Are you sending so many Christmas cards this year?


          In 2012 the Post Office decided on a massive price rise in postage. The second class stamp for letters and cards in the UK soared from 36p to 50p, an increase of 39%. Many people bought stamps in advance of the price rise which will cushion the blow, but you would expect volume to decline on the back of such a large price rise.

          In the UK people have traditionally sent many more Christas cards than other types of cards and letters during the year. It will be interesting to see what impact the new high rates of postage have on card volumes. Some may still be working their way through the stamps they bought at the old prices this year, but by next year that effect will have disappeared.

         At exactly the same time that the Post Office embarked on its high price strategy the principal rival, the electronic card, was making inroads into the market anyway. I am finding this year that many institutions and companies that used to send a card now send out an e card instead. It can represent a substantial saving if you have a large mailing list.

          I like sending and receiving Christmas cards. MPs will  doubtless be amongst the last groups of people to carry on sending out cards, honouring the tradition.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†There are two types of card which I have not be so pleased to accept in the past. The one is the cards from organisations that use the Christmas¬† card to lobby and make political points. This seems to me to be a distortion of the true purpose of the card, to wish people well and to keep in touch in a friendly way. A lobby mail out discussing the issues when needed ¬†would seem to me to be a better and more honest use of the lobby group’s money, than a hard hitting or phoney card.

          The second are cards from public sector bodies where no-one sending them out troubles to sign them or personalise them in any way. I wonder why they do that, and why someone authorises spending public money on them  if they cannot be bothered to say who they are from, and or why someone has sent them. 

         I would be interested in your experiences of  sending and receiving cards. I expect the volumes to be down this year. I am hand delivering more cards where I can, as I do think the current price of postage is too high for all the cards people  would like to send.

          Do you like ecards? Will they take over? Is the high cost of postage killing the festive spirit and damaging the card business? Should public bodies spend taxpayer money on sending out cards? If so, who should receive them?


  1. Steve Cox
    December 18, 2012

    I’ve taken out a two-year subscription to Jacqui Lawson, as many e-cards for all occasions as I wish to send for two years for ¬£11. So far I have sent around 50 Christmas e-cards and I have had a lot of positive feedback from the recipients, saying how lovely the cards are and what a great idea, no wasted cardboard or envelopes. I’ve also sent cards to people I would never have sent a ‘real’ card to (my pest control guy, for example), and they have also appreciated the gesture which cost me nothing but a few minutes of my time. Nobody has yet accused me of being a miserly old git. Of course, I have two aunties both in their nineties who do not have e-mail, so I still have to send them a proper card. They also sent me cards to my home in Thailand, and the postage on one was ¬£1.90 while the other cost ¬£2.38. That’s almost half the cost of my two-year subscription to Jacqui Lawson, so to me sending e-cards wherever possible is simply a no-brainer. Good for my pocket and good for the environment. The Royal Mail can go broke for all that I could care, I hardly ever use it. Oh yes, and for comparison I sent 3 ‘real’ cards from Thailand to Australia (remember that Sydney to Bangkok is about the same distance as Bangkok to London). It cost me just 68 Baht, or around ¬£1.40, to send all three. So why does it cost at least ¬£1.90 just to send ONE small card from the UK to Thailand? I also got rid of my BT land line in the UK 4 years ago and use Skype on my PC now, or in extremis my mobile phone, to make calls. That saves me an arm and a leg each year as well. I get internet when I am in the UK via a dongle, which is adequate for my purposes there. Is it just a coincidence that both Royal Mail and BT were once part of the GPO empire, and are now both pricing themselves out of their resepective markets?

    1. lifelogic
      December 18, 2012

      Perhaps I am rather too antisocial and get far too much correspondence of all types, the fewer pointless ones I get the better as far as I am concerned. Especially from companies and some of the many dreadful charities. I would far rather telephone people or see them in person.

      Meanwhile I see reported in the Times today.

      The Tories have lost one sixth of their support in the past two months and UKIP has risen to a record high. David Cameron’s party has slipped six points to 29 per cent, its lowest level since he became party leader in 2005, while UKIP stands at 10 per cent. Only 18 per cent, have a positive view of the EU

      The Prime Minister told the Commons yesterday he found it ‚Äúimaginable‚ÄĚ that Britain might leave the EU.

