This could be a super short post. I could simply say: “don’t send holiday cards because they are expensive and decidedly un-frugal.” But, as those of you who’ve been reading for a few years know, I’m a holiday junkie. I can’t get enough of festive tidings and yuletide trimmings and hall decking. And so, this post is not short.

Don’t Skip The Holidays… Frugalize Them!

Last year's Christmas postcard
Last year’s Christmas postcard

Obviously the ultimate frugal approach is to skip the holidays. To simply pretend they exist not and eat beans out of a can in the dark while muffling the sound of sleigh bells in the snow by wearing a hat indoors because you refuse to turn your heat on. And that is certainly an approach one can take. I won’t judge you for it.

However, if you’re more like me and qualify somewhere along the spectrum of secretly (or not so secretly) wishing summertime would hurry up so that holiday season can start, then this story is for you. Far from skipping the holidays–or even celebrating them oh, I don’t know, “mildly”–Mr. Frugalwoods and I are fairly notorious holiday celebrants.

We love the coziness of fall, the hilarity of Halloween, the gratitude of Thanksgiving, and the divine midwinter festivity of Christmas. It’s a beautiful time of year and also a chance to just plain have fun. There’s no shame in doing things just because we enjoy them. As long as we’re able to keep our overarching financial goals in line, I think a bit of celebration makes for a well-rounded, fulfilling existence.

My goal in living a life of extreme frugality isn’t to scrimp every last penny. My goal isn’t to forgo spending on things I love in order to save a few more bucks. My goal is to spend only on the things that matter most to me and to acknowledge that I don’t need rampant consumerism in order to enjoy life. Hence, my approach to celebrating the holidays echoes this philosophy.

Backside of last year's card
Backside of last year’s card

Mr. FW and I spend more money every November and December–on food to cook at home, on gifts, on electricity for our Christmas lights (indoors only though, can’t stomach the cost of outdoor!), and on… Christmas cards! Prior to our self-induction into the extreme frugality camp, I barely paid attention to how much I spent on holiday cards. I picked a gorgeous design, customized the card, and even bought sparkly stickers and paint pens to decorate the cards with (yes, I am five years old when it comes to crafting–both in skill and taste level).

Two years ago when Christmas rolled around, we were deep into our extreme frugality regimen. And so, Mr. FW and I had a serious discussion about whether or not to send cards. You might laugh about the fact that we had an in-depth conversation about mailing Christmas cards, but it’s actually a great illustration of how we manage our money as a team and stay on the same page with our financial goals. Our frugal autopilot approach means that every expenditure–no matter how small–is scrutinized. It’s how I avoid budgeting and instead adhere to the philosophy of spending zero dollars. Obviously I do spend money, but with this mindset, I’m not tempted to spend up to a certain amount, which is what budgeting encourages.

Postcards: The Frugal Option

Hi der.
Hi der.

Ok back to the cards. Pre-extreme frugality, I was easily spending over $120 on our card extravaganza between postage and the cards themselves. This, my friends, was not going to pass frugal muster. I took to the interwebz to sniff out a more financially tenable option. Lo and behold, it exists. And it comes in the form of a rectangle.

As I shared last year, the ultimate frugal greeting solution is the postcard. And not just any postcard, my friends, but the business postcard. Ok Ok, now I know you’re wondering why I’m advocating that you send out clip art of fax machines underneath a “50% off Sale” sign with your family name hastily scrawled in the corner with a ballpoint pen. I’m not.

Rather, I’m advocating that you start with what is known in the greeting card industry as a business/marketing postcard. From there, my frugal friends, you have complete artistic license to delete any and all fax machines and instead insert photos of your family reindeer (mine is pictured above).

How To Do This?

My Christmas assistant
My Christmas assistant

I use VistaPrint for my holiday cards and literally everything else I need pre-printed (business cards, wedding save-the-dates, birth announcements, etc). Why? 1) They are supremely cheap; 2) The quality is excellent; 3) They allow you to customize your cards with your own photos, text, fonts, and colors!!!; 4) Their shipping prices are totes reasonable; and 5) They allow you to download a PDF of your card for free (and without any weird watermarks), so that you can use it on your blog (maybe that’s only important to me… ). Huzzah! You can probably get a similar deal through other online card making sites, so search away. If you find a place that’s cheaper than VistaPrint, please let me know!

