Frugal Family Friendly Christmas Activities

By Ashley Roe, Contributing Writer

Rushing from one store to the next frantically trying to buy all your Christmas gifts while realizing that you still have to plan a dinner party for next week and figure out how you are going to find time to get the kids all dressed for Christmas pictures tonight. Does this sound like you during the Christmas season? This time of year can be so hectic that we miss out on important things like enjoying quiet time with our families and remembering what Christmas is really all about in the first place.

Over the past year, I have tried to be more intentional about spending time with my husband. It can be easy to go from day to day without intentionally spending time together, so I’ve come up with some different seasonal lists of things we can do together.

Last Christmas, I made activity cards of things to do. We were going through a rough season financially, but I did not want that to stop us from enjoying this time of the year. So  I made sure most of them did not cost anything but would still give us a way to enjoy the Christmas season together.

Frugal Christmas Activities for the Family

To help you be more intentional with making time for what is most important this season, I came up with some frugal family friendly activities that you can do. Christmas is a time to have fun with your kids or to feel like a kid again if you don’t have kids of your own. However, I don’t want you to think of this as a list of things you have to do rather some ideas of things you can do. Don’t make this about adding more stuff to your ever-growing to do list. It should be more about creating traditions with your family for Christmas.

20 Activity Ideas

1. Create a fun tradition of decorating your home for Christmas. Growing up, my family always did this the Friday after Thanksgiving. It was the first official day to bring out all the Christmas decorations and music. You could even make hot chocolate or drink some eggnog while you are decorating. Whatever you do, make sure that it a fun and memorable time.

2. Go somewhere to look at Christmas lights. If there’s a nearby neighborhood that is known for having lots of good lights, take a drive after dark to see it. We have a park that decorates every year so I like to go down there at least once to see the lights. There’s also a zoo not too far away that decorates for Christmas too.

3. Go to a tree lighting ceremony. This could be a fun event for young kids. Look on your local cities website for a list of events to see if there’s a tree lighting. Many cities also have other special events going on along with the tree lighting as well.

4. Go see a Christmas parade or watch one on TV. Parades are a fun way to get into the Christmas spirit. It has always been a tradition in my family to watch the Macy’s parade on Thanksgiving day.

5. Watch a family friendly Christmas movie. I love bringing out the Christmas movies! Some of my favorites are; The Polar Express, Elf, It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, The Santa Clause and A Charlie Brown Christmas. decorating the tree

6. Turn off all the lights in the house except the Christmas lights. I do this often while the house is decorated for Christmas. It gives the living room a peaceful glow. It is especially fun to do this while watching a Christmas movie.

7. Take fun pictures outside. This is especially fun if you can get pictures in the snow.  But even if you don’t have snow, chances are there’s a place somewhere that’s decorated for Christmas where you can get some nice pictures.

8. Have a game night. Games nights are fun to have any time of the year, but it’s a good way to spend time with friends and family during the holidays too. We often made time on holidays to play games as a family and I want to keep making this a tradition.

9. Organize a game night with prizes. This is a little different that just playing games. Each person brings a set number of separately wrapped gifts worth a dollar. It can be anywhere from one to five items.

You can even make this white elephant style where everyone finds some sort of random item around their house that they no longer want. Play a game like bingo where there are specific winners. When someone wins, they get to pick a gift. Just make sure that the gifts get spread around evenly so that everyone gets something.

10. Play outside in the snow. You could go sledding, make snow forts, build a snowman and make snow angels. Playing in the snow can still be a fun activity for grown ups too. So get outside and feel like a kid again!

11. Find a free Christmas concert or program to attend. Lots of churches have great programs for Christmas. My church does a special even each year with music and drama. My husband and I are in it this year since we joined the orchestra. Go on local churches websites to see if they have something like this. Your local city website’s list of events is another place to find a list of these type of programs. Last year, my husband and I discovered some new events this way.

12. Bake lots of cookies then package them up to give away to friends and family. One of my favorite Christmas activities as a kid was decorating sugar cookies.

13. Make your own Christmas cards. You can design your own with a photo editing program or just have the kids draw, paint, use stamps or whatever else you can think of. Another idea is to use old cards to make new ones. I have lots of cards from earlier years just sitting in a box. So one year I got some scrapbook supplies together and cut up some of these old cards to use for making new cards.

14. Make ornaments. There are lots of tutorials around the internet for different kinds of ornaments. One thing I remember doing as a kid, was gluing sequins on pine cones so they looked like decorated Christmas trees. It’s a simple craft, but looks cute.

hot chocolate

15. Create a hot chocolate or coffee bar. Set up a table with a variety of add-ins like some marshmallows, whipped topping, peppermint sticks, flavored syrups, cinnamon and sprinkles.

For hot chocolate, find a recipe to make it in a slow cooker and have a ladle for people to be able to scoop it into mugs.

