And what to do if you think you've missed the boat.

I live for Christmas cards. There's nothing I love more than opening the mailbox to find the usual stack of bills and catalogues replaced with red and green envelopes stuffed with holiday greetings and smiling photos of loved ones. But while I love receiving them, my family and I weren't always the best about getting them out the door in time. Our Christmas cards sometimes turned into New Year's cards turned into Valentine's Day cards turned into next year's Christmas cards. Here, owner and founder of Birmingham, Alabama-based, stationery company Dogwood Hill Collective, Jennifer Hunt, shares her tips for sending Christmas cards on time.

"Ideally, holiday cards would be mailed out the first week of December," says Hunt. "But receiving cards all the way up to Christmas Eve is still acceptable and fun!"

Christmas Card Display
Credit: Mandy Busby Creative

To get ahead of the holiday chaos, Hunt recommends starting early ... as in, October early. "If you're super on top of the game, we always offer an "early bird" special before Halloween. So if you have your photo and are ready to order, do so in advance to take advantage of the early sale. Then you have November to prep your cards for sending at the beginning of December."

One way to move the process along is to choose your card before you even take your family photo, says Hunt. "That way you can make sure to frame the photograph perfectly to fit inside your favorite card. You can also plan your attire that way too."

In terms of sketching out your Christmas card timeline, it's important to note when your stationery company guarantees delivery of your finished cards. For Dogwood Hill Collective, says Hunt, it takes 7 to 10 business days to print your cards and get them to you, so that's something to keep in mind.

It's also good to consider whether or not you'll be addressing them yourself. Dogwood Hill Collective offers address printing on the envelopes, but you can also opt to address them yourself. While it's time consuming, I think there's something sweet about addressing the envelopes by hand, as it's also a great time to add personalized notes on the cards themselves to make them feel a little more special.

No matter when you start the Christmas card ordering process, make sure to order more than you think you'll need. That way, says Hunt, you can return festive greetings to those who unexpectedly send a holiday card your way.

Of course, if the craziness of the holidays catch up to you and you just can't get things together in time to send out a Christmas card, all hope is not lost, says Hunt. "New Year's cards, which can be sent throughout the month of January, are great options!"

And with Christmas credit card bills rolling in all January long, we know a happy greeting in the mailbox is a welcome break.