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16 FUN and Frugal Christmas Traditions

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If you’re looking for new Christmas traditions to do with your family this year, consider kicking the holiday season off MERRY and BRIGHT with these festive, fun and frugal ideas. Enjoy! 🙌 🎄

1. Go See Christmas Lights

Bundle up the family and go hunting for Christmas lights in your area by car, weather permitting. Don’t forget to bring some hot chocolate for the road! To make it even more fun, you can print off this cute scavenger hunt list and see who can cross off all the items on their list first.

In our family, we split up the adults/kids randomly in several cars on Christmas Eve and see who can find the items around the neighborhood, cross them off the list the fastest, and then make it back to the main house first! Everyone loves a little friendly competition (maybe too much 😉)!


2. Build a Gingerbread House

You can make your own from scratch or buy a store bought kit and decorate it however you like. Either way, it’s a great way for the kids to be creative while having holiday fun together!


3. Make Handmade Ornaments

Homemade ornaments are always a favorite since they hold sentimental value and wonderful memories! Plus, they are perfect to make with the kiddos over Christmas break. For ideas, see our Farmhouse Ornaments, Sliced Wood Ornaments and these Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments.

You can also make these easy Cupcake Liner Ornaments, Pom Pom Ornaments, Snowman Ornaments, Puzzle Piece Ornaments or even these fun Wine Cork Christmas Ornaments… all of these ornaments would make great holiday gifts too!


4. Get Creative with Elf on the Shelf

This tradition is based on the children’s book Elf on the Shelf where a magical elf visits your house on Santa’s behalf to monitor pre-Christmas naughty/nice behavior. Each day the elf moves if behavior is good and fun/creativity ensues (go here for 20 EASY ideas you can try this year!).

Most kids really enjoy trying to find the Elf each morning (or even trying to catch the Elf in action) – it can be a great incentive to get them out of bed and moving each morning! For a more frugal Elf, check out how you can create a personalized Elf on the Shelf using Dollar Tree items!

Also, a fun alternative to the “Elf on the Shelf” are The Kindness Elves! The Kindness Elves are magical friends who sprinkle kindness and joy wherever they go! They love to visit your home and spread happiness with children, encouraging them to do small acts of kindness in their daily lives.


5. Make a Holiday To-Do List

…with our printable Christmas Bucket List! This is a great way to get everyone in the Christmas spirit and to participate in fun and free things as a family during the holidays.


6. Countdown to Christmas with an Advent Calendar

If you’re looking for ways to countdown the days until Christmas, consider buying an Advent Calendar or even making one yourself, like this super easy Muffin Tin Advent Calendar! If you’d rather purchase an Advent Calendar, there are all sorts of types to choose from!


7. Bake Cookies and Treats

There’s something extra fun about baking during the holidays. Not to mention that all those baked goodies are perfect for sharing with neighbors, friends, family, teachers, leaving on a plate for Santa 🎅🏻, etc. Try these Festive Red Velvet Cookies or even these Super Soft Sugar Cookies! Yum!

Other Holiday Recipes – Perfect for Gifting:


8. Pay It Forward

One of my favorite things to do during the holidays! Grab a bin and have the kids pick out their unused or unwanted toys and warm clothing to donate to a shelter. New cozy blankets, non-perishable food, and personal care items from your stockpile are great items to donate as well.

Other ways to pay it forward are to make blessing bags for the homeless, adopt a family for the holidays, visit a nursing home, volunteer at a soup kitchen, leave a “thank you” note for your mail carrier or garbage man, send care packages to military overseas, donate toys to charity…


9. Go Christmas Caroling

Either entertain your neighbors or ask a local nursing home if you can get a small group together and spread some cheer. Or, if you’re wanting to change things up, make the words to your own Christmas Carol and sing it to the neighbors when you bring them treats. People will love it! 🙂


10. Get Crafty

If you’re looking for fun crafts to do with the kids over the Christmas break, consider making these simple and easy Christmas Decoration Craft Ideas that just about anyone can make!

Also, check out this Cookies for Santa Plate, these Plastic Spoon & Fork Christmas Trees, these cute Painted Santa and Snowman Logs, Ornament Wreath, or this fun Rustic Santa Centerpiece!