If you want to do coffee for the adults, make a pot of coffee and keep it warm in an insulated carafe. it might also be a good idea to have some cream for the coffee. For some coffee ideas, check out this post of Joyful Thrifty Home called how to make coffeehouse quality drinks at home. 

16. Read the Christmas story from the bible on Christmas morning. We always did this growing up. I’m sure there were times when I would have rather just opened presents, but I’m glad that my mom made sure we knew the reason for the season. I hope to make this a tradition when I have kids someday.

Unwrapping the Gift

17. Create or use some sort of Advent calendar. This is a fun way to countdown to Christmas that usually starts on December first. There are many ways to do this using online printables or craft ideas. There’s even a lot of cute things you can buy for this purpose.

Last year, I made a calendar by printing circles with numbers one through 25 on them. Then I put a different verse that had something to do with Jesus and the Christmas story on the back. Each day, I took one down and  my husband and I read the verse on the back together.

This year, I put together an Advent e-book called Unwrapping the Gift with two other blogging friends; Crystal from Wisdom Seeking Mommy and Jane from Devoted Sonriser. It has 25 devotionals about gifts we are given through Jesus. There’s also a set of printables included that you can use to make your own advent calendar. It is free for a limited time for email subscribers of Joyful Thrifty Home or either of the other two contributors. Click here to get your FREE copy now.

18. Find a way to give to someone in need. Christmas is a great time of year to teach kids about thankfulness and giving, but it doesn’t have to be just to teach kids a lesson. Giving has a way of touching our hearts as well. Some ideas might be to pick out a name from a local Angel Tree and shop for gifts for that child, put together a box for Operation Christmas Child or volunteer at a local food bank to help pass out food.

19. Read a Christmas themed book together. You can pick a simple story book like The Night Before Christmas, or a longer book that you read aloud one or two chapters at a time.


20. Make a Christmas wreath with supplies from your local craft store. This is a great project  to do even if you think you are craft challenged. All you need is a wreath and a few decorations to add to it. It can be as simple as you want. Stores like Hobby Lobby often put their Christmas supplies on sale for up to 50% off. So find out when a sale is going on and go pick up a few things to decorate your wreath.

Printable Activity Cards

As I mentioned above, I created a set of cards with different activities on each one. I have included some printables and instructions so that you can make your own. Click the image below to go to the page where you can download and print your own set of Christmas Activity Cards. Follow the steps below for instructions on how to use them.

Free Printable Christmas Activity Cards

1. Print your activity cards. Depending on how many activities you want to include, you may need to print multiple sheets of activity cards.

2. Print your envelope labels.

3. Cut out your cards and labels.

4. Glue or tape your labels to two empty envelopes.

5. Write out a different activity for each card and place in the activities to do envelope.

6. Put somewhere easy to find or hang on the wall. When you want to do a new activity pick a card. When you finish, put it in the activities done envelope.

I hope you are now inspired to try something new this Christmas season! Pick some of the twenty ideas above or think of some of your own. Whatever you choose to do, make it a way to have a fun and meaningful Christmas season this year.

 What are some other ideas you have for family friendly Christmas activities?

What’s your favorite way to celebrate the Christmas season?


Delightful Red Velvet Cream Cheese Cupcake Bites ~ Recipe & Tutorial

If you have been living under a rock for the past few years then you may not have had the pleasure to taste these wonderful Cupcake Bites or the more popular version, the Cake Pop.

I prefer the look and feel of the Cupcake Bites as opposed to the Cake Pops, but essentially they are the same thing.

If you have not tried to make these for yourself yet, then make it a priority. Many people think it’s hard to make these and that they need one of those fancy shmanshy Cake Pops makers.

Which by all means you can get if you want to speed up the process. BUT the inside turns into a round ball of cooked cake instead of the super moist and delicious cooked cake mixed with frosting which makes these truly of another world!

I end up having to make new batches of these for every holiday and occasion. Visit Bakerella who of course made these so popular. She has many fabulous recipes and a step by step tutorial on how to make these.

My two favorite kinds of Cupcake Bites are the Red Velvet Cream Cheese Bites which are perfect for Valentine’s Day and Chocolate Peanut Butter Bites which I love making for Thanksgiving and any time during the Fall. The following pictures are of the chocolate peanut butter bites.


Valentine's Day CupCake Bites
These Cupcake bites are the perfect Valentine’s Day present.
They are also a fun treat to make for Easter ~
Easter Cupcake Bites
Easter Cupcake Bites
4th of July Cupcake Bites

4th of July CupCake Bites

{My personal favorite} Thanksgiving/Fall CupCake Bites

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcake Bites

*Re-posted from Feb. 7, 2012.

