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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Addressing Holiday Cards Made Easy

Every year, I look forward to the holidays.  I enjoy the baking, food, decorations, music and getting together with friends and family.  However, I hate addressing Christmas cards.  It take hours upon hours.  And if you mess up, you have to either use white-out (which looks horrible) or throw out the envelope, which means you're short one.  Honestly, I have better things to do with my time than spend an entire weekend dealing with filling out envelopes.

About 8 years ago, I decided I was going to get smart about my Christmas cards, and let technology save me hours of my precious time.  I was already saving my addresses in my address book on my computer, so the most time consuming part of this process was already done.  If you're not saving your addresses on your computer, do it!  You only have to do this once, and then update as people move, get married, etc.

Here are my steps for addressing hundreds of cards in less than a half hour.  I promise!  All you need is your computer, a printer and adhesive mailing labels of your choice (You can find them at Wal-Mart, Staples, etc. in a nice holiday pattern - you can get them in packs of about 150 or more) in a size of 2 5/8" x 1" (or 66 mm x 25 mm).

**Disclosure, I did all of this on a Mac using Office 2008.  If you have a PC or a different version of Office, your steps and how things look might be a little different than mine.  But, this should give you general guidelines of how to get this done.
  • If you haven't already done so, enter your addresses into the mail program on your computer (Entourage for Mac, Outlook for PC).  This is the most time consuming step of this entire process (and not included in my half hour time estimate).
  • Go through all of your addresses, and make sure that anyone you want to send a card to has "Holiday" selected in the far right hand column under "Categories":
    • If an address not in your "Holiday" category, click where it says "None" for their listing under the "Categories" column and choose "Holiday" - this step is extremely important to make this process work.
  • The hard part is done!  Now, open Word on your computer.
  • Go to Tools > Labels > Options
  • Scroll through the list of label options to find the size of the labels you'll be using.  In my case, I have an 8.5 x 11 sheet of labels with 2 5/8" (aka 2.63") x 1" labels on it.
  • Highlight the appropriate label size and click OK.
  • You're back to the Labels screen.  Click Mail Merge in the bottom right hand corner.
  • Word will create a new document that looks like this, but don't panic:
  • You'll also see a little Mail Merge Manager box pop up in the right hand corner of your screen:
  • Expand option 2 (Select Recipients List) and click "Get List"
  • Choose "Office Address Book"
  • Once the Edit Labels box pops up, click Insert Merge Field.  Choose Full Name.  You will see it populate in the Sample label box.  Hit Return/Enter after <<Full_Name>> and then click Insert Merge Field again.  Chose Home Address this time.  Then click OK.
  • Back to the Mail Merge Manager box - expand 4 to Filter Recipients and click Options:
  • From the Query Options box that pops up, choose "Holiday" (this is why it was important when you were entering addresses earlier to designate addresses in the Holiday category) and then click OK.
  • Back to the Mail Merge Manager box, expand option 6 to Complete Merge
  • Select the middle icon (with two pieces of stacked paper), which is "Merge to New Document"
  • Like magic, a new document will open in Word, with all of your addresses for your holiday cards laid out in the format of your labels!
  • Now, I like to do a test run to make sure I know which side is right up on my labels in my printer.  Make a copy or two of your label sheet and do a test run (or two) of the first page to make sure everything is laid out the way you want.  I normally format my labels so that all the addresses are centered in the label (by default, they'll be left justified).  To do this, just select all the labels (Ctrl A on a PC or Command A on Mac and then choose the center justification from your formatting menu). Once you're happy with how they look, stick your label sheets in your paper tray and print!
  • Once your labels are all printed, it will take mere minutes to put all the labels on your cards.  Not only does it look neat and professional, but the colorful holiday labels add a little extra something to your cards.