50 Frugal Christmas Ideas

Christmas is quickly approaching, and it’s time to start planning. I’ve found that if I take the time to PLAN a frugal holiday season, I get less caught up in the urge to spend once December is here. With that in mind, here are 50 frugal things you can do to celebrate the holiday season.

1. Read a book a day. Buy 24 children’s Christmas books (I bought them used to save money), wrap them up, then have your children unwrap one book a day starting December first. We re-wrap the same books year after year, and my family looks forward to reading our Christmas favorites. Apparently Mary Hunt devotes a section of Debt-Proof the Holidays to this tradition, so head to the library and check it out!

2. Celebrate Advent with an Advent Wreath. You can even make the wreath yourself. That’s more frugal than buying one. There’s even a “no-flame” version for families who have young children.

3. Pray for people send you Christmas Cards. A good time to do this is after dinner. Or pray for them during your advent time, if you’re using the advent wreath.

4. Attend a Christmas pageant in your community. Many churches and schools put them on. Check your paper or call your local churches to find one. This year one of our local churches is putting on a production of Narnia. I can’t wait!

5. Have a family slumber party in the living room. Pull out the sleeping bags and turn on the Christmas lights. Just enjoy being together as a family.

6. Go Christmas caroling. Grab some friends or just go as a family. Get to know your neighbors as you bless them with Christmas carols.

7. See the Christmas lights. Drive around your town and look at the decked out houses. Vote on which neighborhood has the best display.

8. Look at pictures from Christmas past. I don’t know about your family, but mine likes to look back in time. Pull out the photo albums. Tell your children about your Christmas celebrations as a child.

9. Do a puzzle together.

10. Bake Christmas cookies. My daughter and I have been making sugar cookies together every year for a long time.

11. String popcorn.

12. Read the Christmas story. Read it straight out of the Bible, or use a bible storybook if you have young children.

13. Pick up some library books and study Christmas Traditions in other countries.
This year I’d like to learn about Sinterklaas with my children, since I am Dutch, and my ancestors celebrated Sinterklaas.

14. Host a White Elephant gift exchange. These are so fun. With the right group of people, you’ll be rolling in laughter. If you’ve never hosted a white elephant gift exchange before, the instructions can be found here. Now where did I put that rubber chicken?

15. Make your own gifts. My personal favorites are gifts in a jar and homemade calendars. Gift baskets are also fun. There are a ton of gift mixes at Food Gifts From Your Kitchen.

16. Participate in Charitable Activities. We like to fill shoe boxes for children the same ages as our children. Our children help us shop and at the same time learn that Christmas is about giving, not getting.

17. Make paper snowflakes with your kids. If you want a real challenge, make a 3-D paper snowflake.

18. Make a paper chain to count down the days until Christmas. Alternate green and red construction paper. You can attach the chain to a paper cross or Christmas tree and hang it up on your child’s wall. Each night before bed take off a link. On Christmas Eve, the child takes off the last link, and then gets so excited that she can’t sleep. Oh wait…that happened to me. Hopefully it won’t happen to you. :)

19. Have a Christmas movie marathon. Get the movies from the library if you want to be really frugal. Some of our favorites are The Polar Express, Miracle on 34th Street, and A Christmas Story.

20. Invite some friends or family over for dinner. It doesn’t have to be formal. Just enjoy the company. Make it a potluck. Or have a soup night. Have everyone bring their favorite soup in a crock-pot.

21. Make a gingerbread house. You can try the ambitious way, or you can make one the easy way.

22. Visit a nursing home or an elderly shut in.
The holidays can be a difficult time for those who have lost loved ones. Visit an elderly person with no family nearby. Bring some flowers, food, or a homemade Christmas card. It will brighten their day…and yours.

23. Attend your community tree-lighting ceremony. Many communities have them, and they are festive occasions. If you don’t mind the crowds, tree-lighting ceremonies can be a lot of fun.

24. Put on some Christmas music and dance with your spouse and children.

25. Learn the history of Santa. I think it’s pretty fascinating.

26. Track Santa on NORAD.

27. Make candy. Our favorites are fudge and peanut brittle.

28. Make a Paper Mache snowman.

29. Play in the snow.

30. Simmer some hot cider. There are many good recipes out there. Or if you’re lazy, just heat up some bottled cider.

31. Go ice skating. Ice skating rinks frequently have special rates when kids are out of school for the holiday break. Call your local rink to find out about specials.

32. Have a birthday party for Jesus. Make a cake, invite the neighborhood kids over, and have a party. For gifts, you could give time or make a commitment to read your Bible, pray…whatever you can think of!

33. Watch the Christmas specials on TV. My personal favorites are Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and A Charlie Brown Christmas.

34. Send a card with a Christmas postmark to someone special. You can have letters postmarked at the North Pole, Bethlehem, Noel, and many more interesting places.

35. Read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever with your family. If you’ve never read it, you should. It’s really funny!

36. Hang mistletoe. Then kiss your sweetie.

37. Make your own Christmas cards. Have everyone pitch in. Family Fun has some good ideas.

38. Write a Christmas letter, with everyone in the family telling their own story of the past year. Our friends do this. They start the letter with “Dad’s Turn” and work their way down to the youngest child’s turn. It’s fun to read everyone’s differing perspective on the past year.

39. Make a video and send it to far away relatives for Christmas. We did this for years. We’d sing songs, tell stories, and just have a good time. Our relatives appreciated seeing how the kids had grown over the year.

40. Make Christmas ornaments.

41. Cut your own Christmas tree. In Oregon you can buy a permit to go to a designated place in the forest to cut a tree. The permits are $5.00. You can’t beat that. If you don’t have a forest, try a Christmas tree farm. It’s more expensive, but still often cheaper than buying from a lot. Of course the most frugal option would be to buy a fake tree to use year after year. But if you like live trees, cutting your own is the way to go.

