Never Forget Another Birthday
(my secret strategy revealed!)
Gifts are my love language, so birthdays and holidays are like catnip to me. I love a good reason to send a card or care package. Over the years I have found that you can make people feel incredibly special just by making an effort to remember their important days.
In this age of social media, Facebook has made it easy to acknowledge birthdays online. But while it is nice to send FB posts to people on their birthdays, it feels a little impersonal to me. I mean, FB friends may take the time to acknowledge your special day (which is kind), but there is no forethought or personal investment put into the sentiment.
And I would much rather find birthday wishes in my mailbox than on my FB page!
As with all things I write about, I want to stress the idea that remembering people’s special days does NOT have to be complicated or elaborate! The largest investment is the planning on the front end. But once you have organized a system, it gets easier every year after.
All of this may seem really basic or obvious as you are reading it. But people tell me all the time how they wish they were better at thoughtfully acknowledging their loved ones!! And if you are resistant because cards can be really expensive, I’m here to tell you there are so many ways to make it more affordable! So here are my secrets: clear and simple. 😊
Step One: Prepare.
Step one, you have to be prepared. It doesn’t matter how much you want to send cards, it isn’t happening if you don’t actually have the card and a stamp on hand. The number one reason people don’t send cards is by the time they remember the occasion they have run out of time to go buy and mail one. Or they can’t find the stamps. Or all their pens have gone MIA. Seriously. That happens. (More on avoiding the last minute later.)
There are a few ways to get your stuff together and I have tried them all. You have to find the way that works best for you. Two questions to ask yourself first:
⇒Ask yourself what type of gifter you are. Do you need the perfect card for each recipient? Or are you okay with choosing the best one from the ones on hand?
⇒How far ahead do you want to plan? I usually shop for a few months at a time, but you can go crazy and do the whole year at once. It would probably save so much time in the long run! (Just be prepared for the sticker shock that goes along with doing it this way.)
1. Shop for cards in volume.
♥ Create a master list of people & occasions and take it to the store with you or have it handy while you shop online. Have fun choosing a card specifically for each person on your list. Or…
♥ Count how many birthday, anniversary, etc. cards you need and buy generic styles in the total number of cards you will require.
I recommend purchasing a few sympathy cards, wedding and thank you cards to have on hand. The need for sympathy cards, especially, sneaks up on you and that is one time you definitely don’t want to miss showing your support.
[Cost Saving Tip]
My mom and aunt are the OG gifters and they buy all their cards at Dollar Tree. Surprisingly, there are some really nice name brand cards there and occasionally I have hit the jackpot. My grocery store also offers BOGO on Hallmark cards pretty frequently. Whenever I see those coupons, I take advantage and stock up.
Experiment with different ways to go about purchasing your cards and choose a way that is the LEAST stressful for you right now. There is no right way to get it done. The point is to acknowledge our loved ones in a personal way, not to have the perfectly-perfect greeting card. Don’t let perfectionism derail your efforts here.
2. Purchase Postage.
I make it super simple and order my postage online. The Post Office has quite a selection of stamps on their website; you will have access to many more options than your local post office will keep in stock.
Holiday postage is also available (including Halloween!) and I am excited to report that a new version of the Happy Birthday stamp will be available again on September 9, 2021! Other specific occasion stamps include Thank You, Celebrate and Love. A themed stamp adds an additional personal touch to your card with minimal effort.
3. Buy or make return address labels.
Personalized return address labels and re-inking stamps can be purchased online from sites like Shutterfly or Paper Source.
Making your own labels, however, requires very little time and effort. [I use the Avery Inkjet EasyPeel 1”x 2 5/8” labels (Avery #8160).] The instructions are on the label package.
[Cost Saving Tip]
You can skip this step if you like to pen your return address yourself. This can be done in a number of cute ways. (These are in calligraphy, but could be done similarly with print or cursive.) Or you can make use of the labels you recieve for free in the mail.
4. Choose your writing utensils.
Here is one that people often overlook as no biggie. Until you start writing in your card and the pen you grabbed out of the junk drawer is almost out of ink. Gak.
