Updated: Dec 3, 2019
1. They make people happy.
This is definitely reason number one. I love the feeling of writing out a card and knowing that this is physical proof for someone that their actions have made a positive impact. You can work hard to do well by others all you want, and tell yourself that you’re doing it for the greater good, but there’s nothing like hearing a thank you for your efforts coming directly from a person you benefitted.
2. Making them is a simple creative outlet
Making thank you cards requires little more than thick paper and a pen, but you can use and re-use all kinds of materials.
Pro-tip: Take a paper cutter to cereal boxes and other light cardboard you normally throw out. Once you flip it over, it makes excellent textured, natural-colored chip board for layered embellishments. Check out the title photo for an example of this idea in action!
I really enjoy painting on cards, and even if my results are imperfect, I take solace in the knowledge that I could have just sent my note on boring lined paper, so even my most haphazard creation has far more character. And, because the note is being sent far, far away, you don’t ever again have to confront your “practice paintings.” They go to a good cause—gratitude!
3. They’re easy to write.
After a quick hello, you just list off the dozens of nice things someone has done for you or given you. If you’re more advanced, maybe you tell some stories about how the gifts have been used or how you have been affected by their help.
That said, sometimes you get things you don’t want. I have a pretty solid “Thou shalt not bullshit” policy in my thank you cards. Luckily, I’ve developed some work-arounds. You can always thank someone for thinking of you, mention a feature of the gift that you do appreciate, and/or you can offer gratitude for the occasion surrounding the gift.
Example: Thank you so much for inviting us to dinner this Christmas. It was truly a gift to spend time with you all, and the artisanal salami you got me was a wonderful reminder of my trip to Italy a few years ago. (See? You don't have to actually like salami to be able to show honest gratitude! Please note: I have nothing against salami.)
The only truly tough situation is if a gift/action was not in good faith, and you’re expected/obligated to be thankful. Stale apples as a wedding present from Bitter Aunt Zelda? You could lie, you could be sassy, or you could just—forget about it. If she’s that salty, there’s no way a thank you note full of lies about how much you loved those apples will sweeten her an ounce.
As penance for a missed note, consider writing a card to a favorite childhood teacher instead. That is a failsafe way to improve your day and that of another human!
4. You get to put stamps on the envelopes.
Stamps are basically stickers. And every self-respecting person loves stickers.
If you're scared of the post office, don't be. It's as close to owl post as the muggle world is going to get. Just go in, and ask to buy some fun stamps (don't just get the default flag ones, unless you're really about them—the fun ones are the same cost!). Offer some hearty and vehement gratitude to the post office people while you're there! They can help you get a sheet of paper from Maine to Hawaii for 50 cents. Every day miracle-makers, they are.
Pro-Tip: If mailing costs are an issue, get a sheet of cheaper postcard stamps, and send thank you postcards!
5. No one is going to write you a reply.
I love sending people mail, and I love receiving mail. But I don’t always enjoy getting into interminable back-and-forth volleys of pen-paling. Part of this is born of overachieving—I want to send back something long, meaningful, and witty. I convince myself that the best time to do that is always “tomorrow, when I can concentrate.” Then tomorrow turns into today and I find my ability to focus on quality letter-writing has remained... lacking. Part of this is also conversational enthusiasm. You have questions for me? I’d rather just call you now than wait two weeks for you to get my replies (I love phone calls), during which time I’ve probably forgotten what I wrote to you, or that I wrote to you at all.
Thank you notes eliminate all of this! I thank you, you smile, and we both move on with our lives feeling a little more cheerful and thankative!
Convinced? No? Thank you notes are great, right? Of course right. ;)