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Enjoy frugal holiday fun

By on September 12, 2011

Plan ahead for the upcoming holidays. If buying gifts or supplies far in advance isn’t your thing, you can still think about ideas for free and low-cost ways to enjoy the season.
What frugal activities or traditions have you done during the holiday season? Here are a few ideas.



Pick up a jigsaw puzzle and put it together with friends and family. You don’t have to finish it in one night. Leave it out during the holidays. It’s a great way for everyone to sit together and talk.


Look for upcoming free or low-cost concerts and plays. They’re often held in schools and churches. As you search for upcoming concerts, you’re bound to come across free community events, such as tree-lighting ceremonies, living nativities, festivals and parades.


Give back to your community. Find volunteer opportunities at or call local nursing homes or shelters to find out how you can help. Or visit to send a care package or a letter to a soldier. You can donate to Angel Tree, Operation Christmas Child or Toys for Tots, too.


Call and ask about winter hikes, walking tours or snowshoeing. You might be pleasantly surprised by the workshops and clubs that meet and activities that are offered during the winter months.


Many libraries offer book clubs, movie nights and crafts. Some libraries offer writers’ workshops, business seminars and computer classes, as well.


You can host a swap party to exchange toys, clothes, cookies, books, household items or almost anything. Or have everyone bring ingredients for gingerbread houses. While you’re gathering swap items, declutter and sell anything you no longer want to boost your Christmas fund.


Many state parks have special seasonal offerings. Check local listings to find out upcoming events.


Don’t think that it’s necessary to stuff stockings with toys or candy. One reader, Sarah from Illinois, shares: “As for stocking stuffers, when I was young, we had a few things put in our stocking, but mostly Santa stocked them with fresh fruit (oranges, apples and bananas). We then took our fresh fruit and made a fruit salad for Christmas breakfast. I realize that this also saved my parents money from having to stuff our entire stocking with presents. So we do the same for our kids!”


Ice skate, build a snowman, go sledding, feed winter birds or see holiday lights.


Set the DVR. Many family favorites are featured during ABC Family’s “25 Days of Christmas.” Another reader, Polly from Pennsylvania, shares: “We do our own kind of Advent. It’s more of a counting-down-the-days-until-Christmas kind of thing. We watch a tape of a Christmas special, one each night as we count down. Everyone has their favorite. We make a big deal out of it. I put out cookies or special cakes and serve homemade eggnog or hot chocolate, too. It’s lots of fun.” Have a family campout in the living room, too.


With a retail price of $25, this is a terrific holiday tradition to start in your home. The little elf lives in your home and watches and listens to what goes on, and he reports to Santa each night. When he returns, he lands in a new location in your home and friends and family have to find out where he landed. For more information, visit Clearly, the most frugal of readers can modify this tradition and spend less.


Read about traditions from around the world and see if you’d like to add any. Visit for a listing. One of our traditions is Christmas pinatas. Instead of it being a game to play while blindfolded, we hide small gifts and treats inside. This is a creative way to give new socks and underwear to kids. We use it to hold any gift cards, batteries, and small items such as hair clips or money they receive, so these don’t get lost in the shuffle, too.

photo by jurvetson

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