A holiday with all the trimmings can seriously trim your bank account. Expensive gifts, big meals, travel, parties… It all adds up. But when the season is over and you’re looking back, what will you remember best? Probably the rare peaceful moments with family or friends, not the expensive blow-out events.
With that in mind, here are nine holiday activities that won’t shrink your wallet.
1. Carol singing
Sure, it’s a cliché and some members of your family will groan, but caroling is the quintessential holiday activity. And if you get together and have an impromptu holiday sing with your neighbors, everyone will remember it years later! Don’t try to plan this in advance, or you’ll feel compelled to buy fancy snacks and drinks. Instead, one weekend evening a week or two before Christmas send an email to your neighbors inviting them to meet in front of your house for carols. Then see how the evening unfolds!
2. Family movie night
No, don’t drive to the Cineplex and spend $8 per person plus snacks. Just snuggle up in the living room with a bowl of popcorn and watch a marathon of holiday specials. It’s not like when we were kids and the Charlie Brown Christmas Special came on once a year—now you can watch it, and a dozen other classics, whenever you want.
3. Homemade decoration party
Trot out the craft supplies and some holiday magazines for inspiration and have some traditional fun. There are countless websites offering suggestions for cheap homemade decorations; here’s one.If a Christmas tree is part of your family tradition, this event can easily progress straight to the tree.
4. Family photo party
You’ve probably accumulated a couple hundred photos over the course of the year, and they’re all sitting on your computer or camera. Gather the family and go through them – reliving a year’s worth of memories – and select a few to print out to make an album. This could become a great holiday tradition that takes care of all those photos.
5. Holiday decoration viewing
When the sun sets, which happens painfully early during December, pile into the car or load up the stroller and visit well-decorated neighborhoods in your town. It will be a fun, free, easy evening.
6. Local events
Most communities have a long list of holiday events that cost nothing or next to it. Check out the holiday walks, concerts, craft fairs, winter festivals, etc. Naturally, you’ll be tempted to spend money at each, but no one will compel you to do so.
7. Winter nature walk
You’ll be amazed at how beautiful the forest is in the winter. Without the leaves on the trees you can see much farther through the woods, and you’ll notice all sorts of things you’ve never seen on a summer walk. The whole mood of the woods is different in winter, especially if there’s snow on the ground. The same goes for the beach – yes, the beach in the winter! It’s a stunningly beautiful place to be on a windy, wavy day.
If you have kids they’ll love looking for treasures in the sand, because a steady wind uncovers the top layer of sand, leaving all sorts of interesting items exposed. And of course you’ll probably be the only people there. If you live in a northern area and it’s below freezing, you might also get to see incredible ice sculptures caused by the sprays of water.
8. Window shopping
The exact opposite of the previous idea is a trip to see the store windows. If you live in an urban area with traditional department stores, a visit downtown to check out the displays is a free, fun, tradition. Nothing puts you and your kids into the holiday spirit better than viewing a flock of mechanical elves pounding on fake toys!
9. Help day
Many families try to do some charity work during the holidays to support their communities and teach their kids that there’s more to the season than a pile of gifts. Many non-profit organizations realize this and provide opportunities for families, such as packing boxes of food for shut-ins or delivering toys to families in distress. Doing this with your family could be the most memorable part of the season.
These nine suggestions are sure to help you make this holiday season more festive, fun, and meaningful. And they’ll do all that while hardly making a dent in your wallet.