How to create custom Christmas cards on a budget

How to create custom Christmas cards on a budget

I love getting Christmas and holiday cards each year. It’s so fun to get real mail, and hear a little update on life for those who I don’t connect with on social media. I think annual Christmas card photos are a good record of how our family grows and changes each year too. But, this annual tradition can be so expensive and quickly outweigh the joy and nostalgia of sending actual cards. I knew I had to find ways to save money on the annual Christmas cards if I wanted to send them to all our friends and family. I’m glad to report I’ve picked up lots of ways to lower the cost so you can create custom Christmas cards on a budget. Just follow the steps below and enjoy sharing holiday memories with all your friends and family.

First, let’s brake down the cost savings between fancy designer cards and DIY custom Christmas cards. This comparison assumes the cost of 50 cards.

Designer Christmas Cards with Professional Photos

Photos  $150

Printing $85 (1.50/card + shipping)

Postage $25

TOTAL: $260

Custom Christmas Cards DIY

Photos FREE

Printing $21.06 ($10.53/25 cards for photo paper)

Postage $25 (or see notes on emailing below)

TOTAL: $46.06

SAVINGS: $213.94

Step 1: Taking Pictures

To create your custom Christmas card you are going to need pictures. If you have the money to hire a photographer or sign-up for a local mini session that’s awesome, but it will set you back anywhere from $150 – $400! That’s a big chunk of change to drop every year. I’ll be honest there is a reason photographers charge that much, because they are worth it. They know just how to pose your family and get the best pictures of your squirmy toddler. However, you can get wonderful candid shots of your family that will save you a lot of money if you need to keep that $200 for Christmas presents instead.

Ideally you would have a DSLF camera to get the optimal quality pictures. We bought ours about 5 years ago for a trip to Europe. It was an investment, but we use it for times when we know we want high quality pictures. If you don’t have a fancy camera don’t worry, the cameras on phones keep getting better. Your phone will do the trick here, especially since you aren’t printing these pictures at poster size! The smaller pictures on a photo card not need to be as high quality to still look great and be clearly seen.

To take your own photos with a camera or phone you’ll need to enlist the help of someone else. We usually pick a day that the grandparents are available. Then we have them take pictures of our family. It’s great because we switch and get some pictures of the grandparents with their grandchild for their card too. The downside is we don’t usually have pictures of all of us together. However, with a little advanced planning throughout the year take time when you are out together that another person could take pictures of all of you. The key to getting good pictures is planning ahead. This year I knew we were all going to be looking our best for my daughter’s birthday so we planned a few minutes before guests arrived to take pictures.

There are lots of guides to posing and what to wear on Pinterest.  Dating Divas actually has a ton of photo guides and ideas like this one with 101 creative Christmas card ideas. Or check out this guide, Ideas for Family Picture Poses.

custom christmas cards

Step 2: Designing your card

I love graphic design, but I’m a complete amateur. To make sure my custom Christmas cards look their best for the best price I use a Groupon. If you want to be completely hands off in design this is your best option. Well known websites like Shutterfly will charge you a premium for their cards, but I always find a good deal for a company I may not have heard of before. After searching around, I go to each website I’m considering and make a mock card. I search their templates and see what they offer. Do they have lots of choices? How much can I customize my card? One that I’ve used the last few years is Photo Affections. I saved 77% off 40 cards with the Groupon, so instead of paying $79.20, I only paid $17.99. Most of the Groupons don’t include shipping, so you’ll still have to pay that fee when you checkout. For Photo Affections my shipping was $8.75, so for 40 cards I paid a total of $26.74. If you want to be more hands on with the design, I highly recommend Canva. It is an amazing online website for photo editing. You can create a free account and then using their free services create amazing custom Christmas cards. It’s pretty easy too, so even if you aren’t super tech savvy don’t worry. Look at these amazing free templates!

custom christmas card

Step 3: Printing and mailing your card

If you choose to use a Groupon and choose an online card company you’ll have to pay shipping, but they will send the printed cards to your home ready to mail. They even come with envelopes! So, this will definitely save you time in the long run and it’s still cost effective.

If you chose Canva, you’ll need to print the cards yourself. You can get photo paper and envelopes on Amazon. Here are my suggestions which will cost you $29.98.

Then the only thing left to do is send your beautiful custom Christmas cards. I prefer the traditional method of actually mailing the cards. This is going to cost you in stamps, but really cute Santa Claus stamps! If you created your card through Canva you can download the jpeg and attach it to an email to save on the cost of postage.

If you enjoy sending and receiving Christmas cards each year, I hope this tips will help you save money and continue the tradition.


*Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Read my full privacy policy here.

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