Your Whole Family Will Love These 9 Frugal Christmas Traditions!

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woman wearing Santa hat with festive mug

It’s time to rein in the budget for the holidays.

We all want the best holiday memories for our family to pass down and enjoy from generation to generation, but some popular Christmas traditions can leave your wallet and budget feeling the winter blues. With these frugal Christmas tradition ideas, you’ll still feel the same holiday joy without the added cost!

1. Instead of buying an Advent Calendar… create your own!

hand holding green bag for frugal christmas traditions advent calendar

Advent calendars can get pricey, especially if you’re buying a new one every year and are buying for multiple people in your family. When you make your own and re-purpose it each holiday season, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth—and have fun in the process!

This year, Lina shared a frugal take on this Christmas tradition & how you can make an easy DIY hanging treat bag Advent Calendar. It’s an inexpensive and cute idea that would get anyone excited to countdown to Christmas!

2. Instead of buying matching family pajamas… buy matching socks!

three pairs of cozy santa socks

Sets of pajamas for the whole family is far from a frugal Christmas tradition and can get pretty pricey with the more people you have. If buying some new matching pajamas for everyone isn’t in the budget, consider some cozy socks for the whole family – Old Navy has some adorable options that we’re loving this year and they’re currently on sale!

Like to plan ahead? Here’s what one Hip2Saver does to score affordable Christmas pajamas for her whole family:

“We like to buy Christmas jammies in January (post-holiday clearance) for the following year. Saves a bundle!” – Melissa

3. Instead of gifts for the entire extended family… organize a gift exchange!

two reindeer gifts with christmas lights a frugal christmas traditions wrapping idea

Have everyone pull names from a hat or use a website like Elfster to create a new frugal Christmas tradition! A gift exchange between all the family members is fun, different, and exciting once the holidays roll around. Plus, not knowing who’s shopping for you makes it even more thrilling! Best of all, everyone stays on a budget that they’re comfortable with – it’s a win, win!

Hip Tip: Want to simplify gifts for your immediate family, too? This new way to buy and give gifts totally changed how my family does Christmas. Plus, we have a frugal way to wrap your presents and still have them be totally show-stopping!

4. Instead of gifts… skip them altogether and adopt a family!

wrapped christmas gifts for hope haven

Now more than ever families across America need our help. Whether your kiddos are getting older or your immediate family just doesn’t need for anything – remember skipping the gifts altogether and focusing on a family in need instead could mean more than anything you’ve ever purchased before!

pile of household and personal accessories on table

You can call your local shelters or connect with a family through your church. Either way, this idea can be as frugal as you’d like or could even be a matter of donating things you already have and don’t need. Take it from our Hip2Save reader Melissa, this frugal Christmas tradition has really impacted her family over the years:

“Let’s teach our kids the real reason for the season! I’ve always taught my girls to give (year-round), but one Christmas activity we always do together is to adopt a family in need. We’ll even buy their Christmas tree, some decorations, gas cards, gifts, household/toiletries – whatever they need!

We then come together for a ‘wrapping party’ so everyone can feel and see how we’re impacting another family’s holiday. We then load it all up and deliver it to the family. This tradition over the years has been much more meaningful to us than stressing over moving an elf or making sure our PJ’s match!” – Melissa

5. Instead of buying neighbor gifts… hand out cute bags of hot cocoa!

reindeer bags with hot cocoa ingredients inside for frugal christmas traditions neighbor idea

Who says cute reindeer hot chocolate bags can’t double as gifts?! By making some of these to hand out to neighbors, you’ll definitely be saving this year! Since it won’t cost you much more than a bag of marshmallows, chocolate chips, and hot cocoa, you’ll even be able to gift one for each person in a family! Talk about bang for your buck!

Need clear bags to make these cuties? You can score this 100 pack for under $7 on Amazon!

Hip Tip: Make sure you don’t forget about your sweet family! You can make Lina’s Grinch hot chocolate or this traditional hot cocoa recipe in your crockpot. Your kiddos will appreciate it while they watch their favorite Christmas movies!

6. Instead of sending family Christmas cards… film a Christmas video!

hand holding christmas card in front of christmas tree

Sure, there are lots of frugal ways to order Christmas cards, but if you’re sending them to a large group of people, the postage alone can get pricey. Plus, a video is more fun for the family, unique to the viewers, and way more personal anyway! And hello, it’s totally FREE, so it’s an exceptionally frugal Christmas tradition to start this year!

Simply upload your fun family video to Facebook for all your friends and family to see – better yet, if there’s only a select number of people who you want to view it, you can just share it with the ones you select when uploading.

7. Instead of making your own pumpkin pie… buy our favorite pre-made pie from the store!

woman holding two different pumpkin pies sams club and costco

It’s actually more affordable (and will save you time!) to pick up a pre-made pie at Costco or Sam’s Club rather than buying the ingredients and making it yourself, and the store-bought versions are just as delicious—trust us, we gave them our official Hip2Save taste-teste! Top it off with homemade whipped cream or transfer it to your own pie dish if you want to give it that fresh-from-the-oven feel.

