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Are you looking for ways to make Christmas amazing and memorable even when your budget is tight?
If you love Christmas as much as I do, you want everything to be perfect. Listen. I know what it’s like to be trying to enjoy Christmas, except you “ain’t got no money.” Seriously. If you don’t believe me, go back and read where I talked about only having $20 to spend per kid one Christmas.
Today, my goal today is to challenge you to break away from the lie that in order to make Christmas amazing you have to spend loads of money on everybody and their brother–you don’t.
17 Ways to make Christmas amazing
It’s up to you. Sometimes you just have to start something new. Or go back to something old. Here’s my list of free or cheap things to do during the Christmas season that everybody will enjoy!
1. Look at Christmas lights.
If your gas envelope is running low on cash, you need to be creative. Ask around and find out which neighborhoods have the best lights in your area. Stick to that one neighborhood if you have to. Drive slowly, pack some hot chocolate for everyone and maybe even a batch or two of sugar cookies. Be sure to have your favorite Christmas album in tow. Then enjoy it! Love.every.minute!
2. Have a Christmas scavenger hunt.
In conjunction with looking at Christmas lights, throw in a scavenger hunt. We look forward to our scavenger hunt since we started it a couple of years ago. That first year, we got the kids ready for bed (pjs and all), then loaded them up in the car for a wonderful late night surprise, complete with hot chocolate and cookies.
**To make the scavenger hunt more interesting, I think we’ll divide up in teams–boys in one vehicle, girls in the other. Set a time to meet back up and whoever has the most checked off their lists wins. We’ll use our phone cameras to make sure no one cheats! 😉
3. Do one festive activity each week leading up to Christmas.
First, choose something fun each week to do. Then be sure to write it on the calendar. If you don’t, you are more likely to forget and not do it. On our list is the local parade, a light display, a scavenger hunt, and maybe even a train ride in the Okefenokee swamp!
4. Visit family or old friends you haven’t seen in awhile.
This is one of the best ways to make Christmas amazing. Seeing old friends and family you haven’t seen an a while will seriously make your heart smile as you make unforgettable memories. Each year, choose a couple of people or families that you haven’t seen an a while, and make an effort to connect with them in a personal way. While it can be difficult and even kind of awkward because you haven’t seen them in a while, it is such a blessing for you and them! You could make it a little more fun by surprising them with a little treat!
5. Do a random act of kindness.
Think of those who serve all the time. For example, our mail carrier works so hard. She delivers packages of all sizes here and in all kinds of weather, as does yours. So, this year, why not reach out to someone like that and bless him or her? Make it a priority to add this kind of random act to your bucket list!
6. Give to someone less fortunate than you.
It’s easy to get caught up in our own legit struggles. However, lots of us spend way too much money on things we don’t actually need at Christmas. Why not take just a portion of that and participate in a gift giving activity like Operation Christmas Child or a toy drive. Perhaps, your church has adopted a group of people to do the same kind of thing for locally. Maybe you have a women’s and kids shelter near you or a homeless men’s shelter. Usually, it doesn’t take much looking around us to find someone less fortunate, and truly for those who don’t have enough for Christmas, a small, thoughtful gift will be a blessing!
7. Make Christmas cookies.
We do this every Christmas Eve. Admittedly, the cookies may not be beautiful, but the kids have a blast! What if you have lots of littles? Take my word for it, making it all from scratch is not worth it–make it easy on yourself and buy the cookie dough or make it ahead of time and freeze. Here’s my favorite sugar cookie recipe from my high school Home Economics class, an oldie but a goodie!
What you need:
1 1/2 (3) cups sifted flour
1/2 (1) tsp. baking powder
1/2 (1) tsp. salt
1/2 (1) tsp. baking soda
3/4 (1 1/2) cup shortening
1 (2) egg
2 (4) heaping tsp. milk
1 (2) tsp. vanilla
(Amounts in parenthesis are doubled.)
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Sift together dry ingredients into a large bowl.
- Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse meal.
- Blend in eggs, milk, and vanilla until smooth.
- Roll dough on a floured surface.
- Cut in shapes and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.
- Bake 8 minutes or until lightly golden.
Enjoy baking those cookies, ya’ll! And we use royal icing to decorate. Here’s a recipe for ya!
8. Pray over your gifts.
We are really actually praying over gifts for the first time ever! I’m learning that it is making me want to give more and love on people. My heart has made such a change that I cannot even explain it to you. Just do it. You will be amazed at what God will do with your heart. No longer am I dreading shopping. Neither am I frustrated because I have no money or no gift ideas. God’s going to show us. I know He is!
9. Give an advent calendar to someone.
Another thing my small children look forward to every year is the Advent calendar that the grandparents bring them. Since they are not very expensive, why not pick up and extra one or two for some kids you know who may not have something fun like that to look forward to? (That may be considered a random act of kindness.)
10. Share a meal with friends.
Share a meal; you won’t be sorry! However, do yourself a favor and let it be laid back and not too taxing. Simple is always better, especially with kids involved.
11. Make ornaments.
Ahhh, Christmas ornaments…these are a few of my favorite things! Therefore, we do this frequently. Sometimes because we don’t have the money to buy new ornaments, but sometimes because we find something really cute we want to make. When Chris and I were first married, we hung out with a dear couple of friends. They were also newly married and equally as broke. So, our first Christmas as married women, she and I made ornaments. Every ornament on our first tree as a married couple was handmade. I loved that tree, and I still use some of those same ornaments year after year–for 20 years!
12. Watch some Christmas movies.
If you don’t have Hallmark or Netflix or Prime or Disney+, check out your local library–it might just be loaded with great movies. I’m providing links, but seriously, check out your local library before you buy! Here are some of our favorites…
Muppet Christmas Carol
Mickey’s Christmas Carol
It’s a Wonderful Life
The Christmas Shoes
The Nativity Story
Home Alone 2
The Santa Claus
13. Make gifts.
Since there are hundreds of DIY gifts out there, this is easier now than ever. I for one, love when someone takes the time to craft something for me whether it’s treats or hot cocoa mix or a picture frame or scarf. You don’t have to be crafty to make a gift. (Ask me how I know.) And if your budget just won’t allow for you to buy, but you desire to give a gift, do a search, get creative, make something!
14. Decorate the tree together.
This year was one of the most enjoyable Christmas decorating sessions we’ve had in a long time. Why? I think it was because I let the little kids help and didn’t fuss when they clumped all their ornaments in one small section. Don’t worry, you can fix it later. (I rearranged after they went to bed! 😉 )
15. Tell your loved ones how thankful you are for them and purpose to carve out time for them.
This is huge, friend! We had a family who we have been friends with for a long time come to us and each talk about why they loved and were thankful for each of us. It was one of the most touching things I have ever been a part of.
16. Do something new for Advent.
Whether it’s a devotion or stories or a Jesse Tree, find something that will help you point your kids to Jesus. This alone will cause your heart to soften and smile even in the chaos.
17. Open gifts one at a time.
Several years ago, we started the tradition of opening our gifts one at a time rather than all going nuts at once. This made us slow down and delight in one another’s joy, which in itself can make Christmas amazing! It also takes the chaos out of Christmas morning.
Most importantly, slow down.
Enjoy. Stop wishing it away. Choose joy. Snuggle on the couch or the porch swing. Allow yourself to be spur of the moment if you want to. Remember, the season will come and go very quickly, so we need to make the most of it and enjoy rather than dreading it.
I know what it’s like to feel defeated because you have no money and nothing to give. But what I have learned is that I DO have something to give and ways to make Christmas amazing and enjoyable for everyone in my family! You can, too, girl! Merry Christmas!