Christmas is a wonderful time of year to create traditions with family. Now that I am a mom of two, I get to share my favorite Christmas traditions with my kids.
The holidays lend themselves to excess, though, and since I’m trying to a keep my spending under control, I need to make sure that any Christmas traditions we take part in are budget friendly.
From trimming the tree to helping others, there are plenty of free and inexpensive holiday activities to enjoy as a family.
Whether you have little ones of your own or not, here are 12 days of budget friendly Christmas traditions that any family can enjoy.
1. Bake sugar cookies
It doesn’t matter how old you get, rolling out sugar cookie dough, using Christmas shaped cookie cutters, and then decorating the cookies with frosting and sprinkles is a timeless Christmas tradition. There are always too many to possibly eat alone, so plates of Christmas cut-out cookies make great gifts to share with the neighbors.
2. Build a gingerbread house
Especially with little ones, building a gingerbread house together is one of my favorite Christmas traditions. I love that most grocery stores sell gingerbread house kits for less than $10. The kits are pretty foolproof, and even the littlest helpers can assist with the assembly.
3. Watch the Christmas classics
If you happen to have Netflix or Amazon Prime, both services have a pretty great selection of the holiday movie classics. There are also some great options on Amazon to buy like It’s a Wonderful Life. Spending $12 or less for the whole family to watch a movie is a lot less expensive than taking everyone out to a movie theater. A bonus is that you can eat your own, non-price inflated, snacks at home too.
4. Go caroling
Roughly quoting Buddy the Elf, “the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” If you or your kids are involved in a group, like a book club, a scouting troop, or a church activity, get everyone together to go caroling. It doesn’t even have to be in a neighborhood. Go caroling through the mall or get permission to sing at a Salvation Army bell ringer’s station. It’s fun for both the people singing and the people surprised by the holiday cheer.
5. Drink eggnog by a fire
Nothing evokes the image of Christmas more than families sitting by a fire. Pass around cookies, drink eggnog, and enjoy the warmth of the fire, simply spending time with your loved ones.
6. Take a drive to see the lights
Piling everyone in the car to see all the Christmas lights is another great Christmas tradition. I happen to live in an area that has several professional holiday lights displays, but even just driving through the neighborhoods is a lot of fun.
7. Random acts of kindness
The holidays are a great time to reach out to friends, neighbors, and strangers with little acts of kindness, so surprising strangers or neighbors with random acts of kindness is a fun Christmas tradition.
- Pay the order of the person behind you in the drive-through
- Leave coupons on items in the grocery store
- Shovel a driveway
- Write a letter to someone who made a difference in your life
- Leave quarters taped to a vending machine
Essentially, think of ways to make someone’s day brighter, and do something unexpected for them.
8. Volunteer at a homeless shelter
Call your local homeless shelter or soup kitchen and ask them if there is anything you could buy to make their holiday meal complete or if they could accept a gift of dessert. Sign up to help serve the meal, or offer to buy eggnog, candy canes, and sugar cookies to share. The budgets of shelters can’t always extend to cover such treats, and they would be a welcome surprise for the residents.
9. Visit Santa
Take the kids for an annual Santa photo. If you don’t have kids, you’re never too old to visit Santa. Ask your friends to don Santa hats and get a fun group photo taken. Certain places like Bass Pro Shops has free Santa’s workshop stations where every customer gets a free photo with Santa. I take my kids there every year, and they love it. They even have carousels and free games to play.
10. Go ice-skating
Wrap up in your most colorful scarf, strap on those skates, and brave the ice for a fun Christmas tradition. If you live somewhere warm, most big cities have indoor skating rinks available. It might be worth the drive to make a fun day of it.
11. Host a Christmas past, present, and future dinner
Invite your friends and family for a potluck dinner. Have everyone around the table share their favorite Christmas traditions of the past, what they are grateful for in the present, and what they look forward to in the New Year.
12. Make your tree and Christmas decorations
The day before Christmas, bake gingerbread ornaments, and string together popcorn and cranberries. Cut out paper snowflakes and make paper chains. Trim the tree while listening to Bing Crosby croon over the radio, and get that tree and fireplace ready for Santa to come.
Reach out to the community, surprise people with kindness, and share the joy of Christmas with friends and strangers alike. The holidays don’t have to be expensive. Some of the best Christmas traditions cost nothing at all. It’s easy to share your Christmas cheer and goodwill towards others in a way that you and your budget can manage.
What are your favorite budget-friendly Christmas traditions?