      Both imaginable and highly desirable as Norway and Switzerland and many others have shown.

      Is is rather surprising the government is still so popular give Cameron’s idiotic over tax, borrow and waste, pro EU, over regulate and fake green expensive energy policies.

      1. lifelogic
        December 18, 2012

        I also read that.

        Delays in answering phone calls to HM Revenue and Customs hotlines cost the taxpayer £136m in the last year.

        According to the National Audit Office (NAO) report, delays cost customers £33m in call charges while they waited for HMRC to answer the phone and the estimated value of customer time while they waited was £103m.

        As someone who has often been distracted hugely from running my businesses by the incompetent HMRC something surely should be done to avoid this pointless waste of my time and money. Anyway my time (and my accountants) is worth at least 200 times the cost of the calls so perhaps the cost to the economy was more like £6.6 Billion. I am usually calling because HMRC have not bothered to answer my letters, their written information is unclear or to correct their errors. The person who finally answers is often pleasant but usually cannot actually do anything much on the issue and knows little. They do usually confirm they have had the letter on file for months but have not bothered to deal with it.

        1. Wilko
          December 18, 2012

          The added irony of the premium rate calls is, the more inefficient the HMRC are in answering, the greater their gain from the charge. This is diametrically opposed to common sense. The reciprocal should apply.

          1. lifelogic
            December 19, 2012

            Indeed if they have no one to answer they should call you back when they do have – not keep you on hold for 30 mins+ then hang up as they often do.

  2. Old Albion
    December 18, 2012

    Good Morning John. For a few years now i have suggested to my wife, we should reduce the number of Christmas cards we send. I cannot understand why we send them to people who we haven’t seen for years and our only communication with them, is a Christmas card.
    The extortionate rise in the cost of stamps has been the ‘nail in the coffin’ for Christmas cards emanating from ‘Albion Towers’ We (actually Mrs Albion) were writing around one hundred cards and posting at least half of those. That would cost around ¬£25 this year in stamps alone. I have better things to do with ¬£25.
    A few important folk will still get a card. Some will be hand delivered. But most will be getting the e-card you mention. We’re dropping out of the racket, at last.
    It does seem a monumental blunder by Royal Mail. A company that is struggling to hang on to it’s market in the face of competition and the new electronic communications available. It has now, i suspect, discouraged rather more people than just this family, from using it’s letter delivery services.

  3. colliemum
    December 18, 2012

    As you, I hand-deliver my Christmas cards in my neighbourhood, and have been doing so for many years.

    To my friends scattered around the globe, I’ve been sending e-cards for some time now. It’s not just a question of the cost of postage stamps, it’s the ridiculous times one has to post – as if we still lived in the times of horse-drawn carriages and sailing ships!
    So e-cards it is for me.

    Merry Christmas, John!

  4. Brian Taylor
    December 18, 2012

    Christmas card’s in some cases are the annual means that keep people in touch with fiends and family,we were able to buy enough stamps before the increase for this year.
    We have had two card were we had to pay and collect from the local Post Office,one had no stamp at all (breaking that to the sender will be fun) the othe had stamp on but as it was a very thick card the PO decided it did not fit the size that the stamp on it covered!
    Another from friend of my wife had not be written at all (she new her hand writing)all we have to do is find an envelope and we can send this out again, that’s all part of the fun.
    Having said all that you can now pick a photo you may have on your phone,iPad or computer and it can be sent as a post card and I suspect soon as a Christmas card???

  5. Sidney Falco
    December 18, 2012

    I can think of nothing worse than sending or receiving an e-card. But that is probably partly down to my age (51). I’ve never bought an MP3 download and still buy CDs of artists that I like – which I then rip to MP3s.

    @Steve Cox – you are so right about the Royal Mail. I hate it when Amazon sends things through Royal Mail as I need to then go into town and pick them up from the depot where they usually only have one person at the counter. On the other hand Yodel – (previously HDNL I believe) leave my items in the green house after a verbal agreement. Last week, when I had a radiator delivered, Yodel rang me in advance and gave me a 75 minute window for the delivery and it arrived exactly in the middle of the slot – they were pleasant too and asked me where I wanted it placed – a service I have never experienced from the Royal Mail.

