Do you ever feel just completely financially overwhelmed at the thought of Christmas? I do. Christmas season can be expensive. And I mean like, really expensive. There are so many gatherings and parties and people to shop for, places to go, and things to see. But do we really have to overspend to have a merry Christmas? This year, I am saying NO. No to the overspending, no to the over gifting, no to the expensive holiday activities, just no no no. Before you start thinking I am a total Scrooge, please know that I LOVE CHRISTMAS. But I just think we can do without all the excess and still have the merriest of all the Christmases. We are committing to not overspending this Christmas season. One way we are doing so is by sticking to cheap or free things to do for Christmas.

cheap or free christmas activities

1. Go Snow Shoeing.

One of my FAVORITE free things to do for Christmas is snow shoeing (or hiking, depending on where you live). Cost: Free (or cheap if renting snow shoes, usually less than $10). We like to take hot cocoa and snacks and make a day out of it. There is no better way to feel the Christmas cheer than spending time in nature with the ones you love. I love snow shoeing so much that Danny actually proposed to me while we were snow shoeing, at this very spot:

cheap or free christmas activities

2. Go Indoor Swimming.

Another among my favorite cheap or free things to do for Christmas, though not seemingly traditional, is to go swimming. Maybe you are like me and not a huge fan of being freezing. Stick it to winter by enjoying an indoor pool with your family this Christmas season. We love our local rec center that has an indoor pool and slides. The YMCA offers a similar set up and you can even find indoor resorts if you want a more full-out water park experience (although, obviously, the price goes up the fancier you get).

Cost: at our local center, $5 entry/day or $15 a month. We tossed out our big gym passes and swapped for passes at our local recreation center (about $15 a month for our family with my work discount!). This has been a game changer since the center has rock climbing, racquetball, ping pong, and pool tables. This has been the biggest winter win of the season! cheap or free christmas activities

3. Make a ginger bread house:

Making a gingerbread house can be another great cheap Christmastime activity. It can be as simple or extravagant as you are willing to take on. Seeing as how we are trying to limit spending, we’d rather keep it simple. This year we are planning on making our “gingerbread” houses out of graham crackers, instead of buying the expensive pre-made ginger bread kits we normally get.

All you have to do is buy graham crackers, candy, and frosting, and build your little home. It is simple, you don’t have to spend forever baking ginger bread, and its cheap. Win win win. Although, mad props if you are willing to make the ginger bread house from scratch.

4. Christmas caroling.

Cost: Free. The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear! Hit up your neighbors, or better yet, a local nursing home or assisted living unit. It doesn’t even matter if you are no singer. Everyone loves a good Christmas carol.

5. Checking out local Christmas lights.

Cost: Free. Most cities offer some sort of Christmas light display. Find yours and get out with your family or loved ones.

cheap or free christmas activities

6. Ugly Christmas light hunt.

One of my all time favorite free things to do for Christmas is to drive around neighborhoods in search of the gaudiest lights we can find (in a good, not mean way). Turn up the Christmas music on the radio and make it a contest.

7. Have a Christmas movie night.

Popcorn optional.

Our top five favorite Christmas movies:

  1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,
  2. Elf
  3. It’s A Wonderful Life 
  4. The Muppet Christmas Carol
  5. A Christmas Story

8. Bake Christmas cookies.

Combine with #7 for a Christmas-y good time!

9. Ice skating

Cost: Typically between $5 – $10 which should include shoes. I am TERRIBLE at ice skating which increases its entertainment value ten fold.

cheap or free christmas activities

10. Ice running.

Cost: FREE except for possibly your life. Ice running has become a tradition every year, but is obviously dependent on where you live. Also, I’ll say it’s not for the faint of heart. We go on a run across a lake near our house when the temperatures haven’t risen above freezing for several days. Scary, free, and thrilling. Baby M has not been invited on this activity yet. Last time we went we heard from serious ice cracking while we were running, so do be careful.

cheap or free christmas activities

11. Host a no-spend white elephant gift exchange.

The best gifts are generally the more creative ones. And lets be honest, we all have stuff sitting around our house that we don’t know what to do with. Dig around your house and find some real treasures that you are ok parting with.

12. Host a pot-luck style Christmas party.

Instead of taking on all the work of hosting a holiday party, consider hosting a pot luck style party. That way, instead of being responsible for feeding everyone, you are only responsible for one dish that you can easily make for under $5.

13. Have a family or friend Christmas themed photo shoot.

Get as cheesy as you can stand. Throw on that old Christmas sweater, get by the fireplace, and take photos until you drop. You can get crazy and combine this with #17.

