I like to send and receive Christmas cards. In today’s busy society, sometimes Christmas cards are the only time I update relatives on our family. And sometimes it’s the only time I receive updates.

But a few years ago, I found that my Christmas card routine was getting pretty cluttered…and expensive. I would buy the cards. Then I’d sign every one, with a short, personal message. Then I’d type up a longer family update in a family newsletter. I’d march the family down to a photo studio, for a Christmas picture. Then I’d have to cut out the pictures and stuff them into the envelope with the card and newsletter.

There had to be a better way.

These days I’ve changed my card routine a bit. We still write the Christmas letter, which we sign with our very own handwriting. Sometimes we attach a personal message too.

But instead of buying Christmas cards and paying for a professional portrait, I take a picture at home, and then I order photo cards. I stuff the envelope with the photo card and the family newsletter, and send them on their way.

Photo cards don’t have to be boring or expensive. A couple of our pictures from years gone by are:

The kids in front of the Christmas tree (I gave my son a present to hold, to keep his hands busy).

And the whole family in front of the tree in our matching pajamas.

I’ll admit that I’m not creative when coming up with Christmas picture ideas. A quick search of the internet will lead you to more ideas than you’ll ever use, though. The best ideas I came across can be found at Thrifty Fun here and here.

After you’ve taken (and possibly photoshopped) the perfect picture, you can either make up Christmas cards yourself and print them out, or you can upload the picture to a third party website, like Shutterfly or Snapfish to create Christmas cards for you. I don’t have photoshop, and I haven’t had time to learn Gimp yet (the free alternative), so I use whatever site has the best deals on photo cards at the time I’m shopping. Right now Vista Print has the best deal, so that’s probably who I’ll use.

If you give yourself enough time, you can create your own unique and frugal Christmas cards.