Here’s what one of our readers said about her Costco pumpkin pie last year:

“The Costco pumpkin pie was just requested at a family dinner and I have to say it’s better than any homemade pie! That’s saying a lot considering I grew up on plenty of great homemade pies from Grandma, Mom, and Aunts!” – Mallory

8. Instead of buying gifts this year… make them!

drill going into drift wood

While not every holiday gift idea can be made at home, you can try out our simple and fun DIYS to craft a home gift. Even simple photo and artwork prints are such a thoughtful present! The time spent crafting a one-of-a-kind gift means so much more than a last-minute mall purchase.

With unique wrapping, you can turn inexpensive buys like candles, magazines, and even soaps into the most adorable gifts for teachers, neighbors, co-workers, gift exchanges… you name it!

9. Instead of hosting a big family dinner… have a dessert exchange!

rolled raw cookie dough with christmas cutouts on table

Why not skip the expensive dinner and instead, enjoy the best part of any meal—dessert! Everyone can bring their favorite treat and still get their fill of quality time for the holidays with this frugal Christmas tradition.

As a safer alternative, if you’re continuing to social distance with even your close family during the pandemic, consider doing a cookie exchange. This will let your family know you were thinking of them while still getting to share a little bit of holiday spirit with everyone.

Hip Tip: If you’re not sure what to make, check out our best-rolled sugar cookie dough recipe, or if you’re opting for a different type of dessert, we’ve got plenty of options for that too.

Bonus idea: Set out to see some magical Christmas lights!

yard full of Christmas lights for frugal christmas traditions idea

This idea isn’t just frugal, it could essentially be FREE!

This year, we’re expecting to see more Christmas lights than ever before with people searching for other ways to spread cheer this holiday season. To celebrate with your loved ones, make sure you head out for a drive around town to spot the best Christmas lights. Not only are they sure to put you in the Christmas spirit, but they’ll make the holiday season even more magical for your kiddos too.

Best of all, it’ll likely become a tradition everyone will look back and cherish forever! ❤️

woman kneeling next to dog with santa hat in kitchen

Most importantly, Christmas is about the time spent together, not the money.

There’s no reason you can’t flip the script on expensive traditions in favor of new memory-making experiences—they may even become the things you look forward to most each season!

Check out our 25 Christmas Movie Picks if you’re staying home for the holidays.

About the writer:

Sara is a self-taught blogger & photographer and brings 9+ years of experience to her craft. Her work has been featured in numerous esteemed publications, spanning building, travel, and fashion. Beyond her creative pursuits, Sara’s primary mission is to empower others to embrace a toxic-free & sustainable lifestyle.

Join The Discussion

Comments 31

  1. LChapman

    These are adorable! 🎄❤️

  2. Jlinsey

    So, I normally make homemade cookies for the neighbors but afraid they may get thrown away this year with fear of Covid. That’s a lot of work and money down the drain. My neighbor beat me to the punch with poinsettias before the Lowes sale, lol!! Any other ideas? I thought about fruit, but that can get pricey. TIA

    • Juliee

      Jlinsey: how about prepackaged, factory sealed stuff? Caramel corn? Hot Cocoa and candy canes?

    • Suzanne H

      How about a cute hand/kitchen towel (from the Dollar Tree – you can buy in bulk online); maybe with a little spatula or cookie mix or prepackaged candy attached? If you are crafty and can get some fresh greenery, you can make something small to hang? Or you could do a really nice gift for your mail delivery person or refuse crew or similar and make it from the whole neighborhood. Send an email to the neighbors letting them know what you’ve done.

    • Penny

      Since you normally make cookies, I think a handwritten recipe (make sure to add your name/year) would be a nice keepsake. Include some or all of the ingredients in a bag or basket and the neighbors should have fun making something that is special to you. If you prefer to give them a soup recipe or something else, that would be fine also. Especially in a time like this, making memories and spending time together is so important! Your recipe could just be the link to make that happen.

      • Tami

        What a great idea! If you really wanted to splurge, you could include a grocery gift card for the ingredients.. of course only if you just had a couple of people you were doing this for, or it could get pricey..

    • Kay

      I get seasonal stuff from Aldi. Like the unique cookies, chocolate, or even chips. I also like to gift the chocolate croissants. I like that they are individually wrapped.

      • Suzanne H

        I saw a cute post on Pinterest – someone giving prepackaged muffins with a card that said “I’m getting muffin for Christmas!”

  3. oreostevens

    Fantastic ideas! Love this post!

  4. Rebecca

    One thing we are going try this year is a ZOOM game night with family that won’t be traveling this year. Instead of shipping gifts to everyone, we are going to spend time together virtually. Actually looking forward to it and not stressing about buying and mailing gifts.

    • Tami

      Such a great idea!

    • animity

      FINALLY, someone who gets it! Will you please talk to my family?!

