This is the third article in Leaving Busy’s series on:
21 Memorable Ways to Celebrate Christmas on a Budget
written by Holly E. Switzer of Attitude of Gratitude Author Page.
Christmas. It is supposed to be the season for joy and merriment and for the most part, it is; however, even for the jolliest Santa, Christmas preparations and celebrations can bring out their inner Scrooge! No-one likes going into debt, but we all want to enjoy generous festivities, bless our loved ones and extend our giving to those less fortunate. Between parties, gifts, Christmas dinners, charitable donations and holiday-themed events, by January, our pocketbooks can become rather thin. With this in mind, here are 21 memorable ways to celebrate Christmas on a budget.
Before sharing my favourite fun, yet low-cost or free ways to celebrate Christmas on a budget, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Holly Switzer, and I’ve been writing since I was a child, and the inspiration for this passion was my dad. My dad used to entertain my sister and me on road trips with stories, and he always had an extra good one around Christmas time. When I was in junior high, both my parents lost their jobs, and it took a while for them to get us back on our feet. It never stopped us from enjoying the Christmas season, though.
Living on a restricted budget as an adult, myself, lack of finances doesn’t stop me from enjoying the holiday season either. I assist children and young adults with special needs in planning special activities or outings during this time of year. Since cash flow is typically a universal challenge, I get creative. My experience has added to this list of resources, so I hope you will benefit from some of the following ideas and enjoy them with your loved ones!
1. Think Ahead
If possible, put aside money throughout the year for December. Imagine if you just put $10 a month away for December that would give you an extra $120 for holiday expenses. Imagine what you could do with that? Using a budgeting program like YNAB (You Need a Budget) can help you budget all year long.
Cooking homemade casseroles and dishes can save a ton of money on holiday meals since no one person gets stuck with the cost, and it saves time on prep as well.
Melissa’s Chili Recipe
Beef, Dinners, Lunches
Prep Time: 10 mins Difficulty: Easy Servings: 8
1lb lean ground beef, browned
1tsp Keg Steak Seasoning from Costco
1/4 bottle Epicure Chili Seasoning (I would’ve used chili powder if I didn’t have that on hand)
1 can kidney beans (or garbanzo beans or both)
1 can beans in tomato sauce (no BBQ sauce or pork)
1 can diced tomatoes (28oz)
Costco Taco Seasoning to taste and thickness preference
Add browned beef and all other ingredients into a soup pot and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally until mixture comes to boil. Simmer on very low heat until ready to eat or cool and refrigerate. Chili can be microwaved for individual portions or warmed in a crockpot for group gatherings.
3. Secret Santa Gifting
An excellent way to ensure everyone receives a substantial gift at a dinner party is to do a Secret Santa. This way, all those in the family or office can stop stressing about how they’ll afford something non-junky for all.
Here is a fun and creative way to organize and facilitate a Secret Santa:
- Everyone buys a unisex gift within an agreed spending limit and brings it to the party wrapped.
- Get everyone in a circle and put all the wrapped gifts in the middle.
- Let the host or hostess go first and pick a gift to open.
- The person to the right can then take a new, unknown wrapped package or steal the host’s present, in which case the host will have to choose another gift.
- It’s a good idea to have a timer as you go around the circle because things can get pretty crazy after several presents are in play with people trying to avoid particular gifts or get their hands on the favourites.
- To make it even funnier the host or hostess can buy a gag gift and wrap it as well!
4. Originality Over Price
In advance, suggest thrift store gifts for secret Santas or your gifting circles. Instead of prizing a gift on its retail value, set different criteria like “best save from a landfill” or “most original thrift store find” as the goal.
Usually, regifting is taboo, but with very young children, you can get away with it. Quietly sequester toys, books and movies in the months leading up to Christmas. Wrap them and regift. They will be delighted, and you will not be spending more money on more stuff that they barely missed.
Depending on your gifting circle, regifting could be an option if everyone agrees in advance to do this.
6. Utilize the Internet
The internet is a valuable asset for both shopping and planning. You’ll notice that for a lot of the suggestions below, internet browsing access is a definite asset. No wifi? Visit the library, the mall, coffee shops or a good friend’s house (with permission) and tap in to free wifi.