    1. Bazman
      December 18, 2012

      I’ve never bought film or music download ever, or a Blu Ray DVD. I can’t understand why anyone else does. Just stupid. The same ones who buy this will be the same ones bleating about the TV license fee. Get a big fat 3TB hard drive and…Yeah that works and no DVDs or CD’s to load.

      1. nicol sinclair
        December 18, 2012

        “… bleating about the TV license fee.” It’s licence…


        1. Bazman
          December 18, 2012

          American spelling uncorrected. I have corrected most but some still remain.

  6. alan jutson
    December 18, 2012

    We start hand delivering cards from 1st December to all those who we meet.

    Those within walking distance get cards personally posted through the door.

    Those who live within 2-3 miles (if there are enough left) are delivered by car on one pre-planned journey ( I do have a bike, but the weather is usually too cold or wet)

    The balance are posted 2nd class.

    Many we know are cutting down their list this year due to postage costs.

    Personally I like cards rather than the electronic method, but I suppose that is down to personal choice.

    The Mail Service have got away with the price hike in the short term because for personal mail there is little choice for ease of use.

    Commercially it may hit them hard in the end, as courier services, especially for parcels, seem very much more competitive on price with a guarantee next day delivery.

    1. Disaffected
      December 18, 2012

      I know some who are donating the money to charity instead of giving Christmas cards because postage is too expensive.

      I was told that you should send holiday post cards by second class post because they get delivered in exactly the same way as if you pay for first class. I tried it this year and the person was right.

      I suppose we are, once again, paying for government incompetence. If the pension scheme was sorted out years ago perhaps the cost of post could have been kept down.

      Now the government is trying to con everyone that we need to work longer because we live longer ,when in fact it is due to the government’s borrow and waste policy keeping gilts and bonds prices low which affects private pensions. Saving rates artificially kept low as well. It does not pay to work and save for retirement under the Tory led coalition. Gordon wrecked pensions, but the current crop of incompetents are beating him hands down.

  7. APL
    December 18, 2012

    JR: “The second class stamp for letters and cards in the UK soared from 36p to 50p,”

    Second class stamp!! Ten shillings!!

    The government has sure been a good custodian of the currency.

    Back on topic, it is early this year but already there is a noticeable drop in the number of cards we have received.

  8. oldtimer
    December 18, 2012

    We still send cards to our widely dispersed family members, also using them them for family news updates plus a few to very longstanding friends. Most are too far away for personal delivery; all were sent using 2nd class stamps purchased before the price rise. No doubt we will review this next year and cut down or change our method of contact where we can. Some years ago we sent over 100 cards; this year we are down to below 50. Next year 25?

    We have not used Skype – yet. An interesting alternative is a similar service available on Google+ called hangout. This enables a face to face conference call of up to nine at a time provided they are part of the circle you have defined. This presupposes you have a smart phone or tablet running v4.* of the android OS and can access a wi-fi network.

  9. stred
    December 18, 2012

    It always seems pointless when neighbours that we see regularly deliver cards to each other, but I usually respond. A few distant friends get an expensive card , which is a bigger proportion of cost than the stamp.

    The reliability of Royal Mail is concerning. In the past two weeks a self addressed letter to a tradesman containing a cheque has gone missing, an important legal document sent abroad never arrived and a form sent to open a bank account with details of codes and numbers has not arrived after a week. I was away for 5 days and my locked postbox was empty, despite the run up to Christmas. It is quite common to receive other person’s mail, even addressed to a neighbouring street.

    Perhaps it is because 80% of mail is junk and goes straight into a bin under the post box, that it seems as though only important or valuable mail goes missing. In most cases it is probably theft in the sorting offices. In a case a few yers ago the thief that stole my wife’s ID was employed in the bank’s postal section. It is usually possible to identify a letter from a bank or personal letters which may contain things of value.

