It takes a fair amount of time to stuff, seal, label and stamp 100 cards, so don’t plan to do it all in one sitting. (Istockphoto)

I don’t look forward to seeing holiday decorations adorning retailers’ walls in October, and I don’t start holiday shopping until after Thanksgiving, but I do like to start thinking about and planning to mass-mail holiday cards early. Now, before things become hectic, is the perfect time to do the early planning that will make your life easier in December.

Choose photos

If you plan to send a photo card, start sorting through your pictures now and put your favorites into a labeled electronic folder. This will save you the hassle of having to scroll through thousands of photos in one rushed sitting to find the ones you want to use. It’s also a good idea to confirm that the resolution of your favorite photos is high enough that they will print clearly.

Gather and verify addresses

If you don’t have a master list of addresses for your recipients, start creating one now. Scroll through the contacts on your phone, and e-mail or text friends and family to confirm you have their current address. Make sure you’re up-to-date on people’s marital status. Take the time to create a master spreadsheet of your addresses. Once it’s complete, it’ll be easy to update and print labels. It will also give you an accurate count of how many cards you need to purchase.

Buy holiday stamps

Once you’ve created your master address list and know how many cards you plan to send, you’ll be able to pick up stamps the next time you’re at the post office. Seasonal stamps sell out quickly, so it’s a good idea to check this off the list. Buy an extra book for the inevitable additions to your list and remember that if you plan to send square cards, they require extra postage.

Order cards early

If you’re ordering holiday cards online, start scanning the sites now for designs you like and for upcoming sales. There are a lot of options to choose from and deciding on a style and format can take a while. If you’ve chosen your photos and found a design you like, go ahead and order early. Not only will this give you some cushion in the event of a printing or shipping error, it’s also one less decision to make as the holidays approach and you need to concentrate on other things.

Print address labels

Printing address labels always turns out to be more difficult than it should be, at least for me. Make sure that you’ve purchased a sufficient number of labels to print both return-address and recipient-address labels (as well as some extras for the eventual misalignment), that you have sufficient ink in your printer, and that you have sufficient patience for the getting them formatted properly. Although time-consuming, this process will save you precious time later and result in fewer address errors.

Stuff, label, stampand send

Last but not least, get your cards ready to mail. If you plan to write individualized notes on each card, avoid stress by not waiting until the last minute. Likewise, it takes a fair amount of time to stuff, seal, label and stamp 100 cards, so don’t plan to do it all in one sitting. It will be more fun if you’re not rushed.

Even as holiday cards have become less personalized in recent years, they are still a wonderful way to wish your friends and family a happy holiday season. But if you’re crunched for time the week before the holidays, sending cards becomes a chore that’s just what you don’t need in the happy season. Start now.

Anzia is a freelance writer and owner of Neatnik. She can be reached at nicole@neatnik.org.

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