A Beautiful Way to Save Money on Cards?

[Me playing with my mom’s copy machine at 4 years old!]

Remember over the summer when I vowed to go through one box a week until our basement was decluttered? Well, I lasted a solid 2+ months but eventually life took hold and I’m now averaging about a box every month.

But hey – I’m still at it! And this month I’ve decided to put the challenge in overdrive and tackle one of the hardest boxes yet – the one labeled “memories from childhood,” yikes.

I’ve done a decent job ridding some of it already (it’s helped to make a “maybe” pile to come back to every now and then and remind yourself they were all memories probably best forgotten, haha…), but the best part so far has been finding all these notes I wrote as a kid.

Here are some of the gems:

if i couldnt read or write

[I would want to kill myself? How dramatic!]

glow in the dark toothpaste

[I have so many questions!! Why won’t my kids like it?? How much does this amazing paste cost?? What else can it be used for?? A portable flashlight – gah!!! I googled to see if this has ever been made as my kids now want to try it (hah!) and looks like Colgate has stolen my idea ;)]

if i had 3 wishes

[Candy store hustle is where it’s at.]

if no mass media

[It would take me years to understand that last part!]

I’m only 1/10th of the way done but man it’s wild seeing some of this stuff… Definitely slows down time a bit, that’s for sure. You forget how you thought about life back in the day!

But real reason I’m sharing this today is because I’m pretty sure I just came up with the BEST idea ever for repurposing childhood stuff.

Among the old notes and doodles from school, apparently my mother thought it would be nice to store some of the old cards I made for her and my father too – particularly around the holidays. And rather than throw them all out which I was about to do, I thought – what if I can reuse them?

Instead of buying another Hallmark card each holiday, what if I actually gave these hand-made cards BACK to my parents as if I were still that same 10 or 13 year old boy? And pretend no time has passed at all? Wouldn’t their hearts just explode with memories and be so much more meaningful? And bonus win: it wouldn’t cost a thing!

I dug through the rest of the tub to see how many cards I had to work with, and turns out I’m good for a solid year. I’m set for Halloween, Easter, Mother’s Day, Grandparent’s Day (?), my mother’s birthday, and even a couple times if I get in trouble and need to say sorry to either parent :)

Check it out:

happy easter card

happy birthday mom card

[Why does that guy at the bottom have a gun? haha…]

happy grandparents day

happy halloween card


sorry dad card

sorry mom card

That’s at least $30 worth of savings right there ;)

But of course the real gift is priceless: sending your parents back in time to remember all the good times you had together! What’s better than that??

I’ll report back over the months to let you know how it goes, but feel free to steal the idea for yourself and experiment. I also came across some old notes and drawings my sister did too over the years, so maybe I’ll randomly drop those in the mail too and it’ll be like she’s receiving a gift from HERSELF! *Mind blown*

The memories that keep on giving… gotta love it.

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  1. Mrs. Mad Money Monster | @madmoneymonster March 1, 2017 at 6:29 AM

    That is one of the best ideas. Ever. I have always hated buying cards. It’s such a waste of money and they always get tossed in the trash. But homemade cards – I have every single one my daughter has ever given me. She’s 7 now and she’s still in the make-a-card phase which I absolutely love. Brings tears to my eyes whenever she gives me one. You must report back on how your parents respond over the course of the year!

    Now go play some Nintendo :)

    1. J. Money March 1, 2017 at 10:02 AM

      Yeah – i can’t get rid of our kids’ cards either! They’re just soooo precious and PURE you know? and one day they’re all going to be grown up and leave our nest, ahhhhhhh

  2. The Green Swan March 1, 2017 at 6:58 AM

    Haha what a great idea! I have some boxes of childhood items too and wonder what I could come up with. It’s always hard to come up with gift ideas to parents anyway but they’d love a memory like that.

    1. J. Money March 1, 2017 at 10:04 AM

      Exactly. And I guarantee they won’t see it coming!

