9 Budget-Friendly Holiday Traditions to Get Your Family in the Spirit

9 Budget-Friendly Holiday Traditions to Get Your Family in the Spirit

Check out these inexpensive ways to make this festive time of year even more magical.


By: Heather Chaet

When I was growing up, decorating the house for the holidays was a big family affair. My father would pick a day to drag out the boxes from the attic, and we spent hours hanging all sorts of merry baubles around the house. But there was one piece of holiday decor that we were all waiting patiently to unearth. It was a small three-ring circus, with figurines of lion tamers, trapeze artists and, of course, clowns. All of us worked together, arranging it on a side table in our living room. Even to this day, though my sister and I have grown up and have started our own families, my dad keeps it unassembled until we have all gathered, so we can put it up together.

Thinking about that old holiday circus made me wonder what traditions my daughter will remember from this joyful season. When the focus of much of our energy (and money) during the holidays seems to be on gifts, parties, and planning, it doesn’t leave much time in the day -- or room in the budget -- for creating traditions as a family. Yet, the fabulous thing about holiday traditions is that they don’t have to cost a lot or take up too much time. Check out these inexpensive ideas to create magical memories with your family year after year.

1. Make a holiday gratitude tree. Select some branches from the yard and place them in a vase. Cut out star-shaped pieces of paper to keep in a jar beside it. Before bedtime each night, have everyone take a star, write down something they are grateful for, and hang it on the tree. As the days go on, the tree will become filled with thoughts and blessings. Bonus hint: Keep the stars each year, stashed away with your holiday decorations. Over time, those stars will become an amazing record of memories.

2. Have an annual holiday movie marathon. Starting now, check the TV guide to see when all of your family’s favorite holiday movies and specials are airing, and hit “record” on your DVR remote. Make every Friday the night for a holiday movie screening or schedule an all-day marathon of family film fun.

3. Become elf ninjas. Fill a basket with low-cost homemade treats, like origami ornaments and gingerbread cookies. Leave it for a friend or neighbor to find, with a note explaining it is from “The Elf Ninjas.” It’s a fun way for the whole family to get involved with spreading cheer each year, even as the kids get older.

4. Clear out the old to make room for the new. Set aside a special day during the holiday season when everyone in the family goes through closets, toy bins, and drawers. Weed out those old items you and your kids don’t use anymore, pack them up, and take them to your local shelter or donation center to help those in need.

5. Kick off a yearlong “Giving Back” family project. Instead of volunteering for one day, launch a project your family will work on year-round. From writing letters to troops overseas every other Saturday morning to providing no-sew blankets for a shelter each month, snuggle by the fire and decide what your family’s yearlong project will be. It’s the perfect time to plan it out and get it started.

More from P&G everyday: 7 Tips for Holiday Party Planning on the Cheap

6. Have a winter reading ritual. Head to the library or scour your own bookshelves for classic holiday tales. Each night, read a festive story together before bedtime. It’s a simple, yet meaningful way to stop and connect as a family during the hectic season.

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7. Start a holiday collection. Think about what brings your family a bit of joy. Maybe nutcrackers or polar bears? Perhaps penguins or snowflakes? Start collecting them, and then, each year, turn on the merry tunes, whip up some hot cocoa, and make it a special family event when you bring out the holiday collection to display. Hint: Keep your eyes open throughout the year to nab new tiny additions for your collection.

8. Host a potluck scavenger hunt. Invite your friends and family to bring some yummy treats and partake in a bit of holiday fun that folks will look forward to every year. Have your guests split into teams, and follow clues to find small seasonal trinkets and little gag gifts you have hidden around your yard or home.

9. Have an annual family sleepover. While everyone is on vacation and has days off from school, pick one night to unroll the sleeping bags and camp indoors as a family amid the decorations and twinkly lights. Don those winter pajamas, order in pizza, and watch your favorite holiday movie (remember no. 2?).

Share your family’s favorite holiday tradition with us below!


Heather Chaet documents her mini parenting successes, epic mommy fails, and everything in between for a plethora (love that word!) of publications and websites such as CafeMom, New York Family, and AdWeek. While her online persona is found at heatherchaet.com, Heather lives in New York City with her film director husband and one insanely curious, cat-obsessed daughter.

Image ©iStock.com/CEFutcher


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