14. Make homemade ornaments.

Limit yourself to only using things you already have at home to make homemade ornaments. This will inspire creativity and keep your spending in check.

15. Attend a holiday parade.

Free candy and free holiday cheer. Just make sure you bundle up so that you can actually enjoy the parade!

16. Serve someone.

It seems like every year I try to think of some elaborate gift giving or twelve days of Christmas-ing or some over the top thing I can do for a friend to serve them. These kinds of things are fun, but the focus seems to be on the gifts or the activities themselves, instead of the service, when service was the point to begin with. Why not keep it simple and volunteer at the food bank, or pass out food at a soup kitchen or provide some other valuable service. It is free for you, and it will no doubt bring you bounteous holiday cheer.

17. Make your own Christmas cards.

You could write out individual, personalized cards to friends and family members who mean the most to you. You could limit yourself to only using things you have on hand, or you could buy some inexpensive decorations. (Follow my DIY Christmas pinterest board for ideas)

18. Decorate someone else’s home or office for Christmas.

I wish we had photos, but last year we snuck into Danny’s mom’s office and decked the halls. It was fun for us to feel like little Christmas elves and fun for her to come into her office the next morning.

19. Go on a hot chocolate walk.

Find a place that has fun holiday lights or decorations (can be as simple as walking around the mall), grab a friend or a significant other and a hot cocoa and enjoy the ambiance.

20. Bake a Christmas treat for a neighbor.

Do you actually know your neighbors? We’ve met some of ours a couple of times. One easy way to get to know them a little better is to take a Christmas treat over and go say hi!

21. Play dress up. (Christmas themed, obviously)

Lately, M has been loving to go to the skate park. He likes to watch the “guys” and also likes to ride on his belly down approximately half of the half pipe. I have a plan to dress him up like a little elf and watch him cruise at the skate park. But more ideas, you could force your family or friends to dress up in a Christmas theme (ugly Christmas sweaters) and go on a walk or do any of activities 1-20 on this list. Everything is better when you are dressed up.

22. Make your own ugly Christmas sweater.

The fact of the matter is this: ugly Christmas sweater parties aren’t going anywhere. You are simply going to need an ugly Christmas sweater from now until you die. So you might as well make a good one.

You can find most of the materials you will need at a thrift store. If thrifting is not for you, however, search the clearance racks for the sweater and the supplies.

23. Make a Christmas craft.

I think the best Christmas decorations are home-made, that can last for the years to come. Get together with friends or family and make something Christmasy for your place!

24. Play Christmas carol (or movie) Pictionary.

You play exactly like you do Pictionary, but you are trying to guess the name of the Christmas carol/movie they are trying to illustrate.

25. Attend a Christmas sing-a-long.

I guess my point is this: you don’t have to spend money that you don’t have to enjoy Christmas. Christmas should be about spending time with the ones you love, and looking for ways to be kind to others.

What cheap or free Christmas things to do for Christmas have you found? 

P.S. Have you subscribed to our newsletter? We offer all the behind the scenes tips and tricks we’re using to pay off $650k of debt, including monthly debt updates.

free things you can do for christmas


  1. Ice Running sounds amazing. I have definitely walked on ice before but never tried to run. I was always too afraid of falling. Although I definitely checked Youtube and there are a ton of people that have Ice Running fails so if anything my wife can add me to the list.

    Thanks for sharing your cheap Christmas activities.

    1. Haha. It can for sure be entertaining. We do a 7 mile loop on a lake near our house. It can be sketchy to say the least.

  2. Love this!! We do many of the things on this list – love the white elephant that we do every year and is the highlight of our Christmas party. When we were kids we used to gather all of the cousins and go Christmas caroling through the neighborhood…on occasion people would even pay us to leave! 🙂

  3. Love this!! We do many of the things on this list – love the white elephant that we do every year and is the highlight of our Christmas party. When we were kids we used to gather all of the cousins and go Christmas caroling through the neighborhood…on occasion people would even pay us to leave! 🙂

  4. Great tips! The memories from activities like that will last a lot longer than some junk from the mall. And $15 a month for all those amenities at your rec center sounds like a steal.

    Hope you have a great holiday season. And good luck with the ice run 🙂

    1. Thank you! It is the biggest steal ever! We actually moved recently and have learned how big of a steal we were getting. Hope you have a great holiday season as well, thanks for stopping by. We love your blog!

  5. This is the most awesome post that I have read in ages! So many are just ridiculous with ads and affiliates that lose readers with sales pitches. Thank you for daring to differentiate yourselves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *