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100 Frugal Christmas Ideas (Free or Practically Free)

Looking for inexpensive Christmas family fun on a tight budget? Here are 100 frugal Christmas ideas that are free or practically free. This will help make sure our traditions for Christmas DON’T include overspending.

Frugal Christmas Ideas to Save Your Holiday Budget

Christmastime, as magical as it can be, can also be a budget destroyer for many families. 

It doesn’t have to be like this.

The whole point of Christmas is not to spend tons of money, even though that’s what all the ads make it seem like as soon as it’s October (or even earlier).

Since this is a frugal living blog I want to share an ultimate list of frugal Christmas ideas that you can refer to when you’re looking for some Christmas family fun.

You can also check out these 7 easy ways to earn extra money before Christmas and these early Black Friday deals to save you money on Christmas shopping.

Related Christmas posts:


100 Frugal Christmas Ideas

1. Holiday lights tour

Bundle up the kids in the car and go for a family drive when it gets dark.

Drive your neighborhood or find out the best neighborhoods in your city and go for a festive holiday lights drive.

2. Make Hot Chocolate

Making homemade treats like hot chocolate or Christmas cookies is a fun activity to do this holiday season.

I usually make hot chocolate in the microwave with a good hot chocolate powder, but once in a while I use the stove top and chocolate chips.

The smell of chocolate chips as they are melting into the milk makes your kitchen smell like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – yum.

3. Watch Christmas movies

Snuggle up with your family members and play favorite nostalgic or new Christmas movies.

Favorites over here are A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and this classic version of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (it’s so bad and so amazing at the same time!)

4. Make a popcorn garland

I have no idea when this Christmas tradition started but it’s an easy craft to do with kids.

Make a big batch of popcorn, get some thread and a needle, and make a popcorn garland for the tree.

Definitely make extra popcorn for all the handfuls that will get eaten.

5. Go Christmas caroling

This Christmas tradition used to be more common but it’s been fading over the years.

I was in Starbucks a few years ago at Christmastime and a group of carolers came in all decked out (with boughs of holly, obv) and sang a few Christmas songs before heading out to the next shop.

It put a smile on our faces as we were sipping our Gingerbread lattes and Peppermint lattes.

Caroling is a fun way to celebrate your Christmas cheer with your family and friends, and free too!

6. Christmas Baking

Make your favorite special treats with your kids.

Some of the classics like snowball cookies or chocolate crinkle cookies are easy to make with kids, and gingerbread cookies are always fun to decorate.

This chocolate candy cane cake is so easy to make, and will give you all the Christmas time feels.

7. Host a cookie swap

Get your friends or neighbors together and share your Christmas baking.

8. Go skating

Take your kids to an outdoor ice skating rink.

Santa brought our daughter training skates (they attach to her boots) last year so she got to try skating at 2 ½ years old and LOVED it. Hoping that continues this year!

You can also look for used skates for cheap at thrift stores.

Pack a thermos full of hot chocolate to warm up after skating.

9. Make a handmade Christmas gift

10. Go for a walk in the snow

Put on tall boots or snowshoes and enjoy the snow!

11. Winter scavenger hunt

Here is a free printable winter scavenger hunt for kids.

12. Volunteer

Volunteer at a local food bank, Christmas cheer board, hospital, or elder care home

13. Board Game Night

Get out your favorite board games and play some games this Christmas season.

For frugal Christmas gifts that the whole family can enjoy, check out these easy board games for little kids.

14. Have a Candlelit Dinner

Or dinner in front of the fireplace if you have one

15. Have a Christmas pajama day

Stay in pajamas the whole day on a Saturday or Sunday

16. Make Homemade Christmas Ornaments

Christmas decorations don’t have to cost a lot of money, and can be so much fun to make together.

17. Find and Decorate a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

The scrawnier the tree, the better.

18. Learn to knit a blanket or hat for winter

19. Write a letter to Santa

Mail it to Santa Claus 325 S. Santa Claus Lane North Pole, Alaska 99705

20. Have a puzzle day

Get a puzzle that’s challenging enough for the whole family but easy enough that the little ones can participate.

21. Catch snowflakes on your tongue

22. Built a snowman/snow family

Complete with carrot nose and scarf

23. Make snow angels

24. Make a playlist of your favorite Christmas songs

This way you’ll have only your favorites and not all the random ones that come up on the radio

25. Set up a bird feeder

Feed the winter birds in your neighborhood with a variety of bird feeders. Kids will have so much fun watching the different birds visit.

