In some ways, Christmas is a time for celebration and joy. But in many other ways, it’s not affordable or accessible to everyone. So if you want to make this holiday season extra special but don’t have the money to do so, here are 55 ideas on how you can celebrate without spending too much money.
55+ Ways to Celebrate Christmas on a Shoestring Budget
Engaging in Holiday Traditions
Visit Santa at the mall or park
You’ll have a blast getting your picture with Santa at any age. Consider bringing your well-behaved furbabies too.
As you can see, our girl Luna looks forward to seeing Santa Paws every year!
Anticipate upcoming events
Write down three things you’re looking forward to this holiday season and tape them somewhere where you’ll see them regularly — like on the inside of your pantry door or by the front door as you go out each day — for extra motivation throughout December.
Adapt an old tradition to a new one
Spend time reading books (or articles online!) about holidays from other cultures and religions.
Reading about other cultures and traditions can be a great way to broaden your mind by learning about other people’s customs and ways of living. It may also give you some fun new traditions to try with your own family.
It is important to live in the present moment, but it is also essential to take the time to appreciate traditions from around the world.
Start a family tradition
like going to see The Nutcracker every year, and make it your goal to create lasting memories with everyone involved
- Ask each member of your household to write down their favorite holiday memory and share it with you on Christmas morning.
It’s a way to have a discussion with your loved ones about memories that might otherwise be forgotten. Besides, you might be surprised to learn what your kids favorite holiday memory is!
Make a list of people who are celebrating the holidays alone
and bring them over some meals or baked goods as a way of showing them extra love.
Sadly, there are people who must celebrate the holidays on their own. They might be widows, have children who live in different states, or someone whose friends had to cancel at the last minute.
The true meaning of Christmas includes spreading joy and love for others, an in doing so, you’re sure to find a bit of joy yourself.
Ditch the ugly sweaters
in favor of some holiday-themed t-shirts that you can reuse during next year’s celebrations. For added warmth, pair them with a long-sleeved tee, if needed.
Make it a family movie night
and watch your favorite holiday film together.
It’s a holiday tradition in my house to make peppermint popcorn and watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
It’s a movie that I love to watch with my family, listen to my kids’ reactions; While watching, we have a lot of laughs and memories.
Another favorite is The Grinch! We all sing along together to the famous soundtrack from the film. It always feels like Christmas!
Make your own paper decorations
to decorate your tree and doorways.
Christmas ornaments, such as origami paper stars or garlands, are easy to make using colored paper and may be completed in a matter of just a few minutes.
There are several online tutorials for simple paper decorations that look wonderful with minimal effort and expense on your part.
Decorate your tree
right after you bring it home from the lot!
One of my favorite Christmas traditions is to buy a tree on the last day of November. It’s a family tradition that we’ve had for as long as I can remember.
Right after we get the tree home from the lot, we spend time decorating it together with ornaments and lights. It has become an essential aspect of the holidays since it allows me to feel close to my family.
Make snowflakes with your kids
Get an early start on cutting out snowflakes from different types of paper to hang as decorations.
Make it snow in your home by creating a wintery scene with all of the fixings: fluffy white fake snow, icicles, and festive lights. This is an easy way to make sure you get lots of quality time together as a family this holiday season!
Grow a Christmas cactus
or other holiday plant rather than purchasing cut flowers.
Encourage your child’s interest in crafting
and explorative play by making homemade playdough, silly putty, or glittery Christmas slime with them.
Wrap it all up
Set up a table covered with wrapping paper and wrap all of your gifts there, where everyone can join in on the fun instead of marathoning it by yourself on Christmas Eve
Make personalized wrapping papers
by cutting up children’s artwork
This idea is perfect for parents with young children who are just beginning to learn about drawing.
You can use your child’s drawings to create personalized wrapping paper. Plus, this idea saves you the time to find the perfect wrapping paper for each person on your list.
Decorate your fireplace mantel
Mantels are a perfect way to make your fireplace stand out while adding some decorative flair to your living room.
Fill glass jars with your favorite candy
and cache them around the house where you might need a pick-me-up.
Give an old sweater a new purpose!
If you have a sweater that you haven’t worn in ages, cutting out shapes from it and using them as and decorations, and hanging them up wherever you like is a great way of rediscovering your old clothes and making them into something new. You can also make warm mittens!
Repurpose greeting cards
Find some old greeting cards(or buy new ones) and transfer pictures onto wooden blocks, which can be displayed on your mantel or as decorative faux presents under the tree.
My mom saved the Christmas cards we received every year and then cut out something from each card to create homemade gift tags on that person’s present the following year. It was inexpensive, thoughtful, and very well received.
Get crafty with old holiday cards
you’ve received over the years by cutting them up into interesting shapes, then stringing them together on colorful yarn to create an ornament that the kids can hang on the tree.
Create creative Christmas card displays
Put your Christmas cards on the wall to create a festive atmosphere. If you don’t have a cardholder, some blu tack or 3M tabs should do the trick without damaging the wall.
