Budget Christmas cards

I love Christmas cards. In fact, I love all manner of physical correspondence — letters, postcards, etc. and I love this time of year because I get photos and cards in the mail! (You might remember Michael’s birth gave me the opportunity to send out birth announcements, whee!) Anyway, I did have a dilemma this year. I’m on maternity leave, so income is iffy, making Christmas card purchases out of the question. Also, I have many photographer friends, but they all like to shoot outside, and Christopher is still too young for an outdoor photo shoot. What to do?

First off, I got a Fotonet.net postcard in the mail, inviting me to take advantage of a free photo shoot at one of their several partner studios. I opted for Sears Photo, since it was the closest. I don’t remember when exactly I got the postcard, but I did sit on it for a few weeks before we finally took a photo on Dec. 5. Check em out.

I have such cute boys. My husband ain’t half bad either!

Anyway, the postcard offer included $30 in photo prints, any combination of a few 5×7′s or an 8×10 plus a 5×7 with a few wallets and another combo I can’t remember. We opted to get the last pose for the 8×10 combo and were told that it wouldn’t be ready until Dec. 18. Two weeks?! Seriously? That weekend, after getting some income, we decided to purchase two more poses, and those came with 2-day shipping. So basically, the photos we bought online, after reviewing them, were delivered to our home two days before the ones we ordered from the studio. And I had to pick those up.

And, to go off on a slightly unrelated tangent, Sears websites SUCK. As someone who scopes out brick-and-mortar stores’ stuff online, Sears’ website won’t even allow you to view their products without downloading cookies. As for their photo website, I kept trying to save the photos from my session to my account and locked myself out. When I requested a new password, I didn’t get it till the next morning. It seems they don’t believe in automatically generating passwords. Whoever is doing Sears’ website work, you should maybe stick to the catalog or something else that doesn’t require modern sensibility.

While I’m at it, I’d like to offer a few suggestions to the whole photo sales strategy. I can’t imagine that the profit margin on selling prints is high, and the prices are so ridiculous ($9.99 for two 5×7′s? And I hear something like $250 for the photo CD without purchasing anything else.) that most families are just opting to use their digital cameras and print out their own photos, so maybe you should rethink that business. How about selling the fact that you guys offer actual studios with backgrounds and photographers?And instead of guaranteeing that no one will ever come back because of the high price you’re asking for the CD, why don’t you charge a more reasonable price to inspire some customer loyalty?

I’ll stop ranting now.

Anyway, we couldn’t afford to buy cards, so I’d been researching if there were Christmas card templates that I could plug my photos into and print out at home. And I scored. First, I found HP Creative Studio, where you can download free customizable templates for cards, calendars and a bunch of other paper projects. Then I found GreetingBee — you can buy cards and have them shipped to you, you can also buy cards that they ship out to the recipients and you can plug in your photo to one of their templates and print it out for a nominal fee. Check ours out:

We already have a HP all-in-one printer that’s actually quite good and plenty of photo paper, so all we needed to do was print out what we needed. We were able to print both 5×7 and 4×6 versions of this card. But what about envelopes? I so happened to have a box of old Christmas cards stored away, so I used the envelopes to send them out. But I needed a few more, so I went to The Paper Source for just envelopes, which cost $4.25 for 10.

Photo shoot: Free
Cost for prints of 3 poses: about $30
Christmas card template: 95 cents
Extra envelopes: $4.25

Basically, I paid just about the same amount of money I would have if I had bought the cards from, say, Shutterfly. But the money went to a different source — the cost of the photos. The actual cards themselves cost very little, and I was able to print out as many as I wanted, when I wanted. We got the photos late, so using a template that we could print out ourselves allowed us to send out cards in time for Christmas. Next year, if we can use a previously shot family photo or get a friend to photograph us for free, we’ll save even more money!

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