Many people think that making Christmas special for their family means spending a lot of money. However, this doesn’t have to be the case! Today we’re sharing the thirteen best tips to create a memorable holiday on a budget.
While it’s easy to feel like the holidays are all about gifts, it’s really all about the memories we make with the ones we love.
With all the pressure to create a magical holiday for their kids, many families neglect to save money for Christmas and end up spending more than they can afford. This ends up being a recipe for disaster and creates a lot of the stress that is so often associated with the holidays.
In reality, there are simple ways you can create a memorable holiday while you stick to your budget. With a bit of planning and creativity, you’ll make some of your best holiday memories yet.
How To Create a Memorable Holiday for Your Family
If you’re hoping to create some holiday magic without going into debt, you are in the right place.
While it may be a shift from what you’re used to, remember that the holidays are all about spending time together, not just buying gifts that will be discarded and forgotten in a few weeks.
With the average American family spending approximately $1000 on Christmas each year, it’s not surprising to learn that many of us end the holidays in debt and depressed from the stress of overspending, the complete opposite of the holly jolly we had hoped for.
Instead of stressing over what you can’t afford, why not create an experience that your family will remember for years to come?
Here are some great ideas to make those holiday activities count without draining your bank account.
1) Build Anticipation
There’s no better way to kickstart the festivities than by creating a holiday countdown. A simple paper chain or advent calendar filled with small treats like chocolate candy, holiday socks, or coins is a fun and inexpensive way to make the holidays more fun.
Make it a family project to create the calendar together, or encourage your kids to make their own. For older children, you can create an advent book with 24 small pages that contain fun activities for each day like reading The Night Before Christmas aloud, writing letters to Santa Claus (or Jesus), doing puzzles, or coloring sheets.
2) DIY Your Holiday Decorations
Incorporate simple do-it-yourself projects into your holiday home decor to create a festive and cozy atmosphere without spending a lot of money. Use your creativity to make ornaments from everyday items like pine cones, paper clips, popcorn, coffee filters, and ribbons! The results will look great, and the whole family will have fun working together to decorate the house.
3) Create Holiday Traditions
One of the best ways to create special memories with your kids is to create new family traditions together each year. Traditions remind us why we love the holidays, and they don’t need to be expensive to be magical. Whether it’s drinking hot cocoa every night before bed, hiding the Elf on the Shelf, or hanging your stockings on the mantle, simple, inexpensive traditions are all it takes to make the holidays memorable.
4) Plan a Gift Exchange
For many families, the holidays are marked by buying gifts for each other. However, creating a gift exchange tradition can make just as much meaning without breaking your budget. You could set up rules where everyone only brings one small present that costs $20 or less to keep things simple and inexpensive.
That doesn’t just have to be for the extended family either. This can also be a great way to spread holiday cheer among friends and even older children. You’ll create memories and traditions together while also saving money on holiday shopping!
5) Give Back to Others in Need
A great way to make Christmas more meaningful is by giving back. Find ways to make a difference as a family, whether through volunteering or donating clothes, toys, food, money, or all of these things! Giving your time and energy to those in need is a beautiful way to create meaning and memories for your family during the holidays.
6) Skip the Traditional Holiday Dinner
If you’re looking to create a memorable holiday on a budget, consider skipping the traditional family dinner. A ham or turkey dinner can be costly, especially when you consider all the trimmings! Instead, consider serving one of these easy yet delicious holiday meal alternatives. You could also try having your potluck-style dinner with family and friends – everyone brings their favorite dish to share, which is great for saving money while still having plenty of food for everyone to enjoy.
7) Host a Holiday Movie Night
Watching holiday movies is a fantastic way for the whole family to enjoy spending time together. Gather some inexpensive holiday-themed snacks like candy canes, popcorn & cocoa, and snuggle up on the couch together. No matter what age your kids are, there are hundreds of family-friendly holiday movies to choose from. You could even make it a tradition to watch the same movies every year to make them more likely to hold special memories for you and your family.
8) DIY Holiday Gifts
Instead of buying lots of gifts for your family, create them yourselves! You can make everything from ornaments to candles, and the kids will love helping you with these unique handmade holiday crafts. Plus, when everyone receives a gift made with love, they’ll know how much time & effort you put into creating it. You will have given a heartfelt gift and saved money.
9) Choose a Signature Christmas Cookie
Christmas cookies are a classic holiday tradition, but once you buy all of the frosting, decorations, and ingredients to make a dozen different cookies, your bank account could be empty. Instead, choose one cookie recipe as your family’s signature holiday cookie. That way, you can buy the ingredients in bulk and save money by selecting a recipe that doesn’t require frosting or decorations.
If you still want a variety of Christmas cookies to enjoy, then host a cookie exchange party. A cookie exchange is a gathering where everyone brings a dozen different cookies to sample. You’ll create some festive holiday memories while saving money on ingredients, and you can even make it a tradition for each family member to bring their favorite Christmas cookie to share with everyone at the party!
10) Host a Holiday Game Night
An annual family holiday game night is the perfect way to celebrate without breaking the bank. There are dozens of excellent Christmas board games, card games, and party games to create special family memories. Start a tradition by having a game night once every holiday season! You’ll make some fun & festive family memories while spending quality time together as well.
11) Host a Holiday Open House
Hosting an open house during the holiday season is an excellent alternative to your typical fancy holiday party. Plus, it’s a fantastic way for your family to create festive holiday memories while staying on budget. It’s simple – make it potluck style, and let people stop by whenever they’re in the mood. Keep things casual and focus on connecting and spending time together instead of spending money on a fancy holiday party.
12) Read Christmas Stories Together
Reading Christmas stories is a wonderful way to create cozy holiday memories with your family. Start by choosing a book to read together on Christmas Eve, and then gather everyone together in front of the fireplace or around the tree for an evening reading session. Since books can be expensive, stick to your budget by checking them out from your local library.
13) Make Holiday Memories At Home
Skip the expensive destination holiday vacation and instead save your money and create your memories at home. It doesn’t matter where in the world you live. There are always lots of ways to make Christmas special, no matter what time zone or climate you’re living in. This is also a great option since affordable travel isn’t available for many of us this year.
Holiday on a Budget
As you can see, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to create memories that will last long after the holidays are over.
There are plenty of ways for you and your family to create meaningful holiday traditions without breaking the bank. For instance, consider skipping traditional Christmas dinner in favor of one inexpensive alternative or making some DIY gifts together as a family instead of buying them off-the-shelf.
The key is finding creative ways to include your whole family in making memories they’ll cherish all year long.
Whatever you choose, your family will cherish these special moments forever!
This post originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.
Tawnya is an elementary special education teacher by day and co-blogger at Money Saved is Money Earned by night.
She holds an Honors BS in Psychology from Oregon State University and an MS in Special Education from Portland State University. She has had a pretty successful writing career, first as a writing tutor at the Oregon State University Writing Center, and in recent years, as a freelance writer.
Tawnya and co-blogger Sebastian have a wealth of knowledge and information about personal finance, retirement, student loans, credit cards, and many other financial topics. They teach people how to save money, make money, and understand money.