11 weeks till Christmas: gather your addresses

This week’s project for 12 Weeks to a Peaceful Christmas is to gather addresses you’ll need for your family’s Christmas mailing. And while you’re doing that, it’s certainly not too early to make a general decision about how you’ll send your greetings.

12weekschristmasAs I mentioned last week, when you take care of the little details in advance, the overall holiday season is much more enjoyable. So like last year, this series involves 12 weeks, 12 small weekly projects that should only take a few hours, planning a wee bit for the holidays.

Gather Your Addresses

If you’ve already got a well-organized, collated database of addresses, you’ve pretty much done the first part of the job. We keep all our addresses in FileMaker Pro for the Mac, and I hear Bento is a great update.

But if you don’t have any uniform system of address keeping, now is a great time to start. It’ll save you the headache of address gathering next year, and it’s useful for other things as well, such as birthdays or family events.

Set aside a few hours this week and collate your addresses (and emails) into one system. A few places to start gathering information are:

  • your wedding mailing list
  • university and/or sorority alumni databases
  • church directories
  • your kids’ school directories
  • Facebook

Your system doesn’t need to be complicated — you can just record them in Excel and print it out for your Home Management Notebook. There are also a few online secure address books, such as Zexer, Flexadex, and Plaxo.

When you take care of your address list now, that’s one less thing to do when the holiday season is in full swing. You’ll really appreciate it.

vintage christmas card sled

Explore Your Holiday Greeting Options

Of course, the traditional Christmas greeting is the standby card, and many families also add a photo or an annual newsletter update. A simple photo card is also very popular, killing two birds with one stone.

There’s no right way to do this. But the best method is the simple one, in my opinion.

I actually like Christmas cards, especially when they involve photos. There’s something sentimental and nostalgic about sticking with the traditional, find-a-card-in-your-mailbox pleasure during the holiday season that I still relish. I enjoy seeing people’s handwriting, a stamp, and then displaying their card in a yearly collection in our home.

But the cost can really add up, and if you’re not ruthless about killing clutter, you can needlessly feel guilty about throwing away cards and outdated photos. More and more, people are moving over to e-greetings.

Sometimes people use a newsletter service, like Mail Chimp. Others create a photo card digitally, and then e-mail it. A PDF newsletter is pretty popular. And others stick with a simple email update with an attached updated photo.

These methods are fine, especially if they help keep your Christmas budget reasonable. Whatever your family’s choice this season, make an early decision, so that you’re not frantically running around, buying leftover greeting cards, or creating an email update while wishing you planned ahead for the traditional post.

A Few Good Resources:

• Make your own cards — Crafty Crow has some great card ideas to get you started.

• Order custom photo cards online. Tiny Prints has some beautiful ones, as does Photoworks. In the past, I ran an Etsy shop for digital card photo files, but I’m not able to this year, with my book deadline. But there are plenty of other Etsy shops who do a great job.

• Take the money you’d use to mail cards, and support a charity. Then send an email greeting, updating your loved ones and telling them about your donation on their behalf. Perhaps they’ll be inspired to do the same.

How do you send Christmas cards to your loved ones? What do you think of low or no-cost digital greetings — poor etiquette, or frugal and environmentally smart alternative?

top photo source
Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. The challenges with holiday cards is when folks buy the typical blah ones and send their typical blah greetings.

    What I do now is make a collage of my family (gotta love photoshop!) and then email that out – it works very well.
    .-= Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach ´s last blog ..INTENSE Guerrilla Marketing examples =-.

  2. I like the idea of donating the money you’d use for greeting cards to charity. Paper/Photo, mailed cards are seeming more wasteful each year. I do love getting cards in the mail, but I’d prefer they came sporadically, all year round, rather than all in the same week. 🙂 Not sure how to make that happen, but it would be nice.
    .-= Leah´s last blog ..Safety First! =-.

  3. I have not created the list of addresses but now I will create that list. Because it really takes sometime to gather all of your family and friend’s addresses.

    Your card options are good. I will try to make my own card. sure.

    Thank you for this useful post.
    .-= Christmas SMS´s last blog ..HADIS SHAREEF FREE SMS | QUOTES | SAYINGS =-.

  4. Oh, I’m so glad to read this! I was just thinking yesterday about getting a family photo done for this year’s cards.
    It’s always a struggle to get Christmas cards out in time, and there are always a few that never get sent because of missing addresses.
    Thanks for the tips!
    .-= Aimee´s last blog ..UtHC Fall Bulletin =-.