What I discovered in my quest is that, much like things labeled “wedding,” things labeled “holiday” are instantly marked up. Instantly, I tell you. Conversely, things labeled “business” are decidedly not. So, I clicked my way over to VistaPrint’s “Marketing Materials” section and then selected “Postcards” where–voila!–there’s a bevy of non-fax machine containing cards (I searched the “Holiday & Seasonal” sub-category). Now I’ll grant you, these designs are not quite as fantastic as their regular holiday cards, but they are completely serviceable and really quite cute. Plus, you can upload as many of your own photos as you want, so the postcard design itself is merely inconsequential background.

Is The Price Really That Different, Mrs. FW?

Our 2014 postcard
Our 2014 postcard

I am so glad you asked, oh business postcard doubter. Indeed it is. To whit, the cheapest, smallest “Holiday” card on VistaPrint is $4.99 for 10 cards. For a business postcard? It’s $4.99 for 50 (yes, FIFTY) cards. WHAT?!

Once you select your non-offensive business postcard holiday/seasonal design, simply delete all of the “50% Off” and “Grand Opening” text and instead insert your own “Happy Holidays From The Frugals” greeting. Upload your family photo and presto, you are set. Featured above and at right are the business postcards I designed last year and the year before.

Not bad, eh? As you can see, I supremely lucked out last year as I was able to combine Babywoods’ birth announcement with our Christmas card. Frugal score right there. This year I’ll again design a postcard for our festive tidings. I just have to get Frugal Hound and Babywoods to sit still long enough for a holiday photo… they both have Santa hats, just saying…

Postage and Envelopes: Savings Abound!!!

The back of our 2014 card
The back of our 2014 card

If the cost savings on the cards themselves wasn’t enough to convince you, there are two more glorious benefits of sending out postcards. Firstly, you don’t have to buy envelopes. This is time, paper, and money-saving: a triple boon! I used to pay separately for customized envelopes and then sit at the dining room table stuffing them (while stuffing my face with candy corn… ).

But with postcards, I simply print off mailing labels and stick ’em on. Since I customize the postcards, I print our return address on the cards themselves.

Secondly, postage! Did you know that postcard postage is cheaper than regular postage? Well, it is. I didn’t know this (because I never used to send postcards as part of my life), but it’s a solid fact. Regular postage clocks in at $0.47, while postcards can be mailed for a mere $0.34. Genius.

Take Your Own Photos

Merry Christmas 2013!
Merry Christmas 2013!

Ok this is not exactly related to postcards, but it is heavily related to saving money. Take your own holiday photos, people! And save beaucoup dough. I know that my photos are not as good as professional shots (not by a long shot), but they are just fine. Also, it’s not like I’m the Queen of England over here.

No one expects or needs my family holiday photo to be perfect. Heck, I don’t even have a professional headshot! Some things in life are OK being less than perfect… actually a lot of things… I once wrote about how perfection is the enemy of frugality and many of you responded that perfection is the enemy of most things–and you were right!!!! Our photos don’t look perfect, but the photos look like us and we, my friends, are not perfect.

Here are my steps for successful self-photography:

  • Decide in advance what everyone will wear (greyhounds included). I find this cuts down on the melee of trying to get all participants dressed and ready at the same time.
  • Test your backdrop and lighting. I take a few test shots of the background before populating it with family. This lets me know what furniture to move and which lights to turn on.
  • Use a tripod (or otherwise set your camera on something–a shelf or table will suffice). We use a tripod we found in the trash. Yep, it’s a trash tripod.
  • Take 1 million photos. We program our camera to take a bunch of photos at a time and end up taking well over 100 shots to get one or two decent ones.
  • Check to see how the pictures look after the first five or so shots–this is how we discovered one year that the top of Mr. FW’s head was cut off (a hazard of being 6’2″).
  • Edit your final photo selections. After the photo shoot, I wade through the pictures, select the best, and edit them. I boost color, eliminate red eye, airbrush out things like electrical outlets and cords, and crop out random pieces of furniture that accidentally jutted into the frame.

Don’t Fear The Holidays

Don’t fear the holidays as a frugal person. Embrace the traditions you love and spend money on the things that bring joy to you and your family. Look for opportunities to frugalize the season while still retaining the essence of what matters to you. Point in fact, holiday cards might be the thing you decide to skip in order to save money this year. As with most things in life–there’s a way to do the holidays frugally. It’s a common misconception that the holidays are inherently expensive, but I can tell you from experience, it just ain’t so (check out my holiday section for our frugal tips on everything from turkeys to trimmings). And remember, there’s a lot of freedom in accepting the imperfect and delighting in the homemade.

Do you send holiday cards? What’s your frugal strategy?

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  1. Nice idea! But about two weeks too late for me. I will definitely have to consider this next year, that would provide some solid savings.

