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How To Enjoy The Holiday Season Without Breaking The Bank

Christmas. The best time of the year. Hands down, we LOVE Christmas at our house, but Christmas is also an expensive time. Since starting our Total Money Makeover last year we know that sacrificing now will help our family in the future – so this year we’ve been challenged to take a step back and cut out the extras that had been giving us “January regret” previously. Here it is… our list of all the ways we plan to enjoy this holiday season WITHOUT breaking the bank!

  1. Drive/walk around and enjoy the lights – We’re blessed to have a local family that has linked their lights to Christmas music. It’s a FREE activity we really look forward to every year, but even if we didn’t have that available the weeks before Christmas are a winter wonderland and by far one of the best uses of a few dollars of gas in the car.
  2. Redesign your holiday decorations – Instead of feeling the need to go out and buy new decorations, change up how you use the ones you already have. Put your stockings in a different place or set up your tree in a different room. Small changes can make your Christmas feel completely redesigned without costing you a penny.
  3. Sing along to Christmas carols on the radio/TV/CD/record player? – This has to be one of my favorite holiday traditions. We have a local radio station that plays only Christmas music for the entire month leading up to Christmas. It’s fantastic on road trips & we enjoy singing along.
  4. Repurpose old bulbs into new holiday decorations – I haven’t tried this yet but plan to. (The link only shows a picture, but I’m pretty sure I could figure it out! LOL)
  5. Build a snowman – Yes, you heard me. Old fashioned fun – get out in the snow with your kids. Yes it’s cold and wet, but once you start rolling around in the white stuff you won’t care. Dress him up & enjoy the thrill on your child’s face.
  6. Only turn on your lights when people are likely to see them & save on your energy bill – Our outdoor lights are set on a 6 hour timer. We bought the timer from Target last year on clearance for less than $10 and it ensures that our lights come on at dusk and only stay on for 6 hours at that point. No more guilt in the morning when you realize you ran your lights all night long.
  7. Take your family sledding – Do you have a hill in your yard? That’s all the hill your little ones will need, but if you have bigger kids find a local snow hill or build one yourself. When I was a kid my parents would push all the snow off of our back deck until it formed a 6 foot high hill that I could slide down. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a monster hill but it sure did keep me busy having fun for an hour or so. Do you live somewhere without snow? How about an indoor sledding hill!
  8. Enjoy a cup of hot cocoa while watching a movie – Chocolate. Enough said.
  9. Sit by a warm fire – Nothing is sweeter than cuddling up in front of a warm fire on cold winter nights. It’s a great time for snuggling with your loved ones. I’m also convinced that staring at a fire is one of the most calming, therapeutic things we can do – campfire anyone?!?!
  10. Holiday Stove Top Simmer Scents are a fantastic way to make your house smell festive 
  11. Bake Christmas Cookies for/with the ones your love – Mmmm…. cookies! Challenge yourself to try something new & check out our great link up of holiday favorites while you’re at it.
  12. Host an ugly sweater themed party – Enjoy the company of the one’s you love while voting on which friend has worn the ugliest holiday sweater they could find!
  13. Set up a cookie swap with your coworkers – This is a fantastic way to save time & still have a huge selection of holiday cookies for your family to choose from. (Pair this up with your ugly sweater party & you’ve started a new holiday tradition!)
  14. Track Santa’s progress on Christmas Eve – Norad offers Santa tracking on Christmas Eve but check it out early because there are great holiday games & fun to be had on their website in preparation for the big day.
  15. Avoid January stress by sticking to a budget – It isn’t easy at first, but I’ve learned this year that setting AND sticking to a budget is actually one of the most “freeing” thing you can do for your peace of mind.
  16. Volunteer with your family during the holiday season and beyond – Find a way to volunteer in your community: walk animals at the animal shelter, serve food at a food bank, donate money to a local homeless shelter or just help a local single mom with some groceries. The holiday season is about so much more than receiving presents.
  17. Cook a meal for a family with a new babyFreeze ahead meals are a fantastic gift to new parents, the elderly, the sick or the busy. They’re easy to make, inexpensive and greatly appreciated by all.
  18. Shovel the snow for an elderly neighbor – Combine a workout and a volunteer project – that’s a multitasking win!
  19. Go Christmas caroling – Grab a few neighbors, a thermos of hot cocoa and hit the streets!
  20. Walk around a Christmas Tree Farm – Maybe you’ll find your dream tree, maybe you won’t, but either way you’re sure to have a wonderful time & enjoy the spirit of the season. (P.S. It’s usually cheaper to cut down your own tree, plus you have a larger selection – but bring a camera to keep track of your families top choices.)
  21. Snow Shoe through the woods
  22. Go Cross Country Skiing on local trails
  23. Make snow angels – A timeless classic
  24. Bake instead of giving presents – Gift the ones you love delicious treats, they are especially great if they can be put in the freezer to enjoy later. Frugal + Delicious = Holiday Win!
  25. Have your family commit to a no presents celebration – It’s important to take a step back and remember that Christmas is not about giving. It’s about cherishing time with your loved ones and making great memories. Be brave, tell your family you want to have a gift free celebration. Some might not like the idea at first, but I’ve learned during our Total Money Makeover this year that it’s “normal” to be in debt (which is not a good thing) and most people will appreciate the savings.
  26. Make homemade stocking stuffers – A quick look through Pinterest will give you hundreds of ideas of cheap, small gifts you can make in a matter of hours (even minutes)
  27. Encourage children to donate old toys for children in need – The old rule “to make space for the new, you must get rid of the old” applies here. American children are so blessed as a whole. Nothing reminds me of that more than my toddler who is thrilled by such small things and doesn’t require fancy toys to have a good time.
  28. Start new family traditions – Every family enjoys traditions. Make a new one this year – check out ours.
  29. Take your own family photos – Avoid the high cost of professional pictures this holiday season by taking your own. Craftsy even offers online courses to improve your photography skills.
  30. Decorate your windows with holiday scenes – Between window clings & spray on snow making your windows fill with the holiday spirit is easy and inexpensive.
  31. Host Christmas at your house as a pot luck meal instead of going out to eat – My husband’s extended family recently looked into having their family Christmas at a restaurant instead of someone’s house, but the luxury of not having to clean came with a huge price tag – a room rental fee on top of a hefty $25-30 per person meal charge not including drinks & gratuity. That was out of the question. Instead one of his relatives is hosting at her house and we’re all bringing a few dishes to pass.
  32. Gift your family gift cards to be spent the day after Christmas when everything goes on sale – This may seem a bit non-traditional to some of you, but the frugal side of me can’t help but notice that just a few days after Christmas the same exact presents are majorly marked down. Why not give out gift cards but not shop for actual presents until January? You’ll avoid the huge mark up and give your family more for the price.
  33. Spend time talking about what you’re thankful for with your family each night – Why not remind your little ones of all you’re thankful of with a new spin on the communication tradition we started last January?
  34. Read Christmas stories together – It doesn’t get more classic than The Night Before Christmas
  35. Write a letter to Santa – Have your kids write down some things they’re thankful for this holiday season as well as presents they’d like to receive.
  36. Make a list of all the great things you accomplished this year – Nothing makes you feel quite as accomplished as reviewing all the great things you’ve done and even making a list of the things you have left to go for next year.
We’d love to hear from you. What do you do to keep the holiday season merry & frugal?
Happy Holiday Season!


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