Mt. Rainier and Lenticular Clouds - Dec. 2008 copyright: JMM

January 9, 2015

The Christmas Card Conundrum

I sent out about 96 Christmas cards this year.  I've always done cards, since the mid to late 80s, when I was old enough to start buying my own boxes & stamps.  Back in those days, they were mostly sent to family members, many of whom have since passed away.  Many friends were added to the list as we moved away for college, marriages, military service or in my case, just to get out of my hometown.  Next came my many foreign penpals, and then Deadheads to whom I corresponded to trade tapes during the year.  My list grew and grew to an all time high of over 100 by the 1990s.

Back in San Francisco, that was the height of the card sending and receiving.  There was one year that I got at least 100 in return to what was sent.  Postage was a lot cheaper and that was the only way to keep in touch with people to whom I did not regularly speak or write.

Over time, I cut my list down and also noticed a marked decrease in cards received.  But I still did mine religiously, usually in mid-November, so they'd be ready to get in the mail by the Monday after Thanksgiving (cause I am one of 'those people').  

A few years ago....well I guess going on 10 years ago now....I started to make a few and send them to my closest friends.  People I deemed 'Homemade Cardworthy'.  I enjoyed making them and only did about 10-15.  Then along comes Facebook.  Now, we are in touch with our long lost friends and relatives in real time, every day.  I made lots of new friends; people I truly have come to care about and think of as best friends. My list of homemade cardworthy people started to grow.  And as those card were received, they were now photographed, posted on Facebook and I was tagged/thanked publicly.  This created a bit of a problem as I realized that some of my friends who did not receive a homemade card would be really hurt that they weren't homemade cardworthy.  So I started to increase how many cards I made.  That would take hours and hours, over the course of 2 weekends.  Still, I enjoyed the creative process, so I powered through.  

I was lucky enough to have access to a postage meter at work, so it cost me very little out of pocket to mail tons of cards....and the homemade ones were heavier and therefore cost more to mail.  Overseas postage started to increase exponentially too, but I still sent them out.  

Fast forward to 2014.  I have 96 people on my list, 6 or 7 of whom are overseas or in Canada.  This means I have to purchase 3-4 boxes of cards from The Evil Empire Walmart because they were the cheapest, and actually made in the USA. But it still totaled about $12-$15 in boxes.  I did a homemade cardworthy list and was horrified to see it topped 50-60 people now.  While I am very lucky and blessed to have that many close friends, there's just no way I can make that many cards. Could I make 20 and ask those people not to thank me publicly?  No.....too tacky. Do I risk people's feelings being hurt if they see any tags on Facebook?  No, I don't want that to happen either.  I could almost hear my elementary school teachers saying, 'Did you bring enough for the whole class?'  So, no more homemade cards.  

Now, there are a few people on my list that I don't expect to receive cards back from.  I still send cards to them because they are people to whom I'm very close and I want to do it.  But over the years, I noticed a marked drop in cards sent to me, but it was still running fairly close to what I was sending out.  I would get about 50-60 for the 70-80 I was sending.

It took me about 3-4 hours of working steadily....signing, addressing and stamping each one.  I'd just spent $49 on a roll of 100 stamps, and used them all up on the cards.  That meant shelling out another $49 for more stamps so that I can pay my bills and such (a roll usually lasts over 6 months). I had to buy over $7 worth of overseas/Canada stamps too. I also blew through almost 100 of my new return address labels that I'd just received this fall. Still, you know....traditions must be kept up!  My cards went out right after Thanksgiving, as usual.

2014, however, was a real bust, card wise.  I have a Christmas card book into which I check off 'sent' and 'received'.  This time around I sent 96 but received 46.  Three of those 46 were from people that I didn't send to, or have time to reciprocate because Christmas came up too fast.  That means of 96 sent, there was a return of 43 from that list.  That's not so hot.

