Belated Thank-You Notes: The No-Shame Guide

If revenge is best served cold, does it stand to reason that a thank-you note should be plated piping hot? Not necessarily.

winter thank you

Here we are, almost three months into the new year. Practically one quarter of the year has passed, and it seems like only yesterday you were jamming to holiday hits, wondering just what figgy pudding really was.

But by now, you’ve probably discarded the tree and paper snowflakes. And if you’ve forgotten to send your holiday thank-you notes, well, you’ve literally dis-carded more than that! Your friends and loved ones have (regrettably) been gypped.

If the guilt is finally starting to creep in, don’t fret. We might be glorifying procrastination here, but Elfster believes that a late thank-you note actually presents a golden opportunity for extending holiday cheer… And pleasant surprises are simply never a bad thing!

Are we making you feel any better? Now that you’ve found the necessary motivation to write a belated holiday thank-you note, here are a few strategies to give it character and tact:

“Let’s not tell Santa about this, shall we?”

Reference to a higher authority will help the recipient to remember that no one is perfect. Try to mention the special “powers that be” in your life to customize the message.

“I may be forgetful, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate… Wait, what was I saying?”

Acknowledging your flaws is an excellent first step to recovery, and a little humor goes a long way in that process. By playing off of your shortcomings in a belated thank-you note, the addressee will be pleased to hear you’re on the road to recuperation… even if you aren’t quite there yet!

“I forgot to tip the mailman… Frankly, I think he’s got it out for me.”

The good old-fashioned “Blame Game” can be a useful addition to your late thank-you note. Just make sure it’s all in good fun.

“Just to be fair, let’s say I wait 3 months for a ‘You’re Welcome’… Deal?”

Negotiate an informal act of contrition to give the recipient a sense of justice in your thank-you note. A self-imposed sentence of equally “rude” behavior is the recommended punishment, but don’t be too hard on yourself!

“I was under the influence of eggnog…”

The holidays can have an intoxicating effect on everyone. Explaining this in a humorous way will likely resonate well with your audience.

“I was going for a record on the longest delayed thank-you, but I caved!”

Try making your procrastination a virtue. Your belated thank-you recipient just might be flattered by how much you care!

“I knew that telepathic thank-you card was too good to be true!”

Who’s to say some unseen obstacle didn’t keep you from sending a timely thank-you note? The thankee might just be willing to suspend their disbelief if you craft a whimsical and entertaining backstory to account for the note’s tardiness.

“Thank you for everything!”

Using the humorous ice-breakers above will doubtlessly soften the blow of your belated thank-you note. But as a final word of advice, be sure to always end your message in sincerity. Tell the person how much their thoughtfulness has meant to you, and assure them that your late timing is no indication of their importance in your life.

Okay, okay, now dry your eyes. Time to get writing!

Share what your belated thank-you message will say and see what others are writing on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster and Instagram @Elfster.

Photo Credits: Etsy seller Sandbox CardsAlex E. Proimos , Lady Dragonfly CC- International Orchid Symposium , Pink Sherbert Photography, izik , vistamommy


  1. I love giving more time for your welcome… lol! I just got some Christmas Thank yous out a couple weeks ago so I have felt the shame first hand!

  2. Your list of strategies doesn’t cover my situation, so perhaps you could spot check for “character and tact” this note that I was just about to send. Thanks!

    Dear ,

    Thank you for the Christmas gift. I would have thanked you earlier, but I wanted to wait until I could return for something I actually liked or needed. With no receipt I was left to try to unload it on eBay, but I couldn’t find anyone willing to pay the shipping let alone anything “extra” for your gift. I know buying gifts is tough, so here are a few ideas that would have worked out much better: a coupon for side of lemon juice with the purchase of a paper cut, a box of used q-tips, a Bee Gees album.

    Thanks again, can’t wait ‘till next year!

  3. I think that’s a pretty compelling argument in itself, Ed! You could, of course, also say:

    I know this thank-you is a tad late, but I wanted to give you ample time to think about your poor gift choice.

    All the best,

  4. This post is hilarious and brilliant. I am going to use it (and cite of course) all the time, as I am pretty much always feeling guilty and ashamed about not thanking somebody for something. :) Liking the site a lot …

  5. Thanks so much, Sarah! This post comes from the heart, as I am a hopeless offender, myself. The support group starts here, I guess :)

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