        1. J. Money March 2, 2017 at 6:35 AM

          Haha… I did think about that, but considering they still ask me what my blog is called after 9 years I think we’re safe :)

  3. Band of Savers March 1, 2017 at 7:21 AM

    Love the pic with the copying machine, thank goodness it was your face you chose to copy.

    Since we have kids now we have been helping them make cards for their grandparents and we just sign it with/for them. We figured that they would much rather have a card made by their grandkids than one I picked out from the store anyways.

  4. Fulltimefinance March 1, 2017 at 7:50 AM

    My wife’s family has a tradition of recycling hallmark cards. She still gets one from them she had when she was ten. After the day has past they return it. The next year it comes back with a new signature and date. They typically insert a handwritten note via an inserted piece of loose leaf. Probably not as epic as your drawings and letters from yesteryear, but I suspect it brings them the same memories.

    1. J. Money March 1, 2017 at 10:06 AM

      HAH! I was wondering how she was able to recycle them all :) I think at that point I’d rather just have the nice handwritten letter than same card over and over again haha… Def. clever though.

  5. Miss Mazuma March 1, 2017 at 7:53 AM

    Thai is so cute!! And seriously, the gun man? Weird kid. Perhaps this will start a little chain in your family and your kids will do the same for you!

    Oh, and I think I can speak for all of us when I say we are so glad that you can read and write!

    1. J. Money March 1, 2017 at 10:09 AM

      Haha yeah – we’d all be staring at a blank screen now if that weren’t the case ;)

    2. Fritz @ TheRetirementManifesto March 1, 2017 at 1:06 PM

      Hey Cuz, don’t leave out the suicidal part! Suicidal, AND a gun. This guy’s got some dark recesses in his brain!! :)

  6. Go Finance Yourself! March 1, 2017 at 8:04 AM

    Come on J$. You know if you get 3 wishes you have to wish for 100 more wishes! :)

    Those cards are great! I think your family will get a big kick out of them!

  7. Bobby @ Millennial Money man March 1, 2017 at 8:14 AM

    What an awesome idea!!!! What in the world is that thing on the Halloween card? Haha

  8. The frugal prof March 1, 2017 at 8:41 AM

    That’s a good idea. I’m sure your parents will love experiencing the memories from when you were a child.

    Frugal tip- whenever I get to a 99c store, I stock up on greeting cards- good quality for 99 cents. Can’t beat it for those who still mail cards like me!


    1. J. Money March 1, 2017 at 10:11 AM

      Good idea :) I feel like I saw a ton of solid/cheap cards at Trader Joe’s the other day too – I’ll have to make a note to visit again once I run out next year!

  9. Primal Prosperity March 1, 2017 at 8:43 AM

    Not only is this a great idea to spread sentiment in your family, but you are double scoring by getting rid of some stuff… sorry, that’s the minimalist in me. :)

    1. J. Money March 1, 2017 at 10:13 AM

      That was what sparked the idea to begin with! I was literally about to drop them in the trash when the light bulb went off :) Now it’ll be interesting to see what my parents do with them! Haha… I swear, if they give them back to me I’m not going to be happy.

  10. Apathy Ends March 1, 2017 at 8:46 AM

    Hahaha, why does that guy have a gun…….

    This is a good idea! Now you should think of a way to re-gift some of the other stuff my parents sent back to us when we got our own house…..

    Pretty sure they sent me a bunch of crap that was in a “junk drawer” in my old room.

    1. J. Money March 1, 2017 at 10:34 AM

      My family has started bringing over boxes every other month or so at family dinners and asking if anyone wants anything before they donate them. I’ve offloaded a lot from there, as well as picked up a few things that’s saved me money or that i just really enjoyed. Could be another idea for ya!