It's made me really stop and think about what I should do about 2015.  On the one hand, I would feel so bad about not sending any out.  On the other, it's a huge expense in cards, time, return labels and especially postage, when I can post a holiday themed internet image to my friends' Facebook timelines or send a card/greeting via email for free.  And how bad will I feel to get cards, no matter how few, and not reciprocate?  I mean of course I'd get them for our parents and the kids, maybe a few super close friends, but the time and expense has made me think twice about sending out mass quantities of cards anymore.  I know I have 11 months to think about it but I should probably make a decision and stick to it no matter what.  It's clear that sending cards has fallen by the wayside because we talk to our friends & family, no matter how far away, every single day on the internet. I don't even get birthday cards anymore but I got over 180 birthday greetings on Facebook.

Do any of you send cards?  Do you get a decent return for what you send?  Have you noticed the amount of cards received dropping off by huge numbers?  I'd really like to know if this is a tradition that's worth keeping up or dying a rather quick death.

28 comments:

  1. Joanne you are AWESOME...we stopped sending cards about 10 years ago...as the internet capability increased so did our cyber cards...times change and unfortunately sending cards is one of the things that's has changed...i guess i should be really upset because i didn't get a card of any kind from you and we're new friends - only kidding...i'm a very happy camper to be in touch with so many wonderful friends, current and long lost...i embrace change because without it life would be so boring - same thing every day, year...no matter what you do Joanne all of your friends and family will appreciate it...you're an artist and anything you do is from your heart...can't wait to get together again so we can bond our friendship closer...peace & love my 'new' friend...

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    1. Hi Miki!!!!!! Hey if I'd gotten your address that day we had lunch you'd've gotten a card too but with the internet we can chit chat every day. We have to get together SOON!!!!!! Love you tons!

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  2. I don't mind the expense or the time as much as I do the consumerism. We don't live in a disposable world and it bothers me every year as I toss out the cards. I reuse as many as I can as gift tags and recycle the rest but it still bothers me.

    I've never sent more than 45-50 and rarely received that many back. A couple of years I even sent out Christmas letters with all our family news.

    I don't know what I'll do next year but I think you're right, it's a lovely gesture to fulfill a need that has mostly disappeared in this digital time.

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    1. It's just an expense during a very expensive time of year that I really can't absorb anymore. We're talking over a hundred bucks if I need 2 rolls of stamps, plus 4 boxes of cards. I do put the prettiest cards in my scrapbook and in fact how I judged 'homemade cardworthy' people was based on who I thought might actually keep the card I made as a memento. If I thought it was gonna get thrown out at the end of the season, I didn't bother making one. Why go through all that time and trouble, and extra postage if someone's just gonna throw it out anyway?

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  3. 96I Holy cow! I have never, ever sent that many out. At my peak, perhaps 40-50, but that was when relatives now gone were still around. I only do handmade cards, so I top off at 30 these past few years; for close family, friends and a few co-workers only. Yes, I too keep a "sent" and "received" list, so when I stopped getting, I stopped sending the following year. Every year the list shrinks and I am sure it won't be long before card sending is a thing of the past.

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    1. At this point it's either everyone gets boxed cards or everyone gets homemade cards but at close to 100, I just don't think I can do it anymore. Or at least maybe I should just take a year off from it.

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  4. 96! jeepers - the postage costs on that alone would break me! this year I sent out my least ever 30 :)

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    1. See 30 is a reasonable amount!

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  5. I am the same JoJo, I am not a creative artist like you, but I print my own cards. I use labels for the addresses and make my own return address labels too. My biggest cost is stamps, this year it came to $112. Just too much because, as you said, I didn't get much of a return at all this year. I am thinking of cutting right back this year. Trouble is being from England I have a lot of overseas friends which is where the costs get so high.

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    1. Maybe for the overseas people you should send ecards? That'd be way less than mailing. Postage costs are crazy now, yet the post office is complaining that they are losing money.

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    2. Trouble is, not everyone has computers.

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    3. This is true.

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  6. WOW..I used to send out cards and unfortunately never got that many back. The more expensive the cards and postage got the less I sent. Now I don't really bother. I can't really afford to send out cards anymore. I wish people Merry Christmas on Face Book and call it good.

