Every December, your mailbox is stuffed with a daily dose of holiday cheer. You flip through the family photos and joyful notes, knowing full well how much time and money went into this seemingly simple task. You need a good photo (hard), patience to find the perfect design from dozens of shops (harder), and copious amounts of energy to sign, seal, stamp, and deliver the final product (hardest). But, that’s all about to change. We scoured dozens of apps and card makers to find the best solutions for your top holiday card challenges. Here, are our top choices for sites that help you create beautiful holiday cards quicker, easier, and better.
Problem: Organizing and writing addresses is laborious.
Whether your list is composed of 50 people or 500, addressing envelopes is incredibly time-consuming. Wrist-aching also comes to mind. Now, you can put the pen down. Many retailers, from TinyPrints to Simply to Impress, offer the perk of printing recipient addresses for you in beautiful designs that eradicate any concerns over it looking impersonal. But even more tedious is the art of organizing your contacts in the first place. Has anyone moved? Did a new acquaintance make the holiday card cut this year? What about your cousin who got married, what’s her new last name? To take advantage of these addressing services, your contacts need to be organized in an easy-to-upload spreadsheet or your saved contacts need to have the exact right fields filled in for each person (because we all have time to do that). That’s why our pick, Minted’s Concierge Address Service is supreme. For one, it’s free (with a card order), unlike many of its competitors. Two, this is no clip-art world—Minted has by far the most stylish patterns and fonts from which to choose. And, most important, it’s ridiculously easy to create an address book. You can email them your addresses pasted in the body of your message (yes, just cut and paste) or you can send them old envelopes with friends’ and families’ addresses on them. From that, they will create an address book for you to review and approve.
Problem: Holiday cards can be costly and a waste of paper.
The average cost of a quality personalized photo card is around $1.50, but can rise to more than three dollars a card when you add glitz and glitter (literally) or unique formats like tri-folds or ones shaped like an ornament that require extra postage. Even adding a cute snapshot of Fluffy on the back or lined envelopes in the perfect pattern will tack on a charge. Multiply that by the number of cards you need, and you don’t have to be a math genius to know that the total cost adds up quickly. Before you start reconsidering the worth of everyone on your list, know you have options. First, postcards. This is the Post Office’s best kept-secret. The postage is more than ten cents cheaper than a regular card and you can mail anything as a postcard as long as it’s rectangular and is between certain dimensions (check them here). You could print out copies of a favorite photo for pennies from iPhoto or your local pharmacy/photo store, write the address on the back, and voila – you’re done. If that feels too DIY for you, Zazzle.com has a few nice photo postcard designs that are printed with lines for addressing on the back. They also offer the ability to personalize your postcard postage with a photo, but you will pay a premium for that (about $12 more than the cost of a sheet from the Post Office). Another alternative: Check out online retailers that specialize in business printing—many offer better bulk deals and won’t mark up the cost just because it’s a “holiday” card. Our pick: Moo.com, better known for its unique business cards, offers a small but chic selection of pre-designed holiday postcards that you can customize with a special message on the back. The downside: you can’t add a personal photo. The upside: you just saved more than 50 percent off your holiday card bill. And for those looking to save time, money and trees there are digital cards like Greenvelope where you can email holiday cards to 100 people starting at $49.
Problem: It’s December 15 and you haven’t even started.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Procrastinating the holiday card process is normal when your to-do list is longer than your children’s gift wish lists. For one, you could just let it go and send a Happy New Year’s Card. Otherwise, go with a company that understands the true meaning of holiday rush. Storkie prints and ships your cards the next business day, if you place your order before noon EST on a weekday. (After noon it will take two days.) There are caveats, of course: You won’t get to review a proof, so check your work carefully; you will have to pay for premium shipping; and certain embellishments take extra time, like letterpress or glitter orders, so choose a design wisely. If your stress is more about finding the time for the stuffing assembly line, let the pros take care of it all. Shutterfly can stamp and mail any quantity of individual cards directly to your recipients for an additional cost (around one dollar). Or, eliminate snail mail altogether. It takes minutes to create a personalized digital card. Our favorite is RedStamp. The app and site allow you to choose from fun designs, add a photo straight from your phone, customize your message, and decide how you want to spread the digital joy—via email, text, or on Facebook and twitter. Job = done.
Problem: You want your card to stand out.
Admit it, after you’ve received the first big batch of holiday cards, they all start to look alike. Here’s how to cut through the clutter. First, use robots to write a personalized note. Seriously. Bond.co uses technology that replicates your signature. You type your message for each VIP, choose from a dozen handwritten fonts and styles (print, cursive) to match your own, and upload your signature via their app. This level of customization comes at a cost ($5 a card, including stamp) and their designs are very basic (you can add one photo), but when it’s the thought that counts, it’s the way to go. Another basic equals beautiful approach comes from Artifact Uprising, who boasts one of the most artistic cards we found. There are no bells and whistles here, the focus is on the quality of the photo and is printed with an ultra-modern, professional photographer-worthy look. This is the card that’s hung on your wall or takes the primo spot on your friend’s fridge.