Easy and Inexpensive Photo Christmas Cards

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.


By , on Nov 3, 2009
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.


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  1. Also check out Sugarhouse Ink! We offer lots of great christmas card designs and have an inexpensive print-your-own cards option that will really help people save money this year.

  2. Jenna:

    One step even better we have upgraded to since Dec of 2007.
    Take a family photo one of your own doing. We set the camera up and use a timer. Upload the photo to your computer , Insert into one of the many available frame type e-cards. Use your typed holiday greeting letter that updates all family and added bonus , Hubby knows also how to let everyone sign it so our names show up as if we are signing the card right in front of you! How cool is that and no postage!!!!

  3. Here is a slightly different approach…

    We search all the pictures of the year. We pick 12 of the kids and print out a homemade calendars for our family. In the calendar we take the time to note everyone’s birthday, anniversary and other special events.

    We print them at home and then take them to a Kinko’s/Fedex store to have them bound.

    In each one we write a personal note to recognize how special each family member is to us.

    These serve as not only Christmas cards but they have also become a traditional gift that lets grandma and grandpa see the kids as they have grown instead of just a once-a-year snapshot.

  4. I bought photo insert cards from Current at an after-Christmas sale last January. The plan has been to use some of the free/special offer deals on photo prints from the various online photo sites to print a photo taken on my digital camera. (I say the plan, because I haven’t actually done it yet. It’s on the list!)

  5. Mr. Faris:

    Great idea for saving a ton of money on sending pictures of the family to one’s friends and relatives. You can even upload the family pictures online and send them off as an email greeting card to everyone on your email address book. I think this would save you even more money on stamps and envelopes.

  6. Meghan:

    I always buy my Christmas cards the week or so after Christmas when everything is on 50%-75% off. That’s when I pick up my Christmas wrapping paper too. Instead of printing and sending pictures out to everyone, I upload them to my flickr.com account and give the password in the letter. That way everyone can LOOK at the pictures and the family that want hard copies can print them off and everyone else isn’t stuck with adding to the stack of misc old pictures we all hate to throw out.

  7. Carolyn:

    My kids’ grandpa takes a picture every year of him and the 3 grandkids to send get made into photo cards. It started when the youngest was a baby and they did the “got milk” card – complete with baby’s milk mustache and bottle. Grandpa is a retired dentist, so one year they were all holding toothbrushes, one year all dressed in our favorite sports team’s sweatshirts, one year reading a book. A few years they went to Wal-Mart and Sears, but the ones taken at home have been the best. This year they are going to sit in a huge leaf pile. Not overly creative, but with Grandpa turning 79 a few days after Christmas, it’s still fun.

  8. CheapNLazy Sue:

    Yes! It’s Fast, Frugal & Fun to make and mail custom homemade Christmas photo postcards for 50 family/friends for ~$15/year.

    FAST – The day after Thanksgiving, we get out Christmas decor to stage/take our family Christmas photo & print on 50 index cards.

    FRUGAL – $15 easily fits in Christmas budget, even if jobless.
    100 – 4×6 blank index cards ($1 at Dollar Tree/Store/General),
    50 – $0.28 postage stamps ($14), glue, plus extra printer ink a/n.

    FUN – It’s fun to reminisce about the past year and to list a dozen things that we’re most thankful for. Just create a postcard template on your computer (4×6 size, horizontally-oriented, 2 columns w/line separater), and write your custom greeting on the left and postal return/recipient addresses on right (mail merge recipients from your kept-up-to-date-Christmas List). Make sure to use a festive font and add holiday images.

    Print 50 pictures and 50 addressed greetings, glue (back to back), stamp and mail! Enjoy the holidays!

  9. marci:

    If you have had a family get together and a new photo taken of the group, that will also make a good photo card for those far away. I know that’s what my card this year will be – me, my kids, and their whole families. The first time we were all together with the newest little grandbaby – so that’s my card this year – for a special event!

    Also – I bought oodles of stamps back when the liberty bell stamps were first on sale – figuring for 3 Christmas’s at least…. so there is “some” discount on the cost of stamps :)

  10. You mentioned Vista Print as an inexpensive source for photo cards, and I think this is the Vista Print that has offered free or really inexpensive business cards for years now. Over the last 1-2 years, Vista Print has secretly (in the very fine print) placed monthly automatic withdrawals from people’s credit/debit cards without really alerting the people that this was done. So, people are getting their credit card bills and bank statements and seeing recurring withdrawals/payments to Vista Print that they never knew that they authorized, and it is almost impossible to delete the fees and monthly charges. Most people are having to cancel their credit cards or debit cards to finally get the withdrawals/payments to stop. It has caused an uproar on the internet. People may want to really do some research before attempting to use Vista Print for photo cards this Christmas. Just a warning.

    • Lynnae:

      Seriously? I hadn’t heard of that, but I haven’t really researched it either. I’ve ordered from Vista Print several times, and I’ve never had a problem.

  11. I get a photo on my digital camera and make copies of it. Then I get dollar store Christmas paper for our newsletter. I don’t send a card either. People always tell me they like to read our family update. And I love writing it. I send about 100 Christmas newsletters.
    $44 100 stamps
    $4 dollar store paper (4-25 packs at dolllar store)
    $2 letter size envelopes (dollar store)
    $20 100 4″ x 6″ pictures
    $30 computer ink to print 100 letters
    $100 total

    but too me this is a tradition I will not cut out as it brings me such joy. By the way in each letter I mention about Jesus and invite everyone to our Christmas eve church service with place and date as well.

  12. We went to a portrait studio last Christmas where they took a lot of shots of our kids. It was then hard to narrow down the photos, so not only did we buy our cards there, but we also bought portraits in various sizes. We spent more money than I had budgeted. This year we will take our own photo and buy cards online.

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