There are so many fun, festive, and inexpensive ways to celebrate Christmas on a budget. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to make Christmas feel priceless. Here are 10 ways you can have a wonderful and meaningful holiday season that won’t break the bank.
By: Sally Painter
1. Print Your Own Cards or Send e-Cards
Print your own Christmas cards using cardstock, a good photo and a color printer. Print the holiday message of your choosing in the font you like. Another choice is to use a low-budget printing service, such as Shutterfly or Snapfish. Just register and upload a fun photo “card” created by you and your family. You can often find special deals on most of these sites for greater savings. You will save a lot of money with any of these ideas compared to purchasing and personalizing store-bought Christmas cards.
Opt for e-Cards
The best budget buster for Christmas cards is to opt for sending e-cards. You can save on the cards and the postage! Many sites offer free e-cards, or you can subscribe for an annual nominal fee, such as Jacquie Lawson’s famous e-Card website featuring her artwork in unique interactive cards. Your family and friends will appreciate the beauty of these cards. For anyone who is eco- and green minded, e-cards are a great way to incorporate your ideals during the holidays.
2. Host a Gift Swap
Host a party for friends and/or family in lieu of buying gifts for each and every friend and family member. This will reap you excellent Christmas budget savings, and your family and friends will gain a new appreciation for your cleverness. Make it a potluck dinner for an even more festive, but inexpensive event. There are two ways to conduct this type of gift swap.
Regift New But Unwanted Gifts
While it’s considered rude to regift a present, it’s thrifty to recycle items. Everyone has at least one gift they don’t like and will never use. Make this a mandate for your gift swap. Just be sure you don’t regift something one of your guests gave you! Instruct everyone to bring a wrapped, unwanted but good gift. Set up a table or place gifts under the tree, draw numbers, and start digging in to new presents!
Specify a Spending Limit for Your Gift Swap
Another version of a family or friend gift swap if you don’t want to regift, is to buy gifts for the swap. You need to limit the dollar amount to $5 or $10, with each person bringing only one gift. Make sure you give the directive that the gift needs to be funny, practical, functional, silly, old-fashioned, or some other specific theme. This type of gift swap can be loads of fun with lots of laughter. You can also take it to another level when you play a game called Greed by allowing each new player to steal any of the previous gifts by swapping gifts.
3. Draw Names to Streamline & Save on Gift Purchases
Another popular way to save money on gift-giving is to draw names. This is especially good when working on a shoestring budget for a large family or a large extended family. Drawing names helps families return the focus to the season instead of material expectations. Many families draw names during their Thanksgiving get together. Set dollar amounts based on whether the gift-givers are children, teens or adults. Some families limit the name drawing to just the children of the family to save money. Watching kids unwrap Christmas toys is usually a more enjoyable gift for adults.
4. Host a Cookie Exchange
You can enjoy holiday time with friends by hosting a cookie exchange and encouraging everyone to bake three batches of their favorite cookie recipe. This quantity allows guests to receive at least two of every cookie variety. Liven up the party with silly games, such as “Guess the Cookie,” where guests try to guess the type of cookie and the ingredients. Purchase some inexpensive containers to pack cookies in, like Chinese food take-home containers. This exchange gives everyone more cookies and can be done in lieu of gift giving.
Throw a Cookie Decorating Party
A similar idea for cookie inspired fun is to host a cookie decorating party. Invite family and friends and let everyone get in on the decorating. Have each family BYO (bring your own) prepared cookie dough. You can supply the sprinkles, icing and other candies or designate each family to bring a specific one. This idea allows for get-togethers during the holidays, without having to spend a lot of money.
5. Gather to Watch the Town Christmas Parade
Many towns host a Christmas parade around Thanksgiving or a week or so after. This can be a fun outing with friends and family, and it’s free! Host an after parade potluck dinner for the perfect way to top off the event. This idea keeps your family and friends connected to the community while creating great memories that don’t put a dent in your Christmas budget.
6. Swap Christmas Decorations or Make Your Own
Part of the joy of decorating for Christmas is getting out your favorite collectibles. But this holiday season, you may want to try something new. Instead of spending the money on new purchases, talk with friends and family about swapping decorations with each other. Your mom may have a set of Christopher Radko ornaments that would look great on your tree this year, and she might have her eye on your nativity scene. Make sure to list who has what, any special care or packaging, and a return date. This allows everyone to enjoy fresh decorations, and this annual swap could become a family tradition.
There are so many creative ways to craft your own Christmas ornaments, and you can use empty wine bottles to fashion festive decorations too. You likely have many of the required materials on hand, so there’s no need to spend money on supplies.
7. Put on a Family Play
Start a tradition of staging a holiday skit with your built-in theater troupe: your family. Choose a family-friendly play late in the fall and set up a regular rehearsal time. For opening night, host a potluck and invite friends and family to enjoy your creation! Costumes can be something as simple as last year’s Christmas sweater.
8. Enjoy Holiday Light Displays
Set aside time to spend an evening with family and friends visiting lighted neighborhoods or decorated cities. There’s always someone who loves to decorate for Christmas, and they appreciate your attention. Exchange warm greetings and enjoy the fellowship of your neighbors. Some communities are renown for their Christmas decorations, so research areas near you that really shine. This type of outing is free and offers opportunities for family and friends to make great Christmas memories.
9. Attend a Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
If your town has an annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, gather a group of friends or family and enjoy the festivities. Some towns host Christmas refreshments, including hot chocolate and cookies. Some move inside for a holiday dance with live music. These after the event activities are usually free or have a nominal fee that’s perfect for budget-friendly holiday fun.
10. Go Caroling & Revel in Holiday Music
Whether you join the choir at church, go caroling, or simply listen to funny Christmas songs while sitting around the Christmas tree, the music of the holiday season is always a joy to listen to. Create a playlist of your favorite carols and play them throughout the Christmas season. Get your kids to create individual playlists and feature one playlist each night during dinner. If you’re a musical family, make singing around the piano or accompanied by other musical instruments part of your Christmas Eve or Christmas Day celebration.
Explore 10 Ways to Celebrate a Budget Friendly Christmas
These are at least 10 ways you can celebrate the joyous season of Christmas on a budget. Whether you make your own gifts, choose ways to share the cost, or simply enjoy free activities, you’ll be creating cherished Christmas memories.