26. Built a snow fort

27. Go for a moonlight walk or cross-country ski with headlamps

28. Roast marshmallows on a bonfire and drink hot cocoa

29. Make a gingerbread house

30. Host an ugly Christmas sweater party

31. Simmer spiced apple cider on the stove or in the slow cooker

32. Buy Christmas lights from a dollar store and hang them from your outside trees

The Dollar Store or Dollar Tree is a great place to find inexpensive gifts and new toys for cheap as well.

33. Take Santa Photos

34. Learn to make candles with your kids

This is a fun activity and could also be a homemade Christmas gift

35. Bust out the old Christmas videos from the past and have a good laugh

36. Write a Gratitude List

This is a great exercise any time of the year but especially at the Christmas holiday when there can be excess.

Writing a list of everything we’re grateful for is a good reminder of how lucky the majority of us are.

37. Go sledding/tobogganing

38. Buy Christmas outfits second-hand from a thrift store

39. Borrow Christmas books from the library to read with your kids

40. Contribute to a toy drive

41. Make a coupon book for gifts

From cooking a special meal to a foot massage to experiences out

42. Reuse Christmas wrapping and Christmas gift bags

This is one of my favorite frugal Christmas ideas!

43. Forgo wrapping paper altogether

Just wrap gifts with some ribbon or a bow

44. Use newspaper or magazines as gift wrap

45. Learn how to make a Christmas food dish from another culture/country

46. Have a small holiday party just for your neighbors to get to know them better

Make it a potluck to make it an even more frugal Christmas idea

47. Make your own Christmas cards instead of buying them

48. Track Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve

Go to this website to track Santa with your kids as he makes his way around the world

49. Make mason jar cookie mixes to gift

50. Reprioritize Christmas

Make it less about the gifts


51. Make a Christmas wreath

Go on a nature walk with your kids and pick up some fallen evergreen branches and pine cones.

Bend a metal wire into a circle (a coat hanger can work for this) and glue on the things you collected on your walk.

Your kids can add Christmas bows, candy canes, etc.

52. Make a special Christmas breakfast recipe instead of buying something

One of my favorite Christmas morning recipes are these gingerbread scones

53. Talk to your families about the idea of only giving gifts to the kids, not the adults

54. Secret Santa

Have each family member draw a name and only give a gift to that one person

55. Buy things for next Christmas right after THIS Christmas

Even though you might not feel like Christmas shopping after Christmas, to save money this is really the best time to stock up on gifts/decorations/etc. for next year.

Just make sure you remember that you bought things and where you put them a year later!

56. Set a limit on what you will spend on Christmas gifts and stick to it

If you don’t currently have a way you’re tracking spending and income, you can sign up with Personal Capital (it’s free).

Personal Capital makes it easy to manage your money by compiling your income, investments, and spending into one shiny program complete with graphs and charts to make it simple to see what your money is doing.

57. Donate to charity

58. Go to free Christmas events in your community

59. Host a hot chocolate buffet party

60. Buy Christmas gifts online

Amazon will most likely have the best prices, and that way you avoid those impulse buys that can happen when you shop at the mall.

61. Cut down your own Christmas tree

Each year growing up my family would drive out of the city to cut down a Christmas tree.

Even though the room we would put it in had fairly high ceilings, we always seemed to pick one that ended up being way too tall for the space. They always look smaller outside!

Make your own memories visiting a Christmas tree farm this year.

62. Go to a Christmas concert (Nutcracker anyone?)

63. Donate food, toys, and litter to a local animal shelter

64. Make paper snowflakes

65. If you live in a place that doesn’t have the real stuff, make your own snow

66. Decorate the Christmas tree

67. Visit relatives who might be lonely this time of year

68. Video chat with out-of-town friends or relatives

69. Visit a tree lighting ceremony in your city or town

70. Make or buy an advent calendar

Oh how it took self-control when we were kids, only having the one chocolate for that day   🙂

71. Make a deal with your spouse about no spending money on gifts on each other this year

Come up with creative ways to make each other feel special without buying anything.

For the sake of your relationship talk about this frugal Christmas idea well BEFORE Christmas!!

72. Buy inexpensive stocking stuffer gifts for kids

This list has 50 AWESOME gift ideas under $10

73. If you are hosting Christmas dinner, turn it into a potluck

There’s nothing wrong with asking family to each bring a dish to share. Most people are happy to be given some direction on what to bring.