    We choose to get annual “semi-professional” photos taken each year by a lady down the street. She does a great job and it is pretty cheap, but we like having one of those each year every fall and then we use it for our holiday card. So in our mind, that would be a sunk cost.

    For our cards we look for the best deal each year on Shutterfly or some of the other similar sites. Definitely not as cheap as $5! Probably closer to $50! And then as you noted about $20 for postage. All in all, not too shabby at ~$70, but we could definitely do better. Thanks for sharing this great holiday hack!

  2. I haven’t sent holiday cards before (I know, I’m a scrooge!), but I was considering doing it this year online.
    I can type faster (and more legibly) than I can write. Plus, it’d be free, and save some trees!
    If I included a nice photo of us with a snazzy background, then if someone REALLY wanted to put our e-card on the wall, they could always print it out themselves.

    1. I have a Mac, so I just use the free editing options in “Preview” or in iPhoto. Nothing too complicated! Good luck with your photo shoot 🙂

      1. Hi there! My computer died a month ago and I have been agonizing over whether to make the switch to an Apple or stay with a midrange HP…any thoughts or advice from your own personal experience?

        1. I really love my MacBook and I’ve been a Mac person for a long time. My first MacBook lasted me seven years and I’m hoping for similar longevity with this one! A good option for Macs are the refurbished laptops, which are sold by Apple but for a cheaper price. That being said, they’re still pretty expensive. Good luck!

    2. I use Photoshop for my own photos, but when I was doing internet graphic competitions, I knew several people who used Gimp, which is a free, downloadable program.

  3. Postcards are a great way to save money on mailings–I did this for save the date cards. My only word of caution is that they will put one of those stickers with the barcode over the picture on the front or text on the back (I’m not sure how they decide which), so you have to be cool with that or design around it.

    I always design my own holiday cards and have them printed. I have the software (Photoshop, InDesign, Corel), and the “custom” designs are about 1/2 the price of predesigned cards on sites like Zazzle, so it’s easy and cheap. With a Black Friday discount, it’s even better. If you aren’t good at designing but still want really nice stationery for things like baby showers, baby announcements (and probably holiday cards), etc. you can purchase a design for around $5 on Etsy and get them printed at your local print shop. This might not be the extreme frugal way, but I like that I can support other moms with small businesses by buying on Etsy.

  4. “Yep, it’s a trash tripod.”

    You mean a trashpod? (Har har har.)

    I am going to have to take a look at the VistaPrint cards. We’ve been printing our holiday cards with Minted since we used them for our wedding save the dates (almost three years ago now), and they are so pretty but decidedly not frugal. Minted also offers a free envelope addressing service, which has been very helpful when one has a finicky printer. The postcard trick is one I actually used for our STDs because, as a postcard collector, I knew the stamps would be cheaper and save us a few dollars!

  5. You guys are too cute! We’re using up a stock of cards that we bought on super-sale a few years ago, though we’ll consider this option when they’re gone. Do you have any tips on how to make a card with photos with a couple–sans kids or pets– seem not so creepy? Maybe we could borrow our nieces for the day 🙂

  6. We tend to do our own pictures and then print via the inevitable shutterfly coupon. I think if we pay anything it’s likely shipping. Beyond the pictures for actual cards we recycle. Since my wife was a young kid at the end of each holiday cycle my inlaws would pack away this years card for next year. Then each year insert a personal message. We actually prefer the personal shots and redone cards as they have a more personal message and you can look back on years past. Posed is just so fake.

  7. I get so many Christmas/holiday cards from various charities that I haven’t even opened the box of super-cheap ones I bought on ultra-clearance a few years ago. (Seriously: a box of cards that went for about $5 at full retail was $1.99 at Ocean State Job Lot.) Granted, I don’t send that many cards, but our extended family is pretty large and far-flung, so that’s who we concentrate on. I’ll see everyone else (my DH’s family) at Christmas, so no sense mailing them cards. But we’ve used Vistaprint at work several times, and I think they’re OK.

  8. We’ve been doing the Costco photo cards for years. We’re able to get 50 cards for $14.99 (if you’re ahead of the game, you can take advantage of the $5 off coupon they run through the end of November and get 50 cards for only $9.99!!). There are tons of designs to choose from–you can do one main picture or a nice collage, and they come with envelopes. The downside of this is still the stamps and addressing the envelopes, but I like having the option to to toss in a personal note for close friends or family.

  9. Lots of great tips contained in this post Frugal Woods!

    Most of the people in my social circle now make their own cards like this and send them out.

    But I have to wonder…why exactly do people send them out? A historical method to great friends and family that lived far away? Like some kind of Norman Rockwell painting, I have a mental image of Frugal Woods stuffing homemade christmas cards while eating candy corn.

