Looking for a little more to add to your holiday plans besides the normal tree trimming, stocking stuffing, and gift giving festivities? With a little planning and a just few dollars, you can experience the holidays in many different ways.
So, put away your wallet, pull out your planner, and gather your friends and family, because with these nine cost-effective holiday plans, you’ll be celebrating the season without breaking the bank.
Potluck Dinner/Cocktail Party
Nothing says the holidays more than the extra pounds you gain from eating grandma’s favorite Christmas sides. Spare grandma the extra man hours of cooking for the entire family. Gather her and a few friends for a Christmas potluck-style dinner and cocktail party. Not only is a potluck gathering cost-effective for everyone, but it brings a little variety (and maybe even a little competition!) to the dinner table.
Ask guests to cook their best dish (make sure no one doubles up) and have one designated person to serve as bartender. Grandma would be more than happy about saving her time and money this year!
Holiday Movie Night
After you’ve unwrapped the gifts, eaten dinner and mingled with the family, get everyone together for a holiday movie night. Pick a few flicks, fire up the TV, and spend the holidays with a few ’tis the season’ movies to put you in the spirit! Some great and funny classics include: Home Alone 2, Miracle on 34th Street, Elf, A Christmas Story, and the list goes on…
Unwanted Gift Swap
Nothing gets a groan like opening a gift you really don’t want. If you still have that Snuggie that your cousin gave you in 2010 packed away, plan a re-gifting party and share the wealth! Even if it’s one of the worse gifts you’ve received, someone else might actually enjoy it. If not, it makes for some great laughs!
‘Live with Kelly and Michael’ co-host Michael Strahan went to an ugly sweater party last year, hosted by BlackBerry. Diane Bondareff/AP Images for BlackBerry
Ugly Christmas Sweater Party
Have your friends get together and wear their ugliest, shiniest, stitched-by-grandma made sweaters and vote on who is donning the ugliest over drinks and hors d’oeurves. It brings a laugh or two to the holidays and makes a tragic-looking sweater seem very popular!
AP Photo/The Commercial Appeal, Jim Weber
Church with the Family
As the holidays roll around this December, many families enjoy some of their time at their local church or place of worship for the festivities. Stop by your local place of worship, where the door is always open. Many churches put on Christmas and Nativity scene plays for the congregation and to the public, and even let others who desire participate.
Secret Santa Party
Another great party idea that is also popular around the holiday season is a secret Santa party. Draw names right before Christmas and challenge your friends and family to give gifts $20 and below. Gifts can be personal and inexpensive and the gift exchange can be done during a cocktail party where participants each bring wine or finger food.
A Massachusetts home decorated with 85,000 lights. AP Photo/Lisa Poole
Christmas Festival of Lights
A lot of neighborhoods have a Festival of Lights where homeowners and small businesses put up elaborate lighting displays for the holidays and locals drive through to enjoy the sights. Many even come from the next town or neighborhood over if the lights are particularly spectacular.
Some states also have an official Festival of Lights fairground that is open to the public during many nights of the week leading up to Christmas, in which families and friends pile in their cars and take a turn to drive thru. So get the family or pile a bunch of friends in the car, grab the eggnog or cider and drive by a festival of lights for a unique spin on Christmas celebrating!
Christmas Bar Crawl
If you are looking for a good time this Christmas, go online or get your local newspaper and find a good Christmas bar crawl. Bar crawls are a great way to meet new people, or bring friends along to try different festive drinks at a variety of bars, and find out about your local bar scene. Many bars join forces to host crawls during the holidays, especially around New Year’s. And one flat price, usually run between $20 and $50, gets you drinks for the evening or unlimited drink specials at numerous bars for a day.
Volunteer Santas. AP Photo/Stuart Ramson
During the holidays, we tend to focus on the taking portion of the season, but not the giving back. Millions of Americans are without food, shelter, and in some cases families to spend the holidays with. Give some of your time volunteering at your local food bank, charity drive or soup kitchen for others in need. Various websites like Feedamerica.org
can help you find a place to contribute to the fight against hunger. A lot of charities also host fundraising events or dinners for the homeless, which always need volunteers to assist.