That budget for presents and holiday fun? Let's just say ... it goes quick!
It's a good time to remember: Holiday fun doesn't have to break the bank.
In fact, with just a little creativity and planning, it's possible to have a magical holiday season, without going into debt.
Here are 12 low-cost, family-friendly ideas to help you create priceless memories this holiday season, without spending a lot of money:
1. Check your Macaroni KID calendar
We had to start with this reminder, of course! We've got lots of FREE and low-cost family-friendly holiday events listed on our Macaroni KID calendar! Be sure to check the calendar every day to find inexpensive holiday family fun.
2. Plan a friends night in
Celebrate the season with your friends by inviting them over for a fun meal together. You can plan a full traditional holiday with all the trimmings (have everyone bring a dish!) or simply order a pizza and play games. It's the getting together that matters.
3. Bake together
Make several kinds of cookies, or just bake and decorate some simple sugar cookies! We won't even tell if you use pre-made cookie dough. After all, no matter how you do it, the end result is cookies warm from the oven and a fun time in the kitchen with your family. Here are some easy holiday cookie recipes to help you get started.
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4. Make your own holiday cards
Make your own cards using recycled card fronts from last year, then spread holiday cheer to those in need by dropping off your homemade cards for the neighbors or at local nursing homes or veterans organizations. Kids love this activity and those who receive cards will appreciate knowing your family is thinking of them!
5. Build a 'gingerbread' house
Joan Scovic's family hosts a "gingerbread" architecture contest each year on Christmas Eve. Her family started the contest back in the time when it was too expensive for them to buy pre-packaged gingerbread house kits for all five of their kids. So instead of gingerbread, they use graham crackers as their base. This annual contest is now a family favorite, and always creative, silly, and fun. See how they do it — plus pictures of some of their favorite creations over the years!
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6. Create a fancy hot cocoa bar at home
Let the kids choose their toppings! Ideas to get you started: Marshmallows, peppermint sticks, and whipped cream.
7. Go sledding
Find a nearby hill and spend an afternoon sledding together.
8. Volunteer together
'Tis the season of giving. As a family, pick an activity and volunteer. Need ideas? Here are three to help you get started: Collect food and/or supplies for your local homeless shelter or animal shelter, serve meals to the homeless, or wrap gifts as a fundraiser. Whatever you choose, do it as a family!
9. See the holiday lights
Pack your family in the car, bring a thermos of hot chocolate, crank up the holiday tunes, and drive around town to see all of the holiday decorations! Can you find the house in town that would put the Griswolds to shame? View our Local Guide to Holiday Lights.
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10. Go caroling
Gather family and friends for a caroling party! Go door to door in your neighborhood to spread all of that holiday cheer.
11. Binge-watch holiday movies
Snuggle up together with a bowl of popcorn and watch Christmas classics or discover a new favorite!
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12. Visit Santa
Because you're never too old to have a chat with St. Nick.