Use Postcards Instead of Greeting Cards to Save Money and Make a Connection

Greeting cards are expensive. They’re also usually either obnoxious, sentimental, or excessive. I like the idea of marking birthdays and other special occasions with a personal note, but I don’t need cards that play “happy birthday” when you open them or bad jokes about the turning 30, 40 or 50.

Now I give people postcards instead. Postcards have many advantages over greeting cards:

Dr No postcard

I picked up a collection of 50 movie poster postcards a few years back and have been using them ever since. This one's for my Dad's next birthday. Photo (c) MGM Studios.

  • They’re cheap. I can pick up two to three postcards for the same prices as a single greeting card. You can also buy collections of postcards from $10 to $20; this often comes out to three to 10 postcards for a dollar.
  • They’re efficient. Every part of a postcard does something. One side has the picture/photograph, while the written message goes on the other. A greeting card uses twice as much space to do the same amount of work (outside picture/photo, inside page one, superflous inside page two, wasted empty back). Also, with a postcard you don’t have to worry about writing enough to fill up two empty pages.
  • They’re earth-friendly. Giving someone a postcard uses half the paper that a giving a person a greeting card of the same size does. If you send a postcard, you’re using one-fourth of the paper since you don’t need an envelope.
  • They’re personal. The sheer variety of postcard subjects allows me to easily buy cards that show a connection with my friends, family and other people in my life that I can’t quite do with a greeting card. Here are a few subjects of the cards I’ve been able to give recently:
    • A vintage map of Paris for the birthday of a co-worker from France
    • A reproduction of Klimt’s mother and child painting for my Mom on Mother’s Day
    • A vintage poster from the sci-fi movie Forbidden Planet for my movie-buff father’s birthday
    • A photograph of a roaring polar bear for my brother for Christmas
  • They’re fun. A postcard stands out in the mailbox or even among a stack of greeting cards. And I’ve come to enjoy hunting for postcards or thinking about how I can use a new postcard.

Two collections of postcards I bought a few years back (“Movie Posters Postcards” from the Museum of Modern Art and illustrations from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman graphic novel series, both discontinued) have formed the basis for my postcard collection. You can find many collections on Amazon in the $10-$20 range. I’ve also come across great postcards for sale at bookshops, art supply stores, comic book stores, museums and art galleries, and, yes, even greeting card stores.

Leaping woman

With the right message, this could work for a friend or family member getting a new job, graduating from college, or celebrating a birthday. Photo (c) Richard Avedon.

Beer postcard

In a pinch, this could work as a birthday card for 90% of my friends. Photo (c) Nouvelles Images.

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