  11. Anna March 1, 2017 at 8:48 AM

    I think that is brilliant. I have to say that I am a little surprised you have them though. I keep every single card or note that my kids give me so that when they are being jerks (as teenagers often are) I have proof that at one time they loved me and so there is hope for the future. LOL

    1. J. Money March 1, 2017 at 10:35 AM


      Now THAT is a good idea ;)

  12. Jack @ Enwealthen March 1, 2017 at 9:02 AM

    Great idea! I still have my box of kid stuff my mom gave me up in the attic, yet to be explored…

    In a similar vein, my wife repurposes old cards we receive by cutting out shapes (hearts, animals, etc.) and saving them. Then our son puts together cards on construction paper with stickers and these shapes and we send them on. Instant memories, low cost, and our son loves the time making the cards. Win -win.

    1. J. Money March 1, 2017 at 10:36 AM

      LOVE IT!

    2. Cody @ Dollar Habits March 10, 2017 at 1:20 PM

      That is a great idea! My 3-year-old would love that.

      In the past, we have cut up cards we’ve received and then used them as tags to attach to gifts we gave. We got that idea from my MIL who is the queen of repurposing.

      1. J. Money March 13, 2017 at 9:48 AM

        Not a bad idea either! Super creative.

  13. Mike B. March 1, 2017 at 9:41 AM

    Such a great find! I wonder what the return rate is on those kid’s drawings you did in terms of appreciation and love from your parents. Probably pretty good! Why is it too that boys always add weapons to their stick figure people?

  14. Ms. Montana March 1, 2017 at 9:51 AM

    That is so adorable. My mom might be the least sentimental person ever, so she might just be slightly annoyed. But I think it’s adorable. I want to start saving all the cards my kids make now!

  15. Mrs. BITA March 1, 2017 at 10:32 AM

    You parents are going to love this. I loved the weird halloween card (what in the world is that creature?) and the oh-so-insightful note about mass media.

    The last time I visited my in-laws Grandma BITA showed me some cards Mr. BITA had made for them as a child. On one of them he had drawn a ‘thermometer of love’ for each parent. His Dad got a 9/10 but his Mom only got a 3. She still gets really indignant about that score.

    1. J. Money March 1, 2017 at 10:36 AM

      That’s messed up! :)

  16. Mrs. Picky Pincher March 1, 2017 at 10:56 AM

    Awwww, that is such a precious idea! I wish I’d hung onto my childhood work, but it got tossed during many moves. Bah!

    I save on cards by making them myself (with all of my magical free time of course) or buying them at Dollar Tree. They’re .50 at Dollar Tree and the cards are surprisingly nice. I need to stock up on stacks of birthday cards to have around the house for emergencies!

  17. Joe March 1, 2017 at 11:59 AM

    Great idea! I don’t have any childhood stuff. We moved often when I was young and we didn’t keep anything. Even most of the old photographs were lost or at some relative’s house… We have a ton of our kid’s art projects that we could send, though.
    Mrs. RB40 makes our card so that’s how we stay frugal with cards. :)

  18. Paul March 1, 2017 at 12:11 PM

    1981 was a particularly good year.

    I do like your positive outlook on that kind of stuff. Mine was much more negative. I was actually upset when my mom gave me all my old stuff as an adult. I just don’t understand why she didn’t want it anymore. I viewed it as kind of a big F U.

    1. J. Money March 2, 2017 at 6:40 AM

      Haha… I actually did feel that way at first and even asked why she was giving it back, and she said so that I could pass it all down to my children later. Was hard to debate after that :)

  19. Done by Forty March 1, 2017 at 1:59 PM

    Reusing those cards is an adorable idea. I bet family would far prefer those.

    We’re moving, and are similarly getting rid of a TON. We’re doing a few boxes a day, often dropping off whole car loads to Goodwill a couple times a week, selling stuff on craigslist & ebay…lots of good feelings from having less.

    That Minimalists movie did a number on us!