    We have better stuff now with email, digital photos and the internet now. Why even spend the $5 for cards?

  10. This is brilliant! I do send out holiday cards, because they make me happy, and since I get a good many in return, I assume they make others happy as well. But I don’t love spending a ton of money, when I’m also buying presents and donating to teacher funds and the like. Perfect solution!

  11. Every year we make a family video, upload to YouTube, & email a nice Christmas message with a link to the video to all our friends & family. Cost? $0.00!

    1. This is brilliant! What a novel and fun idea. This is one of those rare things where I think the more frugal option is actually the “next level up” option – not a static card, but getting to share your family live and in colour! Super cute. Stealing the idea from you!

  12. I have to admit I don’t send cards during the holidays.
    Around Christmas eve I then complain to my wife that we haven’t got many cards this year.
    It seems to me the people i know only give cards to receive one in return. I’m not buying into that kind of tomfoolery.

  13. I have Adobe InDesign at work (work in fundraising) so I design my own postcard and print on postcard paper using a color laser printer. This is what I did for our wedding save the dates. For our pregnancy announcement, I did pay for a digital design on Etsy but it was very affordable as I printed it in the same fashion (used inDesign to format it 4 to a page… I hate Word for formatting).

    My brother has a color laser so I’ve been able to print at his house. I’m not going to lie, I did print the wedding save the dates at my last job on the laser color printer. I would never do that on inkjet though as that stuff is way too expensive.

    In all honesty though, Costco has pretty nice photo cards for cheap. They do have to be mailed, but the quality is excellent. Our baby birth announcements were two-sided and printed on matte paper and for us, that was worth the expense (of which was minimal as Costco is cheap for that stuff).

  14. If you get on Shutterfly’s mailing list, they send a coupon code for free shipping and another for 10 free cards + envelopes (of any type!) every October. For us, that covers our parents, closest friends, and cousins, so we only send out those 10 free ones and pay the ~$5 in stamps. This only really saves you money if you can effectively ignore the stuff they mail you the rest of the year, though! Since I’m not particularly tempted by any photo products except for Christmas cards, it works great for me!

  15. What a great idea! We also take our own picture, spaniel included. We only print a few copies and tuck them inside the cards that go to the small few that would want to save the photo. Everyone else gets cute cards from the dollar store (12/$1), they are actually quite nice! I also loooove to spread the holiday cheer! Frugal or not it warms my heart to send out cards and well wishes.

  16. We don’t send holiday cards, but hey, maybe we will once we start a family! For us, I would do it on the super cheap side and use Canva to design the card. It’s a free graphic design site where you can put together some pretty good-looking graphics. You do have to scale them appropriately, but they print out just fine. I’d use a higher quality glossy or cardstock paper to print and badabing-badaboom, you have Christmas cards for cheap!

    Or, I mean, $5 for 50 postcards is pretty good, too!

  17. I love this! I have two nieces, aged two and one, and they have been the stars of our Christmas cards for the last two years (heading for the third). If I can get them wearing seasonal colours, all good. If not – ie this year – I make them vintage style, add some greetings and effects from PicMonkey, then print off a bunch as photos at Officeworks (in Australia). Then it’s time to glue tape them on the huge stash of card blanks I have, decorate further if needed, give batches to all the family members who need them, and we’re away.

    The first year, one recipient said that she kept the card up all year, because it made her smile. That is a great festive result!

    Thank you for sharing this.

  18. I’ve been using Shutterfly with discounts and coupons, but this strategy has that beat! I always take our own pictures. I’m going to give this a try this year. Before Shutterfly I would get a big pack of beautiful cards at Costco and print the photo at Walgreens. Insert photo into cards and voila! We had Christmas cards with photos at a great price. The Shutterfly strategy cost around $10 or $15, and the Costo was about $25 for two years worth of cards. Both pretty good prices but I love the postcard idea-thanks so much!

  19. This is brilliant. I ran right to my PC and created a lovely vista print postcard. I think we’ll save about $70 this year. Also, since there is more design flexibility with these postcards (since there are typically placeholders for marketing messages), I added a cute little Xmas letter/update. More frugal and more fun! Rock on!

  20. This is amazing! Thank you so much for this post Frugalwoods! So much of what you said resonated completely with us. We (well the she half of she and he!) have been sending Christmas cards for years. As frugal as we are I couldn’t imagine not sending Christmas cards. We also sat down to have the big talk this year-to send or not to send….and then we found this post! Perfect timing! Cards are ordered-we saved $15 going the business postcard route with our own picture, message and splashy design. We agree, its important to delight in the traditions but we will get double the delight now that we’ve saved some money too!