This allows you to organize your cards artistically. Organize them in a circle to create a vast holiday wreath. Tack a large red ribbon at the top or bottom of the card wreath to bring it all together.
You can also make a tree by pinning up your Christmas cards in the shape of a tree and embellishing the outline with lights.
Make a gingerbread house
Making a gingerbread house is a festive activity that makes the whole house smell delicious. All that’s required is patience and creativity.
The best part about this project is that it will be hard to mess up because the dough for the gingerbread is forgiving – meaning that if you don’t get one of the pieces right or smooth out during construction, you can often hide it with frosting or candies.
Bake up some cookies and use different cookie cutters to make shapes in your dough, or create fun christmas cookie gag gifts.
It’s easy to transform plain old, uninteresting cookie dough into a collage of shapes and colors with just a few simple ingredients and some creativity! This no-fail sugar cookie recipe will turn you into an artist in no time.
Switch it up a bit! Bake cookies using unusual combinations (like dark chocolate chips paired with gingersnap cookie dough for spicy-sweet flavors)
Try making hot cocoa
from scratch with different toppings to discover your favorite combination
My favorite thing to do on cold winter nights is to get home from work, make myself a big mug of hot cocoa and curl up by the fireplace with one of my favorite books.
I mix up the flavors I like in this cocoa, but my favorite topping? 1 or 2 squares of dark chocolate, chopped or grated for texture.
Make marshmallow treats
with homemade graham crackers for something sweet, chewy, and crunchy at the same time.
Hold a White Elephant Party
As a twist on the traditional gift exchange, have each person bring a wrapped gift and put them in the center of the room. One at a time, guests draw numbers to determine the order in which they get to unwrap and steal gifts from one another.
You can create different rules, such as that you can only steal from the person who went before you or put a limit on how many times each guest can steal, once or twice. Check out the White Elephant game rules and variations here.
Make a sugar scrub
for your family using oil, sugar, and any scented soap or essential oils that you like (for example, tea tree oil has antiseptic properties, while lavender and lemon is an excellent combination for an energizing, refreshing scent).
Make Christmas Candies
Once you’ve made some of those delicious homemade goodies, leave a festive holiday gift on the doorstep of a neighbor. Play ding dong ditch – ring the bell, run, and hide somewhere close by where you can see their reaction when they open the door and find the surprise. Check out our free printable Elf Gifting tradition.
Exchange edible gifts, like mixes or baked goods.
The idea of food, the thoughtfulness behind delivering something for someone’s enjoyment while thinking about them, is what makes the gifting experience so powerful.
So the next time you need to send a present, consider this service instead of impersonal flowers or store-bought baked goods. Choose from over 3,000 homemade mix recipes in thirty-one categories here on Budget101.
Write out cards
for all of your friends, even those you don’t see as often as others, letting them know how important they are to you.
I know this year has been tough for a lot of us. But, sometimes I think people forget that the friends you had to let go of, hurt your feelings, and made your life feel unreal are gone because they were never really there, to begin with.
Those true friends who saw the best in you will always be around no matter what happens. Life throws a fair share of punches, but those people by your side truly care about you, and now it is as good as time as ever to tell those ones how important they are now more than ever before.
Host a Christmas Eve soup and bread night
with all the fixings. You can even turn this into a potluck by asking your guests to bring one item.
Get the family together
to make your own Christmas cards to send out into the world. Personalize them by printing off photographs and affixing them to the card.
Or, in lieu of cards, create a holiday family newsletter with interesting bits of news about each member of your household.
Invite friends over for a holiday movie marathon
Movie marathons are fun social activities where you get the opportunity to spend time with your friends while watching films.
There are many films out there that are perfect for movie marathons, but if you’re looking for something Christmassy, check out this list of movies perfect for the holidays.
Bake something for the neighbor.
The act of baking something for somebody is an act that shows your care and love for somebody. Baking somebody their favorite dessert goes to show how much you care about them.
It’s also a straightforward way of saying thank you, which is always appreciated. It will taste far superior to anything you can buy in a store if you make it yourself!
Make homemade hot chocolate
using whatever ingredients you like (like peppermint extract or nutmeg) and place it in mugs alongside pre-made cookies for guests to help themselves
Make a list of all your favorite holiday memories
The list of our favorite holiday memories is sure to put you in the spirit, regardless of your season.
— Christmas cookies with buttercream frosting baked by mom
— The diamond glow outside when there’s ice on the porch railings
— The sound of the sleigh bells serenading us while snow falls around me
- Put up a white sheet as a “snow”-covered backdrop and have your family take photos using your cell phone and apply filters to give the look of old-fashioned instant cameras! Then, be silly, wear Christmas hats, add hanging snowflakes or lights to the background.
Drive around and look at the lights
on every house on your block, or if you’re feeling particularly creative, decorate your own home with lights.
If lights aren’t in your budget, add some fun window shadows or “frost” instead like this sneaky grinch!
Christmas coloring and activity pages
Create a personalized Christmas coloring activity book by printing out free coloring sheets. Put them in a binder, or just provide a short stack along with some colored pencils or crayons to occupy kids for a while.
