20 Frugal & Fun Christmas Activities
Every day now we’re getting a little closer to Christmas. A store in my neighborhood put up holiday decorations a week or two ago. I walk my dog by there every day and stop and look with delight that the holiday season is here.
I have wonderful memories of celebrating the holidays with my family while growing up. I don’t recall those times and activities costing a lot of money. Even now, being frugal-minded, I like enjoying the holiday season without spending much. It’s easy to get caught up in buying gifts and all the associated materialism that comes with the holidays, but you don’t need to spend money to have a meaningful and enjoyable holiday season.
If that’s what you want too, here’s a list of frugal yet fun Christmas activities you can do to enjoy the holidays without breaking the bank. Many of these activities are good for adults and children and can be done individually or in a group.
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1 | Make a variety of drinks in good company
The holidays come with their special drinks that you can enjoy alone or with company. There are different types of hot chocolates and eggnog to try. You can even make eggnog cocktail. If those don’t appeal to you, how about making your own spiced cider? Add some s’mores or cookies to your drinks and you’re set for a relaxing evening.
2 | Make a gingerbread house
Making a gingerbread house has always been on my holiday to-do list as a grown up. My family didn’t make gingerbread houses when I was growing up, so I make it a point to do it now. Every year I purchase a kit (less than $10 at Trader Joe’s) and make it on my own or with the help of children in my family. It provides us with hours of fun including prep time, making it, taking pictures, and showing other family members.
3 | Visit holiday lanes
Does your area have a holiday lane? Some cities and towns have homes that are fully decorated as if they’re in competition with one another. Bundle up and grab some cocoa for a drive through them in the evening hours to see to beautiful they look lit up. I’m always impressed with how creative those people are.
4 | Host a movie marathon
One of my absolute favorite traditions is watching all my favorite holiday movies between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each year I make a list of the movies I have to watch. It always includes A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and The Muppet Christmas Carol. I grab a cup of hot cocoa and settle in for a dose of Christmas spirit.
I don’t buy the movies. I borrow or stream movies online or watch them on TV in order to save money. If a movie is only available to buy, I skip it and move on to the next one on the list.
5 | Make homemade ornaments
You can spend hours making ornaments to hang on your tree or around the house. You’ll never get bored with so many ornaments available to create. A quick online search will bring up ideas for ornaments you might like. A few of my favorites are these walnut shell manger ornaments, filled glass ornaments, and a scrap ribbon tree ornament.
6 | Make homemade gifts
Homemade gifts are a great alternative to shopping at retail stores for those on a tight budget. You can make many thoughtful yet inexpensive gifts like a batch of cookies or hot cocoa mix in a jar. One of my favorite gifts I receive every year is a bag of homemade trail mix with seaweed seasoning on it. Not sure what to make? These are a few examples of unique homemade gifts.
7 | Decorate your home
Go ahead and spend an afternoon or evening taking out all your decorations and putting them into place. You can save money by using Christmas decorations from past years, free things found in nature like pine cones, or displaying the holiday cards you receive as they arrive. When I want something extra to add to the décor, I stop at the thrift store or pick up a few things at a discount store like TJ Maxx.
8 | Host a baked goods exchange party
It seems everyone has a favorite baked good at the holiday. A baked good exchange party lets and your loved ones have fun while trying out each other’s treats. This year I discovered a delicious recipe for pecan sandies. I can’t wait to share them with my family at Christmas.
9 | Visit people and deliver your baked goods
The holidays are the perfect time to visit those who are important to you. We don’t always have enough time to visit people for as long or as frequently as we’d like during the year, but the holidays are a good time to make that effort. Not only will people love your thoughtful visit, but when you bring them baked goods, it saves you from eating all of them yourself.
10 | Pick out a tree together
Picking out a tree is an exciting way to start the Christmas season. I’ll admit though that we had a fake tree in my house while growing up. We saved a lot of money by reusing that tree each year and I loved it all the same. If buying a real Christmas tree is not a priority or out of the budget this year, try purchasing a smaller tree, using a fake one, or having someone gift you a tree.