  21. We generally spring for the photographer. With 5 little kids, I have 0% chance of getting a shot of all of us looking at the camera and not making weird faces. Well, that is if I ever want to be in a family photo. Sometimes I tease my husband that if I pass away, my kids will have no pictures of me with them. I’ll just vanish from family record. So at least once a year we hire someone else to try to get all those munchkins to look a the camera a smile… with me in the picture. =)

    1. Such a good point about being in the photo!!! Even though I only have one kiddo, I have to consciously make sure we get some photos of me in the frame with her (and my husband too!). Otherwise, it’d just be photos of her alone 😉

  22. what a great post! i particularly love the holiday (christmas!) posts. vista print is great for so many things including all sorts of cards you can turn into whatever you need. i’ve gotten business cards for free. they have great coupons. when our kids were small, they were the stars of our cards and i took pics myself. at the time, you could purchase little frame like cards very inexpensively and they looked good too. i think they are still available. now, i buy cards at the end of the season for next year….at least half off. as to postage, i bite the bullet and send them. it’s a favorite thing to do during christmas, and i economize elsewhere. win win! pick your ‘poison’ frugal people!

  23. I send a few (very few) Christmas cards to people who live far away and don’t have computers. I always include a short synopsis of what went on in my year (I said SHORT–i hate those multi-page family “newsletters”!), as I probably was not in touch with most of them much during the year. For those who have computers and email addresses, I electronically send my greeting and synopsis. For those who are Facebook friends with me on a regular basis, they know what I’ve been doing, so just posting a greeting on Christmas day is good enough. For people I see all the time (church members or social groups) — sorry no cards. I’ll say Merry Christmas in person when I see you. Oh, the cards I use are usually the ones sent out by some group for donations — sometimes I donate, sometimes I don’t, depending on the organization.

    1. I use the editing option in iPhoto (which is the free photo program that came with my MacBook). You just click into “edit” and then have multiple editing options. Good luck :)!

  24. I totally don’t do the Christmas cards anymore. I found out that if I don’t send cards I don’t receive cards for the most part. Apparently other people send cards because they feel guilty because you sent them one. The cards that I do receive are answered with a letter after Christmas. Why send cards to people you wouldn’t write to? And why not just write to those people in the first place?

    I did, however, just take advantage of Vistaprint’s 50% off of everything special and ordered business cards about my new book “Home For Good, Homemaking Organization and Contentment”, plus a few other needed items. They are a great bargain especially with a sale like that!

  25. I dont’ send Holiday cards and have not for years. My circle is just not that large and I see them over the Holidays. However, I’m compelled to mention that my circle has a rule, “no greeting card shall cost more that 99 cents”. They are out there, ie Trader Joe’s”, saves us all a little money and we can have another glass of wine instead.

  26. We celebrate Jesus’ birthday with joyful frugality! (His bed was a manger!) Finding that shopping trips are money pits…gas…eating out…spur of the moment buying…we order from catalogs or on-line and thrift shops. We look for deals and always free shipping and give two gifts apiece. And to really get a heart-lift we share with others.

  27. Failed to comment on sending cards…we send to anyone who would enjoy receiving and not feel pressured to respond and we buy cards on sale at the end of the season and use the next year. There are beautiful e-cards that we send for free.

  28. Great ideas! Writing notes in my Christmas cards with a holiday movie on in the background and a cup of tea by my side is a holiday tradition I really enjoy. It results in higher costs than sending pre-printed postcards, but I’ve found that buying boxes of cards in the post-Christmas sales and using the free greeting cards I receive for some charitable donations helps keeps it to a reasonable expense.

  29. Love this! I used your tip and went with Vistaprint last year, with great success! One thing I really loved was their option to have them ship our cards directly to our mailing list. I had to input names and addresses, but then I didn’t have to buy stamps or write addresses. Plus, it saved time as I didn’t have to wait for cards to ship to me, then prep them and mail them. Super frugal and fun way to do cards!
    I admit to a bit of envy when I see my friends’ professional pics looking so perfectly artsy, but so far we are in the take-our-own-photos camp as well. They usually turn out just fine. Happy Thanksgiving, Frugalwoods family!

  30. PicMonkey is also a great free photo editing/ designing site. You can pay for some upgraded features, but you can really do everything you need for free. If Vistaprint allows you to just upload the entire card design as one image, you can get around having to use their stock holiday designs/ colors/ fonts.

