Frugal, Holidays, Personal Finance, Saving Money

Greeting Cards are for Suckers!

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?

24 thoughts on “Greeting Cards are for Suckers!

  1. Kids are the perfect free card generator, I dunno about others but I prefer receiving heartfelt kid sentiments over store bout any day. I don’t happen to be very ‘prosey’ but I have found no one seems to mind if all a toddler manages was “thank You” with some flowers or whatnot. (before they can write I trace a hand or foot and put in the words myself)

  2. I don’t like buying them either. Complete waste in my opinion. Do you know anybody who likes to keep those cards?

    I made a card last month for my wife’s birthday. I was at work and printed a funny picture on the front and wrote something nice inside. They had pink paper as well which made a bit more special.

    I really like your idea of buying a pack of plain cards. That way it’s a bit more cardish than printer paper.

    Also, it’s alway more touching if you write it instead of someone else.

  3. Yeah, greeting cards have really risen in price. I’ve been making my own photo greeting cards, using special card frames with a photo window, for many years. It’s much more personal.

    If i have time, i’ve also been known to walk into a card store and browse the cards for message ideas. Contrary to what you say, some lines of greeting cards have very personal messages for every kind of occasion and despite being a writer, i don’t always have it in me to come up with something meaningful and pithy. So i’ll “steal” the message and put it in my card! Naughty me.

  4. I’m not a fun of buying a greeting cards for me it’s really a waste of money. Why spent so much on it if you can do it by your self? It’s much a great feeling if you do the card with your heart for your loved ones right?

  5. I agree about handmade cards from kids … The picture cards my nieces have made for me are my very favorites.

    I have found a balance between not buying at all vs. spending ridiculous amounts of money. My husband & I no longer exchange cards at all, and I limit the number of cards I send to others. For cards to others, I will buy a bulk box of assorted greeting cards at Costco, or I will buy 99-cent cards at Target. I refuse to buy in to the idea that the amount of money you spend shows how much you care.

    If I were to cut back even more on card-giving in the future, there is still one occasion when I personally just can’t imagine not sending a card. That is when there is a death in the family. From personal experience, I know that the recipient will sit down and re-read those cards several times, and they will bring much comfort.

  6. We pretty much just don’t do cards. What a waste of paper.

    I could care less if I never got another card.

    I just realized the only exception is thank you cards. I always buy those. Thanks for the Michaels tip – that will cut thank you costs considerably.

  7. P.S. I’ve bought dollar store cards but they are really bad quality – I wouldn’t recommend. But it beats nothing, for some people.

  8. On Valentine’s day or our anniversary, my husband will often say to me that he saw a really pretty card and thought about getting it for me, and tells me what it said inside and how it was perfect for me. I tell him it’s the thought that counts, and I’m perfectly happy with that. Cost of card: $0. Value: Priceless.

  9. I love the idea of making your own cards. A personalized note or letter with a meaningful message really goes further than a store-bought card. However, I also use the Carleton Cards store system to get cheaper cards. I stock up in advance during their buy 3 get 3 deals, thereby getting the cards half price. I also use my Carleton Cards club card which so far has got me nearly $20 in free cards. And I actually save and use those holiday gift cards that come in the mail from charity direct mail packages!

  10. A store near me sells beautiful, high-quality discontinued greeting cards for $0.25 each. Suffice it to say that I am stocked up for quite a while. I also use discount stamps from so I can usually end up sending a great card for under $0.75. I think sending notes is highly underrated and it’s worth the cost if you are smart about it.

    Also my boyfriend makes beautiful cards because he is an artist. If you have someone artsy in your family you can always go to Kinkos and make stationary from hand-drawn pictures.

  11. I have taken to either buying them at the Dollar (Tree) store, where they are 2/$1. And there is no difference quality wise from Hallmark and/or American Greetings that I or anyone else has ever noticed. @@

    I do, from time to time, still buy cards at/from Hallmark. They sell a limited amount of cards for various occasions at the cost of $.99

    As a somewhat aside, check out any/all cards that are geared for/towards “MOM” and you’ll find those cards are all at least a dollar more than any of the other cards.

  12. I bought decent blank cards at the art museum, and use those for thank you or special note cards. They last for years. I buy maybe 1 X-mas card exclusively for the 1 person who gets all huffy if they don’t get a x-mas card.

