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Holiday card sending made super easy

Elizabeth Mayhew of Real Simple magazine helps take the stress out of spreading that yuletide cheer. Here are some tips.

We all love receiving personalized cards during the holidays, but when it comes to sending out our own, it can be a daunting task. Elizabeth Mayhew of Real Simple magazine was invited on the “Today” show to help take the stress out of spreading holiday cheer.

Set a limitSending holiday greetings can become too intimidating if you get into the 100 person range.  Draw the line at 50.

CullDon't send holiday cards to people you see all the time, like co-workers. If you plan to see someone during the season and can extend a greeting then, or if a person is no longer active in your life, feel free to scratch them off your list.

Make a file for your card list
Throughout the year, toss in envelopes you receive from people who have moved, as well as scraps of paper with new acquaintances' addresses on them.  At year's end, everything you need to update your list will be together in the same file.

Break card-writing into 3 or 4 sessions
Set a time each week and stick to it. Not only will this spread the task out into more manageable bites but you'll also avoid the creative burnout that leads to all those "love yous."  If you start Thanksgiving weekend and do a batch each Saturday for three weeks, you'll have them out by December 15th.  (USPS deadline for holiday cards is Dec. 21st)

Enlist the familyConsider letting your children address the envelopes or stick on pre-addressed labels. It will get them involved and cut out a chore for you.

Types of Cards

If you have lots of time
These cards are for people who absolutely cherish the tradition of sending out holiday cards.  They are pretty traditional and use this as an opportunity to reconnect with their friends and loved ones.  They want to find a beautiful card that gives them plenty of room inside to write out a (perhaps different) holiday message for each recipient.  These cards might also be for people who don't have a very long list of recipients and only send to their close family and friends. All of the below are made from thick paper stock, with ample room for your message.

Funky photo card: The festive borders (your choice of 9 designs) are provided, but everything else – including glue or double-sided tape you need to stick the photo on – is up to you. ($15 for 10;

Retro cool: A 1950's throwback design, these letterpress cards come in 17 designs perfect for nostalgic older relatives and trendy younger ones.  ($15 for 6; Hello!

Classic photo card: Center your photo within the border, and then stick it down with the attached mounting strips. The 40 designs range from simple squiggles to a toile print to juniper branches.  ($24 for 10;

Stamps: For those with lots of time, why not add a unique touch to your envelope by creating your own stamps. Go to and upload your image, crop, rotate, or zoom; choose a border color; and select the postage rate. A sheet of twenty 37 cent stamps costs $17 plus shipping. The more you order, the lower the per-sheet price. (Also a great gift idea for someone who has everything)

If you have a bit of time
These cards are people who like to put a little bit of time into sending cards – enough to make their recipients feel appreciated.  We have one card that allows you to personalize by selecting stickers instead of having to write out a whole message.  The other two let you tuck in a photo with zero effort.

Photo, Framed: Instead of worrying about centering a 4 x 6 photo, slip it into the pouch of this card and it's automatically matted within a holiday border (choose from 14).  ($13 for 12;

Check one: This quirky note card gives you 11 chances to personalize your message by checking boxes or filling in blanks.  ("Wherever you are, I hope that:  you are surrounded by special people/you've already purchased my gift...").  Multiply that by 50 and – well, you can try to do the math. Holiday multiple choice correspondence note cards, ($14 for 12;

Photo Matchbook: No need for sticky stuff with these little cards (available in 10 designs). Just slip a photo of your loved ones into the pocket.  ($15 for 8; Letterspace)

If you have no time
A handful of online services will create custom cards for you. Real Simple tested about a dozen to see who did the best job of letting you skip a few steps without skimping on quality. These online services do it all for you — just create your card online and they'll stuff, seal, address and mail them for you. 

Shutterfly: With a digital image and a few minutes, you an create a folding 3-1/2x5 or 5x7 inch photo card or a flat 4x8 inch card.  After you upload the photo you can improve it by using the site's easy editing tools (cropped, fix red-eye, add color effects) – or just choose a border design and create your message.  All along, the site shows excellent previews. To ensure that your cards arrive by the 24th, place your order by December 13th at  ($10 per box of 12 3-1/2x5 inch cards; $1.50 to $2.50 per 5x7 inch card; 60-80 cents per flat card, plus mailing costs.  Prices go down with larger quantities).  With categories from religious to whimsical, vintage to pets, or even "Christmas-by-region" (i.e. Santa’s sleigh flying over San Francisco). They’ll even mail them off for you.  And if you want to knock out the gift part of the season, enclose a gift card to one of 16 retailers, including Barnes & Noble and Starbucks.  To ensure arrival by the 24th, place your order by December 11th at ($2 to $3 per card, plus mailing).