Five Holiday Traditions That Can Save Your Family Money Every Year

Christmas family traditions

Holidays are more fun than any other time of year. There is something so wonderful and so comforting about tradition, about the family with whom you surround yourself and with the atmosphere of happiness and excitement that surrounds you this time of year. You have family dinners, everyone gathers in the kitchen to cook and to visit, and the entire world just feels right this time of year. It’s unlike any other, and there is nothing quite like that. The sense of family and the importance of tradition never fail to make us feel so good.

What are your family traditions?

The only downfall associated with the holiday season is the sheer cost of everything that we all do this time of year. We spend a lot of money on this holiday season, and it is because we are always looking to improve our décor, buy the best gifts for the people we love, look good in our Christmas photos and have a wonderful menu to enjoy during holiday gatherings. It’s not cheap to spend the holidays at home, but it’s also not something that we have to spend so outrageously on.

It’s all about tradition; it seems we have forgotten our traditions and we spend more time than ever before focused on the fact that we have to do this and be there and impress these people; it’s just not what it used to be. The holidays are not as commercial as we make them, but we are all guilty of falling into the trap. Our job is to bring back the tradition and to make the holidays all about family again, rather than about material things. It might not seem like it will be easy to do, but I think that we can do it; and I think that we can start with a few traditions we can all incorporate into our own families so that we can save a little money every holiday season. After all, we all spend so much this time of year that it only makes sense we try and reign in our desire to overspend.

A Volunteer Opportunity

Traditions are amazing in families, but what about families that don’t have their own holiday traditions because they don’t get to celebrate the holidays? We always take the opportunity to adopt a family and provide them with a Christmas from our angel tree at church, and our Elf on the Shelf brings his own little letter welcoming himself back into our lives with a request to do something wonderful for other little boys and girls by asking our kids to clean out all their old toys for Santa and donate them to other kids.

We also buy a Christmas dinner brown bag gift from our local supermarket every time we check out. It’s $8 and it allows a family somewhere to have their own Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, and so we just add one to our bill at check out every time we go into the store to feel as if we are doing our part. But what we don’t do is take our kids anywhere to actually volunteer on their own; and that’s something we need to change. Earlier in the year we took them to our church when the Nomads were in town doing work for elderly citizens in our community and we cooked them dinner, served them and enjoyed that with our kids, and they really had a great time getting to know the Nomads, meeting them and hearing their stories.

The holidays are a time that is all about giving, and that’s what we want to teach our kids this holiday season. We want to teach them that giving is what matters; it’s what counts. We are currently in the midst of looking for an opportunity that is both helpful and age-appropriate for our girls so that they can join us in giving back in a way that truly helps those in need; and one that allows them to see up close and personal just how much of a difference their small gesture of just a little time can help change the world and make it a better place.

Ellen DeGeneres always says, “Be kind to one another,” when she signs off her show (and our kids love this and the fact that she dances with them) and that’s a motto we like to live by in our home. So, this year, we are going to start the tradition of getting our kids a little more hands on in the volunteer department so they can really do something good for the world. I urge and encourage you to do the same; to make this a family tradition. It’s free in terms of monetary contribution, but it’s going to provide you with so much more than anything money can buy. They say that people don’t help others for selfish reasons, but I disagree; the feeling that I have when someone expresses their gratitude to me for something that I did for them makes me feel like a million dollars – and makes me want to help again and again. Selfish; yes, but I’m okay with that.

Ask Everyone to Bring a Dish to Dinner

The holidays are nice because you get to stay in and eat amazing food and not go out and spend a ton on dinner in a restaurant, right? Wrong; it’s so much more expensive to eat at home during the holidays if you are not doing it correctly – trust me. Hosting Thanksgiving in my own home has taught me that we spend entirely too much on food and we should start a new tradition. After spending over $500 on dinner, drinks and everything else that goes along with cooking a decadent Thanksgiving meal, I’ve come to realize that I don’t know why. Everyone always asks if they can bring a dish, and I always say no. That leaves me and my husband (and my mom, because she actually comes over and cooks everything I buy) stuck in the kitchen all day long while everyone else is mingling and enjoying the atmosphere of the holidays in our home.

We spend excessively to feed these people, yet they’ve all offered to bring something of their own. Why don’t I accept? I’m going to; I am going to start accepting everyone’s offer to bring a side dish or I’m going to assign them a dish when they ask what they can bring. This means I’ll be responsible for the turkey and some of the other sides, but not every single thing on the Thanksgiving menu (and the Christmas menu). This seems to me like the type of family tradition we can incorporate during the holidays that everyone can get on board with without any issue.

Family Movie Night

I’m going to be honest with you; the holidays are a pricey event in our home. We know we tend to go overboard, but one of the realizations we recently had is that we don’t even realize just how overboard we go. It took me purchasing tickets for our family of six (the twins are still free for this event, though) to visit Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Disney to realize this. You see, we have annual passes and we can go anytime we want, so why did we just spend $90 per person to go one evening for a few hours for a special event? It is a great party, and we do love it, but it’s not like the Halloween party that we go to there every year when the kids get to dress up and have the most fun trick or treating. It’s kind of exactly like visiting Disney during the day or on a night this special event is not happening, but with a few more additions to the parade and shows (neither of which we ever bother with).