    Despite the insecurity of the post most banks still use it. In a ridiculous situation yesterday, the bank that sent details that did not arrive refused to send the codes by email, did not accept my ID when I gave my correct address and insisted on sending another form by post for me to confirm ID. Meanwhile if someone has stolen the first form, they may be able to access my account. It is empty now but will hold half my savings soon.

    Perhaps it is time to withdraw the right to use the title ‘Royal’ from this organisation of overpaid managers and publicly pensioned staff.

  10. Robert Taggart
    December 18, 2012

    Glad to say there be three less this year – on account of the ‘Grim Reaper’ !

  11. Lindsay McDougall
    December 18, 2012

    Is it not the case that the Royal Mail is obliged to serve unprofitable rural areas. If it is to be floated off as a business against all these rivals, do we not need to negotiate a block grant (yes, it would need to be taxpayer funded) to finance this obligation? Then stamp prices could be reduced.

    1. lifelogic
      December 18, 2012

      Clearly people in rural areas should pay the true cost of the post Рeven if it is £15 a letter to some remote desolate Scottish island or other. Then they might use email or the other alternatives instead of just expecting the everyone else to subsidise them.

      1. Bazman
        December 18, 2012

        I wonder if you would have the same view of any services that your business uses being charged the true cost? Probably not.

    2. StevenL
      December 18, 2012

      Why would it need to be taxpayer funded? Why shouldn’t the people who want to post things to the back of beyond either pay for it or just not bother. Post is hardly ‘essential’ these days.

  12. Wilko
    December 18, 2012

    Posted cards are like newspapers. Transporting heavy messages by truck, to be led up garden paths by hired messengers, is wastefully quaint.

    Cards might linger longer, but Americans dumping newspapers drop an equivalent of half a million trees into landfill every week. Pressed ink on paper media are due for free-fall. Press regulation will be as redundant as ‘news’ on paper. Many would prefer to keep the paper & let regulation die on its own. Regulation should be INDEPENDENT!

    Staff in specialist card shops discuss unsold Christmas card stock, attributing absence of demand to postage price increases. Price itself is an exquisite facility. Whereas banks offer money owners 2% over a year, purchasing stamps before the increase yielded 39% return instantly. Many of us bought shedloads, resulting in rationing to retailers & snookering Post Office incompetence.

    20 years ago, someone addressed a card: “To my very dear wife, from your even more expensive husband”. The card has been recycled on display every Christmas, & at each year end, family notes are added, creating a valuable memento.

    Happy Christmas, John.

  13. David John Wilson
    December 18, 2012

    Looking at my relatively small list for sending cards I find that the ones left can’t be sent e-cards. It is important that we continue to send cards to the mainly elderly who haven’t joined the internet age.

  14. Cliff. Wokingham.
    December 18, 2012


    Season’s greetings to you and yours sir. Thank you for your work and efforts this year.

    I always send Christmas cards and find that the stamps are dearer than the cards. I send CTS cards. (Catholic Truth Society) I am sending fewer cards this year though, to be honest, it has nothing to do with the cost of postage, but all to do with the fact that I am now at an age when many of my friends are dying; it makes one very conscious of ones own mortality and today we are all closer to our own death than we’ve ever been before.

    I hate corporate Christmas cards nearly as much as I hate those awful cards where a posed picture of the sender’s family is on the front of the card.

    I guessed you wouldn’t like cards with a political or single issue message on them, hence why I resisted sending one from The Coalition for Marriage and one from The People’s Pledge, both of whom suggested I should send one to you.

    Too many businesses and organisations have effectively hijacked Christmas for their own ends and this saddens me. I feel sorry for those people that are forced to work over Christmas, especially those in retail who have no choice due to greed from those retaillers and very one sided contracts of employment.

    I can’t see me ever sending an E-Card as I get annoyed by the ones my sister sends me every year.

    Now that the Post Office has real competition, it seems crazy that they raised their prices so much.
    I feel that HM Government should use the Post Office for all their conventional mail: it seems crazy that the government owns a postal services company but chooses to use another provider; it is akin to Justin King shopping at Asda!

  15. Electro-Kevin
    December 18, 2012

    We send out 40 cards. 20 of those are to people with whom we have not spoken in decades – simply through moving apart and lack of contact rather than any break up.

