The Christmas season is full of family, food, and fun. Our calendars are full with parties, shopping, and school events. For many of us, the stress of paying for everything can be daunting.
According to the US Gallup poll, the average American will spend on $785 on gifts this year. If you have two adults in your home, you could spend over $1500 on gifts! For many of us, this is not practical. Almost 10 years ago, we paid off $18,000 of debt in 18 months. It was a stretch to pay off that much debt in such a short period of time. We had to make a lot of sacrifices to make it make that happen.
During those lean years, we made a commitment to make Christmas as memorable as possible. We didn't focus on what we COULDN'T buy. Instead, we focused on making memories. Those years were sweet and we learned so much about what Christmas should be about.
We discovered that you CAN make quality memories with your kids at Christmas without spending much money. It doesn't take hundreds of dollars to build a memorable, quality Christmas with your family.
We've compiled our favorite 25 FREE or low-cost ways to celebrate Christmas with your family this year. Pick a few and make your Christmas memorable this year without spending a lot of money!
1. MAKE HOT COCOA
Kids love to drink hot cocoa during the holidays. Impress your tribe by creating a simple hot cocoa station for your house. Use our peppermint hot cocoa mix recipe. It is easy to make and tastes delicious. Set your hot cocoa in a small corner of your kitchen or dining room with marshmallows and cups. You can make a simple hot cocoa station for very little money. Your family can enjoy delicious hot cocoa all season long.
Related: Peppermint Hot Cocoa Mix
2. WATCH A CHRISTMAS MOVIE
Make a list of all the Christmas movies everyone in your family wants to watch. Search them up on Netflix or Amazon prime. If you have cable, many movies are played all season long! Set a date on your family calendar to watch each movie. Make some hot cocoa and cuddle up with your people!
3. DECORATE YOUR TREE WITH POPCORN GARLAND
Pop some popcorn, grab thread, a needle, and string together a simple popcorn garland for your tree. Kids get a kick out of this. You could even string cranberries with popcorn for a fun pop of color. See a full tutorial here.
4. MAKE CINNAMON ORNAMENTS
We loved to make simple homemade ornaments when our kids were little. These cut cinnamon ornaments smell good and are great for little hands. Make a memory and decorate your tree with cinnamon ornaments. You probably have everything you need for this in your pantry right now!
See: Cinnamon Ornaments
5. GO SEE THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
Drive around your town and see the Christmas lights. We have legendary neighborhoods and parks in our city that go all out for Christmas. It is fun to jump in the car and go see the lights!
6. VISIT YOUR LOCAL MUSEUM OR ART GALLERY
Many local museums or art galleries host fun and free events for the Holidays. Do a quick google search for your area and see what they offer. It is a fun excuse to get out of the house and learn something new!
7. MAKE COOKIES
Get your people together and make cookies! You make a huge batch ahead of time and freeze them or wait until a few days before Christmas. Bring in everyone to help roll out the dough, bake, and decorate. Make a mess and then tell everyone to chip in and clean up!
8. VOLUNTEER AT A LOCAL FOOD PANTRY
Many families in your community depend on the goodness of others to provide food each Christmas. Partner with your local church or food pantry to provide meals for your neighbors in need.
Our church has family friendly packing parties. We get together and pack hundreds of meal for families in need. We all volunteer to hand out those meals to families before Christmas. It is a great way to serve as a family! Call local churches around you and find out how your family can help!
9. MAKE HANDMADE GIFTS FOR SIBLINGS
Have each of your kids make a simple homemade gift for each other. Get on Pinterest and gather some ideas. Spend an afternoon creating gifts for one another. Your kids can learn a new skill and serve their siblings. Older siblings can help younger ones create gifts if you need extra hands. It is a fun tradition that can cost very little.
10.READ A CHRISTMAS BOOK EACH NIGHT
Pick out a stack of Christmas books at the library or a chapter book your whole family would enjoy. Sit down a few nights a week and read aloud as a family. Kids who can't sit still can grab a coloring book or Legos to keep them quiet while you read. Allow older kids to take turns reading aloud.
