I am one of those rare people who delights in sending paper greetings through the postal service every Christmas. It’s an antiquated practice to be sure, but it’s something I greatly enjoy. Of course, it’s far less frugal to mail paper cards than it would be to transmit the modern e-card equivalent, but I find this analogue approach a soothing counter-balance to our otherwise entirely electronic lives. Plus, don’t you think I’m doing the world a favor by broadcasting this face through the post?
Naturally, my Christmas card extravaganza is not exempt from frugalization and, I discovered the one weird trick of budget Christmas carding: avoid anything labeled “holiday” or “Christmas.” Yes indeed, seasonal cards fall very much into the genre of “wedding” supplies–as in, the minute you search for a product with those special buzz words marketers love to hear, the price immediately increases.
Postcards = The Frugal Solution
Fear not, for I don’t suggest utilizing “get well soon” cards for the holidays (although that could be a strategy… ). Rather, think like a business and send business postcards.
I used to do our holiday cards all wrong. I’d select the Christmas-themed photo card section on Vistaprint (which is the site I use for everything from our Frugalwoods business cards to this annual festive tiding), and I’d pick an oversized card requiring a special envelope. Not smart on several accounts.
Last year, being our first year of extreme frugal living, I still wanted to dispatch greetings (I couldn’t let Frugal Hound-As-Santa go to waste) but I wanted to pay less. After rooting around on Vistaprint for awhile, I experienced a lightening bolt of frugal inspiration (take this with a grain of salt since it doesn’t take much to get me excited).
The answer to my frugal desires was simple: business postcards. Before you start harrumphing and assume I sent out a dinky piece of paper with office supply clip-art, feast your eyes upon our actual business-come-holiday postcard from last year (well, the one I mailed had our actual names and heads, but other than that, this is the genuine article):
Now that you’re assured I’m not advocating for chintzy stapler-related artwork, here’s my rationale:
- Postcards are cheaper because they’re smaller than regular cards;
- Postcards require less postage ($0.34 to the standard $0.49) and hence are more economical to mail;
- Postcards do not need envelopes–another monetary boon to your wallet;
- Postcards are retro and look super hip (as opposed to appearing like you’re just trying to save a bunch of dough… your secret is safe w/moi).
And business postcards are the cheapest option of them all. For whatever reason, the business postcards on Vistaprint are far less expensive than the traditional holiday options. Added bonus: there’s an entire “holiday/seasonal” section within the business cards, replete with cute snowflakes, Santas, ornaments, trees, and the like. Ergo, this is clearly the route I take.
Just How Much Money Saved Are We Talking Here?
Last year’s cards cost us a grand total of $62.17 to order and mail, which broke down as: $18.18 for 100 postcards, $9.99 for shipping (dang shipping!), and $34 for 100 postcard stamps. Not too shabby for full-color front and back photo cards! I imagine this year’s order will ring up at a similar amount.
Now, let’s explore the price for traditional holiday cards on Vistaprint. A standard folded holiday photo card clocks in at $64.99 per 100. Since these require regular postage stamps at $0.49/stamp, that’d be $49. We’ll assume shipping is the same at $9.99 and so you’re looking at a total of $123.98, which is effectively double my frugal weirdo business postcard scheme. Do you really get $61.81 more value for a folded card? Methinks not. I’ll gladly position my photos to cover up the “SALE” banners on business postcards to reap this savings.
Self-Photography For The Win
Since I like to personalize our cards with
tacky adorable family photos, taking our own pics is another key area of savings. Are our holiday photos perfect? Heck no! Do we care? Heck no! The pursuit of perfection is a fallacy anyway, so might as well save money and embrace DIY photography. We use a tripod (which we found in the trash, by the way) and pose ourselves in front of our Christmas tree. Anyone can employ this strategy as it requires shockingly little skill and/or ability.
And this brings me to yet another reason why I adore Vistaprint’s business postcards: you can upload as many photos as you want for free! Yes indeed, I could cram 15 photos onto one of those babies if I wanted to (well, I want to but taste, decorum, and Mr. Frugalwoods dictate I use a mere one or two).
This scenario does involve me playing graphic designer, but hey, I consider it another frugal skill set I’m building. I know that real photographers and graphic designers everywhere are cringing at my amateur-ish artwork, but it works for me. After all, this is a family holiday card, it’s not like it’s going into The Met or anything (yet… ). Furthermore, I greatly enjoy creating our cards and playing around with different colors and fonts. I really don’t give a Christmas ornament if it looks like a 5-year-old made it–I have fun with the process.
As Vistaprint gives you free range to edit your postcard as you see fit, I strategically position our photos over any business-related language or images that I’m not otherwise able to delete. The above photo is cleverly concealing a “SALE” banner that was embedded in the postcard design. Quite apt when you think about it.
Additionally, Vistaprint allows you to download your final postcard as a PDF (without any weird watermarks on it or anything) so you can use it for any virtual e-carding you wish to do as well (or if you, ya know, want to upload the image to your blog).
Baby + Christmas = Savings
This year, I’m supremely ecstatic that I can combine our Christmas greeting with the announcement of Babywoods’ birth. Between this mash-up and the tax benefits we’ll receive for her in 2015, I’m starting to think that having a baby at the tail end of the calendar year is an ideal frugal family planning hack (of course we couldn’t predict when we’d actually get pregnant, but I’ll take credit anyway).
As an inveterate over-planner, there’s another reason why I love Vistaprint: you can design cards in advance and save them in your online portfolio until you’re ready to place an order. Hence, I designed our baby announcement/Christmas card a month ago and it’s just waiting for me to pop in her actual birth date and a few family photos.
Do What You Want For Less
Rather than give up sending out cards entirely in the name of frugality, I’m thrilled that I found a way to make the entire experience feasible for less. I’m all about hacking my way to the good life. Mr. Frugalwoods and I have discovered that you can frugalize just about every single thing in life. Don’t let haters and the media tell you otherwise. Life is not, by default, expensive. If there’s something you want to do, you can almost always make it happen on the cheap. Happy holidays and festive tidings!