I love the holiday season.
I don’t just mean Christmas Day — in fact, I find the actual day makes me feel a bit blue.
I’m talking about everything that happens in the lead up to the day.
The decorations. The holiday drinks. The music. The fact that sparkles are suddenly considered neutral.
And, of course, the traditions.
If you celebrate, there’s a good chance you have established some traditions of your own. We certainly do. These don’t need to be big things — and they absolutely don’t need to be expensive.
Looking for fun, frugal holiday traditions to try? Here are some of my favourites.
Five fun and frugal holiday traditions I love
There are a lot of Christmas traditions I absolutely love but for the purpose of this list, I’m focusing on some the more frugal holiday traditions I enjoy.
Using that criteria, here are my five favourites.
Looking at the lights
It’s a staple of every frugal holiday traditions list, but what can I say? I love going out to look at Christmas lights displays.
What makes this a great frugal holiday tradition is how it can be as simple as hopping in the car and going for a spin around your neighbourhood. Most displays are free to view, so the only cost associated with this relates to how much gas you use.
I love decorating for Christmas but I hate dropping big bucks on items that I only display for a few weeks every year. To balance these two things, I’ve spent a lot of time over the years…well, getting crafty.
Most of the items I use to decorate our apartment during the holiday season are the result of frugal crafting.
My personal favourite homemade decoration: my Christmas ornament jars. Made using old glass pickle and salsa jars filled with dollar store Christmas bulbs, they add a touch of sparkle to our counters — especially when paired with a candle.
Added bonus: they can be made for less than $5 a piece and assembled in about five minutes.
This is a tradition I was not familiar with before meeting Jeff. Every year, there is one movie his family makes a point to watch — sometimes more than once — during the holiday season: Christmas Vacation.
What’s great about this is the way it brings everyone together; the DVD comes out and we all gather together in the living room to take it in. Most of us have the more iconic scenes and lines memorized and even though we have seen it so many times, it’s still awesome.
It’s been eight years for me and I cannot imagine Christmas without watching this movie at least once. Needless to say, the DVD — which has been around even longer than I have — has paid for itself.
Another frugal holiday tradition introduced to me by Jeff’s family.
Every year, my mother-in-law, when decorating her tree, hides four items among the various ornaments: a spider (made of pipe cleaners and bells — very hard to spot!), a wicker-esque squirrel, a teeny, tiny Tweedy Bird and, finally, the Christmas pickle. The challenge is simple: find all four ornaments.
And let me tell you: even though we’re all adults and there’s no prize associated with this at all (well, except bragging rights), we all take this hunt very seriously.
The cost associated with this depends on what you do for your hunt. If you do decide you want to purchase special ornaments for a hunt — like the Christmas pickle — there will be some upfront cost in year one that won’t exist in the years that follow (well, as long as you take care of the ornaments). There’s also an option to have a prize for the person who finds the ornament(s) first, if you want to go that route (although trust me: as a multi-year champion, bragging rights are a solid prize).
Christmas Eve snacks
Not that there is ever a shortage of delicious food during the holiday season — my mother-in-law is an excellent baker and she really puts her skills on display for Christmas — but one thing I look forward to every year is the post-Christmas Eve church service snacks.
I think I know why, too: while most treats at Christmas err on the side of sweet, Christmas Eve is the time where snacks on the saltier end of the scale come out.
I’m talking crackers, cheese, meats, dips, chips…all that good stuff. After returning home from the Christmas Eve service, the snacks are assembled and brought out to the living room coffee table, where we gather to enjoy them by the light of the Christmas tree.
Sometimes, we put on a movie; sometimes, we play a game. Every time, we enjoy the chance to spend some time together.
On the cost side, this really depends on how many people you’re feeding and what you want to include in your spread. Some items (such as crackers and chips) will be less expensive, while cheese and meats might cost a little more. That said, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to make a great Christmas Eve spread.
Paying it forward
Finally, one of my personal favourite parts about the holiday season: finding ways to give back.
Whether it’s giving money to a worthy cause or volunteering for a charity you love, there are so many ways to give back at the holiday season. The price tag might be a bit larger than some of the other more frugal Christmas traditions, but in my experience, the emotional payoff makes it more than worth it.
The older I get, the more I appreciate the fun, frugal holiday traditions I’ve been introduced to over the years.
Taking time to enjoy these little rituals and activities reminds me of how important it is to slow down, relax and be present during the holiday season — something that can be very easy to forget.
What are you frugal holiday traditions?