As the Christmas season begins, I always start to feel a bit overwhelmed by the cost of all the holiday fun I hope to have. There are so many gifts I want to buy, special Christmas events I want to attend with my family, and of course, all those Peppermint Mocha Lattes that won't stop calling my name.
But the truth is, you don't need to spend big bucks to enjoy the holidays with your family. You just need to focus on all the possibilities for free (or really cheap) ways to celebrate the season with the ones you love.
Free and Cheap Ideas for Holiday Fun
1. Drive around your neigborhood and look at the holiday lights. Listen to Christmas music, sip hot chocolate (in to-go mugs to avoid a mess), and wear holiday PJs. A Holiday Light Scavenger Hunt makes the evening even more fun.
2. Read your favorite holiday stories aloud. Our 25 Holiday Book Recommendations for Children and Adults will give you ideas.
3. Curl up on the couch and watch classic holiday films.
4. Play outside in the snow. Make a snowman and throw snowballs — adults too. If there's no snow, you can still play outside and enjoy the crisp, December air together.
5. Bake cookies. Gingerbread cookies are a classic, or expand your horizons with gooey butter cookies, snickerdoodles, or a sweet treat like fudge.
6. Make homemade gifts.
7. Play holiday games like Christmas Bingo or Secret Snowman.
8. Turn on the Christmas music. Dance around the living room or even get your work done while holiday tunes play in the background.
9. String popcorn and cranberries to hang on the tree. The ingredients will only cost a few dollars, and the activity will keep little fingers busy for hours. Plus, it's a great way to work on fine motor skills.
10. Make homemade Christmas ornaments. If you keep a lot of craft supplies around the house, you and your kids can probably create some pretty fun ornaments without having to shop for any supplies.
11. Decorate your Christmas tree. Turn on a holiday movie while you work.
12. Write letters to Santa. It may cost Mom and Dad in the long run, but it's free for kids to dream.
13. Download Christmas coloring pages for your kids.
14. Visit the dollar store and see how many holiday crafts and activities you can stock up on for $5 or $10.
15. Play Christmas games online. Deep Freeze, Crazy Santa Racer...the options are almost endless.
16. Go window shopping. It doesn't cost money to look.
17. Visit Santa Claus. There's no rule that says you have to pay $20 for the picture. Just say hello.
18. Attend community holiday celebrations. Many small towns and communities have parades and tree lightings that are free to attend. Some even offer free hot dogs, cookies, and hot chocolate.
19. Make homemade marshmallows. Kids love this activity!
20. Create a Christmas Scavenger Hunt in your home.
21. Share your favorite memories from holidays past. Think about how you can recreate them this year.
22. Make and decorate salt dough ornaments.
23. Gather toys and items you no longer use to donate to a local shelter. Teach your kids that it can be about the things you do for others.
24. Drink hot spiced cider or one of these 5 Festive Holiday Drinks for Kids.
25. Gather pine cones in the park or forest, bake them in the oven to get rid of any bugs, and then use glitter and glue to decorate them. They will make a sparkly addition to your tree or other holiday decor.
26. Make Shivery Snow Paint and use it for lots of "snowy" art projects.
27. Paint your nails in Christmas colors.
28. Make your own Christmas cards.
29. Decorate cheap stockings with glitter glue.
30. Go Christmas caroling. Or sing Christmas songs together as a family.
31. Make (and eat) Reindeer Corn Bark.
32. Eat candy canes.
33. Have the kids put on a holiday play.
34. Make paper snowflakes. All you need is white copy paper.
35. Use cookie cutters to create holiday shapes out of play dough.
What are your favorite low-cost ways to celebrate the holidays?