11. FIND A PUZZLE TO WORK ON ALL BREAK
Find a 500 or 1000 piece puzzle at the thrift store or big box store. Lay it out on an unused table (or set up a card table) at your house. Let your family work on it all season long!
12. Have a PJ Day!
Declare one day over Christmas break a PJ DAY! Don't get out of your PJ's all day long. You can watch movies, drink hot cocoa, make homemade gifts, and so much more.
13. GIVE A GIFT TO YOUR LETTER CARRIER OR SANITATION WORKERS
Purchase an inexpensive gift card to local lunch spot or give cookies to your letter carrier and / or sanitation workers. Have your kids write them a note of appreciation for all the hard work they do for your family and neighbors.
14. INVITE ANOTHER FAMILY OVER FOR A POTLUCK
Have good friends over for an informal potluck. You don't have to go all out to have people over. Create a simple menu like a taco bar or throw together a big casserole. Invite your guest to bring some side dishes or dessert. Let you kids play while you eat and enjoy friends.
Find inexpensive ways to celebrate Advent with a simple book or app. You don't have to do something every day. Do what you can!
16. PICK A SIMPLE BREAKFAST MENU FOR CHRISTMAS MORNING
If you spend most of the Christmas with extended family, pick out a simple breakfast menu you can make as a family on Christmas morning. Try to carve out that time as a meal with just your family. We make homemade biscuits and gravy with eggs on Christmas morning. Even when our kids were toddlers, they were busy helping dad make biscuits from scratch Christmas morning.
17. SING CHRISTMAS CAROLS
Sing Christmas carols with your kids. If you have a family member who plays a musical instrument, have them play along. Christmas carols are fun for the whole family. It doesn't matter if you are out of tune or not musically inclined. Kids don't care!
18. DO SOMETHING NICE FOR A NEIGHBOR
Do you have an elderly neighbor who could use some company this Christmas? Call him or her up and go visit. Take some cookies or a board game. The Christmas season can be lonely for elderly people. Shovel snow for a neighbor or help out with yard work. Get the whole family involved!
Christmas is a wonderful time of year to give to charities. You don't have to give a lot of money to make a difference. You can give a tangible gift or write a check. Talk about it as a family. Ask everyone's opinion about who they would like to give to this Christmas.
20 GO TO CHURCH
Many churches have great free events all season long. Churches have musicals, kids programs, service opportunities, and candle-lit services. Get involved and make time to check it out.
21. MAKE HOMEMADE APPLE CIDER
I had a friend who always had hot apple cider on her stove during her annual Christmas party. Not only does this make your entire house smell AMAZING, it tastes fabulous too. Whip up a bunch of apple cider for your gang this season. We found this crockpot recipe via Sally's Baking Addiction.
21. VISIT A LOCAL CHRISTMAS TREE FARM
Check out a local Christmas tree farm near you. Many of them have free activities for the kids. Our local farm has visits from Santa on the weekends and hayrides for everyone. You can pick up a fresh tree or greens while you are there. You can even cut down your Christmas tree.
22. HOST A COOKIE EXCHANGE
Gather some other families for a cookie exchange. Have each family bring a big batch one particular cookie. Exchange cookies with one another and everyone goes home with all kinds of different cookies for Christmas.
23. MAKE YOUR OWN POM-POM GARLAND
Pom-pom garland is everywhere right now. Is the perfect vintage look for your Christmas decor. The best part is, pom-pom garland is NOT hard to make. You can purchase wool felted balls and string them on twine or your can make pom-poms with yarn. Garland is perfect for your Christmas tree or mantle! My kids love to help make pom-poms. It is fun to do while watching a movie or football game!
24. GAME NIGHT
Pull out all the board games and have a game night with your family. Invite a few friends or neighbors over if you want. Make a fun snack and settle in for some family fun.
25. MAKE PAPER SNOWFLAKES
My kids learned how to make these amazing 3D paper snowflakes in school last year. They are huge and so pretty. One snowy day, the made dozens of them and hung them throughout our house. It was so fun and beautiful. You can find instructions to 3D Paper Snowflakes here.
Tell us, what are your favorite FREE or low-cost ways to celebrate Christmas with your family?