I love the holidays because you get to spend extra time with family and make memories. Plus, it’s always fun to engage in annual traditions, like decorating the Christmas tree and opening presents.
But if you aren’t careful, it’s easy to use the holidays as an excuse to overspend. You may feel like you have to buy gifts for every single extended family member and stock up on wine and food for get-togethers.
In the best-case scenario, you walk away from the holidays with a significant hole in your savings account. Worst case scenario, you enter the New Year with a bunch of high-interest credit card debt.
Fortunately, it’s possible to create unique holiday traditions that won’t break the bank. Here are 10 ideas to get you started.
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The holidays are a great time to focus on giving back to your community. And setting up a group volunteering event can be a great way to bond with friends and family.
Volunteering for an important cause allows you to spend time together while still participating in something meaningful. Here are a few ideas you can try:
- Host a canned food drive for a local food shelter.
- Collect toys for an organization like Big Brothers Big Sisters.
- Serve meals at a nearby soup kitchen.
- Adopt a child or family to buy Christmas gifts for.
2. Holiday Movie Marathons
If you already pay for streaming services, you and your family can do a holiday movie marathon. Make hot chocolate, fix popcorn, and pick out some of your favorite age-appropriate holiday movies.
Here are some of our favorites:
- Polar Express
- Home Alone and Home Alone 2
- It’s a Wonderful Life
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas
- Miracle on 34th Street
3. Look at Christmas Lights
Is there anything better than enjoying Christmas lights? It’s one of the best free sources of entertainment available. If your neighborhood is known for its Christmas lights display, then you won’t even have to drive anywhere.
You and your family can bundle up, walk through the neighborhood, and enjoy the display. But you can also drive around and see what other communities are doing. There may also be a free local lighting display you can attend.
4. Go Ice Skating
Ice skating is an inexpensive and fun holiday tradition. Most skating rinks are relatively cheap to use, even if you have to rent a pair of skates. And it’s an excellent opportunity to get out of the house and get some exercise.
5. Make a Gingerbread House
Gingerbread houses are a holiday staple, and making one is a great activity you can do with your kids. If you don’t consider yourself particularly crafty, you can buy one of those pre-made kits from the store.
But if you’re up for it, I recommend making your own! Not only is this less expensive, but you’ll have more options for designing and decorating the house. And homemade gingerbread houses make great gifts!
6. Get an Elf on the Shelf
I know everyone has a different opinion about doing an Elf on the Shelf. Some people love it and do it every year, while others hate the idea and refuse to participate. If you’re not already familiar with how it works, you can read more about the tradition.
Pinterest has tons of great Elf on the Shelf ideas, and many kids get a huge kick out of seeing their Elf’s crazy antics. The only downside is that this activity is not free — you’ll have to pay $29.99 to order your kit on Amazon.
7. Pick Out a Christmas Tree
If you’re a fan of real Christmas trees, then you can make a big event of picking out your Christmas tree. You and your family can visit a local Christmas tree farm together, take pictures, and pick out your perfect tree.
Once you get home, you can play Christmas music and decorate the tree together. However, real Christmas trees are more expensive this year, so you may want to do some homework on where you can find the best deal.
8. Make Your Own Ornaments
If you have young kids, they may enjoy making their own ornaments for the tree. You can use Pinterest to get tons of different ideas. As a bonus, this can be a great gift to give teachers and other important people in your life.
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9. Look for Free Local Events
Your town may have free local Christmas events depending on where you live. For instance, you may be able to attend a local parade, Christmas concert, or other holiday events. To find these activities, you can check out Facebook and your local newspaper.
And your local library may have tons of great holiday-themed activities for kids. Participating in these types of activities is a great way to have fun without spending a dime.
10. Do a Secret Santa Gift Exchange
And finally, it’s easy to overspend on Christmas gifts each year, especially if you have a big extended family. But if you’re on a limited budget, why suggest doing a Secret Santa gift exchange this year?
Instead of buying presents for everyone, you and your family can draw names out of a hat. You’ll pick one person to buy a gift for and keep it a secret.
Then on Christmas, everyone will exchange gifts and find out who drew their name. This activity is a great way to save money while still participating in the joy of gift-giving.
The Bottom Line
Hopefully, this blog post has shown you that you can create wonderful holiday memories without completely blowing your budget. Try one or two of the suggestions on this list, and see what you think. And, of course, be sure to track your spending, so you know you’re staying on target with your budget.
What are your holiday traditions? Let me know in the comments!