    1. J. Money March 2, 2017 at 6:41 AM

      Oh good!!!! I only got halfway through it cuz it was soooo slow and already believe in it all so much, but I still want to finish it up and see if any other gems stand out. Where are you guys moving to?

      1. Done by Forty March 2, 2017 at 6:07 PM

        Just to another part of town: nothing too drastic. Post coming up. :)

  20. David Domzalski March 1, 2017 at 3:07 PM


    What an awesome concept! I’m sure my parents have our stuff stashed somewhere and they would get a kick out of it resurfacing all these years later. Sometimes it’s the things that don’t cost any money that are most valuable.

    I wonder if you could scan a bunch of the cards and made them into a t-shirt or blanket? Might be another cool, inexpensive way to use them again.

    This was a nice trip down memory lane. Thank you, sir.


    1. J. Money March 2, 2017 at 6:43 AM

      Yeah – loads of stuff you could do with them! You should find where your parents’ stashes are and sneakily remove a few to return back later ;)

  21. Steven Goodwin March 1, 2017 at 3:31 PM

    This would be sure to work well to create nostalgia city! Good for you for actually trying to tackle your childhood box! I don’t think that we can even go near the stuff and try to minimize it! We have an ever growing collection of kid drawings and stuff that my 2 girls create each day and I just don’t know what to do with it all. I have set up binders and I’ve even started working on digitizing some of it as well! Ohh well, just thinking about it makes me not want to touch it or I might not get anything done for a few days LOL!

    1. J. Money March 2, 2017 at 6:44 AM

      Haha I know. We have a tub where I just throw it all into right now until we can figure out how to sort as well :) It’s one thing going through your own stuff, but man – when it comes to your kids I don’t know how people do it! All their art is so magical!!

  22. Linda at bklyn bread March 1, 2017 at 8:59 PM

    Oh god, I am practically in tears thinking about my children’s cards for me and imagining reading them 30 years from now. Thanks J. Money, I am now useless and incapacitated for the remainder of the evening. But seriously, what an inspired idea. Goose bump-imparting!

    1. J. Money March 2, 2017 at 6:45 AM

      Awww haha… aren’t you sweet today :) Really really glad you liked the idea – thanks for making my morning.

  23. Smart Provisions March 1, 2017 at 9:14 PM

    Aww, that’s very cute!

    Unfortunately, I haven’t really kept around many of my childhood items, but if I did, it would definitely be great to reuse those cards as gifts to my parents!

  24. Libby March 2, 2017 at 7:23 AM

    I love the fact that you wanted to be part of the millionaire’s club even as a kid! Talk about early direction in life :)

    Very impressed with your artistic talent as a kid. My fav was the flower petals made out of hearts.

    1. J. Money March 2, 2017 at 9:26 AM

      haha, thanks :)

  25. Lisa O March 2, 2017 at 8:50 AM

    That is an awesome idea! You are recycling feelings and stuff!

    1. J. Money March 3, 2017 at 9:27 AM

      Haha… trying!

  26. Mrs Money March 2, 2017 at 12:19 PM

    These are just darling!! What a great idea. This has really spurred me to want to save more of my daughter’s artwork- she’s always crafting but I usually don’t save that much of it. I’ll have to come up with a box to put her creations in.

    1. J. Money March 3, 2017 at 9:27 AM

      yeah! especially the stuff that really makes you smile as it’ll be coming back to you in 30 years or so ;)

  27. Ty March 2, 2017 at 7:18 PM

    I struggle every single year for gift ideas for my parents. They don’t need anything, but they’ll LOVE this! Thanks for the tip, J

    1. J. Money March 3, 2017 at 9:28 AM

      DO IT!!!

      Then come back and tell us how it went! :)

  28. Justin @ Doubling Dollars March 5, 2017 at 12:40 AM

    This is a great idea.

    I did something else for my wife on Valentine’s day. I used a card left in the office from the previous occupant. It was real nice, played a song when you opened it. I glued some construction paper over the inside to cover the handwritten message and wrote my own.