You might find that you enjoy using a nicer pen for your card gifting. (I recommend a Micron or Pitt fine tip pen or a Gelly Roll pen for the card and Sharpies in fine point and fat chisel tip for the envelope.) But whatever you choose to use, you definitely don’t want to have to hunt them down every time you need them. So designate a few writing utensils specifically for this purpose.
5. Update addresses and important dates.
You can have all the lovely cards in the world, amazing stamps & the perfect color Sharpie, but if the address you have for your auntie is from three moves ago, you are out of luck.
I keep my addresses on notecards filed in an old needlepoint purse. Yep-it’s weird but it works. I can make notes of other important dates and info on the notecard as well (and they are easy to replace or add). I also have the addresses I use most often stored in my phone for sending things last minute on the fly. (Yep, it happens to everyone, no matter how carefully you plan!)
You might choose to store all your information in your phone or computer (please make sure to back it up). Or you might go totally old school and have an actual address book.
However you choose to set up your addresses, here is the most important part: go all in. Most of us have half-assed systems with incomplete information, which is a recipe for internal screaming when we need to mail stuff. Take the time to make a list of what info you don’t have and reach out to friends and family to get it. (Isn’t texting great?) And then FILL IT IN.
Now…take a breath!
If this Preparing step feels overwhelming, I hear you. It’s a lot, I know. But here’s the thing. You don’t have to buy special stamps or use Sharpie markers right now. You can save that as an idea for Future You (you know, the You without toddlers or the You who isn’t trying to homeschool your kid).
Choose the methods that work for you right NOW, today. If you want to be elaborate and you have the time and energy to do all the things, then go for it! And if you need to be thrifty or you have limited time available, then do what works and let that be exactly enough. Because it absolutely IS.
Step Two: Organize.
Once you have your supplies collected, you might think you don’t need do go any further. But please hear me!!! If you are going to put in the effort to gather the items together, please don’t skip the steps where you make sure you actually USE them!! You will think nasty thoughts about me if you purchase cards and stamps and they never get mailed. But I can’t organize them FOR you. (I would help if I could, really. I love to organize.) So please, please, keep going. I promise it will be worth it.
Organize your supplies in a way that makes sense to you, but make them easily accessible.
I recommend a dedicated place for your card organization: get a box or notebook specifically designed for greeting card organization, or a file folder or a shoebox, but put all your cards in one place. If you can divide them up by birthday (adult/child), anniversary, seasonal, and friendship: even better, that will make it so much easier for you moving forward.
Put whatever pens or markers you plan to use alongside your cards, along with your stamps & labels: either in the same box or another convenient location nearby. (If you put them in the box they are less likely to migrate to parts unknown with other members of your family. Just sayin.)
You know best how you work and what should go together. The key is accessibility.
Now that you have everything in it’s proper container…DO NOT put it in the back of your closet!!! This stuff has to be in a place you can reach out and grab it when you need it or you won’t use it.
I keep all my cards in a card organization box and a file folder holds all my stamps and labels, since I use the latter for bills as well as cards. And I keep my Sharpies in cigar boxes according to size. What can I say, I’m a Sharpie junkie. But I know right where to look when I want one.
All my items are in view of my desk. Not directly on it or right in the way of my daily tasks, but where I can see and reach them without having to think about it. Experiment and find the place that works best for you.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Step Three: Remember.
You have collected and organized all the things you need to be a bad-ass card gifter!! Great job!! Now all you have to do is remember to send them out……
You see why this is a three-step process, right? And while the first two steps set you up for success, this last one cannot be ignored. Good news? There are a LOT of ways to help you remember.
Now, let me tell you a secret. People think I am super thoughtful because I remember their birthdays. But I can’t remember crap. I have a zillion reminders set up so that I can’t possibly forget!! I recommend you think about your schedule and how you best remember things. Here are a few suggestions you can experiment with. (I have done/am doing them all.)
Mini Wall Calendars. This is my favorite reminder system and I don’t have the set-up in my current house to use it properly, much to my frustration. I buy a mini calendar (the 7×7” ones) and in January I write every birthday, anniversary, etc. in it. That’s the only thing it is used for. And I hang it in my bathroom.
