Success for next Christmas? It’s all in the cards!

Christmas cards. Love them or hate them, the tradition of sending greetings to loved ones and friends has been a popular signal to the start of the holiday season since 1843, when Sir Henry Cole created holiday greetings as an attempt to get more people in the UK to use the public post system!

I personally love to send and receive cards at the holidays. My family is far flung and even with my (borderline) obsession for Facebook and Twitter, a Christmas card is often the only chance I get to connect with people I haven’t seen in a while (generally older relatives who are not technology-savvy).

For me, the easiest way to send cards is to have everything ready in advance. I purchased my cards for Christmas 2011 last week. As I was doing my holiday shopping before Christmas, I noted the stores that carried stunning cards that were not exactly “budget friendly.” Sure enough, when i made a beeline to these stores after the holiday, many boxes of these gorgeous cards were still on the shelves, at infinitely more affordable prices!

For this week of January, my task is to update my address book in preparation for next Christmas. If you are still using a physical address book, it’s time to switch! On a cold and snowy day like today, you can sit by a crackling fire and tackle the job of inputting all of your data (a steaming cup of Cinnamon Hazelnut Creme coffee from Pike Creek Coffee makes it more bearable for me!).

There are many, many database programs out there — I use something called ACT for both work and home use. Or, you can use your email program, which also allows you to input a physical addresses. The benefit is that you can create an email group and send out an e-card should budget or time make sending traditional cards impossible.

To get started, I save the cards I’ve received. In the hubbub of Christmas, I often don’t have time to really look at the cards we received, so after the holiday, it’s the perfect time to sort through them to see who has written a note, who has sent a photo of the kids, and who has put together a newsletter.

But, as I receive cards, I make sure to save the envelopes, so that I can double-check addresses, many of which have changed — especially this year! Then I get busy and update my online address book, so that come August (yes, August) I can address the envelopes.

Although many have adopted a mailing label approach to Christmas cards (and using a database program makes this a snap, no judgement here), I prefer to hand address the envelopes for a more personal look.

In August, while sitting by the pool, I industriously address all of my cards and even sign them (my friends used to laugh, but many have adopted this practice which makes for a fun — and funny — summer day). Then when October comes, I am ready to slide in the portrait of the kids (which I scheduled in September), in early November I purchase holiday stamps on a routine trip to the post office, and in December my husband  writes the annual newsletter. Voila! Cards are done and I can cross one item off of the to-do list!

Christmas Card Timeline (mark these on your calendar for the easiest holiday yet)

January: Purchase the perfect cards, update address book, or start an address book in the database program of your choice

August: Address envelopes, sign inside

September: Shop for holiday outfits for annual portrait, schedule portrait

October: Shoot annual portrait

November: Purchase holiday stamps

December: Write and print newsletter, send out cards, and feel like I accomplished something worthwhile!

Susan McNeill is a wife, mother, author, entrepreneur and social activist. In addition to The Best Christmas Ever! Susan also writes the fashion, beauty and style blog Susan Said What?! and the official blog for the literacy organization she co-founded, Success Won’t Wait!


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