11. Host a White Elephant Party

https://hip2save.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/white-elephant-invitations-free-hip2save.comA white elephant gift exchange is a popular game where each member of a group brings a funny/interesting wrapped present of a certain dollar amount – entertainment then ensues as people exchange and steal gifts. And everyone ends up a winner with a gift!

If you’re hosting or attending a white elephant gift exchange soon, here are some tips and free printables to help you plan and then be sure to check out these 20 White Elephant gift ideas!


12. Get OUTside

If you live near snow, build a snowman or go sledding – or even gather the snow to make Snow Ice Cream! If you’re in a warmer location, participate in a local Jingle Bell Run, find an ice skating rink, or go for a hike. Instead of a snow ball fight, I’ve even heard of some families having a flour fight! 😱


13. Complete a Holiday Puzzle

Every year, we order a few 1,000-piece Christmas puzzles and complete them as a family. Sometimes, we’ll even get the puzzle framed and use it for next year’s holiday wall decor! Its fun to work towards accomplishing something together, especially while watch holiday movies…


14. Have a Christmas Movie Marathon

With all the free Hallmark movies and other Christmas Classic movies on TV during the holiday season, it’s such a fun and frugal at-home idea – just pop some popcorn, grab some leftover Halloween candy 😳 , make some hot cocoa, and you’ll have free entertainment! If you’re like us, we have about 25 Christmas movies recorded on our DVR that we need to catch up on! Movie night!


15. Make Magic Reindeer Food

Making magic reindeer food is such a fun Christmas Eve tradition in and makes a great small gift or holiday party favor. The kids can even make it themselves and give it to their friends or relatives too. Have the kids sprinkle some magic food outside on Christmas Eve for Santa’s reindeer!


16. Wear Matching Christmas Jammies

(Can ya tell who didn’t want to take this pic?! 😉)

Many families do this and it makes for FUN pictures! 😃 On Christmas Eve, there is a knock at the door and Santa’s elves secretly leave new Christmas pajamas for everyone to wake up in on Christmas. Plus, with all of the previous deals on holiday pajamas at Kohl’s, Target, shopDisney, The Children’s Place and other stores, it’s pretty affordable to rock out in matching PJ’s for Christmas!

What Holiday Traditions do YOU enjoy? Please share!

Written by Mary for Hip2Save. Mary is a proud mom to 3 kids in Austin, TX, who thrives off Jesus, running long distance, bargain shopping, warm Texas weather, a yummy latte…and a little Candy Crush from time to time. She also loves quality time with family & friends and sharing great deals with others.

Join The Discussion

Comments 34

  1. Lisa R.

    Thank you for the elf on the shelf ideas!! I’m always looking for easy fun things to do with them!

  2. Emily

    Yep, there are two angry elves; )

    • julie

      I laughed at Piper’s face!

  3. Jane

    Thanks for the ideas!

  4. Chrissy Goff

    I always get advent calendars on my yearly trip home in November so the kids can have their german chocolate fix every day in December. I never get myself one. Maybe I need to change that next year.

  5. betty

    When I was little my mother always let us open 1 present on Christmas eve and it was always new PJ’s that we wore to bed so we woke up on Christmas with new pajamas on. I carried on this tradition with my kids only they thought Santa somehow came early and always dropped off new wrapped PJ’s on their pillow. They are teenagers now but still look for those new ons on Christmas eve.

    • Ashley

      We started the same thing last year! It’s a fun new tradition for us. ☺️

  6. Neli

    Where can I get an Elf on the Shelf for a decent price?

    • Lydia

      I tried really hard this year to find one and I ended up buying one through Kohl’s . Couldn’t use a coupon on it (exempt) but it does qualify for Kohl’s cash. So I bought that a pair of pajamas for $10 and the waffle maker that had a good rebate and earned Kohl’s cash. I’ve seen some with just the doll (no book) for around $12 maybe on amazon ?

      • Me

        I was wondering the same thing. They wouldn’t even mark these 50% off after Christmas at the stores I looked at! I keep hoping one day I will see one at the thrift store or a garage sale. :o)

        • amanda

          Really?? I got mine a couple years ago at jcp on clearance for 75% off even the cashier was like thats an awesome deal lol

      • MrsRodney

        Although it’s not helpful at this moment, I picked one up for 50% off at target right after Christmas last year.