  5. Suzanne H

    I bought the “If you can read this bring me…” socks for each family member. My husband’s have coffee, one son’s is bacon, the other is pizza and mine are ice cream!

    • Christine M

      So fun, Suzanne! Where did you get them?

      • Suzanne H


  6. Happy Aunt

    I’d love to hear more about Zoom game night and how you’re doing that. I’m really missing connections with family right now.

    • Britty

      We did this also! We played scattergories…we texted the card to a group chat of what the questions were, rolled the dice on the zoom and all played together. It was fun!

    • Stephanie Gillespie

      For a frugal virtual game with any video system, you can use, which is a website that functions as a manager for pictionary. You can either upload your own word deck or use their random word deck, and then share the room link with your friends/family to join. Can’t be setup in advance, but if you have the 5 minutes before the call starts to copy/paste the themed holiday words in, it can be great!

      Alternatively, a paid version more game choices and integrated games made for virtual interactions is jackbox.

    • Melie

      Not Rebecca, but we’ve played games over video calls for several years now. Often it helps if you both have a copy of the game, the camera is pointed at the game board, and you take turns “mirroring” the others board. Chess, Scategories, and even Scrabble are fun over video. For Scrabble, either improvise the others played tiles with paper or dig through your tiles and reshuffle. Cooperative games are also great candidates, as usually everyone’s cards are on the table visible to everyone else. We love Forbidden Island – one side of the video call draws and updates the board like normal, the other side of the video call has everything faceup and just makes their board match. One of the best double dates I’ve ever had was where we and the other couple had our own copies of an escape room type game (Exit the Game) and we worked through them together during a video call.

      Sorry, that’s not as step by step as you probably wanted, but I hope this gets you started and you find something that works well for you!

  7. Jwhitley

    I love these ideas! Definitely going to make some of these new traditions for our family. Every year before Christmas the kids go through their toys to find things they would like to donate. They understand that some children are less fortunate and they look forward to giving them things. A couple years ago we sponsored a child in Uganda and told the boys on Christmas day. They were so excited to have someone to write to and they look forward to receiving letters in the mail from her. We even have a photo of her in the living room next to our family photo 😊. This year we plan on doing the “4 gift rule” for the first time.

  8. CarrieN

    We are doing Zoom Bingo on Christmas Eve with the grandparents this year. I bought a Bingo game from Target ($20) and mailed 2 Bingo cards, dobbers, and a chocolate treat bag. The Zoom invite says put on your Christmas PJ’s and grab a beverage and Let’s Play! I hope this will be a hit for the 4 year old and the 76 year old.

    • Tonya S

      So adorable 😍

  9. janesmith

    We rented out a theater at a movie theater for $99 on Christmas! We can bring up to 20 people and some desserts. They gave us a list of options to play, including all the Christmas classics.

  10. Cassie Sue

    These are great ideas!!

    Another fun one my sister was doing with a few people, is to send the same puzzle to multiple people, and then you can zoom and chat and work on puzzles together. You can pick up some pretty cheaply so it wouldn’t be super expensive, and a fun activity to do together and compare progress.

  11. Annie P.

    We challenge another family to a contest on who can find the most unusual Christmas lights using the Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt List that Hip2Save posted a few years ago. We change around the items listed each year. Each family drives in their own car and takes a phone photo of the items they have found. We have a time limit of an hour and a half. We don’t have prizes, just bragging rights. This is very COVID safe and we have a blast as a family working together!

    Here is a link to the Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt List:

    • rocme2

      Thanks for this! Sometimes my younger kids get bored when we go Christmas light looking; this will help keep them engaged!

  12. Cooper

    I don’t know about buying pumpkin pie….yeah for the convenience. All of the pre-made ones add way too much unnecessary cane sugar. Costco one has mono and diglycerides and it’s GMO soybean/corn starch.

  13. Mommaof8 (9th on the way)

    A few friends of mine and myself started an ornament exchange group years ago. We are all in different parts of the US. We each make a different ornament every year and we make enough of that same ornament to mail out to every person in the group. This year there are 37 of us. So as an example, if I chose to make a ribbon pinecone ornament then I have to make 37 of them. I then box each one up individually and mail them out. This year the last day to mail ornaments was November 20. The cost does add up, but everyone receives 36 different handmade ornaments. Some ornaments are more intricate than others, but all are made with heart. It is always fun to see pictures of how others display your ornament. You could do this on a smaller scale with a few family members across the country (if you hurry) or even with neighbors to save on mailing costs and get the ornaments in time to enjoy them.

  14. melissa-10

    We do an outside (yes even in cold snowy Michigan) silly string fight every year with the kids and grand kids! You can even buy it at the dollar store! Reminds me to put that on my to do list 😉

  15. somelady777

    Is anyone having a hard time scrolling thru a post? Sometimes while I’m scrolling down a page, it takes me back to homepage.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Oh darn! Is that on the app? If so, and this continues, be sure to send us an email with the details you are seeing! And we’ll look into it!

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