42. Take a walk and collect pine-cones, acorns and the like for decorations.

43. Make an Advent Calendar. You could make a simple paper calendar. Or if you’re more crafty, you could make something more complicated. There are many options.

44. Make a Jesse Tree.

45. Fix a special Christmas breakfast. I usually make the Land of Nod Cinnamon Buns and Christmas Breakfast Sausage Casserole. I like these recipes, because the bulk of the preparation is done the day before.

46. Hold an open house. Send invites to all your friends, telling them to stop by your house between the hours of two and five. Set out simple finger foods, and enjoy socializing.

47. Take your family’s picture in front of the Christmas tree. Make it a yearly tradition.

48. Send a card to a U.S. soldier that you know. If you don’t know a U.S. soldier, consider making a donation to an organization that supports the troops. Or contact your local National Guard to see how you can help. Thanks, boomeyers, for correcting me.

49. Record your children singing their favorite Christmas carols. Children’s voices change so much over the years. Twenty years from now, you’ll be glad to have the recording.

50. Go to a Christmas Eve Service. It’s completely free, and it will put you in the right frame of mind to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.

Whatever you do, slow down and enjoy the season. Don’t get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas that you forget to take time to enjoy your loved ones.

23 thoughts on “50 Frugal Christmas Ideas”

  1. On gifts.com, they have free printable gift tags, santa’s letters, jar labels and gift lists. Will definitely come in handy and cut costs!

  2. My favorite gift to give during Christmas day is a fruit basket with toys and gift certificates. they can really put a smile on someone’s face;`’

  3. My favorite gift to give during Christmas day is a fruit basket with toys and gift certificates. they can really put a smile on someone’s face-‘;

  4. Did you secretly have my mom as a guest blogger for this post? We did just about every one of these at our house growing up and Christmas was always magical. I’m happy to say that those strong traditions continue today, with my parents and in my house as well. Thanks for an early reminder of the impending joy!

  5. Christmas is a great time to remember homeless animals in town pounds & shelters. At annual Christmas party we ask that our guests bring dog or cat food, treats, leashes, collars, crates (nearly-new or new), or any pet-related item for donation. We call first to see what the organization we choose that year needs & let our guests know ahead of time. Great for our children’s parties, school parties or adult/family get togethers! We’ve done this at Birthday parties & other get togethers too! :o)

  6. Great list! I wrote it all down and will be surveying my family later for what they want to do. I think it will give us the feel that the holidays didn’t just slip by without meaningful family time. Thanks for a great site with lots of information!

  7. Let me share my best Advent frugal idea…

    A few years back (before hubby & kids), my friends and I shared Sunday dinners at each others homes after going to that person’s church together. We really got to spend great times together! Some of us put on the dog and had fancier meals (traditional Sunday after church type fare- roast chicken or pot roast, etc); others in more dire financial situations got more creative in meal planning- like big pasta dinners with fresh bread and awesome salads.

    We are re-instituting this idea but instead hosting lunches and afternoon play dates for kids now. Parents can opt to stay or go out and do errands that don’t need kids seeing whats being bought. We will be having baked mac & cheese, ham and veggies at ours- with cookie decorating as an activity after lunch.

  8. I recently sent a letter with pictures and a treat package to “any soldier” through http://www.anysoldier.com. I’ve since received several emails of thanks and pictures of the platoon in Iraq. It didn’t cost much to send since our UPS Store gives discounts on shipping to soldiers serving in Iraq, and you only pay shipping to Maryland. I will continue sending what I can afford because I know I’m making a difference to home-sick soldiers.

  9. Thanks for all the tips, Lynnae! I think I’m going to try #34; my godchildren, nieces and nephews will love to get a christmas card with a North Pole postmark!

  10. Just an FYI for #48, they will no longer accept cards or packages for “Any soilder”. Too much of a security risk. I had a friend that called the Walter Reed Hospital and they said they were sorry, but only cards/packages can be delivered that are directly addressed to someone. This includes packages to overseas.

    Instead of sending an “Any Wounded Soldier” letter or package to Walter Reed, please consider making a donation to one of the more than 300 nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping our troops and their families listed on the “America Supports You” website, http://www.americasupportsyou.mil

    Other organizations that offer means of showing your support for our troops or assist wounded servicemembers and their families include:


    For individuals without computer access, your local military installation, the local National Guard or military reserve unit in your area may offer the best alternative to show your support to our returning troops and their families. Walter Reed Army Medical Center will continue to receive process and deliver all mail that is addressed to a specific individual.

    Hope that gives some other ideas!

  11. you have some great idea here! I love the book a day one and learning about Christmas in other countries. Reading this make me wish I had little kids around to get in the christmas spirit with, it’s still fun but not quite the same once the kids grow up. great post lynnae

  12. What a wonderful list! I really want to do an Open House this year, but I also don’t want to spend a lot of money on it, any good frugal finger food ideas?

  13. Lynnae,
    Thanks for the list! There are some great ideas here. We have prepared the shoeboxes with our kids for several years and now they’re grown and fix their own shoeboxes. It’s something we all look forward to every year. I also thought the idea of wrapping the children’s books and reading one each day was super. Wish I’d thought of that when my kids were young!

  14. This is a great list! I’m having a small group of friends over to string popcorn and decorate our own gingerbread men and watch a Christmas movie. Try to remember the fun I used to have with making simple decorations when I was a kid. My friends are all late 20s /early 30s and are so excited to come and do all the fun things they haven’t done for years! I’ll have to pick a few more things of your list- thanks!


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