Sending Christmas greetings is my favorite ritual of the year. It's an extension of my year-round letter writing to people I love and cherish and people for whom I get the sense might need some stamped encouragement.
I believe that anything we love doing should be done without stress attached, so I'd like to share my secret for making my Christmas card mailing low-stress: I address next year's envelopes as I receive them. Yep, you read that right. As this year's greetings arrive, I hand address the sender's cards for next year. With this system, I only have a few to do at a time. The process is spread out over an entire month, and by the end I'm ready for next year!
I've shared this brilliant idea with others and received a couple objections, which I can easily refute.
Objection one: I don't know what envelopes I'll be using next year.
Solution: Make the decision now. Work a year ahead. To get the ball rolling, this January, pull out the after-Christmas card boxes you bought half-off (or more) and address them. Next December, you'll have your addressing complete. Moving forward you just buy cards ahead, so you're always prepared.
Objection two: What if a family moves after you have addressed the envelope? Isn't that a waste?
Solution: Nope, no waste. I simply slap a label over the old address and rewrite the new address. It may not be the fanciest approach, but I figure the relabeled envelope is going to be disposed of anyway (hopefully recycled), so it doesn't have to be a show piece. It just has to get the card to the recipient. Plus, most of the people on my Christmas list are settled into the address they currently reside at for the long haul, so this objection doesn't occur much.
For Christmas cards themselves, I go the frugal-girl route. I love the beautiful card stock and professionally produced cards I receive, but my Christmas card list makes those beauties cost-prohibitive. (I send nearly 150 cards each year.) So I came up with own homespun approach. I choose this year's Christmas photo. I order reprints of the photo online at Walgreen's. I write a message that will fit on a 3.5 x 4 inch shipping label and have them copied at Kinko's or wherever. (This year I copied them at the UPS store in my grandpa's hometown.)
I put the printed shipping label on the back of the photo, and voila, my Christmas card is ready. I then take my pre-addressed envelopes and begin stuffing them with one of the photo cards.
I love hand-addressing my envelopes too. The physical act of handwriting is a soothing activity for me. I haven't used an excel spreadsheet for years because I don't print labels, but this year I decided having all the addresses in one place would make it easier to update and keep track of the process.
This year, I stuffed envelopes over several evenings while watching Netflix and Christmas movies. I felt no stress, only joy! I love reading the names of the people on the envelopes, remembering cherished memories, and saying a silent prayer for them as I seal their envelope.
This is also the part of the process where family members could pitch in—creating an assembly line and the task would be done even quicker. One person stuffs, another licks, and someone else stamps.
In addition to the names and addresses in my worksheet, I've created a column for “Mailed in 2015” and another one for “Addressed for 2016.” At the end of the season, when the mail slows then I can review the list and write addresses for any of the recipients who didn't send a card, but for whom I still want to keep in touch.
I love my system. It works for me. It helps me stay organized. It helps me keep my costs down while also keeping my stress low at the busiest time of year. This system helps me keep the joy in a beloved tradition.
PS: I've offered for several years to barter addressing envelopes for stamps. I can't seem to get anyone to take me up on it. If you are interested, let me know. I'd love to help you get your Christmas card list ready for next year.