  31. I’m not this frugal but I always buy my holiday cards in the Christmas clearance in January and save them for next year. Very few people save Christmas cards so I look at it as a disposable way to spread joy. I usually print out some pictures to put in the cards too.

  32. I have used Vistaprint for the past 6 years to do our Christmas cards because of how cheap they are and that I can put an update on the back for no extra cost, so I am already a huge Vistaprint fan. But the idea to do postcards? Brilliant! Thank you for the great idea!

    And Happy Holidays!!!

  33. I can relate to the debate. My observation is that with the advent of photo cards, no one likes to even write “Merry Christmas” anymore. You just get a photo card in an envelope. It’s still nice, don’t get me wrong, but you do miss that hand-written personal touch. (This is what we’ve been doing the last several years… It’s a “Jones’s” thing, maybe?)
    I love the postcard idea – you can write a few lines and save some money. Win-win. Thank you!

  34. Awesome. We’re having a friend take some family pictures today — so maybe we’ll use this method for sending out some cards. Thanks for the info.

  35. I’m looking at the VistaPrint website and in the marketing materials/postcard section, I see 50 cards starting at $10? Don’t see the $5.99 you mention…maybe they are onto your money saving scheme!

  36. I’ve always been too cheap to do cards, but these seem like they might be actually appreciated! Great tip. I have the perfect photo too. We have always made our own gifts but this will be the first year we make frugal a priority as well. Taking a page from your playbook, hubbs is baking bread and I’m making marmalade from fruit we have grown.

    1. Oh yum! Sounds like some delicious gifts! You’ll have to let us all know which marmalade recipe he uses!

  37. I love sending yearly updates and with my most of my family being Amish-Mennonite I would dump hundreds in printer ink, paper, envelopes, and STAMPS! So now that most folks have email access these days, I’ve resorted to EMAILING our Christmas letter and then only “snail” mailing a handful of letters to Grandparents who don’t know what the internet is. It also allowed me to include more highlights about the year. I also attach a picture or two in case some folks would like to print it off and this allows them to choose their size or even photo.

  38. Wow! Less than $20 for 100 postcards with color on front and back, a blurb and six pictures! Thank you so much! I was going to forgo Christmas cards again this year because of the high cost (last time I did it I spent over $200) but your blog post has quickly changed my mind. Even with postage, it still comes out to 53 cents a card (except the ones going to Australia which I will have to pay $1.15 a card). I can’t thank you enough for thinking outside the box and sharing that knowledge with the masses. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  39. Using a postcard is one way to frugalize this season. What concepts would you do this year’s season? I’d really appreciate this kind of gift as it’s really personalized and the message is more profound. This is what this season is all about. Yay! Nice idea, Frugalwoods!

  40. My favorite card/stationery store is for beautiful paper, superior print/color quality, stylish designs and amazing customer service. But they are fairly expensive – I use them for my business cards, greeting cards that I design as fundraisers, etc.

    When I want a budget option, I use Vistaprint. I tried Overnight Prints and their quality control was haphazard – I got a few good batches and then some awful prints, and they were incredibly hard to deal with when there was a problem. Vistaprint has better customer service, although their overall image quality, paper quality and quality control isn’t as good as Moo.

    In addition to cards, I love Vistaprint’s desk calendars. I make them every year and give them away. People love the useful size (much easier to use than a wall calendar) and I find the desk calendar design the easiest one to use when I have photos of different sizes – much more flexible than many other calendar designs (and a lot less expensive). Usually, I wait for a sale, order a few calendars as a test run and then if everything works out, I place a larger order at a better discount.

    One other tip for Vistaprint. They do have good prices, but their shipping can be quite expensive if you want faster than average delivery. So budget extra time in your card-making (or calendar-making) so that you can afford to wait for the least expensive shipping option.

  41. For the last three years, I have been sending out my holiday cards by email. I take my own photo of a holiday scene–the holiday light displays at the zoo or botanic garden, etc. that occur at this time of year are a great place to do this. Then I add my own caption using Photoshop–“Merry Christmas” or something original like that. Free except for admission to the light display if there is one, but you could also take a picture of any snowy scene for free. Not only saves me money, but all the time it takes for addressing and stamping. And no one has to feel bad about throwing away the card.

