Holiday cards and I have a love-hate relationship. On one hand, there’s nothing cozier than settling in front of the fire, gingerbread tea in one hand and favorite pen in the other with a big stack of cards awaiting my thoughtful notes to friends and family.

On the other hand… it’s a BIG STACK OF CARDS and hello, I’m kinda busy with Christmas shopping, holiday parties, decking the halls, and drinking hot cocoa. Oh yeah, and there’s also work, school, grocery shopping, and the other normal crazy that still has to get done during the holiday season.

Adam and I started sending out holiday cards the year we got married, so I’ve had many years to finally figure out a few secrets and shortcuts to getting those cards out while staying sane. I’ll admit, there was a year or two in there when things got really busy and I skipped it altogether (which is totally fine, too – no one is keeping score and you should only send cards if it brings you joy. Seriously.) But I realized that, especially when it came to faraway friends and family who I didn’t get to see during the season, I really missed giving and receiving that personal exchange during the holidays. And especially after we had kids, that annual photo became way important so that loved ones could feel like they were getting a glimpse into their growing up years across the miles.

This year, I’ve started the process early (stress-free tip #1) and with a little help from our friends at Minted, we’re sharing a few secrets to designing and sending the perfect holiday card for you, without having a panic attack in the process. Scroll on, and I’d love to hear in the comments your secrets to keeping holiday stress at bay.

Tip #1: Plan ahead.

Waiting until the last minute to figure out holiday cards is something I’m definitely guilty of doing, and it has always made the entire process way more stressful than it needs to be.  This year, I’m proud to say that I changed my ways and had my cards printed and delivered to my doorstep by November 1. If you know you want to send holiday cards, start thinking about them towards the end of summer. Seriously! This way, you’ll give yourself plenty of time to schedule a photographer to come snap some photos, or find that perfect family picture from your summer vacation. It also gives you plenty of time to start collecting addresses, which brings me to my next tip…

Tip #2: Make a list (and check it twice!)

The first year we sent out Christmas cards, I created an Excel spreadsheet that listed names and addresses of everyone I wanted to send holiday cards to. I still use this same list over ten years later, and update it throughout the year with addresses as people move, or new friends I know I’ll want to add to my list. Having this running list saves my sanity every year come November! When I’m ready to have my cards printed, I simply pull up the list, add or remove people as needed, and voila. It also enables me to quickly know how many cards I need to order.

Tip #3: Keep it simple.

Gone are the days of needing to have a full blown photoshoot with a professional photographer to achieve decent quality photos for your holiday cards. This year, I went with a selfie pic from an early Saturday morning family hike for our cards, and I think it may be my favorite one yet. Simple, natural, and happy – this is what the holidays are all about! And your cards should be, too. I love that you can upload any photo from your phone or computer to Minted, and see how it looks plugged into their amazing template options. It really makes it so easy to see exactly how your cards will turn out in real life, and which template looks best with the picture you want to use — or, they also have template options for multiple photos, too if a collage style is the way you want to go!

Each card and its coordinating envelope is designed by an independent artist, so they’re all unique and amazing. The only hard part about the entire process was choosing between all the beautifully-designed options. I fell in love with several different designs that worked perfectly with my photo, so it was tough to narrow it down! Here are a few of the other options that almost made the cut:

Color Me Merry, by Shari Margolin

So Happy, by Carolyn MacLaren

Holiday Film Strip, by Liz Conley

Family Joy, by Frau Brandt

Snapshots, by That Girl Press

Tip #4: Get your envelopes printed.

This is the lifesaver of all holiday lifesavers. Hand addressing envelopes, a task that used to take me days to complete, has now been taken completely off my plate thanks to Minted’s free recipient address printing. Upload your addresses using your handy spreadsheet you created earlier, then choose the style that matches your cards. (Minted will automatically save the addresses in your account, too.) They have so many cute fonts and styles to choose from – I used this handwritten font that is so realistic it’s almost hard to believe that I didn’t slave away writing these myself! Pro tip: Minted also offers the option to order matching stamps for your envelopes. No more waiting in line at the post office? Game. Changer.

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