Walgreens the past couple years because they have the lowest price I’ve found, and I can usually pick them up the same day I order them. So not only do I save on the cards themselves, but I don’t have to pay shipping! And last year I happened to order while they were having a sale for 10¢ prints, which meant I paid $14 + tax for the photos! I always order a couple extra just in case. Plus I want to keep one for myself!

I’ve toyed with the idea of getting our cards printed on card stock and sending them as post cards, but so far I have always decided to send them in envelopes instead. I figure they’re a bit more protected that way. I like to just get envelopes (size A6 for photos) at Staples, because we have one locally. This year I just walked in and bought three boxes of 50 white envelopes for $9 a box (plus tax). The downside is that you can’t get the exact number you need, but I’ve just used extras for other mail throughout the year, or used them the next year, sometimes mixing and matching colors of envelopes.

2015 - Photo: Maddie Camilli. Also, fun fact, it’s hard to get this doofy dog to pose normally. We had a lot of funny outtakes 😂 And do you spy the hidden bunny?

Honestly, the biggest expenditure is the stamp. I bought 140 forever stamps and one international stamp, which cost $69.75, but usually this time of year, you can choose a cute design, and if you have to buy a few extras, well, that’s not a bad thing to have lying around the house.

I usually hand-write addresses. I’ve printed out labels before, but because I do it so infrequently, I always forget the process and it seems to take just as much time researching the best way and formatting everything as it does to just write them out. I knocked all ours out in a couple hours. Just queue up a Christmas movie on Netflix and you’ll be fine. When we moved into our house I had a stamp made with our address, so that’s saved me some time these past couple years, but writing that out isn’t so bad either.

So last year all in all I spent:

  • Walgreens: $15.24 (11¢ a picture)

  • Staples: $27.72 (19¢ an envelope)

  • USPS: $69.75 (49¢ a stamp)

That’s a grand total of $112.71, INCLUDING tax and postage. If you break it down by card, that’s just 79¢ each, with a few extra envelopes, cards and stamps just in case. I’d say that’s a win. Another big benefit for me is that I didn’t have to wait to get anything shipped, which is super convenient! And if you don’t have a crazy long list like we do, you’ll save even more ;)

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year… Whatever you celebrate (or don’t), I hope you are well and get to enjoy some special time with the people you love!

2016 - Featuring selfies of our belated honeymoon, mostly taken with our GoPro, plus candids of the fur babies. This is by far my favorite card I’ve designed!!

PS: I actually applied this method to our wedding party invitations and thank you cards, too! Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE cards and if money were no object, I might go with some of those beautiful professionally designed cards for invitations and holiday cards. Especially those ones with foil accents… but at this point in our lives, it just doesn’t make sense to splurge on that.