December is a hard time for me. Right after Thanksgiving, I jump into Birthday & Christmas Season. My husband's birthday is in early December and is followed all-too-soon by Christmas. Right after New Year's, we celebrate Lucie's birthday, and then we celebrate Ella's a few weeks after that. Not only is it a busy season with so many wonderful things to celebrate, it is difficult for me too keep my budget under control. I love giving gifts to my family on their special days. Throughout the rest of the year, it's easier for me to stick to our budget and avoid any unecessary spending. But when their birthdays and Christmas arrive, I want to shower them with gifts! I'm in the process of adjusting my budget by saving throughout the year so that I can do just that.
However, Christmas is something that I'd like to celebrate all December long...and not just with gifts. When I began creating my Christmas Calendar a couple of weeks ago, I got to thinking about the things I want to do with my girls and the memories that I want us to make as a family. Funnily enough, most of the things that I came up with DON'T involve money. There are lots of ways to celebrate throughout the month without hurting your budget:
- Go to a Christmas Tree Lighting -- we're headed out to one tonight! Our little rural valley offers at least two tree lightings that I'm aware of and many local shops offer holiday Open Houses at the same time. Check with your local paper to see what is going on in your area.
- Go to a Christmas Parade. If all goes according to plan, we're headed to one tomorrow! The kids just LOVE collecting all the candy from the parade participants.
- Count down to Christmas with a Candy Calendar. I had one of these when I was a kid, and I LOVED it. A few years ago I made one for Ella and posted some instructions here. If you get a ton of candy from a Christmas Parade, use it on the calendar!
- Check out a Living Nativity if there is one in your area. The church I attended as a girl had a drive-thru one every year, and our current town has a Nativity Pageant at our local outdoor theater. I've never actually gone to the Pageant, but I've got it on our "To-Do" list this year! Don't have one in your area? Get some friends together and make your own!
- Go look at Christmas Lights. A friend of mine likes to get her kids bundled up in their pjs close to bedtime and drive to a town about 20-minutes away where there is a phenomenal street. Typically, her husand will drive around until the kids fall asleep in the car...and once they do, she and her hubby stop at Baskins & Robbins for ice cream. A family outing and date night all in one! (No, they don't leave their kids unattended in the car -- one of them runs in to get it and then they eat it in the car.)
- Build a Gingerbread House. You can find inexpensive kits at various places, but Organized Christmas also provides Gingerbread Recipe & instructions. I was going to try this one out until my mom gifted me with a kit. The girls can't wait to make it!
- Do a holiday craft once a week with your kids. Family Fun is a great resource for cute and inexpensive Christmas crafts.
- Make holiday cookies with your kids or host a Cookie Making Party. Here is an egg-free cookie recipe that works with cookie cutters. Also, check out FishMama's Ulitmate Recipe Swap for other cookie recipes.
- Take your child out on a "date" for a special treat and shop for a Christmas ornament for his/her collection.
- Take a family walk and collect some pinecones. Turn your finds into nearly free ornaments with some ribbon, paint and eye screws. Screw an eye screw into the base of the pinecone and thread it with some pretty ribbon. Put some paint (white or gold) onto a paper plate and roll the edges of the pinecone in it. Let dry and then hang on your tree! See photo above for an example.