Fun and Frugal Family Holiday Activities

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh

This holiday it won't take money to create great family memories. There are so many family activities that can be done for less. So, forget about the expensive Martha Stewart decorations and the Rockettes on Broadway. Instead, pull together some real family memories.

Christmas Cards

A box of Christmas cards isn't an extremely expensive purchase, but it's not a family memory. Create a family moment by creating your own cards. Pose the family for a photo together in front of the tree, by the Thanksgiving turkey, or together on the couch. Then, take it to your local photo developer to have holiday cards printed for as little as $0.39 each. It's a nicer memory than the preprinted picture of a penguin in snow.

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Another option could be to make your own cards. They won't have the professional flare of the other cards, but they will have heart and a special touch that captures the essence of the holiday. Sit the kids at the table and assign a few cards to each. Then, with a pack of cardstock, some envelopes, and some markers, you'll have holiday cards that are worth saving. Make sure each child signs his or her own card.

Sing Along

You see them on television, but have you ever taken part in a community caroling group? If not, give it a try this season. Check with your local church group or community organization to see if there is already a caroling group. If not, form your own. Ask your neighbors to organize a sing-along. It can be in the afternoon or by a candlelit evening. Someone could donate some garage or patio space, some hot chocolate, and a place to relax before and after the singing. Take charge and hand out lyrics ahead of time so people can become familiar with them before bringing them to the caroling. Also consider a charity for any donations that are collected or organize the caroling for the specific purpose of charity.

Meals

The actual holiday meal is a bit hectic. Instead, schedule a few pre-holiday meals that will make for memorable family moments. Heading out for some holiday shopping? Make a family sit down meal before you go out. Don't forget to involve the kids in the planning and preparing. The more elbows that bump in the kitchen the more fun you'll have. Forget about the mess, forget about the formality, forget about the rules. Just sit down and enjoy the conversations and time spent together.

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Decorate

It's another Norman Rockwell painting that you can recreate: involve the entire family when decorating for the holidays. Give each member a task and allow him/her to do it in a special way. For instance, don't dictate the style of the outdoor lights before assigning the task to the men of the family; allow your teenage son to outline the house in his own style.

While towns set up an annual tree lighting ceremony, you might not. Why not try it? Dedicate one night to tree lighting and make sure the entire family is around. If you have teens who balk about it, let each one invite a friend. Play some music or put on a movie that everyone's already seen and start decorating. Allow each person to put on the decorations that he or she likes best, and set out some fun snacks. Don't try to make it the scene that you see on television; your kids aren't all going to like Mitch Miller holiday songs or James Stewart running through town. Make it a fun evening for everyone, and put on some music or movies that everyone enjoys.

The most important part of the holidays is the time spent together. One family's special moments doesn't have to look like another's moments. Make the time special and personal; make it fun.

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