Updated on 12.15.08

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Christmas Cards Edition

Trent Hamm

My wife and I traditionally send out about sixty Christmas cards each year via the postal service. As has been the case the past few years, these cards include a family picture and a note about how things are going with our family.

As I packaged up the cards this year, I couldn’t help but wonder what this experience will be like in fifteen years. Will we still be sending these cards on paper, or will the greetings be sent electronically? Will e-paper have evolved to the point that one can effectively send short home movies in paper-thin form for just pennies?

Part of me hopes that this old-fashioned exchange of cards never really changes. I love sending them out to people and I still love receiving them, particularly ones that include a picture of the family as part of the package. Even in the age of all of the electronic goodies out there, it still makes me feel close to the sender. I guess I’m sentimental.

Anyway, here are some good articles from the past week.

33 Ways to Earn Extra Money This is an excellent list of ways to put extra coin in your pocket – most of these are quite simple, too. (@ five cent nickel)

What to Do If You’re Unable to Afford Home Heating Bills Distressingly, I heard from two readers this week who were in this boat. They were making choices between food and heating. Hopefully, this article will help. (@ frugal dad)

12 Steps to a Prosperous New Year This is an excellent list of year-end tips. (@ being frugal)

My Debt Poem: A Law Student’s Lament I can’t help it – I’m a sucker for bloggers who get creative and try something way outside the box. (@ art of the coupon)

The College Student Debt Machine: A National Disgrace This is a great argument that colleges and universities are at least somewhat culpable in creating the enormous debt load that many college students build up during their studies. (@ tough money love)

Embracing the Thrift-Store Ethic: 18 Top Tips for Buying Used Clothes Thrift stores and secondhand shops are great places to pick up all kinds of things – clothes are just the beginning. Quite often, their sports equipment is in really good shape, brought there by people who have scarcely used it, for example. (@ get rich slowly)

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  1. Chris says:

    Good group of articles. The one about student debt is eye-opening and alarming. I still have TONS of student debt, and when I was taking it out I never even gave it a second thought. Everyone told me that student debt was fine to have, and it didn’t matter how much, but I’m paying for it now.

  2. I’ve been doing Haikus on my site for a while, maybe I’ll try something a bit more creative like a rap, or a christmas carol.

  3. Kevin says:

    I was lucky, my parents saved some money for me and sat me down in high school and told me whatever was left at the end of my college days was mine to keep. This had 2 effects on me, even at that rebellious age – 1) I worked hard to get scholarships and 2) it encouraged me to go to a cheaper in-state school that saved me a ton. Not to mention working a little during college for spending money. I know some aren’t as fortunate as me, but I can’t fathom starting life with a mountain of debt to pay off – there has to be a better way.

  4. Lynnae says:

    I’m with you. I hope Christmas cards never go out of style. I love sending and receiving them!

    Thanks for the mention!

  5. Mister E says:

    I hope cards never go out of style.

    I have absolutely no interest in watching a video when I could simply read a card.

    Video < Written word.

  6. Anna says:

    Physical cards—that you can touch and hold and admire and save for as long as you like—are 1000% (yes, a thousand percent) better than e-cards. They are real!

  7. Adrienne says:

    The Frugal Dad’s article is helpful in finding ways to carve money our of other parts of the budget in order to afford heating, but sometimes there just aren’t any cuts to be made and community help just isn’t available: Sharon Astyk has an article that is a good resource in that situation. (http://sharonastyk.com/2008/08/12/how-not-to-freeze-life-without-heat/) She gives concrete directions on how to keep yourself and your family warm. She points out that keeping people fed is more important that keeping the heat on because a healthy, well-fed body is better able to keep warm. She also says that more important than heating your house is heating your body: sweaters, long underwear, wool socks, gloves, hats.
    Not everything may be appropriate in every situation, however, much of what she says can help someone go a long way in ensuring that they and their children are able to survive what might otherwise be a dangerous winter.

  8. Mule Skinner says:

    I send very few Christmas greetings through the postal service these days. Admittedly, most of the people I send electronic “cards” to are already getting e-mails from me anyway, but this is much more efficient. We prepared a Word document with a short message, about 15 lines of text, a picture of the family when we went for our Christmas tree, and two Christmasy drawings the kids made for this purpose. Because of the drawings, it occupies three sheets of paper.

    The wife sent it to about 30 friends overseas. Imagine the cost savings in postage ($24.00 for this set), paper, and envelopes. Imagine it arriving in minutes instead of weeks.