    “Oooh. We got a card from Cliff & Ruth. We really must give them a call.”

    The call never happens.

    So many cards are sent out of habit and a fear of scoring a line under the end of old relationships. Like an unworn item of clothing with sentimental value we can’t bring ourselves to discard it. Perhaps the days of buying a box of medium priced cards and sending them to old aquaintances are over. Those kinds of cards are sent because we DON’T wish to speak.

    We could view this positively.

    Had Cliff & Ruth sent me an e-card instead I would have responded with a text message and perhaps struck up a dialogue with them. A meeting might have followed.

    E-cards could be a really good thing in this respect.

  16. Liz
    December 18, 2012

    I hand deliver at least half of my cards – and even if you don’t see people very often it is nice to send and receive a card at Christmas. I do not like e cards and don’t open them if I get them – thankfully none this year. You cannot handle them and display them with Christmas decorations and it all seems very impersonal. Yes stamps have got expensive but in the scheme of Christmas spending unless you send hundreds of cards it is a minor proportion of total expenditure.

    1. stred
      December 18, 2012

      The hand delivered card motivates people to call and see each other, when they may have been too busy to call for a year. Sometimes it results in an invitation for a chat and drinks. This year my cards to distant old friends will include my email address.

  17. Lindsay McDougall
    December 18, 2012

    “The second are cards from public sector bodies where no-one sending them out troubles to sign them or personalise them in any way.”

    This practice extends not just to Christmas cards but to certain types of mail, and it prevalent not just in government but in large corporations. How often have people received an unsigned and undated latter, with no return address for correspondence but only a telephone number, from a government department or a large corporation? The act is deliberate and the reason is malevolent – to deny the right of reply to the recipient.

    1. Lindsay McDougall
      December 18, 2012

      A nice Christmassy thought: How much government do we need? How many large corporations do we need?

      “Dear Santa,
      Here is a list of things that I do not want to receive at Christmas ……………….”

  18. David in Kent
    December 18, 2012

    My wife sends the Christmas cards to our very extended family in England, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands so I was shocked when she said she was seriously considering not sending them this year because of the cost. I think she will limit what she sends next year to those people we do not otherwise contact.
    As for ‘business’ cards. All unsigned and campaigning cards go in the bin.

  19. margaret brandreth-j
    December 18, 2012

    Last year I joined the general trend of sending e cards. This year I wll be sending a few by 1st class post , but all others will be personally posted.
    The first step away from the more personal greeting was the printing of labels in an officous and official way, and card writing gradually became a more perfunctory procedure associated with christmas for thereon. Many of the people I have sent cards to wouldn’t even be aware if I wasn’t to send one ,so why bother?

  20. margaret brandreth-j
    December 18, 2012

    from thereon

  21. Bert Young
    December 18, 2012

    Yes , the cost of a 2nd class stamp is horrendous and , as a result , we are not sending as many cards as usual ; certainly all local cards will be delivered by hand . Our post is very unreliable (via Wallingford distributiuon PO ) , we often get mail intended for other people – with a different Post Code ! We have complained , and , we know other families have complained – all to no avail . Yesterday I received a phone call from an old friend explaining she would be sending no cards this Christmas . Until your blog , I was unaware of the “E-Card” ; it seems straightforward and I will consider using it . Like you , I have liked sending and receiving Christmas cards especially those with short messages ; I would be reluctant to give up this tradition but times are getting more and more expensive . The ” Best of Seasons’ Greetings to you and , many many thanks for your thoughtful and timely blogs” .

  22. Barbara
    December 18, 2012

    I’ve managed to post only 7 cards this year, far to expensive now; as family live far away I’ve no choice. For our neighbours, we’ve hand posted them, but many are so poor they’ve excused themselves from the tradition. I’ve spoken to many and those with children are struggling to even have a Christmas dinner this year, let alone presents; the latter they are relying on relatives, but many of them are in the same position. I’ve tried to give a few sweets for these poor children at least they will think they haven’t been forgot. We can’t afford a lot ourselves, but Christmas is for children not adults.
    I’ve sat and thought how we came to this in our country. I see foreigners walking about, kept by the British taxpayer, we see foreign aid kept at a high level, and we see health tourists keep coming, but people like myself with type 2 diabetes are now denied glucose testing strips on prescription, I’m retired. I also see my fellow British citizens suffering while all this goes on. Life is becoming most unfair; we all know whom to blame, bankers, and Labour who spent money they should not have. However, this government, with no mandate is spending our money too, while citizens here are in need. They have no mandate to spend on foreign aid as they do, and there are many areas they could collect money from foreigners who should pay for some services and they don’t. I’ve come to the conclusion, as a British citizen we don’t matter, until we get angry, or vote for another party that does care, and none of the present lot are in the looking.

