For most of us, 2020 has been an unusual year, to put it mildly. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown us all for a loop, between social distancing, loss of employment, and economic insecurity. As the fall and winter holidays approach, you may be anxious about making Christmas magical on a tighter budget. While your celebration may look different from last year’s, there are many ways to make it the best one yet. Today, I’ll give you twelve great ideas to help you celebrate Christmas 2020 without breaking the bank.
Yes, Virginia, You Can Celebrate Christmas on a Budget!
It’s easy to fall into a pattern of overdoing everything at Christmas. Whether you’re overspending on gifts, guzzling too much eggnog, or eating your weight in cookies, the holiday season lends itself to overindulgence. This year, plan ahead and promise yourself that you’re going to scale back on it all. Choose simple, meaningful presents that you know the recipient will actually use, and enjoy seasonal treats in moderation. You’ll avoid the dreaded holiday weight gain and ugly January credit card statement—and yes, you can still have a wonderful celebration.
Getting Creative: Celebrate with DIY Christmas Decorations and Much More
Professional photos and custom cards, postage, outdoor and indoor decorations, gourmet cookies—these time-honored traditions are fun, but they can be pricey. With a little inspiration, you can make them happen without going into the red (unless that’s the color of your ugly Christmas sweater).
DIY Christmas Decorations
Chances are good that you already own many cute ornaments and other decorations. If you’d like to add a few special pieces to your home this year, try making your own to celebrate the Christmas season. They don’t have to be cheap or cheesy—check out these beautiful DIY Christmas decorations. Do the youngest members of your family want to help too? They’ll love these printable coloring pages for kids.
DIY Christmas Gifts
Speaking of do-it-yourself, handmade gifts can save you serious cash and be just as thoughtful as anything store-bought—maybe even more so! Check out this list of eighty-five DIY Christmas gifts, with sweet ideas like scented candles, snow globes, and edible goodies. Your ideas for holiday gifts don’t have to mean diving into the green (unless that’s the color of your ugly sweater!).
Make Your Own Christmas Advent Calendar
For most of us, waiting for Christmas is all part of the fun. Is it one of your family traditions to buy an advent calendar every year? This year, try your hand at making your own to celebrate the Christmas countdown. It’s easy to customize any of these ideas to make them extra-special for your kids or other loved ones. They also make great gifts!
Homemade Christmas Desserts
There’s no reason to run up a huge cookie tab at the local bakery this December. It’s so easy to make Christmas treats your holiday guests will love. Check out these recipes for sugar cookies and gingerbread, and be sure to offer some healthy desserts too. They’ll satisfy everyone’s after-meal sugar cravings (we all get them!) without hundreds of additional calories.
Low- or No-Cost Christmas Photos
Family photos are priceless—but professional photography services are pricey. If you’d like to have someone skilled photograph your family as you celebrate Christmas, you might think about hiring a photography student. Their rates may be less steep than those of experienced industry professionals. And there’s also the option of taking the photos yourself, even if you feel like you don’t know much about photography. A few useful tips, good outdoor lighting, and happy faces can make for charming photos at no additional cost.
Social Media Christmas Greetings
It’s fun to send Christmas cards, but if you want to reach hundreds of friends and relatives, the postage can add up quickly. Save the snail mail for a select few loved ones, and send Christmas cheer to everyone else on your list with a sweet social media greeting. Remember that the message is what’s important, rather than the mode of delivery.
Cultivating Gratitude and Closeness with Family
Spending quality time with your family at Christmas this year doesn’t require spending tons of money. In fact, many of these meaningful and fun activities are completely free. What’s more, you’ll find that they bring more joy to you and those around you than the priciest holiday fete or beach vacation. You can make some of your best and most important family memories right at home.
Make Time to Give Back: Family Volunteer Opportunities
The winter holidays are a time for feeling gratitude for everything you have. Why not share your blessings by giving back to the community in a meaningful way? Spend a Saturday morning preparing and serving food at a soup kitchen, or ask your local elder care facility how you can help them celebrate Christmas. Of course, you may not be able to visit residents in person due to COVID-19 restrictions, so use your imagination! Ask the staff if there’s someone who’s feeling lonely this season who might enjoy a FaceTime or Zoom chat. You could make a huge difference in someone’s life by giving them a few minutes of your time and energy.
Do You See What I See? Take a Nighttime Walk or Drive
At Christmastime, there’s nothing like a tour of your neighborhood, town, and surrounding area to view hundreds of beautifully decorated homes. Wait until the sun has set completely, bundle up, and head out to see the lights. You could start with a brisk walk around your own block to see how your neighbors have decked the halls. This is an excellent holiday workout if you can do it four to five evenings a week. If you start at the beginning of December, you’ll likely have something new to look at during each walk as more people dress up their houses and yards.
After your walk, take a leisurely drive with family to see the homes in nearby neighborhoods. You might even take a spin around several neighboring towns if you’re feeling ambitious. The only cost to you is the price of gas, and you’ll have a lovely evening together. End your night back home with a cup of mulled cider or hot cocoa.
Celebrate Christmas with Caroling
Speaking of walks around your neighborhood, what better way to feel festive than to go Christmas caroling? Serenade your neighbors with familiar favorites like “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “Jingle Bells,” “Silent Night,” and “Deck the Halls.” If you’re singing multiple songs for one group of people, it’s best to alternate uptempo (faster) songs with slower, more lyrical ones for variety. It doesn’t matter if you’re not an “American Idol” winner—enthusiasm goes a long way when it comes to holiday tunes. Encourage anyone who opens their door to you to sing along!
See a Christmas Day Parade
Holiday parades aren’t just for the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving, you know! Christmas is the perfect time for floats, costumes, music, and merriment. Check out your local newspaper or town website to see if there’s a Christmas parade happening in your town or the one next door. Or, if you can’t find an event local enough to you, there’s always the magnificent Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade on ABC.
Visiting Family the 2020 Way
Celebrating Christmas with relatives who don’t live close by will be more complicated this year. Family members who are elderly or in high-risk categories may not feel comfortable traveling. And these days, few of us want to take an hours-long flight unless it’s absolutely necessary, to say nothing of the cost of airfare. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait until 2021 to spend Christmas “together.”
If air travel is impossible for you right now, you might consider meeting halfway to enjoy one another’s company. If that doesn’t work, don’t discount the power of virtual connection. It’s no substitute for the real deal, but it can help you stay connected in meaningful ways for the time being. Using a platform like Zoom, you can bake cookies, hang stockings, and open presents (maybe one another’s!) together.
Make Christmas Dinner a Group Project
One of the best parts of Christmas is sitting down to dinner with family. This year, when everyone’s budget is likely to be a bit tighter, make dinner doable with potluck dishes. It’s easy to coordinate a potluck meal with handy free websites like SignUpGenius. That will ensure that guests don’t bring duplicate dishes. (Then again, if two people show up with baked mac and cheese or homemade peppermint bark, worse things have happened!)
There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays
For many, this Christmas won’t look exactly as it has in years past, but don’t let that spoil your holiday season. The holidays are not about exorbitant spending or trying to outdo last year’s celebration. They’re about being together, appreciating one another, and being thankful for another wonderful year in your life. You can do all of the important stuff for free … and the memories are absolutely priceless.
Merry Christmas! Have a beautiful holiday!