  42. “My goal isn’t to forgo spending on things I love in order to save a few more bucks. My goal is to spend only on the things that matter most to me and to acknowledge that I don’t need rampant consumerism in order to enjoy life. ”

    Yes, I couldn’t agree more. I’m not particularly bothered about cards but I adore Christmas trees so every year on the first Saturday of December I buy a big, real one. It costs about £30 which is quite a lot really to say how little time we have it for but to me it’s so worth it. It’s the first Saturday because that’s the earliest I can get it and be guaranteed it’ll still have some pins on it by New Year – I’ve tried buying earlier to get even more tree loveliness but it was a very sorry state by Christmas Day

  43. Christmas is a “midwinter” holiday? Since when is winter eight days long? (starts on December 21). 😀

    I stopped with cards a few years ago–all that money, and all people do with them is display them for a couple of weeks, then throw them in the trash. However, we do buy a small rosemary tree and attach some red ribbons to it–we have cats and rosemary is safe for them should they want to nibble. After the holidays, we give it to a neighbor or local organization. Rosemary’s hardy and easy to grow so it’s awesome to have around to use in recipes. I roast my Easter lamb on a bed of rosemary limbs from our five-years-ago rosemary tree!

  44. Love this! I’ve been following your blog for a while and smiled a lot reading this because I happen to work at Vistaprint (they’re a fabulous company to work for). If you ever need a deal/coupon, let me know. 🙂

  45. We send digital cards through Paperless Post. They have many stylish designs that are totally free as long as you don’t send them with a digital envelope. My husband is a talented amateur photographer so we normally just use photos that he’s taken, but last year we ended up getting portraits taken at JC Penney (my mom treated us to that). I am planning to do the same thing this year for the holidays as well as for our new baby’s birth announcement in January. It’s super easy since Paperless Post stores all of the email addresses from year to year so you have to spend no time addressing the cards. I love that this approach wastes no paper and doesn’t clutter up anyone’s home!

  46. I don’t send Christmas cards. I am fairly Bah Humbug. But I love that you love it so much and really love this frugal hack. Great work avoiding the “holiday” premium. When we got married we didn’t tell the caterer it was a (extremely tiny) wedding, it was a dinner party. It was a lot cheaper for the exact same thing!

  47. I love you. Seriously.

    I struggle with the frugal side of me not wanting to spend the money to send these out or get them made, with the proud side of me who wants to show off my kids. They’re cute enough, I don’t have to have professional shots taken.

    Look for one sent to 123 Frugal Lane in a few weeks!

  48. Holy Canoli. This is brilliant. Just brilliant. I had the take my own photo of the kiddo and “design”our own card part down . Sure it usually ends up like this ( but that adds authentic appeal, don’t you think? Besides, I have learned to use “sports mode” on the digital camera as a result.

    But I didn’t think of post cards. You have raised (and lowered) the bar. Color me inspired! Happy Holidays!

  49. Frugal-lujah! I have been searching for a cheap and easy Christmas card/letter solution this year, and this post came just in the Nick of time. (As in St. Nick…) Thank you! I have just ordered Christmas postcards, with a short message on the back, AND saved 30% due to the Black Friday sale. What’s better than cheap and easy? 😉 I owe you a mug of cocoa for this sure to become annual holiday hack. 🙂

  50. I have purchased two boxes of Christmas cards in the past 3 years. I use all the free cards that the various charities send me and only fill in with a few purchased cards.

  51. I was totally going to throw money at the glittery cards on Shutterfly this year in honor of our new baby, after already spending $120 on birth announcements. But I used your hack and spent $25 TOTAL on 100 holiday postcards! Amazing! Thank you!

  52. My cousin took some nice pics of our family this fall, and I knew I didn’t want to spend the money for “real” (haha) cards. After struggling for a day or two I remembered that in college we used PowerPoint to make posters! It worked great – converted the file to a jpeg and ordered them as 4×6 prints when Shutterfly had a free prints special. Thankfully we can hand deliver most of our cards so with photo shipping, envelopes, and a few stamps I think it came out to about $20 for 75 cards.

  53. This is a great idea. However, looks like Vistaprint upped their prices. I’m seeing $10 for 50 postcards, and they charge to put writing on the back. Your secret got out!

  54. My dad and one of his childhood friends have been sending the same Christmas card back and forth each year since about 1966 (yes, 50 years!) It’s got a grid of crossed out names, as they DO re-sign the card each time it is sent!
    Hallmark would freak out if more people adopted this method, and honestly, there’s a lot more anticipation every other year about what day “THE” card will arrive, compared to all the throwaway cards that most people send.

  55. We’ve used Vistaprint for many years. Just ordered mine a few minutes ago. For all the Christmas card naysayers…I’m as frugal as can be, but something in me really likes sending and receiving Christmas cards. I like displaying them in my house, I like looking at pictures of my friends and family, I like picking out my favorite snapshots from the year, and I like writing little notes for everyone. The whole ritual is absolutely worth the $50 of cards/postage to me. And…postcards are a great idea, but I like to put my cards in an envelope, because that way you can throw some extra stuff in there, too.