When we had family gatherings when I was little, all the kids in the family would hold “coloring contests,” picking a page to see who could color the best, or be most creative, etc.
In a few hours, every room in the house would have a colorful festive display on the wall, and all the kids would be beaming.
Plan out a countdown calendar
leading up to Christmas so that there are regular reminders on what to look forward to next. Scan local calendar of events pages in your Facebook events or google to see what festivities are nearby.
Draw or paint a Christmas scene
You can use watercolors, markers, or paint to create your Christmas scene. Or maybe you’re the artistic type and want to try making Christmas cards or handmade gift boxes to hold mixes.
If that sounds like something you’d like to do, here’s a few free templates and ideas:
–Curvy Box Template –Tempting Pie Template
Start a craft project or a puzzle
It can be hard to find time with your family. Between work, school, and individual schedules, it’s tough to take the time to do things together.
One way to spend more time together is by doing a craft project that you can complete as a family. Designate a counter space, desk, or fold-up table for the project or puzzle so you can work on it as time allows.
Write a letter to Santa Claus
asking for something you really want this year and then tape it to a branch of your Christmas tree.
Alternatively, create a letter from Santa or one of his helpers and send it to your little ones!
Go ice skating
It’s a great way to exercise and have fun! The sound of skates on ice, the cold air in your lungs, the fast movements you can make or dream up. Hang around with your friends or start meeting new ones in the middle of the rink.
There are always people learning at the edges. Skate in circles to warm up, then go for a twirl in front of everyone. As soon as you feel confident, try something more challenging – skate backward, spin around in place or take off.
Some people are afraid to skate because they may fall down when they take off or pick themselves back up. If this is your fear, but you still want to skate, ask.
Immerse yourself in nature
Take a walk in the woods, get some inspiration (and maybe some cuttings) from nature, and create some decorations from it.
You can use tree branches, holly, and pine cones to decorate your table, or you can combine them into hanging decorations with a bit of imagination. It’s amazing how quickly you can forget life’s frustrations when you start looking around like this!
olunteer at a local nursing home or senior center as a way of celebrating the holidays with those who don’t have family nearby.
There are several “Meals on Wheels” organizations that will allow you to sign up for deliveries within your community. Find out what is available in your neighborhood by typing in your zip code here.
This organization delivers meals to many people living alone, but there are also other options, such as helping serve food during meal time or sharing holiday music and decoration ideas with residents!
Brainstorm gift ideas during your downtime
Many people have trouble coming up with the perfect present for their loved ones. With so much to choose from, it can be hard to narrow down what you want without knowing anyone’s taste or style preferences!
One option is to brainstorm general categories that are good gifts and then narrow them down into more specific options as time allows. I’ve created this free printable gift planner to help you brainstorm!
Make a wish list of gifts
for your loved ones and keep track of them, so you aren’t struggling to find something on Christmas eve.
Consider switching to a simple old-fashioned Christmas. Less gifting means less spending, and consequently, less stress.
Batch-cook one day
each weekend leading up to the big day so that when the time comes around, you’ll be well prepared and will be able to spend more time enjoying your friends and family and less time in the kitchen.
Grow an indoor herb garden
(if you’re living somewhere cold) to keep some fresh herbs on hand throughout the season
Have you ever wanted to get back into gardening but live in a colder climate? Growing herbs indoors has been an excellent way for me to do that! I use a pot or two of soil and place my plants on a small table by a window.
They get plenty of sunlight through the window, and the combination of indirect light and heat create an ideal growing environment.
- Give your dog or cat some extra love; we’ve all heard that some pets do better when there’s more of a family presence during the holidays.
However, like people, pets may be getting stressed from the change around them during this time of year. With any stress, there are usually a few signs that a person might notice. Some of these signs include shedding more or not eating as much as they typically would.
If your pet is going to be around a lot of company, you might want to try to give them some space for a little bit so that they can have their own space away from all the noise and chaos.
Speak to your doctor or pharmacist
about getting a prescription for flu and cold medicine that you can pick up in advance of the holiday season so that you’re prepared before illnesses take hold. The last thing you want to do is go out in public when you’re not feeling well.
when it comes to festive crowds and traffic.
Keep extra batteries on hand
just in case your family uses more than expected
Stock up ahead of time
The best time to purchase the ingredients you need for baking is just prior to the holidays when the items are at their lowest prices.
Stocking up on ingredients you need to bake with, like sugar, flour, butter, etc. will ensure you get the best price and will save money by avoiding an impromptu trip to the store.
Christmas Crafts and Holiday Decor
Christmas Card Ideas
Ideas for Giving Gifts
Friends and Family
Cheap Holiday Activities
Downtime is Essential
Keep it Practical
The holidays are a time for celebration and spending quality time with friends and family. But, many of us have been feeling stressed from the increasing prices of holiday shopping or don’t want to spend more on gifts than we can afford this year.
I hope you love this list of tips to help show you creative ways to celebrate Christmas on a shoestring budget without sacrificing any joy! From DIY crafts to thrift store finds, these ideas should help save your bank account while still making it feel like the Christmas season has arrived at last.