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20 Ways to Celebrate Christmas With Kids Without Overspending

This is a guest post by Penny at The Saved Quarter as part of the Yakezie blog swap with the topic “Best tips for saving on the holidays”. You can see my post, Christmas on a Budget, today at her blog.

Holiday expenses can add up fast, but you can enjoy the season without breaking the bank! There are many frugal ways to celebrate. Spending time with your family is far more satisfying than spending money! Here are 20 family-friendly ways you can enjoy this Christmas season without spending too much money.

  1. Make an advent calendar to count down the days until Christmas. Paper chains are fun to make, alternating red and green strips of paper. You can write a little note on the inside of each strip as well. Each day, cut down one more strip until Christmas arrives!
  2. Go Christmas caroling in your neighborhood or at a retirement center. As a teen, my church group went to an assisted living community and we went door to door caroling. The seniors loved it, and we stayed warm by caroling indoors!
  3. Make an event out of trimming the tree and decorating the house with crafts your family makes. Make ornaments for your tree or as a gift. String popcorn or cranberries. Cut paper snowflakes to tape to windows. Check out kids’ craft websites for creative ideas using what you already have.
  4. Does your town have a tree lighting event, holiday parade, or festival? Ours does and it’s always great fun! Pack a thermos of hot chocolate and bundle up to participate in your community’s events.
  5. Do a web search for free holiday activities with the name of your town or city. I live near San Francisco and found that in addition to parades, carols, and Santa visits, there is a free holiday train, 22-ft gingerbread house, snow in the 17-story lobby of a hotel, a boat parade, and even a Flash-Mob scheduled this holiday season!
  6. Read holiday stories aloud to your kids. We have young kids and this is a highlight of December, reading favorites like The Polar Express before bed!
  7. Watch your favorite Christmas movies together as a family. It wouldn’t be Christmas without bundling up on the sofa to watch It’s a Wonderful Life!
  8. Check with your local high schools, churches, or community centers to see if they’re offering any live performances of carols or plays. Last year, a local church performed Handel’s Messiah and the community center put on a kid-friendly matinee of A Christmas Carol. Additionally, watch daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social for discounted tickets to holiday events. This year, I saw tickets to a professional performance of The Nutcracker for half price.
  9. Make a gingerbread house. The components aren’t very expensive and it makes a festive centerpiece, so long as little fingers aren’t eating the decorations!
  10. If you live in a snowy climate, go sledding or make snowmen.
  11. On Christmas Eve, you can track Santa’s progress on NORAD!
  12. Make an evening of viewing neighborhood light displays. In a nearby, there is a block called “Candy Cane Lane” and every house goes all out. It’s such fun to walk down the street at night and see how creative the neighbors can be!
  13. See if your library offers Christmas themed craft or story time.
  14. If you are religious, attend a church service or nativity play.
  15. Introduce the Christmas Elf in your home. Place a decorative elf around your home, changing his position after the kids are in bed each night. The elf reports back to Santa whether the kids are being naughty or nice.
  16. Bake cookies! This is a fun activity, and can be even more fun by donating plates of cookies to your local fire and police departments. My kids love visiting the fire station and sharing their decorated treats.
  17. Go through your kids’ toys and donate those that are in good condition but no longer played with. There are two great benefits to this one – they can give to others, and their rooms get cleaner before the influx of holiday gifts. Don’t donate anything that’s in poor condition, broken, or missing parts; make sure the toys can still be played with. It’s a good time to go through outgrown warm clothing to donate as well.
  18. Volunteer together. There is so much need, and it reinforces the notion that this is a season of giving.
  19. On Christmas Eve, the kids get to open one gift – pajamas! Everyone looks fresh for all of the pictures on Christmas morning.
  20. The best thing we’ve done to make Christmas more about the family and traditions is to limit gifts. We have a four-gift plan (plus one from Santa) for each kid, so they each get:
  • Something you want
  • Something you need
  • Something to wear
  • Something to read

I’m a frugal shopper and deal finder, so I’m planning and gift buying year round. For the second year, I’m coming in under my $100 holiday budget for all of the gifts on my list!

Does your family have any free or inexpensive holiday traditions?

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