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    1. I'm really getting to that point too Kathy.

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  7. I buy Christmas cards every year with the intention of mailing them off the day after Thanksgiving.. Yeah.. I can't remember the last time I did that. This year the only cards that made it out were in boxes to family. I know. I suck.

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    1. HAHAHA Nah you don't suck. I'm wondering if people bum hard when they get cards from me so early b/c now they feel obligated to send them back? I know that's how I feel if I get one from someone I didn't send to. It's quite the circle.

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  8. My holiday card sending habits are dying a slow death. Less and less cards get sent (and received) every year. I'm okay with that. I never have done home-made cards for Christmas, but I try to do them for special people on their birthdays. If I don't know their birthday, they are probably not "home made card worthy". I think a card on your birthday means more than a Christmas card. I hope you figure out what you want to do. Good luck!

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    1. Thing is, I have more card making supplies for Christmas than birthdays! lol Hey maybe I should do a Christmas themed birthday card. That'd definitely be different, esp. for people with summer bdays. hahaha

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  9. 96 cards is a lot! I don't even know if my parents used to send out that many back in the days when sending Christmas cards was standard procedure, but maybe they did because we'd get hundreds and hang them all around the living room.

    My wife sent a few cards--I sent none. I'd say we received not more than 10 cards and they were from the same people who send them every year.

    Sending cards can really get expensive now and that's not even taking the time involved into consideration.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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    1. I had a fairly large Italian family so there were aunts, uncles and cousins, then all my friends from high school, college and various jobs. Now I have Facebook friends too. It's gotten a little out of hand. It took me 3-4 hours of nonstop signing and addressing, and I didn't even bother with a note inside because almost everyone either reads my blog or is on Facebook, so they are up to speed on my life.

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  10. I send cards, but only to people who live far away. It is usually ten or less cards, and I put a handmade ornament in each. If I were sending as many as you do, I'm sure I'd skip the ornament. ;-)

    I don't receive cards back, but that's okay, I don't expect any. I think people just don't use the mail as much since they use the internet instead. But I don't use Facebook very often, and nobody reads my blog.

    The reason I send them is because I want my far-away friends to know that I'm thinking about them. As long as they accomplish that purpose, then I'll continue sending them.

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    1. I probably wouldn't cut out everyone off the list...but the overseas ones would have to go as well as ones to people I talk to every day online.

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  11. Days are changed, everyone moving towards online cards to wish during festivals.

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    1. Very true. And online cards take up way less room too. It's such a shame to throw out the paper ones at the end of the season. What a huge waste of money.

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  12. I still send cards, but not as many as I used to. I have got more ruthless the older I get. Firstly I deliver as many as I can when I'm doing pressie deliveries/get-togethers. Then the ones I still have to post - about 40 - I make sure I send at second class post rates which saves about ten pounds! I buy all my cards in the January sales and put them away :) We are really good with recycling here so they all go in the box to be reused :) And finally, I don't handmake any as I don't think people really appreciate the time involved so I don't bother :) I will continue to send cards but am careful with keeping the cost and time to a minimum :) xx

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    1. I never thought to ask about second class postal rates but I've not heard of anyone doing that here so I'm not sure it's an option. I used to be good about getting the cards on sale after the holidays but I haven't done that in years. They are still pretty cheap at Walmart....a box of 18 costs about $3. Still though, when you need 4 boxes, it adds up quickly. And then I also have to make sure that there are enough 'generic' happy holiday greetings included in the boxes so as not to offend people who are Jewish or against the whole 'merry christmas' thing. It's getting to be a bit much.

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  13. Same here, JoJo. I cross off a few each year (some of them deaths...) but never get back as many as I send. One or two I'm OK with, like the elderly widow of a long-dead cousin who has very poor sight. Others have no excuse. One I ignore on purpose has just stopped sending me one, and I'm hoping another will soon follow suit.

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    1. I never send to a person who has lost a spouse during the year. I think it's a little insensitive to be all 'merry christmas' when you know it's going to be heartbreaking.

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