It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Don’t worry, no one is skipping Thanksgiving around here (it’s one of my favorite weeks of the year!), but it’s mighty fine in my book for the extra love and joy that the holidays bring to arrive in November. As always, I’m doing my best not to rush a minute of it, but to enjoy as much of it as I can and to be intentional with how we fill our days and the holiday traditions we include.
I know this time of year can also be stressful. Media (ahem, Facebook) shows us pictures of all the incredible holiday events people are experiencing and sometimes I flounder around think, shoot, am I missing out? Do I need to buy tickets to that Home Alone in Concert at the symphony?! I’m a 7 on the Enneagram and prone to experiencing FOMO, but over time I’ve found some surefire ways for my family and I get the most bang for our buck during this joyful, yet swift, time of the year. I wanted to share the activities we have enjoyed the most with you today in case you, too, are looking for meaningful traditions to fill your days with that won’t break the bank.
5 Holiday Traditions that Will Save You Money
Modify your gift exchange. Last year we divided our little family of four into two teams: Hailey and David were team one and Kaitlyn and I were team two. Each team took $30 and we went to spend an hour at Walmart. Each team bought a gift for both member of the other team, but had to stay under budget. This was such a huge hit that I have no doubt we’ll do it again this year! The team aspect added fun as we debated and narrowed in on the best choice for that person. The girls both got experience thinking of another person, picking a gift, the excitement of watching the person open that gift, and the joy of receiving one of their own.
We found that less expensive gifts, or just less quantity overall, does not make the holiday feel less special. Turning it into a group activity actually brings another level of togetherness and joy to the process.
Host a holiday potluck. For several years now, David and I have hosted an annual Christmas party. It’s one of our favorite traditions. For a few years I stressed myself (and our wallet) out trying to buy and prepare all the food and drinks myself. Last year I took a friend’s suggestion and asked everyone to bring an appetizer dish to share. It was wonderful! Not only was everyone more than happy to contribute a dish, we ended up with such a wide variety of incredible foods, a much higher quantity of food than I could have managed myself, and a much less stressed me.
The thing everyone likes most is spending time together and enjoying the season. When we set high and unrealistic expectations on ourselves to be the hostess with the mostess, we inevitably burn out and miss out on the fun and fellowship while trying to make sure everything looks just right. I encourage you to invite those friends over to a house that isn’t spotless, invite them to bring a dish to share, and soak up joy of the season that comes from being with people you love.
Gift homemade items to others. Homemade gifts are the best, aren’t they? Receiving something that somebody poured time, effort and love into is really special. Sure there are some fancy ideas on Pinterest, but if you aren’t particularly crafty (raises hand), there are still a bounty of gifts you could make by hand. We like making peppermint bark because treats from kitchen are always a favorite of mine. From snack mix, to homemade pickles, to spice blends, to bread, to preserved foods, to home brewed beer, to pre-prepped soup mixes, to treats and cookies like holiday puppy chow, edible gifts are meaningful and consumable, two wonderful traits for a gift!
Other homemade gift ideas include photo collages, ornaments, coasters, candles, potpourri, homemade sugar scrubs, soaps and homemade cards.
Spread joy to others. This is something I want to continue to do better with. Last year the girls and I volunteered with Room at the Inn, an organization that offers a warm meal and a cozy place to sleep for those that need it throughout the winter. It was an incredible experience for us all and it allowed the girls to have a hands-on experience with giving back.
Whether it being shopping for an angel on a tree, volunteering a soup kitchen, organizing a caroling group in your neighborhood, visiting a retirement community, writing homemade cards to friends that are faraway, or collecting food to donate to a food bank, spending time lifting others up is always is a good choice.
Enjoy the free activities around town. I don’t know about your town, but around here there are community tree lightings, parades, and Christmas concerts that are free to the public scattered throughout the holiday season. Check the local paper or Facebook because that’s a lot of fun to be had without spending a penny! Another great resource for free holiday activities is the local library, which often host ornament making, gingerbread house decorating, card making crafts, and more.
And don’t forget the free joy at home. From baking something yummy together to snuggling up on the couch watching Christmas movies, there is a lot of memories that can be made from staying in pajamas and hanging out in your living room. Check out 17 of the Best Christmas Movies for Little Kids.
More Ways to Save Money During the Holidays
- Set a budget for each category (gifts, decorations, charitable donations, travel, lattes, etc) ahead of time.
- Track your spending or get the amount you allotted for yourself out of the bank in cash.
- Choose less expensive traditions like driving around to look at lights, reading Christmas stories, baking cookies, seeing a high school production instead of going to the city ballet, etc, etc.
- Plan ahead for special events. It’s easy to overspend when we need to grab a last minute gift or outfit.
- Order online and avoid the temptations of stores.
- Use credit card reward points you’ve earned for holiday travel or purchases.
- Say no to the invites that aren’t going to bring you joy. You’ll not only save on your time, but on excess gift, clothing or food purchases as well.
Share with you, how do you maximize the love and joy of the holiday season and get the biggest bang for your buck?