  23. nicol sinclair
    December 18, 2012

    Simply, the cost of the stamps has become too expensive to send ‘real’ cards…

  24. Bernard Juby
    December 18, 2012

    We rarely send letters now with e-mail and Skype being cheaper or free and better – with the latter you can now see & talk to your children/grandchildren. The high cost of postage scuppered that.
    For the past two years we have made our own cards using a Publisher Programme and our own photographs. That is personalised and we can e-mail them quickly, cheaply and easily. If recipients want to they can then print them up.
    So Sorry, P.O., you shot yourself in the foot. We only use “snail mail” when we absolutely have to.

    1. Bernard Juby
      December 18, 2012

      P.S. We don’t send e-cards.

  25. uanime5
    December 18, 2012

    A charity I volunteer at give their members Christmas card when they come into volunteer, thus avoid the cost of stamps.

  26. Richard Hobbs
    December 18, 2012

    Hi John
    We live in Canada but about 90% of our Christmas cards used to go to UK or Australia where our friends and family are. The cost of postage has also leapt in Canada, so now we send email greetings to all for whom we have email addresses. This saves us about 70 cards and postage. The cash saved is donated to our local Salvation Army people and it seems a much better use of money. We have been doing this for 3 years now. Cards are still sent to those who do not have email addresses, especially to those who we think would appreciate them most. If we can ever afford to come home to UK we would continue with the same practise.
    In the traditional manner, I take the opportunity to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
    Thanks for your work.

  27. a-tracy
    December 18, 2012

    Business card numbers have been going down for the last three years, instead of around 50 we now receive 4, instead we get some e-mail cards and e-messages and lots of businesses have started donating the previous card cost to a local charity (we do that now at Christmas).

  28. Baldwin
    December 18, 2012

    I do not like ecards and consider than naff, although perhaps not as bad as ’round robins’.

    Talking around I get the impression that fewer cards have been posted this year in inverse proportion to Royal Mail’s price hike. However more cards than ever seem to have gone by hand, particularly such as those handed to us by friends and relatives for forwarding to third parties.

  29. Little White Sqibba
    December 18, 2012

    When I was young £1 paid the postage on 120 cards; today for only two. I am going to try an intermediate method: design my own card and send it as an e-mail attachment so that recipients with basic origami skills can print and fold it if they wish to hang it up.

  30. Monty
    December 18, 2012

    I reckon electronic communication is generally way better than traditional post. And it is well worth helping the older members of your family to get comfortable with some fairly basic computer facilities such as e-mail. It sets the elderly housebound folk free. Also with a PC you can set up their audio facilities on it, to optimise it for the hard of hearing, and they can use Skype for their phone calls. Messenger and Facebook help to keep in touch with their own social circle. We use these to keep in daily touch with several of our own golden oldies.
    It is nice to send Grandma a Christmas card with a photograph of her grandchildren. Even better if you can send her an e-mail with a video attached.

  31. John Eustace
    December 19, 2012

    My sister sent a home printed card with a picture of a Christmas tree where the tree’s pot is a QR code linking to a video of the family giving seasonal greetings. So high – tech and the snail mail can work alongside one another!

  32. Duncan Black
    December 20, 2012

    1) Christmas cards drastically cut in number – reserved for relatives and old friends who don’t have access to email and who we don’t see very often (usually overseas).

    2) Round Robin letter emailed to close friends and relatives that do have email and who we don’t see very oftern. Don’t bother with e-cards – don’t really see the point – can’t put them on display to cheer the place up.

    3) Friendly neighbours get a hand-delivered card

    and that’s it.

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