    • Tanya

      Bed Bath & Beyond allows coupons to be used on Elf on the Shelf! That’s where we got ours… it’s the only place I found that let me use coupons!

      • Lydia

        Barnes and noble too ! I almost did that but went for Kohl’s cash while they had the $15 cash on 50 purchase

    • Maria

      If you are a Hallmark member and have a store nearby, you can use coupons on an Elf on The Shelf. In the past, they’ve allowed me to use expired coupons and I get them regularly via email. I remember using a 40% or 50% off on the Elf last year. You can even use the Hallmark “cash” they give you on top of that! Otherwise, you can use the 20% off at Bed Bath and Beyond.

  7. Lydia

    The kids always get a Christmas Eve box with pajamas, movies, a board game and candy.

  8. llc

    LOVE Piper’s very serious look. I’m going to ask Santa for Snow. Our temps are still in the mid to high 70’s.

  9. Shannon

    What are some things to do if you live in a place with no snow?? I’m from a snowy cold climate but moved and now my kids have barely ever seen snow! To me it’s just not Christmas without snow!

    • hellfire gainz

      Let’s house swap! You can heat for 8 months of the year and play in the cold snow, and I will frolic and soak up all the warm sun!

      • Swirlypop

        Lol, that’s funny!

    • Rachel

      Even here in Alabama, the larger cities have ice rinks that are open for the season. It’s fun to grab some hot chocolate and go ice skating.

  10. ticklemaddie

    WARNING! LONG STORY OF MY LIFE! Since we are talking about frugal, has anyone sold and bought stuff off of their local Facebook marketplace? I found a lot of great stuff and saved a ton from there. I sold a lot of our stuff like washer & dryer without having a yard sale, took some pics and posted them on FB, in a few minutes messages started coming in showing interest with the items I posted, easy peasy. I was going to buy 6 rolls of 9-feet/roll LED Christmas lights at $14.99 each at Lowe’s but I checked my FB first, there was this lady selling used 8 rolls of Member’s Mark 12-ft/roll Cool White/Blue Christmas lights for $40 bucks. She said that she only used them last year and I am welcome to test them before buying them. Mind you, a new roll costs $44 bucks, I’m getting 8 of them. So, I went there tested everything and it turned out that one of them was brand new! SCORE!!! After putting them up, I realized that I needed more so I contacted the same lady and asked if she had more. She said that she will look in her attic, came back to me and said she had 5 new rolls and she only charged me $40 bucks!! WOOHOO.

    • kerRI

      Hey thank you for the tip and an even bigger Thank you for the money that u have saved me in the future now !! Merry Christmas !!

  11. Cc

    I love christma deco and lights and the songs.

  12. Lori

    We always order pizza, pick it up & eat in the car while driving around looking at Christmas lights. Kids enjoy it.

    • Miranda

      Awesome tradition! I love this!

  13. Jenny D

    I wrap 24 days of Christmas books under the tree. You number them one through 24 and each day you open a book and read it as a family. Each year I get them a couple new books that I find on the clearance 75% off at Barnes and Noble year prior. So each year they have a couple new surprises in the midst of all our classic Christmas books. My kids take turns opening them. One night one child opens the book while the other child get the chocolate out of the advent calendar, and they rotate back-and-forth.

    • Kim B

      I get Christmas themed books from the library and do the same. But it’s cheaper:)

  14. Mama

    We like driving around and looking at lights too. We usually get hot chocolate or maybe even milkshakes…

  15. thethinker

    Towns in my area have Christmas fests with Santa who arrives on a fire truck and tree lighting. I just returned from one which was totally free. There was free popcorn, fried dough, cupcakes and hot chocolate. There was a free: petting and feeding zoo and train rides for the kids. My kids absolutely have a blast at these events. We also drop off toys and food for the local food banks.

  16. Jen F

    We do a scavenger hunt while looking at lights….like find a penguin, etc…

  17. MrsK

    Thank you. Great ideas.

  18. DNM

    I loved this post! Thank you! We are a young family and trying to figure out what traditions to begin with our toddler and newborn. I shared this with my husband! Thank you again!!

  19. Gina

    Please tell me you don’t get that much mail everyday!

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