11 | Decorate the tree together
You can spend hours putting up and decorating the tree. Every year, my mom took out all the ornaments and let me go wild on the tree. We had so many ornaments from hand-me-downs to school art projects that our tree was full without needing to buy anything more. I have so many great memories of decorating a tree and it didn’t cost us a thing.
If you’re lacking ornaments for the tree, ask around because your parents and relatives might be happy to pass some on to you. You can ask that presents this year be an ornament for the tree. Or shop for some at discount stores and after-Christmas sales.
12 | Attend a tree lighting ceremony
Tree lighting ceremonies are fun but usually a quick event. To keep the holiday spirit going throughout the evening, try pairing it with another fun and frugal activity like ice skating, baking cookies, or a community Christmas show.
13 | Visit storefronts for their window displays
Holiday window displays can be entertaining unto themselves. In San Francisco, Macy’s and the SPCA put adoptable kittens and puppies in the storefront windows during November and December. You can also have a short cuddle experience with them for a small fee. An online search of your city or town may show a similar holiday event. This activity can be pretty short so I like to pair it up with a tree lighting ceremony or something else on the list.
14 | Watch the Nutcracker or a Christmas show
Many schools and dance studios host a Christmas show of some sort. You can usually find The Nutcracker or a nativity play for free or low cost. I like to see the San Francisco Ballet perform The Nutcracker. I purchased discounted tickets for only $25 last year…not bad for a professional production!
15 | Volunteer at a soup kitchen or pantry
Volunteering at a soup kitchen or pantry an easy way to get into the spirit of the season. You’re able to give, but it doesn’t cost any money, only a few hours of time. Serving is always a great reminder for me that even in moments of financial or personal uncertainty in my life, there are many people much less fortunate than me. It’s also fun to meet other volunteers and be part of the community.
16 | Put together a box of goods for seniors in your community
Senior citizens are susceptible to isolation and loneliness during the year. The holidays can make that feeling worse. Team up with a local organization like Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly or check out a nearby senior home to see how you can help. Many seniors would benefit from a box of practical gifts likes socks, nail clippers, postage stamps, and bath soap. It only takes a few hours to put together a box and deliver it, which could really make someone’s day.
17 | Write holiday letters and cards
This is a fun activity for those who love to write letters and greeting cards. Grab a cup of hot cocoa and reminisce about your year before sharing those events on paper. Your friends and family will likely appreciate that you thought of them enough to share a personal note with them this holiday.
18 | Listen to Christmas music while wrapping presents
Every year as a child, I would turn on the radio one evening before Christmas and help my mom wrap all the presents. We would sing along to the songs as we decided which gift got which wrapping paper and bow. If you have children, this is a fun way to engage them in Christmas preparations while teaching them how to wrap presents.
19 | Have a girlfriend’s get-together with ugly Christmas sweaters
The ugly Christmas sweater trend hasn’t died down. In fact, every year the designs get more and more unattractive and ridiculous. Gather your girlfriends for an ugly sweater Christmas party of your own. You can decorate a sweater you already have or shop at the thrift store for the right sweater if you don’t already have one. I bought a cute Christmas vest at a second-hand store over 5 years ago and it still makes an appearance every Christmas, so it’s definitely been worth it.
20 | Make some New Year’s resolutions
Do you like setting goals for yourself? Come November each year, I’m itching to make goals for the next year. It’s become a tradition for me to spend November and December brainstorming goals, prioritizing them, and then getting a head start on them if I can.
It’s exciting to imagine where you’ll be and what you can accomplish in a year’s time. Don’t be afraid to dream big when making your resolutions.
I hope you and your family have an enjoyable Christmas season filled with making fun (and frugal) memories together.
What holiday activities and traditions do you like to do? How do you save during the Christmas season?
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