    Just wanted to counter-act some of the bah! Humbug! in the comments. Writing a little note to my aunty who I haven’t seen in five years…it’s just such a great excuse to be a little thoughtful.

  56. We logged onto Vistaprint after reading your post, followed your instructions, and got 100 great postcards for about $30! Thanks for the great tips!

  57. I just used VistaPrint to create some Christmas postcards which I’ll be mailing for the first time this year. Thank you for the tip about checking Business Material on Vista and therefore bypassing the costly holiday cards option. I’m learning from all the other commentators. Thank you as well.

  58. Hello! I have a method not yet discussed. I buy a box of 100 blank (watercolor or maybe mixed-media?) cards from Dick Blick or Jerry’s Art Supply for $25. Then I make my own art cards (I’m not an artist by trade but love experimenting and usually do a basic collage of a tree with star – very simple and lovely). We enclose a 4×6 photo in each, which can be as cheap as 11cents apiece on walgreens photo or similar. It all still comes out to less than $1 per card, which isn’t as cheap as your postcard option – but allows for an entire blank card inside for writing personalized greetings and/or pasting a pre-printed ‘what we did last year’ newsy update.

    My method is time-consuming, to be sure (making 100 tiny works of art) but I spread it out throughout the year, whenever the creative urge strikes. And having a standard-size photo makes it easy for people — well, probably just my mother — to frame it. Thanks to you and all the other commenters for their ideas!

  59. Even cheaper to email AND you can get creative! (Do not use a service – most people(eg me) delete these as malware.
    Alas, postcards cost the same postage as letters in Canada & many other places ????

  60. Thank you so much for this tip! We like to do photo cards and I think last year we spent around $65 for 40 cards from Snapfish. This year we got 50 of the same size for $24 including shipping! They are running a 60% off site-wide sale right now so the actual cost for the cards was only $13 before shipping and tax!

  61. We did the postcards from VP in the past, too. I only need 120 so hated to have to buy so many we wouldn’t use. Last year I just designed and uploaded a photo and had them printed for 9 cents a piece through Target on a special. Will do the same this year and add a second baby announcement photo (he arrived in August so not too late. 😉 We mail in envelopes so can add notes, additional photos of kids, kid art, etc. I also hand deliver as many as I can (if it’s on my normal path).

  62. Great hack! We weren’t going to send holiday cards this year due to the costs, but we ended up going to a holiday event at this local retirement community and they took a really nice professional picture of us and created a festive digital frame around the image for free so we decided to make copies of the picture and send it out to friends and family as a Christmas card.

  63. This is a great tip. I was going to do postcards for a baby announcements (though I’m a tiny bit worried about privacy, but that’s probably irrational…) But I’ve never thought of the “business postcard” approach!

  64. I like the idea of saving money on holiday cards, but our family has always done a holiday newsletter, which wouldn’t really work in a postcard format. In my opinion, the added utility of a newsletter justifies the additional expenditure, although I wouldn’t mind getting to avoid stuffing envelopes.

  65. I didn’t send out Christmas cards this year because my husband and I eloped in 12/22. Instead, I created postcards, thanks to your suggestion. I just got them in the mail today and they look fabulous! Thank you so much for the idea! This is how I’ll create Christmas cards going forward! Look at retailmenot or other sites to see if there are any coupon codes that can be applied to your order. I found one and saved 35%.

  66. This is great! How smart. I never would have thought to look at the business themes. I feel like I am cheap enough that I would be open to designing a card in photoshop and emailing it to people. Postage is cray.

  67. Yay!! Thanks for posting this. I read it like a year ago and remembered it today when I went to do our Christmas cards! We got 50 for $9.73 (I sprang for $4 extra for a pretty matching back) plus $6.99 expedited shipping. Still pretty good!!
    How do you get postcard postage? Is it a separate thing you can buy, like at the post office?

  68. Thank you for this! I just took your advice and ordered our cards from there using the business postcard route. $20 instead of $120 from Shutterfly (with coupons).

  69. Just ordered mine last night, $37 for 100 cards of the premium card quality and a full color back (extra$). I’m so excited!! We sent out 52 last year and paid $80 for the cards alone. I think we will be able to add family members this year (grown kids who’ve moved out, new friends, old coworkers) and still stay way under what we paid last year.

    Thanks for the great hack, can’t wait to save on postage and still get to partake in the holiday-ness of the season 🙂

  70. Great ideas! Would love to know what you use for editing photos that allows you to remove or airbrush items. Thanks!

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