December is my favorite month: the time of year when my family draws close and participates in fun holiday traditions.
We celebrate Christmas, and my husband, Daniel, and our two children (Penelope, 3, and 18-month-old Georgia) enjoy the holiday as much as I do.
It’s exciting to introduce young children to the holiday season. Each year feels fresh and new for them, and you can see it on their faces! As parents, we document and remember the traditions we create in our home.
It’s easy to get stressed as the holidays approach, with high expectations and heavily advertised sales at every store. Our family has chosen not to allow our holiday spirits to be dictated by the number of presents under the tree, or the amount of money in our bank account.
Instead, we take part in frugal traditions during December to create happy, life-long memories.
Here are some of our favorite money-saving traditions.
1. Baking Our Favorite Cookies
Buying baked goods is expensive, while baking your own is pretty cheap. During December, flour and sugar are on sale at our local Walmart, so we also stock up for the rest of the year.
We usually spend one weekend of the month baking and decorating our favorite cookies together.
Shortbread cookies are easy to make, and our kids love helping mix the dough, cutting out fun shapes and sprinkling on decorations.
We buy pretty containers at the dollar store and give batches of cookies to family, friends and neighbors as homemade gifts.
Money Spent: Less than $25
Money Saved: About 15 gifts at $10 each gift, for a total of $150
2. Making Handmade Ornaments
One of my favorite holiday traditions is making salt dough ornaments. We love this simple and easy recipe that uses common kitchen ingredients, like flour and salt.
We always make a few ornaments to hang on our tree, but we save most of them for the special people in our lives, and use them as gifts for grandparents, aunts and uncles, and child care providers.
Money Spent: $0-$10
Money Saved: About 10 gifts at $25 each gift, for a total of $250
3. Hosting a Holiday Open House
The holidays always offer many events and parties to attend.
So many, in fact, that it’s often still hard to connect with friends and family when everyone has so much going on.
So, we’re planning to host an early December “Holiday Open House” to connect with everyone before the busy season begins. And, this gathering can work no matter what holiday your family celebrates!
All friends and family are invited to drop by at their convenience. People often offer to bring an appetizer or drink, and I usually feel guilty saying yes.
However, this time I’ll accept any offer to minimize the cost of hosting the party.
Money Spent: $50 or less
Money Saved: The cost of gas to visit individual friends and family, and a gift for another party
4. Saying “Yes” to Thrifted Gifts
Our family has no problem saying yes to thrift gifts. Instead of buying expensive new toys, clothes and books, we shop thrift stores to find the best deals.
We wrap thrifted gifts for our young children, and are happy to give inexpensive gifts to one another.
We’ve also found some great ideas for other recycled and homemade gifts here.
Money Spent: $50 or less for a family of four
Money Saved: More than $150
5. Watching Our Favorite Holiday Movies
As snow starts to fall and we turn on our cozy fireplace, it only feels natural to put on our favorite holiday movies.
We have Netflix, which offers many movies to enjoy throughout December.
Our favorite family film is Elf, and we turn watching it into a big event each year. We grab our warmest blankets, build a pillow fort and snuggle together with popcorn and our favorite holiday drinks.
Money Spent: $5 for popcorn and hot chocolate, and Netflix offers a free, one-month trial — or here’s a way to get Netflix for free
Money Saved: More than $30 to see the latest movie in theaters
6. Volunteering for a Meaningful Cause
One of the most important parts of the holiday season for us is giving back. It feels good to show love and kindness, and we share the lesson with our children by caring for others in need.
We volunteer whenever we can, and get involved in local events with our kids. It might mean delivering boxes of food to families in need, or helping at a local food drive.
Whatever we do, we show our children generosity is the greatest gift.
Money Spent: $0
7. Decorating Our Christmas Tree
My favorite childhood holiday memory is decorating our Christmas tree each year. I loved the smell of fresh pine needles, and digging out all our Christmas ornaments from years past.
Unpacking each tissue-wrapped ornament was like unwrapping a special, familiar gift. These memories can last a lifetime, which is why decorating our tree is a special occasion.
We don’t worry about having a perfect tree — our children usually end up hanging all the ornaments in one cluster, and it’s beautiful all the same.
We just enjoy our time together, with Christmas music in the background and warm hot chocolate in our mugs.
Money Spent: $0
Your Turn: What are your favorite frugal Christmas traditions? Let us know in the comments!
Brianna Bell is a wife, mother and freelance writer specializing in articles on personal finance and family. She has been featured in the Globe & Mail, and has been referred to as a “tiger mom of personal finance.” You can find her blog at mrsbriannarose.blogspot.com and on Twitter @briannarbell.