Well folks, we are into the Holiday season with Thanksgiving coming up and Christmas and all the other holidays right around the corner. While most of us will probably feel overwhelmed by the massive advertising efforts retailers push during the next month and a half and the strain Christmas gifts can put on our budget, there are many ways to enjoy the holidays without breaking the bank.
1) Watch Christmas Movies – for Free
While some people collect movies and purchase most of the movies they watch, there is a frugal alternative to buying movies. I’m not talking about RedBox or DVR’ing movies as they’re played on cable; instead, consider requesting DVDs from the library that you think you and your family would like to watch.
I take advantage of the online request option at my library and usually only go to the library to pick up books/DVDs when they are ready. For the Holiday season consider logging in to your library’s website, picking the DVDs you want to watch, and waiting for the email telling you the DVDs are ready to be picked up. It’s an easy process and typically there are no penalties if you decide to not pick them up.
Of course, if there’s a movie like Elf or National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation that you know you will watch 5-10 times like I have over the years, it might make sense to throw frugality out the window and purchase it.
2) Ugly Christmas Sweater Party
Ugly Christmas Sweater Parties have become a Holiday staple for many. Some think it’s overdone, but the popularity of ugly Christmas sweaters has hardly decreased the past few years. I already know of at least one ugly Christmas sweater party that I will be attending this year (and it’s only early November).
Most thrift stores will be stocked full of ugly Christmas sweaters once they clear out their Halloween inventory. If you want to make participating in ugly Christmas sweater parties even more frugal consider re-using the same one year-after-year. If you are hosting a party consider doing it potluck style where people bring various parts of the meal and/or various desserts/drinks. Potluck-style parties are wildly popular in Minnesota and it can really make hosting very inexpensive.
Bonus Tip: To make your costume stand out, add something extra to your costume, like a Santa beard, elf hat, or reindeer antlers
Volunteering is not only frugal, but something that is needed more than ever during the Holidays. For about six years when I was in high school and college I volunteered Thanksgiving morning with Meals on Wheels. Not only was I doing a good thing (and getting free doughnuts in the process!) I was able to spend time with a friend who I usually do not see throughout the year.
Organizing a volunteer outing with friends or family can be a great way to celebrate the Holidays. It can be a small commitment, such as delivering meals on a Holiday morning, or a bigger one where you volunteer a couple hours a week for four weeks.
While this post is specifically about frugality, organizations are always in need of financial contributions. If you have a busy schedule as it is and have trouble fitting in time to celebrate the Holidays, consider donating financially. As an added incentive, donations are usually tax deductible.
4) Sledding or Ice Skating
Especially if you have children, sledding or going ice skating can be a great inexpensive way to celebrate the Holidays. Even if you don’t have kids, ice skating or sledding can be fun as a date or large group activity. Sleds and snow tubes can be relatively cheap if you buy them at a big box retailer, and can last for a long time. These are good alternatives to expensive Winter activities like snowboarding or skiing.
I realize that there are many places in the US where it doesn’t get cold enough to take part in outdoor winter activities. In that case you may have to pay to go ice skating indoors (if there is a rink available). Otherwise just be happy you don’t have to deal with the frigid cold that some of us have to deal with ;)
5) Holiday Baking Party
Another fun and frugal option for celebrating the Holidays is having a baking party. My wife does one of these each year with her side of the family where they bake lefse (which is a traditional soft, Norwegian flatbread). Baking can be relatively inexpensive and provides plenty of time to spend time with friends and family while also baking some delicious food.
Splitting the cost or responsibility of supplies between participants can help keep the overall cost down. You also get something in return – baked goods – that you can eat or give to others as a gift. We plan on baking fudge or cookies for our neighbors this year as it gives us a reason to stop by and say hello.
I want to hear from all of you: what do you do to celebrate the Holidays? Feel free to offer up not-so-frugal ideas as well ;)
Photo of ugly Christmas sweaters by TheUglySweaterShop.com
Photo of Ice Skating by petercruise
Photo of Baking by Ashley