It was then I realized that in that week alone, I’d purchased family fun tickets to several events; $30 per person to ride the Christmas Express train to have cookies and milk with Santa, $42 per adult and $32 per child to go to the Gaylord Palms ICE! Event and see that plus play in the snow, and $20 per person to wear our pajamas to our local cupcake shop for brunch with Santa. We do these things every year, and they really add up.

This year, we are going to try to add in a night that’s still a lot of family fun and togetherness, but one that is a lot more affordable. We are going to download all our favorite Christmas movies and we are going to watch them as a family with popcorn and treats and warm blankets and a fire in the fire place – or maybe a fire DVD on the porch television since it’s still 80 degrees here. We are going to have our kids watch “Home Alone,” “Elf,” and the old animated “Rudolph” movie with us. I’m actually really, really excited about this night, and so is my husband. It seems like the perfect family tradition to begin with our kids since it is nice to actually get to stay home for once (something we never do this time of year) and it’s a fun reason to cuddle with the kids and maybe enjoy a little too much eggnog.

A Cookie Exchange

We love a good cookie exchange in our house. I host one every year with girlfriends, and it’s a lot more fun than I ever imagined. I like to get into the kitchen with my two oldest daughters (the twins will join us one day when they are a little less likely to stab me or themselves with anything they can get their hands on) and get our bake on. We make all kinds of cookies, decorate them and we just have fun. We have matching aprons that are just adorable, and it’s one of the most fun things that we do together (and we have annual passes to Disney and go a lot, if that tells you how enjoyable our cookie baking evening really is).

It’s such a simple tradition with so much joy that I cannot believe it took me so long to realize it. I went to a cookie exchange several years ago and picked up dozens of amazing cookies at my favorite bakery – which are not inexpensive. That’s when I realized that everyone there had spent their time in the actual kitchen making cookies that might not be picture perfect (or so expensive) and that their kids were going on and on about how much fun it was to help. Naturally, I realized then and there I’d never eat any of the cookies – sorry, I won’t even eat after my own kids have touched anything – but that it was a great idea, and a huge savings.

Now we get into the kitchen together, we make a mess, we laugh, we sing Christmas music, and we see who can decorate the most blinged out, most bold, beautiful cookies you ever did see. The girls love this tradition and probably wouldn’t trade it for anything. So, while it is the type of tradition that saves money, it is also a tradition that – more importantly – brings my girls and I together to do something fun, to make memories and to have a lot of laughs. That, my friends, is what the holidays are all about.

Oh, and if you are wondering what a cookie exchange is, it’s a night when we all get together with girlfriends to have cocktails eat cookies and take cookies home that other people made so we can enjoy their own baking goodness.

A Tree Tradition

Growing up, we always went the day after Thanksgiving with my parents to pick out our Christmas tree. We chose very carefully, always holding them up, spinning them around and making sure that they were perfect before we chose the one that would stand in our family room the remainder of the year. As an adult, I brought this Christmas tradition into my own home. My husband and I do this every year, and our children have been doing it with us since they were born. I honestly had no idea that this is not a tradition in every household.

I had no idea that many people buy fake trees, get them down from their attics and decorate them when their spouses are at work and their kids are off doing something else. I had no idea that to some, the idea of a ‘perfect’ tree without clustered ornaments hung by excited children who cannot reach any higher and refuse to move from one location when hanging ornaments. When a friend told me for the first time she decorates her tree when her husband isn’t even home and she does not let her kids help because she wants it perfect, I was floored. I always helped.

Our favorite holiday tradition is choosing a big, beautiful tree and bringing it home to decorate as a family. We wait until it’s dark, we turn on Christmas music and we go through the ornaments, sing, dance and have the best time together decorating our tree. My husband will hold up our four-year-old so she can hang ornaments a little higher, and the kids take turns every year doing the honors of being the one to put the star on top of the tree. It’s a big deal in our house. It takes us hours, and it’s not perfect; but it is gorgeous. We love to have our kids help with the tree because it’s tradition. We had no idea that people simply do not do this; and it was even more shocking to learn that many people don’t even do it at all themselves.

If you are one of the m any people who pay their housekeeper or a professional service to choose, decorate and perfect your tree, stop it now. This is a holiday tradition; and it’s one that the entire family will adore. Additionally, you can decorate your own tree free of charge, which is a wonderful money-saving opportunity (to be fair, I had no idea that people actually paid for a service like this, so I’m still in shock that this actually happens and that this is actually real life).

It doesn’t snow here. We’ve never had a white Christmas. It’s rarely even cold where we are, so we have to find our traditions and make them as meaningful as possible since it never ‘feels’ like Christmas in our area. This is just one of the many ways we spend time together as a family during the holiday season doing something that’s just for us and our kids. We love it, and it just simply amazes me that more people do not join in this tradition and make it their own, also.

Photo by Getty Images


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