    Now that we’ve established that the cards are a waste, could part 2 be to get rid of the x-mas newsletter? Somehow those piss me off more than the card (esp when it comes w/the picture) because its either old news or too much info.

  13. I find most of the cards I give for either birthdays or Christmas at yard sells. I can find a stack of all occasion cards or the like for about a quarter. I do not like to buy wrapping paper, or greeting cards. I’m glad there are others that feel the same.

  14. I’ve been handcrafting my family’s greeting cards since about 2002.

    We still buy Christmas cards in the box – they can be found very cheap. But every other occasion will get handmade cards.

    Buy those blank greeting cards with your craft coupons, pick up some rubber stamps and pretty paper on clearance, and collect a variety of inks … that’s all you need.

  15. There are countries where cards are only sent when one isn’t going to see or speak to the person. Window sills full of cards are unknown.

    Most of the cards sent are more often the ‘postcard’ style rather than the ‘fold out’ stand up card.

  16. I have a love/hate relationship with greeting cards. I agree that they are ridiculously expensive, so I try to save money by buying the boxes of 50 assorted cards at discount/outlet stores. It’s perfect because being a busy mom, I tend to forget birthdays and such until they are upon me, so I always have a card. I also have never spent more then $8 on the box of cards. I also have begun letting my toddler make cards. I bought some foam “paper” and some sticky letters and shapes at the craft store and she loves it. Now this is a win/win because making cards can keep her occupied for a good hour and her grandparents and friends love them.

  17. I am a note card junkie! I love them and they can be used for all sorts of occasions where greeting cards are generally occasion specific.

  18. The card thing is a throwback to former days when writing to and getting written correspondence meant so much. This was brought home to me because I’ve just finished a book called “Undaunted Courage,” about Meriweather Lewis (of Lewis and Clark fame) and Thomas Jefferson and their times, 200 years ago. This book is fascinating and really good, everybody should read it. Our high-tech society makes cards of any kind pretty much obsolete, but I can sure understand now how much it must have meant to anyone to get written communication from anyone in days past, really not that long ago.

  19. I agree $4 for a card is ridiculous. What I have been doing is buying really cheap cards, then adding my own embellishments like glitter, buttons, etc. This makes for a unique card at a lower cost. I have some elderly relatives with no computer, so they really look forward to receiving a card in the mail.

    And by the way, I do save my cards and reuse them to embellish other cards and items. I also like having tangible evidence of a memory; I found a card from my father’s mother sent to me when I was a child, and it brought back so many memories.

  20. If anyone I know is reading this, keep sending me cards because they help to keep my shredder’s teeth all clean and shiny…Sort of like Denta-bone for my paper shredder…

  21. I was at a yard sale this summer and the lady had a ‘free’ table. On it was a huge stack of cards and envelopes. I double checked that they were really free and walked off with a bunch of different occassion cards and note paper sets. Also some books she had for free and I think I bought one thing, but the best stuff she had was all on her free table!

  22. There’s something really nice about getting snail mail these days. Must admit that, when I had an accident recently, the cards I received meant a lot! Someone actually spent the money for a stamp and card to wish me a speedy recovery.

    That being said, I discovered dollar stores and after Christmas sales a long time ago! (I’ve noticed a marked improvement to quality over the past few years — excess printings from the prior year?) I now include a brief summary of what I’ve been up to in the past year in about half of them ’cause there are people in my life that I’m not really good at keeping in touch with. LOL A lot of them do the same.

    Some of the card I do keep… not so much because of the sentiment inside but because the picture on the front triggered something in my imagination that I’d like to re-trigger when I’m looking for “food” for my creative side. I won’t copy a design in 3 dimensions because that would be derivative art, but it can be a good starting point for my imagination to take over.

  23. I think greeting cards are a generational thing. I was brought up to send cards and thank you notes immediately upon receiving a gift, and for all occasions such as birthdays. I do not see my kids and younger siblings following this practice. I suppose their exposure to electronic communications and general environmental awareness has had a hand in all this. The only thing that really concerns me is that they tend to not acknowledge birthdays and other events at all now. It would be a shame if we lost that consideration for others while we are busy saving trees.

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