25 Free or Low-Cost Holiday Activities

No matter what your budget is, if you’re willing to get a little creative, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the holiday season.

Christmas presents aren’t the only expensive part of the holiday season. With inflation rising and the cost of essentials increasing, many people are in less of a place to spend money on the holidays than before. 

When you add in the costs of all the little things – like holiday travel, tickets to holiday performances, and even your Christmas tree – there’s no doubt about it: the holidays are more expensive than ever. 

However, that doesn’t mean you have to sit at home and pretend like it’s not the holiday season. Take a look at these 25 ideas for free or low-cost activities to get yourself and your family into the holiday spirit.

Find the Neighborhood with the Best Holiday Lights

Drive around your city and find the neighborhood with the best holiday lights. Vote on which house has the best lights while you’re out and about. All you’ll need to spend is money for gas in the tank. Bring along your favorite hot tea or hot cocoa and enjoy the lights on one of these long winter nights!

Volunteer at a Local Organization

Soup kitchen with pots

The holiday season is about both giving and receiving. Give a little of your time to a local organization, whether that’s a shelter, a religious center, or a nonprofit you support. Make memories with your family as you do something good for your community.

Make DIY Holiday Cards

I love holiday cards and I get excited every time I receive one in the mail. But you don’t have to write a holiday letter or send out a holiday card; after all, the cost of printing and stamps can add up! Gather up all your craft supplies at home and make DIY holiday cards to hand-deliver to friends and family. Or, write thank you cards for the team at a local hospital or medical center.

Take Pictures with Santa

You don’t have to shell out cash you don’t really have for a picture with Santa at the mall. Spend some time looking for free Santa photo ops in your area. Check with local museums and community centers. You’d be surprised at how many free Santa photo ops are out there!

Host a Holiday Movie Marathon

Two friends on couch wearing Christmas clothes pointing at TV

“Love Actually.” “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” “A Christmas Carol.” There are so many fantastic Christmas movies and not enough time to watch them! Pick out a day to host a holiday movie marathon and ask everyone to bring a snack to share. There are plenty of holiday movies available on streaming services, but if you have a DVD collection, look through it as well.

Craft Christmas Ornaments

With dozens of stores selling thousands of different Christmas ornaments, it can be tempting to buy all your decorations for your tree. But making your own ornaments is less expensive and more meaningful. Bring out those crafting supplies and find instructions for a design you’ll love looking at year after year.

Decorate Your Home

You’ve made your DIY ornaments, so now it’s time to decorate your home for the holidays! Bring out the decorations you already own first, then see what’s missing. Find a creative way to bring more holiday cheer to your home using what you already have!

Go Christmas Caroling

All you need is a few willing people and a Bluetooth speaker to make Christmas caroling happen! Rehearse your favorite carols together, bundle up, bring along a warm drink, and enjoy the memories you’ll make as you sing door-to-door.

Rate the Best Hot Chocolate

Woman with blanket warming her hands in mug of hot drink with whipped cream

Speaking of a warm drink, getting creative with hot chocolate is a great, inexpensive way to enjoy the holidays. Host a hot chocolate competition at your home. Look up hot chocolate recipes online and gather the ingredients you’ll need. Does your family love Mexican hot chocolate or classic peppermint more? Make a scoring sheet and find out which hot chocolate is the winner!

Decorate the Driveway with Holiday Messages in Chalk

Skip this one if you live in an area with a lot of rain or snow! Gather up the kids, find a bucket of old chalk (or buy an inexpensive set), and decorate your driveway with your favorite holiday messages. You’ll bring joy to your neighbors with your holiday cheer!

Enjoy a Light Display

Light displays have popped up all over cities, and they’re often an affordable way to get into the holiday spirit! Look for displays in your area that are free or low-cost, and then during the short, dark days of winter, take a walk underneath the lights. 

Build a Gingerbread House

If there’s room in your budget, either make your own gingerbread or find a kit with all the trimmings. Go as simple or elaborate with your gingerbread house as your budget allows. Look through your pantry before you buy any ingredients, and spend time together decorating this tasty treat.

Read More: Make Your Christmas Spending Stress-Free

Appreciate Nature in a Local Park

Going to the park is a great idea any time of year, but it’s especially important to slow down and take in nature during the busy holiday season. Bundle up or bring a picnic and talk about your favorite parts of the holiday season. 

Host a Holiday Potluck

Man in holiday clothes cooking meal

The holidays are about spending time together during the cold, dark winter months. And what’s better than gathering together over a delicious potluck meal? Choose a dish that’s affordable and that everyone will enjoy for your holiday potluck.

Go Ice Skating on a Discount Day

Ice skating can be expensive, so take the time to find out which rinks offer discounts on certain days. Bundle up before you lace up those skates! 

Make a Big-Picture Plan for the New Year

When you have the time and the energy, sit and make a plan for your life in the new year. Think about your goals and what you want more of. Don’t feel the pressure to have all the answers now. Instead, make a big-picture plan for what you want your life to be like in the new year.

Roll Out the Cut-and-Bake Cookies

Cut-and-bake cookies are a simple, inexpensive, fun way to get into the Christmas spirit. All you need is a roll of cookies, a baking sheet, and an oven. Save your cookies for your next holiday get-together, or enjoy them right after you bake them with a cold glass of milk.

Host a Game Night with Prizes

Game nights are fun any time of year, and during the holidays, they’re a fantastic, inexpensive way to gather everyone together. Offer a small prize, like Christmas cookies, to the winner! 

Go Sledding on a Snowy Day

Child on sled going down hill

A snowy day, a hill, and a few sleds are all you need to have a wonderful winter day. Don’t worry about buying the best sled on the market or driving to the steepest hill in the city. Keep it simple and close to home. Just make sure you bundle up and have a first-aid kit on hand.

Attend a Local Holiday Concert

Schools often organize free holiday concerts that are open to anyone in the community. Even if you don’t have kids, go and show your support for your local schools! Keep an eye out for local free or low-cost holiday concerts put on by other organizations, too.

Host Holiday Karaoke

You don’t need a karaoke machine to host a karaoke night (but if you have one, use it!). All you need to do for this holiday activity is find or make a playlist using videos of holiday songs with lyrics. Clear the floor, gather your friends, and get singing! 

Test Out a New Recipe

On a day when you have some extra time, try out a new recipe for a dish you’ve never cooked before. Enjoy your new dish with your family or bring it to your next holiday potluck to add some spice to life.

Host a White Elephant Gift Exchange

There’s only one rule with this holiday activity: no buying a white elephant gift from a store! Tell your friends that the gift has to be something you found at home – not on the shelf at a big box store. That way, you’ll keep your gift exchange 100% free!

Host a Cookie Swap

Twine and clothespin garland with hanging cookies
Adobe Stock

Dig out your favorite holiday cookie recipe and get to baking! Ask your friends to bring one, two, or as many types of cookies as they like to your swap. Have some hot chocolate and milk ready to go for this fantastic holiday activity.

Have a Reading Day

The holidays are the perfect time to dive into a good book. Check one out from the library or visit a local used bookstore. Pick out titles for the whole family and save your books for a day when it’s too cold to do anything outside.

Could you do all 25 of these holiday activities this year? Whether you can make time for all of them or just a few, the spirit of the season doesn’t have to depend on your bank account.

Read More: The Scoop on Goodbuy: Saving Money, Saving the World

Latest News