  5. Thanks for the reminder! I’m always putting this off until it’s almost too late! I personally don’t like the digital cards – it’s too impersonal. People are losing the art of letter writing and I think it’s important to send out actual cards, especially at Christmas time.
    .-= Tabitha (From Single to Married)´s last blog ..I Finally Did It and It Wasn’t That Bad! =-.

  6. Love this post! I actually created our Christmas card list years ago from our wedding invite list. Now I do a quick Save As… each year and whenever I get an address update via email, I change it on my Christmas list right away. It makes it so much easier to send out all sort of greetings.

    I’ve always made my own cards, but your ideas on e-greetings are intriguing. I am having mixed feelings on what I will do this year. I’m definitely interested in hearing more opinions on the subject!
    .-= Mary´s last blog ..Sneak Peek =-.

  7. Love this post! I actually created our Christmas card list years ago from our wedding invite list. Now I do a quick Save As… each year and whenever I get an address update via email, I change it on my Christmas list right away. It makes it so much easier to send out all sorts of greetings.

    I’ve always made my own cards, but your ideas on e-greetings are intriguing. I am having mixed feelings on what I will do this year. I’m definitely interested in hearing more opinions on the subject!
    .-= Mary´s last blog ..Sneak Peek =-.

  8. We usually send between 100-200 Christmas cards each year, so we have postcards made on Vistaprint.com. They have a feature that lets you upload your own photo on the front and you can design the back to display whatever text you want (like return address and greeting, etc.) This is also good because if someone wants to send you a card back (& they don’t already have your address), they don’t have to search for your address on the envelope they just threw away. It’s on the back of the card! We usually do a creative family picture each year (sometimes using photoshop) and simply upload it onto vistaprint’s template.

    The cost of getting the postcards in bulk is reasonable, and postage is much cheaper too! No one we know of has been offended that they did not get an envelope 🙂 They usually like the idea and want to do the same thing!
    .-= Susanna´s last blog ..My little pilots =-.

  9. YAY! I love it when you get us ready for Christmas!
    .-= Jessalyn´s last blog ..Pursue Love, Pt. 2 =-.

  10. We don’t do Christmas cards – just a little internet end-of-year update. It simplifies our season – one less thing to think about!

    .-= steadymom´s last blog ..How to Teach Your Sons to Express Emotion =-.

  11. I think I’m going to choose postcards this year, too. In years past, I’ve ordered photo cards from snapfish, and they’ve been fine. Back in September, I made a party invitation postcard from snapfish, and I was pleased with the results. I was able to put a picture on the front, and on the back I was able to have the party info printed on it along with my return address. Saving money on postage is probably my biggest reason for switching to postcards. I haven’t researched what the savings will be do order postcards vs. regular photo cards, nor have I determined what site has the best prices. Good thing you’re reminding us now to get started on this!
    .-= Meg Evans´s last blog ..Happy Tuesday =-.

  12. I have to ask: where did you get that postcard at the top of your post? I live right buy Dowagiac MI. Too funny.

  13. Thank you for the encouragement, tips and useful links. It’s such a relief to know I’m not the only one who gets organised this early. For the past twenty odd years, I’ve been making all of our cards by hand. This year, as I’ve been ill and under the weather for months, I can’t face it. The time has probably come to re-organise, deciding who would appreciate a lovely animated e-card from a respectable company, and who would feel hurt not to get a handmade card. I may write a poem or create a digital collage to keep it personal; that way I can send an e-version or print out cards on recycled paper.

    Thank you for reminding me to start organising the addresses. It’s a challenge for me; every year there are folk who’ve died, drifted naturally or cut us loose. That’s life. I love adding the new friends I’ve made, but nothing quite erases the pain of pressing delete or drawing a line through a person. There used to be gadget I tried to get a hold of, a slim plastic digital address file, a bit like a calculator, that clipped into any Filofax or personal organiser. It only showed one address at a time, which I thought would be manageable. I’d appreciate it if anyone knows of something similar.
    .-= janice | Sharing the Journey´s last blog ..Sea Breezes, Books and Minerals =-.

  14. I love the idea of sending out a cute family Christmas card, but practically it rarely gets done. Then I spend the rest of the year feeling guilty. So last year I sent a digital photo greeting card from Smilebox.com. It was really cute. I created a slide show of my family getting ready for Christmas (cutting down the Christmas tree, decorating, making cookies, etc) and send it out to all of our family and friends- in less than an hour. I included more photos of my family than I would of have been able to in a traditional card, and it was very inexpensive.
    So, for someone who never seems to get her Christmas cards out in time- this is a great option. (Maybe not as classy as a real card, but still very thoughtful.)
    .-= Julie´s last blog ..The Path =-.

