The Beginning of the End for Christmas Cards?

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It’s not only the Grinches out there who are saying no to the holiday card tradition.

The arguments that paper cards are wasteful, impersonal, and bad for the environment seem to be hitting home during our tough economic times, and you may see the results (or lack thereof) in your mailbox. A Chicago Tribune columnist notes that thus far into the holiday season, her card intake has fallen off steeply, and she wonders if the end for Christmas cards is near.

Why fewer cards? For businesses, deciding not to send cards is an easy way to save on expenses during a down economy:

A Chicago hair salon owner says this is the first year she hasn’t sent holiday greetings to the clientele. Two thousand greetings at 44 postage cents a pop? Not in a recession.

For some people, going card-free is a way of going green. Paper is litter, clutter.

People who grew up with e-mail have another excuse.

Yes, the e-card is mentioned frequently as a free alternative to ye olde Christmas card. Their “selling” points, from a BankRate post:

They’re free, don’t require postage and no one has to wash their hands after opening them. Some even play music, making them a fun, free way to catch up with far-flung friends and family.

I don’t really think this qualifies as “catching up.” But hey, people who send e-cards probably put as much thought into the process as people sending out traditional paper cards—and it’s the thought that counts, of course.

If you’re not into the e-thing and still feel the need for paper, RecessionWire and BetterBudgeting suggest postcards as a less expensive alternative to the full-postage-stamp-requiring envelope, but that’s a tip that’s strictly about saving money, not putting more meaning into your correspondences.

I ran across some interesting advice regarding Christmas cards and gift giving that emerged in the U.K. last holiday season: Dr. Stephen Cottrell, a bishop in the Church of England and the author of Do Nothing: Christmas Is Coming, recommended that you send cards out only to people you love. Yes, love. Not like. Not that you sorta know and feel obligated to send a card to, and what the heck. If you have to take a moment to think if a person belongs on your “love” list, then you have your answer: No card for you.

Also, he said that writing “must see you this year” on a Christmas card is wrong unless you really mean it. The bishop even said that people should (get this!) relax during the holiday season, rather than frantically be out shopping and organizing parties. Mostly, you’re supposed to just hang out and enjoy the holidays, be something of a slug and take the time to be with the people you love.

He’s not completely against gifts, but has a suggestion that’s dramatically scaled back from the status quo:

“Give everyone the same thing. Choose one book that you love and give everyone a copy. Instead of spending a fortune at the shops – let alone the time and hassle – make everyone a jar of marmalade, or pickle some onions.”

Hmmm… I suppose if you’re only giving to folks you truly love, then you’d know if they’re the type who would enjoy pickled onions.

Anyway, there you go. I think I’m convincing myself that Christmas cards are a waste of time and money. Too often, they’re a disingenuous, impersonal substitute for regularly keeping in touch and celebrating with the people you care about.

I’m putting our cards in the mail this week.

135 Money-Saving Resources and Tips, Special Holiday Season Edition
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