In the past at this time of year, I have written about ways to save money on Christmas gifts.

This year, instead of repeating that topic, I thought I would mention some ways to make wonderful holiday memories without spending a lot of money. Here are some free or very inexpensive ways to make your holidays bright without breaking the bank!

  • Invite family and friends for holiday brunch. Keep the menu simple like a breakfast casserole, fruit, and some sort of pastry or bread.
  • Host a holiday potluck meal for family and friends and have everyone bring their favorite holiday dish. Even if you end up with a somewhat unbalanced meal, you will be creating fun memories.
  • Have a cookie baking party!
    • Make the cookie dough ahead of time and have cookie cutters, colored sugars, chocolate candies, and other items available for decorating.
    • Have space for folks to roll out the dough and decorate their cookies.
  • If baking cookies isn’t your cup of tea, have everyone bring a plate of cookies to share. The cookies could be homemade or purchased.
  • Round up a carload of friends and head out to look at Christmas lights and other decorations. Follow the sight-seeing with hot chocolate for everyone.
  • Attend holiday events hosted by your community. Many of these events are free or low cost.
  • Invite friends and family over to watch holiday movies. Share snacks like popcorn and hot chocolate.
  • Have a true white elephant gift exchange.
    • Everyone brings a wrapped gift of something they want to get rid of.
    • First person picks a gift and unwraps it.
    • Each following person gets to choose between an unwrapped gift or one that has already been chosen.
    • Once all the gifts have been opened, the first person who picked gets to choose if they want to keep the gift they have or choose another one.
    • We have done this in our family for many years. Often the gifts keep coming back year after year, creating lots of laughter.

Holiday experiences don’t have to be expensive to be memorable. Keep the focus on spending time with those you care the most about and you will never go wrong. Do you have any fun stories of low cost or free holiday experiences that have been memorable in your family? I’d love to hear them!


Judith Ackland has more than 26 years of experience in accountancy and financial planning, including seventeen years as a CFO of a diverse business. She started Crystal Financial in 2010 to help a wide array of individuals, families, and business owners better understand their finances and how good financial management could help them achieve their goals. Judith has an MA in Professional Accountancy from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln as well as a Certified Public Accountant Certificate and a Certified Financial Planner designation.

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