10 Unforgettable Christmas Tradition Ideas on a Budget

family decorating gingerbread house

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Recently I was speaking with a friend and she told me that money was very tight this year, but they want to have the most special and unforgettable Christmas ever! What Christmas ideas could she do on a budget?

Honestly, it’s been a hard year. I want to make this a special and magical Christmas too, but money is certainly tighter than usual. So I got to thinking . . . How can we make Christmas special and memorable for our kids this year without spending a lot of money?

The answer is starting some new and exciting traditions that involve spending more time with the ones we love that are inexpensive or free!

The good news is that you can have the most magical and meaningful Christmas ever without spending very much money at all.

Children really value time spent with their parents, love and connection, and repeating family traditions that they can look forward to every year. You can do this for very little money and these memories will be seared into your children’s hearts forever and bring everyone so much joy!

Related reading: 51+ Creative Ways to Save Money This Month

Have a delightful, special, and memorable Christmas season for very little money.

Let’s jump into 10 Christmas Tradition Ideas You can start implementing in your family on any budget!


1. Go on an Annual Snow Sledding or Innertubing Trip

Skiing and snowboarding can be spendy, but innertubing and sledding are dirt cheap and a blast for all ages! Borrow or purchase inexpensive car tire innertubes, pump them up, and hit up some snowy hills nearby! The kids will love it and you can catch a ride and let loose too!

2. Have a Festive Gift Wrapping Night

Throw on some Christmas music, light some candles, and gather up all the extended family gifts for aunts and grandparents and wrap them together! Kids aren’t the best wrappers, but they will love getting involved and getting to wrap the delicate and beautiful gifts with you! They will cherish the time you spend together and feel so grown up for being allowed to help wrap.

3. Volunteer at the Soup Kitchen on Christmas Eve

Kids need great experiences learning to serve and reach out to others in the community, and what better way than to give your time and energy by volunteering to help serve food at the soup kitchen on Christmas Eve? When I was a kid, my mom made us all put on our Christmas Santa hats and trudge down to the soup kitchen one year. As a kid, I resisted. I didn’t want to go! But once I was there and saw all the men, women, and children that were there to get dinner, I was permanently humbled and changed. It ended up being a powerful experience that is still impacting me to this day!

4. Create a ‘Secret Family’ Gift Basket for a Family in Need

Put together a gift basket for a family in your community, neighborhood, church, or friend group that is in need. The whole family will love shopping for the items, wrapping, and delivering them. Everyone will feel a great sense of love and joy giving to another family in need. Fill the gift basket with cleaning supplies, food, toys, or whatever else the family is in need of. 

5. Go Caroling

Wrap up in your warmest coats and take the family out for some old-fashioned caroling! You can even do this with a small group of friends, bring treats, and just go to other friends’ homes to say hello and Merry Christmas! You can also carol around your neighborhood if you think your neighbors would like that!

6. Surprise a Family You Love With the ’12 Days of Christmas’

Who doesn’t love secret gifts and treats?! The 12 days of Christmas is an amazing tradition to start that the whole family will enjoy! Choose a family to “tag” and each of the 12 days leading up to Christmas, leave a gift or treat on their doorstep and a note from their secret family — you! The kids will have a blast dashing to the door and ringing the doorbell to drop off the gifts and the family you surprise will appreciate your kindness and care.

Here is a cute idea from Etsy.

7. Get Matching Christmas Pajamas

Get the family matching pajamas! Search for less expensive sets at JCPennies and Kohls. Don’t stress about only wearing them once or twice a year. Even if they are straight up candycane or Santa pajamas, don’t be afraid to rock them all year long to get your money’s worth!

8. Do a Christmas Advent Calendar Countdown

Count down the days ’til Chritmas with a fun candy advent calendar! Here are a few great options:

9. Build and Decorate Gingerbread Houses

Decorating gingerbread houses will be a family favorite tradition! Fancy it up with real gingerbread, lots of candy decoration options, and delicate icing. Simplify it and make it cheaper with graham cracker houses, simple frosting, and simple candy decorations. Either way, all will be delighted. Don’t forget the Christmas music and hot cocoa!

10. Have a Total Christmas Day!

Combine bunches of these traditions into one amazing total Christmas Day (not on Christmas Day, but in preparation for it!). Go sledding, then wrap family Christmas gifts with Christmas music playing, and decorate gingerbread houses in the evening! Talk it up, and the whole family will look forward to your “Total Christmas Day” every year. Plus, your pocketbook will thank you because it doesn’t need to cost much!

Not to get too sappy, but it’s true that the best things in life are free! Spending time together, serving others, and creating memories are the traditions that bring our families closer together and foster more love. And best of all, all of these Christmas ideas can be done on any budget!!

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About the Author

Welcome! My name is Merilee and I’m the creator of Easy Budget. I started this blog to help other families like mine crush debt, budget, manage money, and meal plan like pros!

Everything you find here will be useful, motivating, and always easy. Need to contact me directly? Reach me here!

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