Guerrilla Guide to the Holidays: How to Find the Holiday Card That Works for You

Guerrilla Guide to the Holidays: How to Find the Holiday Card That Works for You

As the holidays fast approach (they're only six weeks away!), we're helping you get more prepared. 

If you’ve been following our weekly Guerrilla Guide to the Holidays, you’ve already figured out your budget for buying holiday gifts this year and started getting your shopping out of the way.

Since you're on a roll, we've got one more to-do for you to cross off the list: picking the perfect family holiday card. 

Growing up, holiday decorations were incomplete without a pile of sparkly greeting cards on the mantle. Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Peace on Earth ... and Dad’s favorite, Season’s Greetings from New York State Congressman Tim Bishop.

When you become a parent, suddenly it’s your turn to spread a little holiday cheer in the form of photos from this year’s Disney vacation or earnest little handprint Santas.

To help, we’ve laid out your card options below, broken down by most suitable for your lifestyle, time invested and cost

altPhoto Cards

Photo-printing services like SnapfishShutterfly and Tiny Prints hit their stride when the holidays roll around. We think Tiny Prints is best for its card design options and vivid colors. It's also good for those who only need a few cards; its prices tend to start a bit higher, but the minimum order is only 10 cards. Snapfish cards, by comparison, are sold in sets of 20, but their prices are lower.  

Of course, if you're handy with a Mac, you could always print out your own cards from iPhoto. (Photoshop works for this, too.) Just upload your favorite family photo, create a personalized greeting with the text editor tool and print on glossy paper.

Sending out a photo card shows a lot of consideration and time. Plus, these yearly cards may be the only chance for those you don’t see often throughout the year to check out your new haircut, or your kid’s new braces.

Who Is This Good For?

Families of all sorts; anyone who wants to send a photo of themselves or their kids to friends and family.

Cost: From 30 cents to $2.47 per card.
Time: About 20 minutes to go through the templates, pick a favorite and upload your picture.


altCharity Cards

Many charities sell boxes of holiday cards to benefit their chosen causes. To filter them by cause instead of card, check out Cards That Give. One of our favorites, The Hunger Site, always gets us with cards depicting irresistible animals in the snow.

Who Is This Good For?

People who are into handwritten cards and snowflake stamps, families with high school or college-aged children who will no longer submit to family portraits and parents who want to emphasize the charitable aspect of the holiday season.

Cost: Varies; The Hunger Site starts at about 60 cents per card and $1.18 per envelope.
Time: 10 minutes to browse and order, 7-10 days to ship, 10 minutes to sign and send.


altPaperless Post

Paperless Post combines the fun of opening an envelope with the environmental good karma of paperless posting. Although this is theoretically akin to an e-card, we think this is a much, much classier version, since it has the grace to skip all manner of dancing animations. There’s something about the elegant, animated envelope that conveys holiday effort … if your mother-in-law can figure out how to open it.

Who Is This Good For:

The environmentally-aware family, those big on email and those who lost their cameras last year and haven’t found time to replace them yet.

Cost: First 25 cards free; about 16 cents each after that (sold in groups of 30).
Time: 15 minutes to choose a card, compose a message and send.


altStore-Bought Cards

The Hallmark classic is tempting, with its colored envelopes and immediate gratification. Plus, you can pick these up while grocery shopping. Even if you buy them in bulk, they can often feel like a luxury for recipients (who know you shelled out for them).

Who Is This Good For?

Multitaskers who want to grab cards on the go, and last-minute buyers from any family—especially those who only have a handful of people to send cards to.

Cost: $1.50 to $4 per card.
Time: 15 minutes browsing the aisle at CVS or going through the selection at your local stationery store; 30+ minutes filling out cards, addressing envelopes and sending.


altFree E-Card (Only a Google Search Away!)

They’re handy, abundant and only somewhat likely to get stuck in a spam filter. Your kids might enjoy composing their own to send to friends or family. We like 123Greetings and EGreetings. Although these might not be the most polished greetings in the bunch, they couldn’t be more convenient at the last minute … you can even send them from a tablet en route to Grandma’s winter bash.

Who Is This Good For?

Those on a time-and-money crunch, as well as those with computer-loving children who are itching to take a hands-on approach to this year’s card distribution. These work best if your friends and family would get a kick out of campy, funny and informal greetings—rather than pristine family portraits.

Cost: Free.
Time: 5 minutes to browse the selection, enter limited characters and send.


It takes a lot of time and effort to make homemade cards (depending on how detailed you get), but they can be a fun activity to do with the kids … assuming you don’t mind a little bit of mess.

Who Is This Good For?

Families with elementary-age children who have the coordination and inclination to let you turn their thumb prints into reindeer. We also think it would be cute for families expecting a new addition: Wouldn’t a bump silhouette be a cute way to announce the news?

Cost: Paper: $3. Paint: $4. Glitter: $2.50. Sharing your child’s talent with your extended family and a few clients: Priceless. Or around 90 cents per card.
Time: 15 minutes to set up, 1+ hours to make, 45 minutes to pry glitter out from under fingernails.


altArtwork Collages

If you're craft-inclined but unenthused about post-project detritus, consider creating a photo collage of your kids' already-existing artwork using a handy, free web service such as Photovisi, which allows you to select a design, upload your photos and customize a photo collage. Alternately, you can scan artwork onto your computer and use Photoshop to produce your own low-cost collage cards.

Who Is This Good For?

Families with children who produce more masterpieces than the refrigerator can accommodate.

What's Your Go-To Holiday Card?

Do you have a favorite photo site you use every year for holiday cards? Or do you make your own?

Cost: Just the photo paper ($20-$40 per pack, depending on the quality) if you already have the whole digital camera or scanner/printer setup. Otherwise, about 15 cents per copy at Kinko's.
Time: 15 minutes to choose and photograph the artwork, 10 minutes to upload into a collage and download the file. If you have a printer, about 30 minutes to print. If not, about 1 hour to go to Kinko’s and print.


altVintage Cards

When we say “vintage,” we're talking actual, charming holiday greetings from the days of yore (not just random cards that have been sitting in your desk drawer for the past five years). Luckily for us, there’s an online hub of vintage cards for every occasion, and the holiday season is no exception. That’s right: eBay. 

Who Is This Good For?

Families with older children who would rather not appear in or contribute to this year’s card, or families with relatively few cards to send (we haven't been able to find more than 16 cards at a time up for sale).

Cost: Anywhere from $3 to $30 per box; it depends on how many people have their eyes on your chosen style.
Time: 7-10 days for delivery, half an hour to write, address and send.


For so many of us, the idea of making a card by hand sounds a lot better than it looks. For that reason, we have Etsy. We’re in love with these reindeer, this puppy, these snowmen and this couple.

Who Is This Good For?

Families looking for particularly unique and/or personalized cards.

Cost: Etsy’s treasures aren’t the cheapest. Cards are nearly always over $1 each—our favorites run along the lines of $18 for 12, $15 for 10 and $185 for 100.
Time: Assuming you’ll be as enchanted by the pages of options as we were, set aside a good hour to sort through. Then, 7-10 days for shipping, and another half hour or so to fill out and send.


More Holiday Help

If you haven't booked your travel yet, check out our tips.
Here's how to set, and stick to, a holiday budget.
We bring you six tips to avoid stress this holiday season: check it out. 


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