The holidays can take a real toll on your wallet, so sometimes it's nice to engage in a few festivities that don't cost much. Need a few ideas? Here's a list of holiday-themed activities that will hardly cost you anything but that will leave your family with plenty of heartwarming memories.
1. Take a drive around a beautifully lit neighborhood. No Christmas is complete without witnessing some twinkling holiday lights. Ask around and find out which nearby neighborhood has the most impressive displays to check out. Bring along some hot cocoa and Christmas tunes to really make the night special.
2. Craft your own ornaments. Little kids love arts and crafts, especially when they get to see their finished masterpieces hanging from a gorgeous tree. Get out the glue, glitter, popsicle sticks, and any other materials you can find lying around the house. Encourage everybody to get creative! Not only will you spend a few hours having fun together, but you'll also build memories to treasure for years to come.
3. Host a Christmas cookie decorating contest. A few tubs of frosting, some sprinkles, and candy will go a long way in this activity. Challenge all of the participants to create the best-looking cookies for Santa, then decide on a winner. Oh, and don't forget to gobble a few up once the contest ends.
4. Write and decorate some letters to Santa. Although this concept seems like a timeless tradition to some, fewer and fewer families seem to actually carry it out. Get out some pretty stationary and stickers, then get to work creating the perfect note for the jolly old man. Remember, it's kind to say thank you as well as list your secret Christmas wishes!
5. Go to the library and check out a stack of holiday books. Holiday bedtime stories are a great way to spend some quality time together, and luckily most libraries have more than a few holiday picture books available. Make an event out of going to pick some out, then snuggle up to enjoy them before going to sleep one night.
6. Cut out paper snowflakes and hang them in your windows. It's such a simple task, but it's a great way to deck the halls and get a little creative. Plus, we don't get much snow here in Texas, so someone's got to sprinkle a few snowflakes around the place!
7. Gather up your gently used toys and clothes to donate to a nearby shelter. It's always nice to clear out some clutter as the new year comes around, and it's a special way to give back to those in need at this time of year.
8. Host a holiday movie night, complete with candy canes and festive popcorn flavors. Vote on the best holiday movie available, then cozy up for a simple family movie night. Bonus points if everyone wears their most festive holiday pajamas.
9. Road marshmallows over an open fire. Sticky, gooey hands are totally acceptable during this winter activity, and the addition of chocolate bars and graham crackers is definitely encouraged.
10. Make gingerbread houses from scratch. Anyone can buy one of those expensive gingerbread kits from the store, but this year, try baking the gingerbread pieces at home then assembling a house that is uniquely your own. It might be messy and your homemade house might end up looking a little lopsided, but it's a more unique and engaging experience.
11. Attend a local holiday parade. There are many throughout the area, so take to your local news sites and keep your eyes peeled. Parades are usually free to attend, and they're a great way to soak up some holiday cheer and spend an afternoon with the family.
12. Send out holiday cards to friends and family. It might be expensive to get professional cards printed, but you can always make your own at home. No loved one is going to object to receiving a handmade card wishing them a happy holiday, especially if it's covered in fun drawings and festive colors.
13. Volunteer your time at a local homeless shelter, soup kitchen, or hospital. After all, it is the season of giving, and what better way is there to spread the holiday spirit than by donating your time to a worthy cause? A simple Google search will let you know what organizations near you are searching for Christmas volunteers.
14. Watch The Nutcracker on television. Tickets to see the famous ballet might come at a steep price, but anyone can view a lovely production from home. Do some research and figure out when a local production airs, then gather round and enjoy a Tchaikovsky Christmas tradition.
15. Have everyone dress up for a special Christmas dinner. Even if you're just having a simple meal of spaghetti and meatballs, it's always fun to spice things up with a little luxury when the holidays roll around. Pick a meal with family and have every look their best. Don't forget to snap a few photos while everyone's in their fancy outfits!
How do you and your family celebrate the holidays without breaking your budget? Leave other ideas in the comments!