  15. Can’t believe it is only 11 weeks away! Thankfully I have a Christmas card address book I have used and added to for years, so this task is already completed. I do want to do something fun (and frugal) for cards this year- I think I will check out some craft sites and *gasp* etsy (don’t tell my hubby=)
    .-= Melissa Multitasking Mama´s last blog ..Wifey Wednesday- What are you made of? =-.

  16. Oh, you are so on the ball… And motivating! I’m still working on finalizing my 2009 Holiday Card designs to put on my site.
    .-= PS~Erin´s last blog ..End of the Week Links & a WINNER! =-.

  17. Last year, I created an e-card online by creating a blog. http://ginnchristmas.wordpress.com

    I used a photoblog template and selected just a few photos. WordPress had the fun option of adding flying snow to the pages through a first week of January. I emailed the link to friends and family and invited them to share it with others on their list. This helped spread the card to distant relatives I didn’t have on my list.

    I printed a few color copies and mailed those to my grandparents.

    It was fun to create and easy to share. Definitely using it again this year!

    .-= amandaginn´s last blog ..A little more green: A holiday series =-.

  18. I love Christmas cards. I love sending them and receiving them. Each year, I pick a meaningful quote. (I’m on the lookout for a good one all year.) I copy that quote into each of my cards and then add a short greeting to the recipient. I usually start on Christmas cards the day after Thanksgiving. I usually start with those the farthest away and do a few at a time. Each day, I mail the ones that I have finished. I buy several different kinds of cards and keep track of who got what type of card so I don’t send the same card the next year. Usually, I buy my Christmas cards after the holidays and save them for the next year. That way, I can buy expensive, recycyled cards for a reasonable price.

  19. I prefer any type of greeting with a personal touch to it: e-card, Christmas letter on nice paper, homemade card, whatever. What drives me crazy is store-bought cards in which people just sign their name! That’s it. No other writing. What is the point of that? I like to make simple homemade cards because it is fun but wouldn’t do this if I sent out more than 30 or so cards. I would also like to scan my 4yo’s artwork and use it with a Christmas letter.

  20. I can’t bear the thought of not sending and receiving physical, paper Christmas cards. While I do try to go frugal and paperless in many other areas, this is one place where I remain firmly old-fashioned. If I am too busy shopping and decorating to sit down and write a Christmas greeting to the people I love, then I have lost sight of the season completely. E-mail is just too easy… it doesn’t convey the same message of “I took the time to do this because I was thinking of you.”

    I usually either purchase cards that benefit a charity, or make my own (simply!), write a personalized note inside each one, and include a one-page photo montage of the year. Yes, it takes time — that is kind of the point. And I love receiving cards in the mail… I have a card tree hanging in the front hall where they all get displayed, and I feel more and more festive as the tree fills up!
    .-= Laura´s last blog ..Gifts That Keep on Giving =-.

  21. I don’t even celebrate Christmas (not my religion), but this is a good activity recommendation, and I’ll work on it this week. Thanks!

  22. Wow, thanks for the reminder that Christmas really isn’t that far away! I, too, love to send (and receive) physical cards so I will be sure to get on this right away!
    .-= CynthiaK´s last blog ..Time for a little neurological stimulation! =-.

  23. I love the idea of a postcard! Great, easy way to save on postage. Thanks.

  24. One year, a couple of years ago, I was so proud of myself for beginning a Christmas letter in October. The problem was, I was a little too comfortable with how much time I had to get it done. I never finished…not before Christmas anyway. Determined not to let it go altogether, I pressed on.
    As it turned out, we sent a out our letter in late February and it began like this… Happy New Year (crossed out) Happy Valentines (crossed out) Happy Daylight Savings…. We ended up getting more comments and thank yous for that letter than ever before.
    Now it’s tradition to send out our yearly letter sometime after the new year, when everyone is not in the midst of the hustle and bustle.

    I think that I will send out an old fashioned, hand signed card to a handful of people…maybe we will select a new group each year to receive the cards. I think that we will choose the oldest folks on the list this year.

    Thanks for the “12 weeks” posts. They are very motivating.
    .-= The Lazy Dazy´s last blog ..Miracles never cease… =-.

