20 Christmas Traditions For Anyone With A Tiny Holiday Budget

The Christmas season is a special time of year because of the traditions we share with our family, friends, and ourselves.

Due to higher prices from inflation, you may wonder how to pay for Christmas activities without spending much money.

Not to worry, though; there are plenty of Christmas traditions you can start now that are perfect if you’re short on cash.

Traditions like hosting a holiday potluck or going on a Christmas lights scavenger hunt are fun ways to spread some holiday cheer, and best of all, they’re cheap too.

So whether you’re carving out some alone time to have a holiday-themed at-home spa day or inviting friends and family over for a hot chocolate party, you’re sure to find a new Christmas tradition you’ll look forward to every year.

Budget-Friendly Christmas Traditions

1. Christmas Party Potluck

Hosting a Christmas party can be costly if you provide all the food and drinks. So instead, have a potluck where everyone brings their favorite dish or drinks.

It’s fun to see what others end up bringing, and you might even get some new recipe ideas.

2. Hot Chocolate Bar

If having a potluck doesn’t appeal to you, but you still want to have a party without spending a ton of money on food and drinks, set up a hot chocolate bar.

Here are some topping ideas for your hot cocoa bar:

  • Marshmallows
  • Candy canes
  • Whipped cream
  • Christmas sprinkles
  • Caramel or chocolate sauce

Every year everyone will look forward to going to your hot chocolate party. It’s fun for both kids and adults.

For adults, you could have some alcohol options in case your guests wanted to enjoy some spiked hot chocolate.

3. Holiday Craft Projects

Flex your creative muscles by making something for the holidays. There are many Christmas craft tutorials out there for all skill levels.

Below are some craft ideas to make:

  • Ornaments
  • Advent calendars
  • Christmas wreaths
  • Christmas cards
  • Decorate stockings
  • Knitting or crocheting holiday-themed items
  • Christmas signs

4. Local Christmas Events

There are always plenty of free local events in December, including Christmas concerts, tree lighting ceremonies, festivals, craft fairs, pub crawls, and more.

Check your city’s website for events or Eventbrite, which has a free event section.

Once you’ve found an event you enjoy, make it a tradition and attend it yearly.

5. Watch Christmas Movies

Grab a cozy blanket and curl up on the couch to watch Christmas movies.

With all the stress and running around involved with the holidays, it’s nice to have some downtime before Christmas to have a movie marathon.

Don’t forget to enjoy some hot chocolate or festive snacks while watching the movie.

6. Look at Christmas Lights

Checking out some beautiful holiday lights is one tradition that never gets old.

Whether you drive around looking at lights or walk if the weather permits, looking at Christmas lights is one of the best winter activities.

7. Christmas Lights Scavenger Hunt

If you want to make looking at Christmas lights extra fun for your kids, have them partake in a Christmas lights scavenger hunt.

Make a list of things your kids need to find while you’re looking at Christmas lights. These can include things like reindeer, Santa, stars, candy canes, Disney characters, nativity scenes, and more.

Once they spot the item, they will cross it off their list. Your kids will have a blast doing this, and the great thing is it costs nothing.

Here are some easy directions for creating a scavenger hunt, plus a free Christmas lights scavenger hunt PDF you can print out and give your kids.

8. Christmas Morning Breakfast

Whether you’re an adult or child, start the Christmas day off right with a tasty homemade breakfast.

Even if you cook for many people, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Some inexpensive options include breakfast casseroles, pancakes, breakfast burritos, cinnamon rolls, omelets, and muffins.

9. Volunteer

Spread some Christmas cheer to other people in need. There are many ways to volunteer, from serving a hot meal to assisting with a toy drive for kids.

You could even organize a group of friends, family, or co-workers to join and volunteer as a group. Not only will you feel good for helping, but it will mean the world to someone in need.

10. Holiday Photoshoot

Instead of spending money getting professional pictures done, take them yourself. You can get creative with holiday props or scenic winter backgrounds.

If you make this a new tradition, it will be fun to look back at all the pictures you have taken throughout the years.

You can even have a Christmas photoshoot for your pets. Deck your cats or dogs in some inexpensive Christmas accessories for an entertaining photoshoot.

