The holiday season can really take it out of a parent—and especially a parent’s wallet. The presents, the decorating, the food and the parties (not to mention the cost of getting to and from the parties) can all combine into quite the chunk of change.

Family Handing Out Christmas Gifts

But holidays aren’t about how much you spend as much as the people you spend them with. Your family is just about all you need to enjoy the season, and having fun with them doesn’t have to cost an arm and leg. Check out these ten to-do’s that are cheap—but cheerful, and that that years from now are bound to be among your merriest family memories:

1) Love the Night Lights

Christmas Decorations Along Kurfurstendamm, Berlin, Germany

You could take a walk around your neighborhood at night, or take a train or drive around the city to take in a free light show.

2) A Walk in the Park

Mother and two young sons on picnic blanket

Lots of public parks have holiday trimmings to take in, where you can go for a walk, or on a picnic. You can also go biking, frolic with your dog, throw Frisbees in the grass or even fly a kite.

3) Fair’s Fair

Caucasian mother and daughter taking self-portrait at fair

Local fairs abound during the holidays—even if you don’t go on the rides, just walking around and taking in the sights can be a treat in itself. You can also check out the sideshows or try your luck at games of chance and maybe bring a prize home!

4) Press Play

Father and Sons Watching Movie

Schedule a home movie night with snack food and cushions aplenty. There are plenty of family-friendly classics such as “Heidi” starring Shirley Temple, “Sound of Music” starring Julie Andrews, “Wizard of Oz” starring Judy Garland, or the holiday staple, “It’s A Wonderful Life”.

To shake things up a bit, you could also schedule a board game night—you could try word-making games, snakes and ladders or Pictionary.

5) Home on the Range

Dad playing with kids under blanket tent.

Have a holiday camping adventure right in your own home! If you don’t have a tent, maybe a mosquito net or some blankets and string will do. You can have storytelling sessions in the dark with flashlights and maybe marshmallows, too!

6) X Marks the Spot

Boys with map

Go on a holiday treasure hunt at home by hiding tiny “treasures” under the couch, atop a shelf, inside a book or anywhere around the house or garden. You can even make a “map” with clues for your kids to follow, and if they find it all, they can win a “prize” or a special treat.

7) Be a Good Sport

Boys Posing with Badminton Rackets

Sports like badminton or bowling can be a great way to burn some of those extra holiday calories. Or you could also check out local sports events, and get a work out by cheering for your favorite team.

8) Hit the Books

Father and Mother with Their Daughter in a Library

The holidays are a great time to check out a local library—find out if your area has a library that’s especially for kids. Maybe you’ll be able to find a quiet spot to read holiday classics like “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens or the “The Little Match Girl” by Hans Christian Anderson.

9) All Your Home’s A Stage

Mixed race girl holding mask over face

Put on a homemade holiday play—you can make your own sets, props, and costumes out of construction paper and cardboard, and stage the play in your living room or backyard. Encourage your kids to come up with the plot, and don’t forget to applaud wildly come performance time. Maybe you could even invite friends or relatives over on opening night.

10) Find Family Freebies

Family at the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya

Your area might have local attractions like museums or exhibits that have “free admission days” that might be nice to go to for the holidays with your family.


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