7. Price Comparison and Economizing
The obvious use of the internet is to browse for online specials, coupons or sales at your favourite stores. More than that, though, is the ability to check store inventories and organize your shopping driving routes before heading out in the cold, snowy weather. This planning will not only save you money on your purchases and fuel consumption but on your time during a hectic season.
8. Free or Low-Cost Local Attractions
Groupon – Local marketing websites like Groupon feature local vendors offering specials on food, gift and activity discounts.
Facebook Events – Most organizations and individuals hosting public events will list them on websites like Facebook, Meetup, or Eventbrite. Take a look, and you may find more than you expected.
Church – Check your local church websites for free family holiday activities such as plays, bazaars, choirs and Christmas Eve celebrations.
City Attractions – Don’t forget to check your local city’s webpage for local attractions such as parades and tree lightings! In the district where I live, we have at least three significant parks all decked out in lights. One welcomes vendors on the weekends, and I’ve heard the jolly man in red takes time to come out to visit the little ones! You never know what you might find locally to do with your friends or family.
9. Enjoying Night-time Lights
Neighbourhood drives to see homes decorated with lights have always been a tradition in our family for years, and now with Facebook, we can get recommendations as to where the best houses to see are located in our community. Give it a try.
10. Library Resources
Go to your local library to use their computers, access free internet, borrow some free books, CD’s and DVD’s, especially the Christmas-themed ones.
11. Digital Greeting Cards
Instead of ordering or buying paper card stock greeting cards and stamps to mail them, utilize the internet (above) to design and distribute e-cards to your loved ones.
Canva.com is a website that will allow you to design your creative greeting. You can then download it to your device to share via email or social media.
You can google for websites like Punchbowl, that are dedicated to designing and distributing e-cards of all kinds.
12. Enjoy Outdoor Opportunities
If the climate where you live includes snow, embrace it! I have great memories of building snow forts, snowmen, and creating snow angels. I can remember when I lived with my parents, my sister, mom and myself running from snowballs when we’d get home from an outing come wintertime. My dad may have appeared quiet and serious, but to those who knew him more intimately, he was quite silly. It’s a memory I’ll always have to enjoy. Tobogganing, cross-country skiing and ice skating are great winter activities too!
13. Baking and DIY Crafts
A little, quality family and friend time can involve baking or DIY (do it yourself) crafts with the kids. The baked goods can do double duty as Christmas gifts or treats when company shows up. Giving away something you made yourself can mean as much, if not more, than something you bought!
14. Power Efficiency
If you don’t already, purpose to run your dishwasher, washer & dryer, your Christmas tree and your outdoor Christmas lights between the hours of 7 pm-7 am. If at all possible, timing significant power draws during low usage time slots will save you money on your utility bill come January!
15. Group Exchanges
Cookie, Tea, Coffee or exchanges of any kind are a pleasant way to collaborate with others. Whether it’s baking 12 dozen of your cookie specialty or buying 24 servings of your favourite holiday beverage, your contribution should yield an assortment worth more than your single investment. Even if its just variety. You should end up with 12 dozen unique Christmas cookies or 24 servings of assorted teas. Depending on the organizer and the group exchange rules, you should have a memorable experience in the process. Just be aware of the expectations and costs before agreeing to participate because some exchanges can become expensive.
16. Home Entertainment
You can also pop some popcorn and watch a movie at home instead of spending money at the theatre. Play games with the family. Dance, play music and sing together.
17. Amateur Theatre
Seeing school productions is also a free and fun way to spend time together.
18. Pay It Forward
To help the family find deeper meaning during the holiday festivities, find a way to help others who are disadvantaged. Here are some examples:
Volunteer and Donate – Distribute hats, coats, blankets, gloves and scarves to the homeless and work in a soup kitchen. Deliver Christmas baskets or collect canned goods.
Carolling – Singing in your neighbourhood, local nursing home or hospital can impact someone’s day, and when you see the looks on the faces of those you are serenading, it’ll make your day!
Host Lonely Guests – Don’t forget those who are alone during the holidays! Invite someone with no relatives over for dinner.
Write Extra Greeting Cards – Write extra greeting cards for seniors or soldiers who would otherwise not be remembered.
