Christmas is my favorite time of the year. Not only do I love the movies and songs, but I love the budget-friendly Christmas traditions that my family plans each year.
With a family of six, some of the fun Christmas traditions that I’ve seen listed as just too pricey. We do splurge on Christmas presents, but we try to keep the holiday season as budget-friendly as possible.
Our Christmas celebrations start on December 1st. We take time reading about the birth of Christ and focusing on the reason for the season. However, I know that not everyone believes that is the reason for the season!
I wanted to share some of our budget-friendly Christmas traditions that also, for the most part, secular. While we do focus on Jesus, a lot of our traditions are just fun things that come about in the season or try to foster good traits in our children.
20 Budget-Friendly Christmas Traditions
1. Polar Express Night
One of our favorite Christmas movies of all time is Polar Express. We love it so much that we have the DVD for the car so we can continually watch it.
My kids look forward to our Polar Express night. They know that they get to watch the movie with Mommy and Daddy. We make hot chocolate, popcorn, and other yummy snacks.
We all pile onto our couch – thankfully, we have a couch that fits us all and snuggle under blankets. Some years, to announce that it is the night, I make them Golden Tickets. We’ve also had Polar Express themed Christmas Eve nights.
You can be as creative as you want, but the goal here is to watch the movie as a unit. Our kids watch it a lot, but that doesn’t mean we always watch it with them.
2. Bake Cookies
Baking cookies is just part of Christmas. Now, if you aren’t careful, baking cookies can become expensive. Some ingredients, such as anything with nuts, are expensive, even during the holiday season.
I like to make Italian Ricotta Cookies, No-Bake Cookies, Sugar Cookies, Snickerdoodles, and a few others. Those are my go-to cookies. I typically even stay away from stuff that takes chocolate chips because that’s pricey!
3. Deliver Cookies to Your Neighbors
If you have a lot of extra cookies, why not deliver some to your neighbors? This is great for kids to do, and anyone loves to receive cookies from little kids.
My kids box up a dozen cookies for each of our neighbors. Then, I watch from a distance as they go up to each house and deliver them. (Don’t worry, I’m usually just off of the porch!)
4. Have a Grinch Marathon
I’m a HUGE Grinch fan. I swear it’s one of the best Christmas movies – perhaps the absolute best.
Now, there are three Grinch movies available. I have to be honest – I’m not a real big fan of the version with Jim Carey. He’s so funny, but I just didn’t like it.
However, on our Grinch Marathon, we watch all of them. Before, we only had two to watch. Last year, I took the big kids to go see the newest Grinch movie. We LOVED it (and already started watching it this year).
Now, we will watch all three Grinch movies. Usually, we make pizza and popcorn to go along with the movies. Homemade pizza is loved by everyone and can be made cheaply, perfect for a budget-friendly Christmas tradition.
5. Homemade Hot Chocolate Night
Guys, there isn’t anything yummier than homemade hot chocolate. It’s so much better than those little packets of hot chocolate. Add in plenty of marshmallows, and it’s a serious treat.
So, make a simple tradition of having a night when you make delicious hot chocolate. It’s truly a budget-friendly Christmas tradition since you probably have the ingredients in your cabinet already!
6. Have a Netflix Christmas Movie Marathon
Netflix has plenty of great Christmas movies every year. Now that Netflix makes their own movies and shows, you can find some fun movies that are unique.
Take a night when you guys don’t have anything to do and binge watch some Christmas movies as a family.
7. Donate Canned Goods to a Local Food Pantry
Christmas time is the perfect time to give back. There are many ways to give back to your community, and one of the ways we give back is to donate canned goods to a local food pantry.
I suggest that you give the food pantry a call to find out what foods are most desired and needed by those who use their services. Take your kids and have them help pick out what to donate. Make sure your kids are involved throughout the entire process.
To be honest, there are a few benefits to this. Of course, giving back is important when we are so blessed. You never know when you might be in those positions, so give to those who are in need.
It also encourages your kids to be mindful of those who are less fortunate. We all want kids who are caring about others. Plus, giving also blesses the giver. It feels good, internally, to give back to others.
8. Drive Around to Look at Lights
This tradition started when I was little. One of my favorite things to do when I was a child was to drive around and look at all the houses with Christmas lights.
Now, we take our kids to do the same thing as many times as we can. We also bring hot chocolate, and each child has their own reusable mug.
9. Check Out Local Light Up Nights
Does your town have local light up nights? These nights are typically when the town lights up their large Christmas tree for the first time. Some have a parade or choir to go along with the light-up night.