11. Gingerbread House “Potluck”

Making gingerbread houses is a popular holiday activity for kids and will keep them busy for hours.

Host a gingerbread house party for your child and their friends. Have each kid bring something to decorate the houses with.

Having each kid bring an item is fun for the kids and cuts down on the cost of buying all the gingerbread house ingredients.

12. Holiday Themed at Home Spa Day

With the stressful holidays, what better time for a bit of self-care? Have an at-home spa day but use products with a Christmas scent, such as peppermint, cinnamon, or vanilla.

Your spa products don’t need to be expensive either; you can buy items on sale or make scrubs or bath bombs.

You could always burn a Christmas candle and listen to holiday music if you don’t want to use Christmas-scented bath items.

13. Outdoor Winter Activities

From making a snowman to ice skating, there is no shortage of outdoor winter fun. Here are a few more outside activities:

  • Take a winter walk or hike.
  • Have a winter picnic.
  • Stage a snowball fight.

14. Christmas Game Night

If you’re a fan of game nights, you’ll love a Christmas-themed game night. Have people over for some good old-fashioned fun.

You can serve dessert or snacks to keep costs low or have everyone bring a festive food or drink item.

There are many Christmas game ideas online. Below are some holiday-themed games to play:

  • Christmas trivia
  • Christmas charades
  • Gift exchange games with a low price limit for gifts

15. Reading Christmas Books

A fun tradition to start with your kids is reading them Christmas books in December.

You can purchase inexpensive books at Goodwill or the dollar store. Another great option is to visit your local library.

16. Decorate Christmas Cookies

The only thing better than smelling fresh baked cookies out of the oven is decorating them.

You’ll have a ball decorating Christmas cookies while listening to Christmas music this holiday season.

This is a fun tradition for both adults and kids that everyone will want to do every year.

17. DIY Christmas Decorations

You don’t have to spend a pretty penny on decorating for Christmas. Instead, opt to make your own Christmas decorations.

Pinterest has so many DIY Christmas decor ideas for you to get inspired.

18. Make Your Own Christmas Gifts

Speaking of DIY, making homemade Christmas gifts is much cheaper than buying them at a store.

Making your gifts is a fun Christmas activity that’ll give you joy and spread some happiness to your recipient.

These DIY Dollar Tree Christmas gift ideas are under $10 and are easy to make. 

19. Festive Ice Cream Sundae Bar

Ice cream sundaes aren’t just a summer thing – they’re yummy all year round. So instead of having a typical ice cream sundae, go for some festive flavored ice cream and toppings.

Put out all your sundae ingredients and let everyone make their own.

Here are some holiday-themed ice cream flavors:

  • Peppermint
  • Eggnog 
  • Pralines

Another option is to use vanilla or chocolate ice cream and pair it with some Christmas toppings.

Below are some tasty festive sundae toppings:

  • Sugar cookie pieces
  • Christmas candy
  • Holiday sprinkles
  • Crushed peppermint
  • Toffee
  • Strawberry slices

Plus, don’t forget chocolate, caramel, and other flavored sauces.

20. Write a Letter to Santa

If you have kids who are young enough to still believe in Santa, make a family activity of writing letters to Santa.

You can even have them make artwork for Santa to keep them busy for longer. Do this while listening to Christmas music and enjoying some Christmas treats.

Making a tradition out of writing letters to Santa is something you and your kids will always remember, and don’t forget to take pictures or videos of them writing their letters.

In Closing

It can be hard to save money during the holidays without feeling like you’re missing out on all the fun.

Luckily you can still enjoy holiday traditions without breaking the bank. All the Christmas activities mentioned above are inexpensive and a great way to get into the holiday spirit. Try one of these festive activities on this list, like making your gifts, taking a winter walk, or having a Christmas photoshoot – you’re bound to like one enough that it will become your new holiday tradition.

There are also plenty of ways to make extra Christmas cash to stretch your holiday budget further.

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About the Author

Annie Brown
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Annie Brown is the founder of Savvy Honey, where she shares frugal living tips, easy recipes, and tons of other fun ideas. She has also been featured in Buzzfeed, Yahoo Finance, Woman's Day, MSN, GOBankingRates, The Spruce Crafts, and more. You can read more from Annie at savvyhoney.com