New, catchy advertisements come out every year to entice you into expensive new holiday “traditions”. But why not create your own family holiday traditions instead? It’ll make for longer lasting memories (when you work on something, you cherish the process so much more) and you’ll save some money, too!
In years gone by, I fell victim to many glossy retail marketing campaigns. Our moving outdoor reindeer decorations froze up during one winter and turned out to be lousy “investments”. I’m still amazed at how I was actually lured into buying a somewhat eerie looking Santa Claus figure that would bark a warning about being naughty or nice. In the years that followed these purchases, the pricey holiday gadgets we’d buy would no longer work or would lose their luster; henceforth, I learned a valuable lesson.
When I finally had my two children, it suddenly became more important to save every penny. In our early years as a family, we struggled to earn the money to put gifts under the scraggly discount Christmas tree (it’s amazing what a lot of lights and garlands will hide). As they say, it’s not how much you spend that’s important, but the time you spend with those around you. Here are a few suggestions for some affordable ways to make the holidays special:
Affordable Ideas To Create Your Family Holiday Traditions
Order Your Christmas Photographs Early
I make use of the discount coupons that come out in the beginning of October that are for professional photography studios such as Olan Mills, Target and Sears. Typically, I have my children’s holiday photos done by the first week in November because the prices are cheaper.
Tip: You can get a package deal for under 15 dollars that includes several photo sheets and holiday cards to boot. While you’re at the store, catch early bird sales and get a jump-start on holiday shopping.
Make Sure You Own A Camera
Aside from signing up for holiday professional photos, don’t miss out on snapping your own family photos as the season progresses. Do you have a nice, working camera (or camcorder)? Most people already do, but this is a reminder that you’ll need a gadget to create those lasting memories. I prefer a digital camera while my husband uses a 35 mm, while others I know opt for Polaroids or disposable cameras.
Tip: For under $20, you can get a basic camera at Rite Aid, Walmart, Target and even dollar stores.
Share Your Photo Albums
Recently, my mother gave me all the family photo albums she’s put together over the years, all beautifully bound and labeled. The gift brought tears to my eyes because this was something she gave me after being seriously ill. I realized how important those memories on film were.
Though I don’t have a fancy system, I’ve got something that works to save my memories: a scrapbook, which is just a simple binder filled with pages. Each year, I take some time to sit down and enjoy hot cocoa while I look through all the family photos, memorabilia and comments. The time my family spends reminiscing over past memories has become a tradition for us.
Tip: Use your family get-togethers as an opportunity to share your cherished photos.
Get To Their Hearts Through Their Stomachs
Tempting holiday foods surround us from Halloween through the New Year. But many foods we consume this time of year are fattening and can be quite overpriced. So why not make your own holiday specialties instead? By whipping up your own family holiday meals and treats, you’ll have full control of what’s in your food.
For my family, I make soft oatmeal cookies and irresistible organic carrot muffins. I also make batches of my own pure fudge so we’re not tempted by high sugar concoctions. Meanwhile, the aroma of baking and cooking adds to the wonderful atmosphere of the holidays.
Tip: Turning meal preparations and meal times into traditional events won’t cost you anything extra in money. But the time you spend making your meals can become part of your family’s special tradition.
Plan Some Fun Family Activities
No matter where you live, holidays are the perfect time to go out and play! When the holiday meal ends, don’t succumb to extra noshing that your waistline doesn’t need. How about getting active instead?
Every year, we try something different — from building a cool snowman to hiking at a local wildlife preserve to observe the deer and wild turkeys. But your fun tradition can be as simple as getting fresh air and some exercise with a walk around the block or by tossing a ball around outdoors.
Tip: Thankfully the price of fresh air, sunshine and laughter is still free. An added bonus is burning calories while you have fun!
Give Your Time
When you donate your time to local causes or events, it wakes up the holiday spirit. I usually volunteer for our holiday school fair. The children go to the fair during class time to buy small gifts for their loved ones, using their own money. During these events, our family loves the interaction we experience with our school and community.
Tip: Charitable giving during the holidays may involve the sharing of your time with organizations that are seeking extra help. I’ve always found such experiences to be highly rewarding.
Make Your Own Decorations
When my kids arrived, I had to put away all my Lenox and Swarovski ornaments so that curious little hands wouldn’t break them (they never came out again). These days, we make our own Christmas decorations; we make stars and balls from colorful sheets of construction paper, using ribbon, glue and glitter.
Recently, our projects have grown more sophisticated, as we’ve resorted to using foam sheets, foil, yarn, styrofoam shapes and fabric. I buy all the materials at dollar stores, Michael’s, Oriental Trading or Jo-Ann. We look at ornaments from years gone by and remember making them as we decorate the tree.
Tip: Our annual holiday projects have cost us a mere $20 or so, and the results have always been priceless.
We love to play holiday music. From Thanksgiving Day on, my radio is tuned into a 24/7 holiday station in the kitchen (the holiday baking zone). We also like to toot our own horns — literally! I’ve learned you don’t have to be good at instruments, just enthusiastic. I play the flute and the keyboards — sort of. My son is learning the trumpet. My husband and daughter strum on guitars. We all sing along off key and have a grand time. Whether you go caroling or sing along to your favorite CD, it’s a feel-good holiday tradition.
Tip: Making family music can be free! You only need your vocal instruments to sing out loud and strong.
Celebrate the Holiday Spirit
The holiday season is a time when many religious groups celebrate, so gather with others who share your beliefs. Or you can also celebrate on your own with the simple lighting of candles, by rejoicing in silence with yourself or by sharing a quiet evening with a small group of loved ones.
Tip: Whether you celebrate with a congregation or take time to reflect the past year on your own, you don’t have to spend much to partake in the holiday cheer.
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