13 Free (or really cheap) Ways to Make Christmas Magical

My goal this Christmas is to simplify. Every year despite my best efforts, I embrace a certain level of “Christmas anxiety”. There’s a reason Christmas is magical, and that reason is moms and dads. I live for the moment they all walk out of their rooms with sleepy eyes full of wonder at presents piled under the tree. I LOVE CHRISTMAS, but sometimes I embrace Christmas frenzy instead of Christmas spirit.

I’ll be honest, my “frenzy” isn’t really magical for anyone, least of all my husband.

My goal is to slow down, spend less, do less, and enjoy more.

I love what my friend Amy Weatherly said:

“Remember this season that Christmas is a wonderful reason to give to those in need, whether it be kindness, or food, or shelter, and to surround yourself with the love of family. 

And it’s a terrible reason to go into debt and to drive yourself into mental and physical exhaustion.

You don’t have to have everything or be everything for Christmas to be magical. ” 

So this Christmas, part of my commitment to simplify is embracing free (or inexpensive) ways to make the holidays magical. I reached out to my online tribe and together we came up with this list:

1. Go on a drive to look at Christmas lights. We do this every year and I can still remember taking my oldest (who is now a ginormous eleven year old) when he was a toddler. He kept saying “Eeeeeeeewwww pitty lites” from the back seat. This is one of my favorite Christmas traditions. Now that we live in town (instead of several miles away), I prefer to take a family walk through nearby neighborhoods with hot chocolate in hand.

2. Make decorating the tree a family event. For us it always includes the season’s first eggnog and Miracle on 34th Street.

3. Go to Christmas parades and art walks. In the town where we lived previously, they had awesome ones that included free booze and hors d’oeuvres. There’s a nightly market where we are now that has a snow machine and Christmas caroling. Look at what’s free and festive nearby.


kelvin balingit

4. Get crafty. Make a paper chain to count down the days, string a garland out of cranberries and popcorn, make salt dough ornaments, or make paper snowflakes to hang in the windows.

5. Watch Christmas movies. Maybe this is the perfect time to get some free trials going?? Some of our family favorites are The Santa Clause, White Christmas, The Christmas Story, Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, Home Alone 1 & 2, Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Elf, and I loved The Christmas Chronicles (new on Netflix *Kurt Russel and Goldie Hawn anyone*???).

6. Handmade gifts. This is a hard one because remember, the goal is *not* to run ourselves into the ground. Sometimes I get really crafty, but this year I love Karen’s simple suggestion of coupons in the kids stockings with things like “Late Bedtime”, “No Chore Pass”, and “Date with Mom or Dad”.

7. Midnight Sledding. I love this idea from Raney. If you’re not up for staying up that late, any time is a good time to sled (and then come home to warm up by the fire). Or, if in our case you recently moved somewhere without snow, making the 45 minute drive (at least once) to see it.



8. Bake. I’m not usually a baker, but nothing takes me back to my childhood like molasses cookies, gingerbread and fudge, filling the house with delicious goodness. The kids love it and it helps me  s l o w  d o w n. I plan to take the kids to share some with our neighbors too.

9. Give. Last year my mother in law took each of her grandkids on a date. She knew they got plenty of presents, so instead she took them to an Angel Christmas tree downtown that is covered with the names and ages of children to shop for. They each picked a child and then she took them shopping. They carefully selected something they thought the other child would love. I LOVE THIS. It was highly impacting to each grandkid (and their parents), AND if that’s not the true meaning of Christmas, I don’t know what is. Giving around Christmas doesn’t have to be monetary. It can be baked goods, it can be smiles and conversation, it can be shoveling the snow from someone’s sidewalk, it can be change in the Salvation Army bucket. Nothing stops me in my Christmas frenzy tracks quite like giving.

10. Hot Chocolate Night. Cassaundra suggested making a hot chocolate night with special toppings like whipped cream, peppermint stirs, and sprinkles. I think this would be so fun with a movie, a puzzle, or books by the Christmas tree.

11. Sleeping under the Christmas tree. There’s nothing better as a kid than pulling out the sleeping bags and sleeping under the tree. I love Elisabeth’s idea of doing a family picnic around it.

12. Create magicRaney suggested planting Tic Tacs in a bowl of sugar and replacing them with candy canes before the kids wake up. Jodie said her family does glitter and oats to spread outside for the reindeer on the night before Christmas. Guilann’s husband rings bells outside for Santa’s sleigh. My kids leave cookies and milk out for Santa and my husband carefully writes each of them a letter (even disguising his handwriting).

13. . Say no to “too much” whether it’s too many presents, too many parties, or whatever it is that makes you feel stress instead of holiday cheer…feel free to say nope.

Merry Christmas friends, may your holidays be bright, full of love, and simple.




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Cover photo by

Beatriz Pérez Moya

2 responses to “13 Free (or really cheap) Ways to Make Christmas Magical”

  1. I love the sleeping under the Christmas tree idea 🙂

  2. These are all great! I think we all need to consider these at the holidays!

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