Have you ever noticed that if you are going to feel guilty about a purchase, you will usually feel guilty about making the purchase? You know how it is. You wander into a store and see something that you really want but do not really need. It may cost $1 or $10 or $100. It does not matter; the guilt comes from spending the money on something you do not need. That is a guilt that I can understand, and generally control.
The manufacturers of greeting cards, on the other hand, have created an industry that makes you feel guilty for not spending money on their products. I feel the guilt every time I go to a grocery store and walk past the greeting card aisle or go to a shopping mall and pass the greeting card store. Birthdays, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day. Thank You Notes, Sympathy Cards, Get Well Cards, Thinking of You cards. There are more types of greeting cards for sale than there are days in a month, and each card will cost you $2, $3, $4 or more. And if you don’t buy them, the greeting card industry wants you to feel like you do not care about the people to whom you are supposed to be sending the cards.
That is quite a racket! Indeed, I have seen some greeting cards – especially cards that are supposed to be given by husbands to wives – that can cost as much as $7 or even $8 per card. If you follow the wisdom of American Greetings and Hallmark, you can easily spend much more than $100 in a year just so that you can use other people’s words to wish your family and friends a “Happy Birthday” or a “Happy Holiday.”
I admit that there was a time when I never missed an opportunity to send a greeting card. Even during the age of e-mail, and I was a very early adopter of e-mail technology and the Internet in general, I like the personal touch of sending correspondence through the mail. There is a nice formality to using the postal service and in taking the time to actually sit down with pen and paper to correspond. Also, given the ease of e-mail communication, the days when you could sit down at your computer and be excited by the message that “You’ve Got Mail!” are now long gone. As I got older and wiser, however, I began to realize that just because corresponding by mail was nicer than using less personal e-mail, I had to find a way to be more fiscally responsible with my correspondence.
The answer to my correspondence dilemma presented itself when I was strolling through a Michael’s craft store one day. My wife picked up a package of simple, but attractive, note cards. There was a pleasant design on the front but nothing was written on the inside. The eight cards in the package cost fifty cents! I had found a perfect way to continue using the postal system to deliver personal holiday, birthday and congratulatory greetings without spending a fortune on pre-printed greeting cards.
The sentiments in handwritten cards are far more intimate than generic Hallmark or American Greetings sentiments and the messages I send are far more specifically intended for the recipient. No one has suggested that I am being cheap by not buying them nice cards. To the contrary, my family and friends have appreciated the thought that I have been putting in to the messages that I send them. For me, there is also the added benefit of not having to go card shopping, a chore that could take me a very long time if I had a lot of cards to send.
Do you still feel compelled to purchase pre-printed greeting cards? Do you feel slighted if your spouse or child does not buy you a birthday card or a card at Mother’s Day or Father’s Day? Perhaps you have another alternative to pre-printed cards that you prefer? However you approach greeting cards and correspondence, let us know your thoughts?