The holiday season is a time of year many people look forward to, but it does bring stresses of its own—especially when it comes to your spending. Between holiday events, gifts, travel, meals, and other activities, it’s easy to spend hundreds of dollars beyond your regular monthly budget.
Whether money is tight this year or you’re just looking to trim your expenses around the holidays, you don’t have to sacrifice the joy of the holiday season in exchange for a little extra savings in your pocket. Here are seven ways to continue spreading joy while cutting back on holiday spending.
7 Low- or No-Cost Ways to Enjoy the Holidays
When the cocoa gets cold and the snow melts away, how do you plan to celebrate the holidays?
1. Volunteer with a nonprofit or charity.
Many organizations use the holiday season to fundraise or build up charity donations to help those in need around the holidays. By donating your time to these organizations, you can get in the holiday spirit and serve those in need while saving money at the same time.
This could include preparing or serving meals at a local shelter, organizing a fundraiser for a charity of your choice, fostering a rescue animal, or partaking in other volunteer opportunities available in your area. Find a cause that matters to you, and use the gift of community service to spread joy to others. Visit or contact representatives from your local recreation center, town hall, or municipal building to discover the various ways you can support and give back to fellow residents.
2. Visit a nearby nursing home, local farm, or animal shelter.
The holidays can be a lonely, difficult time for many individuals, including those living in nursing homes. To help them get through what can be a difficult time, consider paying a visit to read a holiday story, play games, perform holiday music, or provide other entertainment and fellowship that brings the joy of the holidays to nursing home residents.
Before stopping by, reach out to the nursing home director and inquire about what kind of efforts the residents might appreciate, and discuss a good time to schedule your visit.
Additionally, animal welfare organizations typically experience an influx of dogs, cats, and other pets brought into shelters and surrendered to farms this time of year. Consider contacting an animal rescue or sanctuary to offer socialization services, donations, or an extra helping hand in their time of need.
3. Gift a thoughtful act of service in lieu of a physical present.
Gift-giving is often a source of joy for both the giver and the receiver, but the cost of buying gifts can add up quickly and accumulate unnecessary waste. One way to preserve the joy of giving without the burden of purchasing presents is by offering someone a service as an alternative to buying them something.
You can consider options such as:
- Cleaning someone’s home
- Shoveling snow
- Performing yard work
- Taking family photos
- Teaching them a craft or skill
- Baking holiday treats
- Hosting a meal or gathering
Feel free to get creative when exploring possible activities. Some other low-cost services that demonstrate the spirit of the season can include working with your kids on an arts and crafts project, such as creating homemade ornaments, holiday decorations, or photo frames that you can gift to family and friends.
4. Take advantage of free holiday events in your community.
Most communities are home to organizations that offer low-cost seasonal fun for families and others looking for inexpensive ways to participate in these holiday events. This can be a formal planned holiday event, such as going to see a holiday play, or an impromptu holiday activity, such as looking at neighborhood Christmas decorations and lighting displays.
Check your local area for free theater shows, concerts, tree lightings, craft and flea markets, parades, fun runs, and other holiday events that are open to the public. These events offer a great way to spread joy during the holidays while also helping you connect with and fundraise for your community.
5. Make holiday crafts for a worthy cause.
You can make a number of festive treats and crafts, from Christmas cards and fresh-baked cookies to warm winter blankets, right at home. Deliver your handmade and homemade goods to a nearby children’s hospital, animal shelter, or nursing home. Just be sure to contact the organization first or visit their website to confirm their policies!
6. Collect donations of toys, clothes, and nonperishable food items.
A great way to give back to others that doesn’t cost a dime is by doing a sweep of your belongings. Donations can include clothes, toys, housewares, or other items that are unused in your household but are still in good shape. You can bring items to a local organization or arrange for a reputable nonprofit to pick them up.
Some often-overlooked but valuable items include:
- Educational materials (children’s books, old textbooks, flash card sets)
- Boxed hearty grains (oatmeal, cereal, granola)
- Knitted items or linens (sweaters, blankets, gloves, hats, towels)
- Personal hygiene products (moisturizer, laundry soap, diapers, toothpaste)
- Pet care products (cat litter, dog leashes, carriers, treats)
For food and other perishables, residents can donate items by visiting a food bank or pantry or contacting other mutual aid projects in the area.
7. Go caroling.
Singing is an easy way to get in the holiday spirit. Local organizations organize caroling as a traditionally simple way to bring holiday cheer to people in your community.
Celebrate the Holidays with Creative Savings
Cutting down on your holiday spending doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice memorable seasonal celebrations. A little creative thinking and resourcefulness are all you need to enjoy a full, joyful holiday season while saving money at the same time.
For more holiday budgeting tips and tricks, download The Ultimate Holiday Budgeting Checklist & Planner.