    Wife didn’t seem to mind, but I was wondering if I went past frugal and into cheap as I handed it to her! :D

    1. J. Money March 5, 2017 at 2:20 PM


      The answer is Yes. Yes you did. :)

  29. Adriana @MoneyJourney March 7, 2017 at 3:21 AM

    Forget about saving money on cards, what you’re doing for your parents is priceless :)

    I don’t really have much old stuff to remember my childhood by anymore. I have my memories, of course, but when I went to visit ‘home’ last October, we discovered our basement was ransacked. We only found out because my dad wanted to do the same thing: go through the old boxes and declutter the place a bit.

    I’m still sad (and a bit mad) when I think about it, good thing my mom’s more sentimental and kept some old stuff inside the house. You really can’t put a price on sentimental value.

    1. J. Money March 8, 2017 at 10:01 AM

      Ugh, sorry to hear that :( So sad when people steal other people’s stuff. Always have to remind myself that even though it’s a dick move, they obviously need stuff more than any of us to go to that level :(

  30. Lee March 10, 2017 at 8:20 AM

    I have been married to my BFF for 32 years. One time, I found what I considered to be the ‘perfect’ anniversary card for my husband – the picture on the front, the sentiments expressed and the way they were worded were all exactly as I would have created them were I the least creatively inclined. When he received the card, there were tears in his eyes. He loved it. Being frugally inclined (OK, in this case, let’s just call it CHEAP) and knowing that my husband has a tendency to be memory-challenged, I put the card away in the cedar chest and pulled it out the next year when our anniversary rolled around again. To my delight – the same reaction. I think this went on for three years before I couldn’t help it – I HAD to tell him. He admitted, rather sheepishly, that he hadn’t noticed a thing.

    We both had a good laugh.

    1. J. Money March 13, 2017 at 9:49 AM

      Oh my gosh haha…. Though I have no right to laugh, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t tell the difference either as my memory is also horrible :)

  31. JoeTaxpayer March 10, 2017 at 9:12 AM

    Even as a kid, you knew that wishing for just $1M was really a wasted wish. $10M was your “number” even then. Smart kid. Smart guy now.

  32. Cody @ Dollar Habits March 10, 2017 at 1:44 PM

    I went through a couple of boxes of my stuff from when I was a kid last fall when my parents moved from my childhood home. I love your idea, but unfortunately, I didn’t save any of it. I spent a few hours reading through it all (huge mind trip, by the way, to go back in time like that) and then tossed it into the recycling can. Similar to you, we have found it darn near impossible to get rid of the art our son creates. After he creates it, it finds its way to the fridge first, then into a box in the garage for safe keeping.

    1. J. Money March 13, 2017 at 9:51 AM

      It is fun to go through them all :) I’m now about 90% done with this tub and gonna miss it when it’s done! Found like 20 more cards though so far haha…

  33. MP March 24, 2017 at 6:02 PM

    You made us laugh with the gun in the middle of all this love!!!

    On my side I now feel bad to scan and upload to Dropbox *all* my kids’ drawings…like, I will receive a Dropbox link in 20y?! Damn!

    Great idea you share here anyway!

    1. J. Money March 26, 2017 at 2:59 PM

      Haha… the internet will be soooo different in 20 years too, who knows what it’ll all look like! :)

  34. Pj March 31, 2017 at 10:52 AM

    Why were you “sorrey,” J.? Were you apologizing to your parents for your poor spelling? ;-)

    1. J. Money April 1, 2017 at 6:16 AM

      *shakes fist in the sky*

  35. ZJ Thorne April 21, 2017 at 9:00 AM

    This is such a sweet idea. Re-use the memories and the paper.

    1. J. Money April 23, 2017 at 2:37 PM

      Just put it into action for the first time last week for Easter..

      My mom almost cried :)