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.