Wednesday, December 19, 2018

8 Frugal Family Christmas Ideas

Christmas is five days away! I can not believe it! Where did December go? When I am writing this post, I have almost all of the gifts bought and hidden away but not a single gift is wrapped. I really need to get on that.

If you're like me, at this point in the Christmas season your budget is stretched. You may still have some gifts to buy or if you're one of the lucky ones you're done and just sitting back enjoying life and sipping on eggnog. Regardless if you are the one that needs to get more gifts or the mom that is finished, these ideas are for you and your family.

Although society has turned Christmas into a truly commercial holiday, the true meaning behind it hasn't changed. It's the time to stop and reflect and celebrate Jesus miracle birth. It's a time for family and laughter. 

As a mom, I want to make Christmas great every year. I don't make my Christmas compete with the previous one, and think this will be the best one yet. I've learned that kids think they are all great. Kids are actually quite simple, it's society that has encouraged us to spend more to find happiness. I've found this to be the opposite. 

About 17 years ago, I found myself as a single mom with one income and lots of bills. With only one income it can be a bit tough to buy the latest gadgets and gizmos or accessories for the gadgets and gizmos. I was seriously stressed about how I was going to make Christmas great. I had to find creative ways to celebrate and make memories without spending a lot of money.

Frugal is something I truly embraced as a single mom. I had to learn to be creative with groceries, vacations and Christmas. But maybe you're not a single mom, maybe you're a stay at home mom on a tight budget. You can't see me but I'm raising my hand! Kids don't talk about the gifts when they grow up they talk about the memories. 

To make this list I polled my children and asked what were some of the Christmas traditions they liked. They even included some that I didn't consider a tradition but apparently we do it every year. 

1. Christmas lights
This tops the list because it was the first thing that came out of each of my kids mouths. Driving around to see Christmas lights in our pajamas is truly one of my favorite family traditions. Where we live there's no telling what they weather will be like so sometimes we'll have hot chocolate or sometimes we stop for ice cream. 

There is something special about driving around looking at Christmas lights and hearing your children's excitement about a Star Wars or Minnie Mouse decoration or laughing at the hanging Santa. 

2. Christmas Parade
Before the parade.
We get there early!

Second on the list for my children was the Christmas Parade. The parade is the same Thursday every year so it makes it really easy to plan for. To save money, I pack snacks, water and a thermos of hot chocolate. I buy a couple of pizzas on the way and when we get to our chairs we people watch, play uno and eat pizza. It is truly a great time. Is it hectic? Yes! Are there lots of people? Yes! But when you see your child sitting enamored by the lights and the music, nothing else matters.

3. Music
Although when you read this you probably thought of traditional Christmas music, my daughter had a different type of music in mind when she said this. She loves Pentatonix Christmas music. However, to curb her obsession, I only let it be played from the day after Thanksgiving until New Years. Once November hits she starts counting down the days until she can listen to it. My family loves to sing, no really LOVES TO SING! When we're in the car harmonizing singing, my heart truly feels like it will burst out of my chest. The baby has started to catch on to some of the songs and "sings" along as well. Be still my heart!

If you want a great selection of free Christmas music try youtube or download your library's audible app. You can check out Christmas music and play it through your phone!

4. Watch Christmas Movies
This is truly one of my favorite things to do. Since I have such a huge age spread it makes movie watching difficult. But at Christmas, we can all sit around and watch Christmas movies together. We turn off all of the lights except the light from the tree, everyone is in their jammies and under blankets and I've made cinnamon rolls or brownies or cookies to munch on. 

For those of you without cable, local channels are always playing Christmas movies, Netflix or Amazon Prime have a great selection of movies. But if you don't have those, hit up your library. They usually have a great collection of movies to borrow and you can borrow them through the app as well so you don't even have to spend gas. WIN!

5. Christmas Stories
The girls taking
3 links off of the
countdown chain.
As a former teacher I have my fair collection of Christmas stories. I bring them out only at Christmas and place them in a basket by the tree. The kids usually rummage around and find their favorites. Reading aloud stories to children is an amazing way to encourage reading. It introduces great vocabulary, provides a model of fluent, expressive reading (shameless teacher plug). 

I've seen where some people wrap the books and they use it as their Christmas countdown. I thought about doing this and then realized I'm terrible at the perpetual calendar thing and countdowns are even worse. I've tried making a countdown chains and we seriously end up taking off 3-4 links at a time because I always forget. I'm just being real!

If you don't have a great collection of Christmas books, you can go to your library and check out a bunch. Once again the audible library app is great here too.

6. Nativity Scene
My youngest playing with
the Nativity Scene.

This tradition is free to us now, but it did have an initial investment. When my oldest daughter was little we bought a Little People Nativity. It only comes out at Christmas and since she loves little people, she just naturally gravitated to it. She reenacts Jesus birth and sometimes her other little people come and visit Jesus also. This year I had a hard time finding it among the decorations and my daughter was adamant that we find it. Now my youngest is playing with it also.

These last two are more adultish and not necessarily my family traditions, but I included them because I like them and they're free.

7. Christmas Plays or Concert
Having the age spread I do, I've been seeing children's Christmas play for quite a while and will continue for sometime. There is something so sweet about seeing a little kids reenacting the birth of Jesus. Of course it's usually full of laughter as the little one on the front of the risers is usually doing something that makes their mom or dad shake their head. 

Another event that is enjoyable is a Christmas Concert or Cantata. Churches usually advertise on their marque or even on the local Christian radio if they are having a free Christmas Concert. Many church choirs perform Christmas Cantatas as well. 

8. Christmas Eve Candlelight Service
This is one of my favorite childhood memories. At our church, at the end of the service, we all went outside and each person was given a candle. Then the first candle of each row was lit and then used to light the next person's candle. On and on this happened until on the front lawn of the church there was a beautiful ember glow. We sang Christmas songs and just enjoyed being there.

If your church doesn't do this or you don't have a regular home church, there will be a church somewhere doing it. Most advertise on their marquee, even in the paper or on Facebook. 

These are just some of my ideas. I'm sure there are a slew of frugal family Christmas ideas. 

What are some of your Family Christmas Ideas?

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