Yep, you heard that right. I hang it in my bathroom. I have been doing this for probably 20 years. When you are using the restroom, you see it. When you are blow-drying your hair, you see it. When you are putting on your make-up, you see it. When you are brushing your teeth before bed, you see it.
I really don’t think there is a place in my life where I lay eyes on something as much as I have seen those birthday calendars. And because the calendar is the current year, I see the dates and days of the week as they actually are laid out (as opposed to a perpetual calendar where you only have a list).
Doing it this way means you can add or delete any dates from year to year. Not to mention noting them all down in the new calendar is a mental refresh. For years and years, this was all it took to keep my card gifting on track. Seriously, try it.
Perpetual Calendar. Complete transparency, I have used these, but they don’t work so well for me. I process information very visually, so seeing the actual month laid out in boxes gives me a better frame of reference than just the numbered list. But if they appeal to you, give one a try! Lots of people use them and you can get any number of cute ones on Etsy or at your stationary store.
But much like the Mini Calendar above, make sure to hang this somewhere you are going to actually LOOK at it.
Online Calendar. If you use an online calendar regularly, then by all means, take advantage of it! Keep in mind that you may not be able to see everything on any given date (in a monthly view) if it is heavily used. Also, be mindful of how much of the calendar you are seeing at one time. If you primarily use weekly view, some occasions might sneak up on you
Paper Planners. If you are like me and prefer a paper planner, then I recommend that you note down special dates in ALL the views. Monthly, Weekly, Daily…however many your planner provides. The more the merrier (and the remember-ier?).
Now that you have all your dates notated, let’s consider how to remember to send out your cards in advance of that calendared date. I know, it’s like a trick. You write all the dates down, but then have to remember BEFOREhand. Here are a few shortcuts I use.
⇒Use reminders on your phone. If I worry I’m not going to remember, well, anything at all, really, I put a reminder in my phone. That thing is way smarter than I am anyway, I might as well let it use it’s big ole brain to help make my life easier.
Set your reminders with enough time to realistically get the thing done, because we know that you aren’t going to jump up and get to it the moment the reminder goes off. (Me, either.) I try for about a week and a half ahead.
⇒Enter to-dos in your planner. I look at the month and go ahead and add ‘Send Card to Whoever’ in the to-do list for the week I want it done. It’s best to just batch these a week or two at a time (or even a month). It is unlikely that your cousin is going to judge you if her card comes a whole week early.
⇒Put a list of cards (or the cards themselves) to mail in with your bills for that month. If you are the bill payer in your household, having a monthly list (like a perpetual calendar) tucked in where you keep your bill paying/budgeting things can also help keep you on track. In fact, that can be the best time to knock those cards out, while you are already set up at your desk.
⇒Put reminders with your morning routine. If you are a spiritual person who spends some time each morning reading a devotional or you journal morning pages, put your list of people to remember (or the actual cards) alongside those items. The added bonus is you can take a moment and say a quick prayer and send them positive energy while you are waking up.
These suggestions are just some things that have worked for me. And I’m not ashamed to admit I have even written a reminder on my hand from time to time. You know your routine and where you can sneak in the reminders that you need.
And there it is! My Secret Strategy!
Never forget another birthday again! You can collect every supply here online in your pjs and put it all in a giant shoebox on a bookshelf and call it set up. Or you can literally shop for cards year-round and have an elaborate set up for your supplies. How you do it isn’t the point.
The point is that when we receive heartfelt wishes from someone who took the time to choose a card and put it in the mailbox, we know we have been truly remembered. We know someone was thinking of us (longer than the 30 seconds it took for a Facebook post). This is what Maya Angelou meant when she said ‘People will always remember how you made them feel’.
Congratulations for being the kind of person who wants to make people feel special.♥
A Very Important P.S.
Getting cards out in a timely manner can hard. The struggle is real, I know. So here is a secret. Cards that come late don’t mean you didn’t remember. 😊 And seriously, who doesn’t want to extend their birthday celebration to a week. Or a month. (Speaking for a friend.)
If you want to read about how to make the envelope as exciting as the birthday card, check out this post.
If you want to find out how to write a great message inside your card>>>>> Stay tuned!