Kathy Rothaar is a guest blogger for My Dog Ate My Blog and a writer on online degrees for the Guide to Online Schools.
The holidays can be very stressful. Adding to that stress is the increased financial burden that so much celebrating can create. But the holidays can also be a magical time; a time to make some wonderful memories with our families. How do you stay within your budget during the Christmas and New Year’s and still make them magical? Here are six fun ways to be frugal and festive:
1. Cut Down Your Own Christmas Tree – Every year our family goes to a tree farm, and we cut down our own Christmas tree. Chopping down our own tree costs a fraction of what it costs to purchase a store tree, and it lasts longer. We make it fun, running through the woods playing tag and drinking hot cocoa. If you want to be eco-friendly and prefer not to have a real tree, you can still partake in this tradition. Instead of cutting down a tree, ask the tree farm if you and your family can decorate one of their trees. You can adorn it with hand-made ornaments that would be edible for the animals.
2. Visit a Nursing Home or Senior Center – It’s always better to give than to receive. And to give of yourself is the best gift of all. Many people in nursing homes and senior centers get all decked out for the holidays, only to sit alone. Our family visits the residents at a local nursing home on Christmas and Easter. We read stories and help pass out coffee. If you or your children have a special musical gift, you can share that as well.
3. Attend a Holiday Pageant or Show at a Local Church – Many churches or houses of worship have special programs during the holidays that are free of charge, beautifully choreographed, and wonderfully festive.
4. Enjoy a Light Show – Most newspapers in larger areas list the homes that have beautiful Christmas light displays. If your newspaper doesn’t list homes, just drive or walk around your neighborhood and enjoy the holiday lights together. If you want to really get in the holiday spirit, invite some neighbors to walk with you and sing carols as you go from house to house. In our community, there are also many tree-lighting ceremonies that are free of charge, complete with carolers dressed in holiday costumes.
5. Bake Together – Our family has a couple of traditions that center around baking. First, we bake my husband’s grandmother’s sesame cookies and bow knots together. Everyone loves these cookies, and they are somewhat tedious, so working together in an assembly line adds to the fun. We also make gingerbread houses together. (You can find a complete gingerbread man kit at Trader Joes for only $3.99.)
6. Take a Mini Staycation – If you really want to get away and need a break from your routine but can’t afford a big vacation, take a staycation. We have done this in the past, and it is so much fun. We make plans with some close friends and their families to stay overnight at a local hotel with a pool. We find deals (either online or through another source), and we ask for an early check-in and late check-out. We arrive at the hotel around 1 pm for swimming and hanging out. Then we order pizza for dinner and play games during the evening. The next morning we all enjoy the complimentary breakfast, the kids swim again, and we check out at 3 pm. When it’s all over, we feel like we went away for a couple of days. The kids have some wonderful memories of our staycations which have cost less than $100.