Looking for inexpensive Christmas family fun? 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.
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:
- Holiday Money Saving Tips for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas
- Frugal Christmas gift ideas for everyone on your list
- How to save money for Christmas
- DIY Christmas gifts (easy and budget-friendly)
- 10 genius tips for flying at Christmas with kids
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 drive.
2. Make hot chocolate
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 fam 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 or 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 recipes 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.
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.
Volunteer at a local food bank, Christmas cheer board, hospital, or elder care home
13. Board game night
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
17. Find and decorate a Charlie Brown Christmas tree
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
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
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 list of what you are grateful for
This is a great exercise any time of the year but especially at Christmas when there can be excess. It’s 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 for those visual learners out there.
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 well BEFORE Christmas!!
72. Buy inexpensive stocking stuffer gifts for kids
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 start making some 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.