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10 Ways to Celebrate Christmas on a Budget

Sally Painter
Saving money at Christmas, piggy bank in the snow

There are 10 fun ways you can celebrate Christmas without breaking your budget. Everyone wants to make Christmas extra special and it doesn't always require lots of money!

1. Print Your Own Cards or Send e-Cards

You can print your own Christmas cards with a little cardstock, a good photo and a color printer. Print the message you want in the font you like. Another choice is to use a low-budget printing service, such as Shutterfly or Snapfish, Just register and upload a fun photo "card" created by you and your family. You can often find special deals on most of these sites for greater savings. You will save a lot of money with any of these ideas compared to purchasing and personalizing store-bought Christmas cards.

Opt for e-Cards

The best budget buster for Christmas cards is to opt for sending e-cards. You can save on the cards and the postage! Many of the sites offer free e-cards or you can subscribe for an annual nominal fee, such as Jacquie Lawson's famous e-Card website featuring her artwork in unique interactive cards. Your family and friends will appreciate the beauty of these cards. For anyone who is eco- and green minded, e-cards are a great way to incorporate your ideals during the holidays.

2. Host a Gift Swap

Host a party for friends and/or family in lieu of gifting all family members. This will reap you excellent Christmas budget savings and your family and friends will gain a new appreciation for your cleverness. Make it a potluck dinner for an even more festive, but inexpensive event. There are two ways to conduct this type of gift swap.

Large group of colleagues exchanging Christmas gifts

Regift New But Unwanted Gifts

While it's considered rude to regift, it's thrifty to recycle items. Everyone has at least one gift they don't like and will never use. Make this a mandate for your gift swap. Just be sure you don't regift something one of your guests gave you! Instruct everyone to bring a wrapped, unwanted but good gift. Set up a table or place gifts under the tree, draw numbers, and start digging in to new presents!

Dollar Limit for Gift Swap

Another version of a family or friend gift swap if you don't want to regift, is to buy gifts for the swap. You need to limit the dollar amount to $5 or $10, with each person bringing only one gift. Make sure you give the directive that the gift needs to be funny, practical, functional, silly, old-fashioned, or some other specific theme. This type of gift swap can be loads of fun with lots of laughter. You can also take it to another level when you play Dirty Santa, also called Greed by allowing each new player to steal any of the previous gifts by swapping gifts.

3. Draw Names

Another popular way to save money on gift-giving is to draw names. This is especially good when working on a shoestring budget for a large family or a large extended family. Drawing names helps families return the focus to the season instead of material expectations. Many families draw names during their Thanksgiving get together. Set dollar amounts based on whether the gift-givers are children, teens or adults. Some families limit the name drawing to just the children of the family to save money. Watching kids unwrap Christmas toys is usually a more enjoyable gift for adults.

4. Host a Cookie Exchange

You can enjoy holiday time with friends by encouraging everyone to bake three batches of their favorite cookie recipe. This quantity allows guests to receive at least two of every cookie variety. Liven up the party with silly games, such as "Guess the Cookie," where guests try to guess the type of cookie and the ingredients. Splurge on some fun boxes to pack up everything, like Chinese food take-home containers. This exchange gives everyone more cookies and can be done in lieu of gift giving.

Host a Cookie Decorating Party

A similar idea for cookies is to host a cookie decorating party. Invite the children and let everyone get in on the decorating fun. Have each family BYO (bring your own) prepared cookie dough. You can supply the sprinkles, icing and other candies or designate each family to bring a specific one. This idea allows get-togethers during the holidays without it costing a lot of money. Let the kids also decorate the cookie boxes.

Indian family decorating Christmas cookies

5. Watch the Town Christmas Parade for Free

Many towns have a Christmas parade around Thanksgiving or a week or so after. This can be a fun outing with friends and family and is free! Host an after parade potluck dinner for the perfect ending. This idea keeps your family and friends connected to the community while creating great memories that don't dent your Christmas budget.

Marching band in Christmas parade

6. Rent Decorations From Each Other

Part of the joy of decorating for Christmas is getting out your favorite collectibles, but you may want to buy something new. Instead of spending the money, talk with friends and family about "renting" decorations from one another. Your mom may have a set of Christopher Radko ornaments that would look great on your tree this year and she might have her eye on your Precious Moments Nativity set. Make sure to list who has what, any special care or packaging, and a return date. Of course, the rent fee could be the person's favorite Christmas pie, candy or cookies. This allows everyone to enjoy fresh decorations and could become a family tradition.

7. Put on a Play Instead of Going to Movies

While there are many holiday movies to enjoy, it's also fun to spend time with loved ones by doing something new. Start a tradition of staging a holiday skit. Choose a family-friendly play late in the fall and set up a regular rehearsal time. For opening night, host a potluck and invite friends and family to enjoy your creation! Costumes can be something as simple as last year's Christmas sweater.

8. Enjoy the Light Displays for Free

Make sure to set aside time to spend an evening with family and friends visiting lighted neighborhoods or decorated cities. There's always someone who loves to decorate for Christmas, and they appreciate your attention. Exchange warm greetings and enjoy the fellowship of the community. Some communities are known for their Christmas decorations, such as North Carolina's McAdenville Christmas Town. This type of outing is free and offers opportunities for family and friends to make great Christmas memories. Be sure to take lots of pictures!

Winter day

9. Watch the Town Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

If your town has an annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, gather a group of friends or family and enjoy the town festivities. Some towns host Christmas refreshments, such as hot chocolate and cookies. Some move inside for a holiday dance with live music. These after the events activities are usually free or have a nominal price tag that's perfect for budget-saving holiday fun!

10. Sing and Play Christmas Songs

Whether you join the choir at church, go caroling, or simply listen to funny Christmas songs while sitting around the Christmas tree, the music of the season is always a delightful celebration. You don't need to pay for a pricey concert. Instead, create a playlist of your favorite carols and play throughout the Christmas season. Get your kids to create individual playlists and feature one playlist each night during dinner. If you're a musical family, make singing around the piano or accompanied by other musical instruments part of your Christmas Eve or Christmas day celebration.

Explore 10 Ways to Celebrate a Budget Friendly Christmas

There are at least 10 ways you can celebrate the joyous season of Christmas that are budget friendly. Whether you make your own gifts, choose ways to share the cost or simply enjoy free activities, you'll be creating cherished Christmas memories.

10 Ways to Celebrate Christmas on a Budget