  25. Great idea! I need to get on it. One year I totally spaced and decided to just send out Valentine’s Day Cards instead. Gave me lots more time, I wasn’t crazy with holiday stuff, and lots of people commented on how great it was to get it since it was the only or one of very few cards they received. Maybe it’ll be a new tradition for us 😉
    .-= lunzy´s last blog ..Baby steps =-.

  26. Great idea to get the addresses straight early one. Helps in so many areas – invitations as well as Christmas cards, plus next year’s birthdays.
    Has anyone tried SendOutCards? You can upload photos (or photoshopped montages/collages) for a personal card, include a newsy letter, and send postcards or regular cards. You could even scan some creative artwork and use it on/in the card. It’s the only way I’m able to send Christmas cards now!
    BTW, it also includes a Contact Manager, so my Christmas card list from last year is almost ready to go already! 🙂
    .-= DebbieB´s last blog ..Are Christmas Cards Still Relevant? =-.

  27. We send out a mass Christmas e-mail card to the people we don’t contact much throughout the year, and send beautiful cards to our close friends. Sending nice cards to everyone seems so wasteful of money and resources.

  28. I love the selection at PhotoWorks! They have some really cute and different cards–the posters are very cool. While I wish that I could send hand-written cards to family and friends, tendonitis in my wrist has put an end to long writing sessions–or really, anything more than writing a check. Large and far-flung families, who aren’t all online, means that we stick to a mailed paper card. I’m lucky enough this year to have a friend/client who’s a professional photographer. We’re doing a trade of services, so I’ll have a great pic of my girls to put on the card. 🙂

  29. I send paper cards to my older family members who don’t have computers, just as I write them a letter every month. For everyone else, I create Christmas card image in Paint (an admittedly child-like effort, but fun all the same) and email it to about 200 people. I think paper Christmas cards are wasteful — particularly the plain old store bought ones. I try to re-use the ones I get when I make birthday cards. I also share them around with card crafting friends so they can cut out bits and use them again.
    .-= Shelley´s last blog ..Men at Work =-.

  30. I receive a decent amount of Christmas cards each season, and I do my best to ReUse them. I cut off the cover of the card (at least from the pretty ones) and use it for the next season. I either decorate the top or side of a wrapped present with the card cover, or I buy plain gift bags and spruce them up myself by adhering the Christmas card cover to the bag, and adding some other decor to it. Then I recycle the envelopes and other half of the card.
    Makes for unique, pretty gift wrapping!
    Thanks for this post!

  31. Instead of buying expensive cards, we’ll create some for older aunts and some friends. Most other friends will get an email, perhaps with a photo or a link to my blog.
    .-= Micha´s last blog ..Kochinspiration / cooking inspiration =-.

  32. I make a postcard with pictures using an online card and scrapbook maker. I am mailing them out for Thanksgiving this year since I am trying to free up some time in December.
    .-= Mab´s last blog ..A special announcement =-.

  33. Hmm…great post, except…we’re Jewish, and celebrate Hanukkah, which is December 11th this year (the date changes because it is based on the Hebrew Calendar, which is Lunar and not solar based), and I’m sure there are plenty of folks who read this blog who are Hindu, Pagan, or Muslim. It would have been nice to see an entry that addresses Holiday cards, rather than solely focusing on a Christian tradition. Of course, we can use the information given here, but I would have enjoyed a cursory nod to the rest of us.

    • Hi Tamara,

      Yes, you bring up a good point; these ideas can transfer over for any holiday, or even event where cards and mailing is involved.

      I didn’t mean to make you not feel included, so I apologize for that. It’s just that this is part of the series, 12 Weeks to a Peaceful Christmas, so it makes sense to refer to mostly Christmas for this series.

      That said… I know you all are out there, and I’m happy to have you as readers. Your comments and involvement is always welcome. 🙂

  34. Great pointers, as always! As one of the Etsy moms who makes holiday cards, I appreciate that suggestion – love the idea of moms supporting moms. I, for one, hope to get my card finished up early this year!
    .-= Jaime @ A Place Out West´s last blog ..best pumpkin cookies ever! =-.

  35. Great post! Thanks!
    I nominated you for an award on my blog! 🙂 Love this site!!!
    .-= Catie´s last blog ..Blog Awards 🙂 =-.

  36. Good reminder – each year I *promise* myslef that I’ll take my time and design/mail Christams cards early….then life intrudes and I find myself runnign around like a crazy person (or, some years, just blowing it off completely) I am starting my list tonight – thanks!

    jen 🙂
    .-= jen´s last blog ..fun at the beach | Huntington Beach family photographer =-.