Teaching Compassion for the Hungry
“One year, our family decided to eat oatmeal and cream of wheat every breakfast and supper for one week. This choice helped us to understand the blessing of having a variety of palatable foods to eat instead of one constant nutrition source, as many underprivileged people experience. We set up the donation jar as our dining table centrepiece. At every meal, each family member placed the allotted “meal money” in it as a tangible representation of personal sacrifice benefiting others. At the end of the week, most of the week’s grocery budget money was donated to a charity that feeds starving children.”
19. Count Your Blessings
Being grateful isn’t just for Thanksgiving. Lead your family in noticing blessings and expressing gratitude! Find a unique and festive way to show your appreciation leading up to Christmas.
20. Make Your Own Holiday Beverages
We all love those festive red cups and holiday blends at our favourite coffee shop. You can save money long-term if you purpose to cut back on those drive-thru purchases by investing in a couple of festive to-go mugs and make your festive hot beverages at home. To keep them exclusive, bubble-wrap those unique Christmas mugs and put them away with your seasonal decorations.
Sugar-Free Peppermint Mocha Powder Recipe
Prep Time: 5 mins Cook Time: 5 mins
1/2 Cup Granulated Swerve
1/2 Cup Confectioners Swerve
1/3 Cup Cocoa Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
6 drops DoTERRA Peppermint Essential Oil
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl
Store in a quart-size glass jar, such as a Mason jar.
Peppermint Mocha: Add 1 1/2 TBS powdered mix to cream or milk of your choice and whisk to combine. Steam or heat on stovetop and froth with a whisk. Add to 8-10 oz of black coffee or espresso brew.
21. Remembering Reason for the Season
Lastly and most importantly, read a chapter in the book of Luke each night throughout the advent to remember the real reason for the season.
Almighty God left heaven and came to earth as a little helpless baby. He did it for you! God would have done it if you were the only one who needed Him. He’s Emmanuel, God with us and never leaves us or forsakes us! If you’re hurting, simply reach out to Him, and He’ll be there. “For unto us, a child is born, for unto us a Son is given” Isaiah 9:6a KJV
I hope you take advantage of some of these 21 memorable ways to celebrate Christmas on a budget and have the most memorable, merry holiday ever while avoiding financial crisis in the New Year to come!
About Our Guest Post Contributor...
Holly Switzer is a published author of children’s story, Attitude of Gratitude, and has been writing since she was a child. Born and raised in Windsor, Ontario, her Father instilled into her at an early age a love of writing stories, articles, poetry and devotionals. Her mother, an avid reader, was always treating Holly and her sister to new and much-loved books. To this day, it’s a treat for Holly to sit back with a cup of one of many flavours of tea she enjoys and read.
Holly studied Early Childhood Development at St. Clair College as well as Missionary work and drama at YWAM (Youth with a Mission) in Cambridge, Ontario. She’s been working with young children in daycare as well as elementary students and young adults with special needs for approximately 25 years.
Aside from reading and writing, Holly loves to cook, ride her bike, spend time with friends and family as well as decorate. She is well travelled and has been to Central America on Missions, Italy and Scotland on vacation, all over the USA and Canada. Temporarily she took up residence in the NWT (Northwest Territories) to start up a daycare. She resides now in Windsor, Ontario, near her family.
Currently, Holly is working on a novel based on her grandparent’s relationship during WW2 called the “Era of Evelyn and William”. Two upcoming projects in the New Year will be a blog focused on Single Christian adults called “Single Purpose” and an uplifting news Blog called “Everyday Heroes.”
Holly loves to be an encouragement to anyone she can through her love of words.
If you have any questions about this article, in particular, the last paragraph, don’t hesitate to reach out and email Holly at – firstname.lastname@example.org – In the subject line, put 21 Memorable Ways to Celebrate Christmas on a Budget.
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Grandma's Christmas Advent Calendar Box
An advent calendar box was the inspiration for a Christmas-themed and faith-based short story that I decided to enter into Amazon Kindle’s PenToPublish2019 contest. It’s a quick read that is ideal for families who are looking for an entertaining, yet authentic reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. If you haven’t downloaded your copy of Grandma’s Christmas Advent Calendar Box yet, you can order it here.