We try to attend these. It’s free unless you want some hot chocolate or other snacks. Plus, it’s fun for the kids and encourages participation in your local community.
10. Look for Local Christmas Activities or Attractions
Our town has a new Christmas attraction called the Steubenville Nutcracker Village. We head down at least once a Christmas season. There are life-sized nutcrackers, a large Christmas tree, an Advent market with tons of vendors, bands, and food trucks.
Look in your town and surrounding towns for local attractions. As much as we like to do things such as go to a local amusement park and check out their Christmas activities, it often costs $15-20 per person to enter and that’s too much money for a family of 6.
11. Cut Down Our Christmas Tree
Here is another tradition that I’ve had since I was a child. We never went to a store to buy our tree, and it was never a fake tree. Instead, we had one day devoted to cutting down our Christmas tree.
I still get giddy and excited for this day. We bundle the kids up in their snow gear and head to one of our local Christmas tree farms.
My husband gripes about how long I take to pick my Christmas tree – my mom is the same way! It MUST be perfect. Then, he gets to work, chopping it down.
We usually get pizza, let the tree unthaw a bit while we watch Christmas movies, and then we decorate our tree. It’s one of the best traditions!
12. Buy Toys for a Child on an Angel Tree
This might not seem like a budget-friendly Christmas tradition, but you can do as little or as much as you want. You might not want to do the angel tree, but you can call the local shelters to find out what they need. Some of them request gift cards or other items for their visitors.
Teaching our kids to give back is a huge priority for our family. When we have the extra money, we love to bless a child with several Christmas gifts they desire.
13. Make Salt Dough Ornaments
If you’re looking for budget-friendly Christmas traditions, salt dough ornaments must be on the list. Seriously, they’re so cheap to make and kids love them.
These ornaments can be made before or after you have your Christmas tree. Grandparents love these ornaments as well!
14. Make Popcorn & Cranberry Garland
Here is another cheap to make, easy decoration for your Christmas tree. Stringing popcorn and cranberries is so easy that even your preschooler can do it.
We each make a string for our tree. Sometimes, a well-meaning toddler might eat the popcorn off the strings or before they make it on the string. It only costs a few dollars to get a bag of cranberries, popcorn, needles, and string.
15. Check Out Local Light Attractions
Do you have any local light attractions? We head to Oglebay Park in Wheeling, WV to check out their Light Up Festival.
You stay in your car and drive through tons of lights. They have different displays of characters, and many of them move. It’s such a fun experience, and they charge $20 for a pass to come as many times as you’d like. That’s not too bad!
16. Go to Local Christmas Parades
Most areas have Christmas parades. Kids love parades! They see all of the floats go by and get handfuls of candy. Our area has, at least, three different parades we try to attend.
We love watching the local bands play and the creativity of the local businesses and their floats. Plus, they toss out candy, and the kids think it’s the coolest thing ever. It doesn’t cost us a penny to go, except for some time, a perfect budget-friendly Christmas tradition.
17. Have Cinnamon Rolls & Movies in the Morning
When you think of a movie marathon, you probably think of nighttime, but why not switch it up? Movies and morning time go great together. Instead of doing it during the evening, make a batch or two of cinnamon rolls (or give my banana muffins a try) and settle down for some moning snuggles with a good movie.
18. New Jammies on Christmas Eve
Here is another Christmas tradition that was started by my parents and my grandparents. Every year on Christmas Eve, we get new jammies. Now, my in-laws and parents take turns getting our kids’ new Christmas jammies.
2018 was my in-laws year, so this year, my parents will buy the matching jammies. It’s a fun, simple tradition that our kids think is nice. Plus, I think they’re adorable!
19. Carol on Christmas Eve
Does your family love to sing? Why not go around your neighborhood and sing some Christmas carols? Caroling with kids is so fun! They love to sing silly songs, such as Frosty the Snowman. If you can find some local neighbors who want t join in or other family members, it’s even better!
20. Have a Huge Breakfast on Christmas Morning
We didn’t start this Christmas tradition until I met my husband. It comes from his side of the family.
They didn’t focus on a large Christmas dinner – they saved the large dinner for Christmas Eve. Instead, Christmas morning is a feast. After the kids open their presents, we sit down for a massive breakfast – totally cooked by the MEN!
Eggs, bacon, ham, little smoked sausages, fried potatoes, cinnamon rolls, plenty of coffee, and more fill the table.
I look forward to Christmas breakfast every year. It’s such a treat.