  37. Gathering some of your relative address is a good idea since you may visit them on a get together or something.

  38. Last year, I ordered a digital card from an Etsy shop. She customized it with our photos and greeting. I mailed hard copies to a select few and sent it with an e-mail to the rest–with a link to my blog, which had a family update with pictures, too. It was super-inexpensive and easy!! Will do the same this year, too! Here’s a link if you want to see it! 🙂 http://proudgrits.blogspot.com/2008/12/our-2008-christmas-newsletter.html
    .-= Tabitha´s last blog ..The tale of the craft room makeover =-.

  39. Love this series Tsh. We’re expecting baby #2 in the next few weeks and I had great intentions of getting lots of the Christmas tasks out of the way early. That’s not going to happen, but this is a good reminder that all is not lost. Little things now will make a big difference and HOPEFULLY help keep my sanity in check come December. We’re waiting to take our family photo until after the birth, but there’s no reason I can’t get the address list together and choose a card service now!

    That said, I LOVE getting photo cards and we display them on the side of our fridge all year long. My toddler enjoys looking at all the photos and asking “who that?”
    .-= Alissa´s last blog ..Baby Progress Report =-.

  40. I always send paper cards every years to our friends and family. I think this year we will send out E-cards instead, in order to save some trees and resources.

  41. I try to do photo cards for family and close friends each year, especially since we have growing kids. Last year I bought a cool Christmas card graphic from Designer Digitals, inserted our photo and our own text in Photoshop, then uploaded the final design to Shutterfly’s scrapbooking site. It’s very affordable that way and gives it that personal touch.

  42. we send out photo cards from costco–i used to do a letter, too, but it was too stressful!
    What we do with the cards/photos we receive is put them all in a drawer in our buffet in the dining room. At the beginning of each week (usually Monday night dinner), one of my girls (2 and 5 yrs) picks a card at random from the drawer, and we pray for that family every night at dinner for that week. I did it growing up, and now I love that we are incorporating it into our girls’ lives, too.

  43. Nice reminder to have addresses ready! I know it would be more environmentally friendly etc to send an e-card, but I so love getting xmas cards in the mail! Snail mail seems to get more precious as it dwindles 🙂
    .-= amber´s last blog .."Where the Wild Things Are" Film Review =-.

  44. Chris Grasse says:

    Every year near the beginning of November I begin a familiar hassle within my own psyche: to send or not to send the 87 Christmas cards this year, to send them all or to try to find a way to trim down the number sent. This means writing each envelope address in longhand with a bright red felt marker and a message and signature on the inside. People love getting these cards. I try my best each year to find a way to work around sending so many cards by hand, but right after our Thanksgiving Day dinner my whole feeling has changed. I bring out the boxes of Christmas cards and begin to look through them… this is when I go downstairs and sit quietly in a meditative state of mind until I begin to feel deep gratitude for all my blessings. Then I revisit the whole process of sending Christmas cards and it has changed. I match the cards with the names and do five at a time. Before I know it, it’s all done for another year. My Christmas really does not start… I am not able to really enjoy doing anything at Christmas until I have made out and sent the Christmas cards. I relax when they have been sent, and the rest of the Christmas season is an absolute delight. Sending the cards are the only “duty” item I have on my list of things to do each year. Merry Christmas to all of you and thank you so much for this website on which I can express my feelings. – Chris Grasse, South Portland, Maine, U.S.A. Submitted: November 8, 2009.

  45. Charlotte Hodges says:

    I love your idea of being organised in advance I am a great organiser for the best part of the year but when it comes to christmas it all tends to go horribly wrong, there are many older members of my family who love to recieve tradtional christmas cards however for the more modern people I think I may send christmas e-cards just to make life easier as I already have email addresses, plus it will save a few trees

  46. I usually deliver paper cards each and every a long time to your family and friends. I think this coming year we are going to send out E-cards as an alternative, to avoid wasting a number of bushes as well as resources.

  47. I love sending and receiving real cards in the mail.
    Email is more impersonal, and there is something special these days about getting a real card.

  48. What about wooden Christmas cards? Print On Wood can create unique and eco-friendly Christmas cards either from your design or from one of our templates. Contact us for information or check out our crowd funding campaign http://ipledg.com/l/print-revolution to get on board with the Print Revolution.
    With every Christmas card we ship, we plant a tree – that way you are giving a card that makes the world a little greener.

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