74. Get a Christmas coloring book and do some coloring with your kids

75. Make your own Christmas gift tags

76. Make a list, check it twice

Just like grocery shopping, using a list to shop for Christmas gifts will help you curb those impulse buys

77. Shop throughout the year

Take advantages of sales throughout the year for gifts that could be for Christmas.

That way you won’t be scrambling and spending more the week before Christmas.

78. Shop online through Rakuten and get cash back

The stores and cash back amounts change all the time but for example one of today’s deals gives you 10% cash back on any purchases from Macy’s.

Sephora was giving 4% cash back plus a sample bag of goodies with any $50 purchase.

Sign up with Rakuten for free here.

79. Dress up your pets in Christmas outfits

And take silly pictures

80. Sign up for a free trial of Amazon Prime

You will get all your gifts shipped for free. You can always cancel the membership after Christmas. Click here for a free 30-day trial.

81. Hang mistletoe

82. Use cash

Pay with cash instead of credit cards for gifts and other Christmas purchases

83. Reduce the amount of people you buy gifts for

84. Make a boozy fruitcake and hand deliver it to people

My husband’s boss does this most years and he switches up who gets a fruitcake each year. It’s always a surprise if you’ll get a knock on the door with a very strong smelling fruitcake!

85. Visit local garden centers

They often have good Christmas lights displays and other Christmas fun. One garden center near us even offers free Santa photos if you bring a food donation for the local shelter.

86. Decorate your home with pine cones and evergreen branches you find on a walk

87. Santa Claus Parade!!

88. Make paper chains to hang up around the house or on your Christmas tree

89.Sign up with Swagbucks to make extra money easily throughout the year

You can make extra cash by playing games, taking surveys, watching videos, and more.

I know some people that save the money and gift cards they make through Swagbucks to spend on Christmas gifts at the end of the year.

Sign up for free here and get a $5 bonus.

90. Play a silly Christmas game

There are 30 Christmas games here to choose from

91. Go for a walk on Christmas Day before or after dinner

It will get you refreshed and help you feel better after all that food!

A family I know always went for a Christmas Day cross-country ski and I loved that tradition (still haven’t adopted it myself…)

92. With your spouse, agree to gift each other index funds

To me nothing says romance like an index fund.  🙂

93. Make festive holiday drinks at home some of the time instead of daily visits to Starbucks

Note I said some of the time…there’s no way I’m not getting a legit Eggnog Latte at some point in December.

94. Have a family slumber party

Set out sleeping bags around the Christmas tree

95. Read stories by the Christmas tree

96. Decide on a frugal Christmas budget and stick to it

Related reading: Saving Money at Christmas: 5 Ideas to Save and Not Feel Like a Total Scrooge

97. Dress up like reindeer and frolic in the snow

I just wanted to see who is still with me. Hey there!  🙂

98. Make a holiday letter and send it to family with important highlights from the past year

99. Make a holiday video to send to family with updates on the past year

100. Go on a sleigh ride

As Hallmark as it sounds, the best memories your kids will have about Christmas will not be the coolest toy they got, it will be the time they spent with you. So get those traditions for Christmas started and have some Christmas family fun on the cheap.

Check out how to make a Christmas budget that will work for you to help keep your finances on track this Christmas and here are 9 frugal and festive ideas if you are holiday budgeting.

100 Frugal Christmas ideas for tight budgets while still feeling totally festive (decorated Christmas tree)

Do you have any other frugal Christmas ideas?

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Wednesday 26th of October 2022

I absolutely love this list!! There truly are so many fun things to do that don't cost a dime. I remember as a child making Christmas ornaments with my mom and sisters. My mom had the patience of a saint! Such wonderful family memories can be made. Great post! Love the crinkle cookie recipe too ;)


Wednesday 26th of October 2022

Thank you Karen! I have so many good memories of the Christmas season when I was a child too. It's been fun to carry some of those Christmas traditions over with Miss O, and start our own frugal Christmas traditions too. :)

Blogger's Pit Stop #198 - Ask Dr. Ho

Tuesday 14th of January 2020

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Wednesday 13th of November 2019

I am really impressed with your post! I want to do several of these things with my kids and grands. Featuring you also this week. Best wishes, Linda @Crafts a la mode


Wednesday 13th of November 2019

Linda, thank you so much! That means so much to me :) I hope you and your fam have lots of fun with these frugal Christmas ideas.

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Tuesday 12th of November 2019

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