    I have just now dispached the second set, to 20 high school classmates: another $8.00 in postage avoided; and there will be more later.

    Even if I come up with other names at the last minute, there is still time. I don’t need to go out and buy more cards, or make them, and they will be delivered immediately.

    I wonder how many of you would have objected to the post when it was new? Before that new-fangled notion, people probably paid visits to each other during the holiday season. Then the idea of sending cards appeared, and probably looked tacky to lots of people!

    P.S. We are sending two via the United States Postal Service — to people who live within walking distance.

  9. Greg says:

    I just finished drawing holiday cards that I’m going to send out today. You’re right, it is a great feeling. At this time, e-cards or anything through e-mail is still too impersonal for such an occasion, but I’m sure something better will come around.

  10. Drew says:

    The idea of paper greeting cards, and how you described the possible evolution into digital format, made me think back to calling cards and how that is now seen as an “outdated” custom.

    Sad, really.

  11. Chris @ BuildMyBudget says:

    My wife and I enjoy opening Xmas cards too, especially because of the great pictures we usually receive. You really get the best of people at Christmas time. I hope the cards never go out of style!

  12. Ro says:

    I love sending and receiving Christmas cards, especially the ones that are picture cards or include pictures! I will never stop sending them and hope to always get them.

  13. almost there says:

    We have tries photo cards over the years. This year the only photo card we sent was a photo of our dog to our vet. I think e cards will surpass paper cards as it is a dying industry. Youth drives the market and they do the e thing.

  14. Amanda says:

    Just don’t buy your underwear at the thrift store. That’s just wrong!!

  15. Kat says:

    Christmas cards are the best. Nothing beats coming home to a box full of cards. Such cheer amongst the bills.

    That student loan article was very good. Even with the 50k I managed to receive from the school and other places didn’t cover the complete cost. Schools AND parents are very good about telling young 18,19 year olds not to worry about the payments, you will be making enough to cover it later on. And if you don’t, you can defer or put them in forbearance. Sure! Try that now. Since the economy is bad and my profession hard hit, I need to use those “safe” guards. I can’t. I can’t get unemployment deferment since they are private. I can’t put them in forbearance unless I fork out money($150) that doesn’t even go towards the loans or for a long period of time. Sallie Mae just shortened forbearance to 3 months from 6. Anyone else find this suspcious? And you aren’t guarenteed to get the forbearance, thus loosing the money you just paid to apply!
    Something needs to be done.
    I wasn’t irresponsible in my borrowing. I took out only enough to cover tuition. I worked 30 hours a week on a full course load(21 units) to pay for rent, food and supplies. Some one needs to let high school students know they can not take on this debt and expect to do things like buy a car, buy a house or retire.

  16. Mat says:

    @Kat and College loan article

    One point I would make is that the money gained from tuition for undergraduates is used for many things. It’s not the purpose of a university to provide a good education and a low price it’s to provide a place and a source of investment for academic research.

    I am not meaning to make a point about whether or not people should take out loans (I’ve never had any for education, either graduate or undergraduate) but that article seemed to think that universities had too much money and I just want to point out how it’s spent.

  17. Jen says:

    Two of my most splendid pieces of clothing–a burgundy leather jacket and a knee-length black leather pencil skirt–came from thrift stores. Total cost: about $10.00. Total. :-)

  18. Marcia says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while and also recommended to several of my friends. This year was the most difficult one for me , financially and emotionally. I want to thank you for the tips on ” don’t walk way from your mortgage” . I followed it, and I was able to get a mortgage modification, and kept my house.
    I live in Florida, and I always read about the “Aldi” stores in your blog, and they finally opened(26 of them) in Florida, so everytime I shop, I can’t help thinking about the Simple Dollar.
    I honestly wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a New Year full of inspirations, so you can continue providind us the means to fight debt in a smart way.
    May God Bless you !

  19. Kim says:

    I would like to comment on the Christmas card vs. e-card idea as well.

    As much as I love receiving physical cards in the mail, my hubby and I did not send out cards this year. In the past we would send out cards to about 30 or so friends and family. That would require a trip to the post office to pick up about $10-$15 worth of stamps. Then going to the store to pick up nicer cards were close to another $20-$30 for that many people. So to send out paper cards, would be close to $30-$45. I was trying to find a good photo to either include or use as the card itself and that was going to be that much more money. I know there are ways to save money with that (don’t buy as nice cards for one, reduce the list for two, etc), but the way to save the most money was to send e-cards. With the economy these days and our budget, that was an expense to save.

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