Fun Gift Idea ~ Personalized Tea Box

February is upon us which means many celebrations in our household. Mine and my husband’s dating anniversary is the 1st of February. Valentine’s day is of course sandwiched in here and we also have many family and friends birthdays throughout the month.

Homemade gifts become very important this time of year. They save money, provide fun for kids (and us crafty ladies), and help us to show our loved ones that we really care.

I recently decorated a tea box  for my husband for our anniversary. He loves taking his favorite tea with him to the office so I made him a cute box for him to hide stash away in his desk.

This is a fun and simple way to show our loved ones for Valentine’s Day or any day that we care about them!

And it’s easy! Simply start with your favorite tea. Our’s is currently Good Earth Sweet and Spicy.

Good Earth Sweet and Spicy

Then take scrapbooking paper and glue it on. For Valentine’s Day I took some cute red and pink paper with “I Love You” for My hubby. And for my friend I just made her her very own Happy Birthday Tea Box.

Happy Birthday Personalized Tea Box

This would also be cute personalized with a name or anniversary date. The possibilities of creativity with these are endless.

Personalized Tea Box
*Re-posted from Feb. 6, 2012.

Chocolate Marshmallow Egg Easter Baskets {A Tutorial}

Easter is quickly approaching so that means my Easter baskets, marshmallow eggs, and fun treats are ready to be handed out!

I love being able to make a fun Easter treat and attach a beautiful scripture about Christ’s death and the joy of his Resurrection. One fun Easter gift is chocolate dipped marshmallow egg baskets.

Easter Gift Tutorial-Marshmallow Eggs 13

This is a fun gift to make for kids of all ages and can be quick and easy to throw together. I am making 6 of these for my sparkies (I’m a leader in Awana).
Easter Gift Tutorial-Marshmallow Eggs 1

What you’ll need:

  • Egg Shaped Marshmallows (or regular marshmallows)
  • Lollipop sticks
  • Chocolate Candy Melts
  • Sprinkles
  • Easter Buckets/Basket (I found mine at the dollar store)
  • Floral Foam (or similar)
  • Plastic Wrap or parchment Paper
  • Oreos
  • Edible Grass (Optional)
Chocolate Marshmallow Easter Basket Tutorial

1) Cut the floral foam to fit inside your bucket/basket

Easter Gift Tutorial-Marshmallow Eggs 3
Easter Gift Tutorial-Marshmallow Eggs 2
Easter Gift Tutorial-Marshmallow Eggs 19
2) Cover the foam with Plastic wrap or parchment paper
I was going to use plastic wrap until I realized I was out ;) so I was resourceful and used parchment paper instead and it worked great.
Easter Gift Tutorial-Marshmallow Eggs 15
3) Crush Oreo’s to make the “Dirt”
When I started crushing the oreos I realized this was messy business and that they were very sticky! So I stuck them in a bag first and then crushed them.
Easter Gift Tutorial-Marshmallow Eggs 7
4) Assemble the pops
Now put your marshmallows on sticks, dip them in melted chocolate and sprinkle away.
5) Insert your pops and add grass
Now insert your dried marshmallow pops through the oreo’s into the foam and add some edible grass if you want.
Easter Gift Tutorial-Marshmallow Eggs 8
Now you are all ready to attach scripture or a personal note and your marshmallow egg baskets are ready for delivery. Enjoy!
Easter Gift Tutorial-Marshmallow Eggs 11
With optional edible grass
Easter Gift Tutorial-Marshmallow Eggs 9

Recover Old Chairs – For Less than $5

When my husband and I got married, we had nothing! We had both lived on campus at our University for one year (I was in a dorm and he was in an apartment) so we had nothing of our own!

We were fortunate to be blessed by so many gifts from friends and family. We got a bed from my mom, a couch set from his parents and a wood table and 4 matching chairs from my dad.

The table and chairs have serves us well the past few years but the chairs seemed a bit outdated. They had these old yellowy mold looking seats and while I was thankful to have great wooden chairs, I was ready for a change in the seats.

Before and After-Recover Old Chairs
So the realization hit me one day that I bet I could recover them. I grabbed a chair, flipped it over and sure enough the seat unscrews. So here’s how to do it:

Recovering Old Chairs

1) Gather Your Supplies

I knew that I wanted these chairs to match my dining room. I wanted a nice deep red design. So I kept my eyes peeled for cheap fabric or a nice tablecloth.

At goodwill one day I came across the perfect deep red tablecloth with a beautiful design in it for $6.99, and it was half off that day! I snagged the tablecloth for $3.50 and was able to re-do all my chairs.

You will also need scissors, a staple gun, and a screw driver.

The Supplies-Recover old chairs
2) Unscrew the seat cushions
This was simple and easy. Just turn the chair over and unscrew!

Unscrew the seat cushions-Recover old chairs
3) Staple on the New Fabric
Now you are going to cut the fabric and take your staple gun and staple to the back. I did a LOT of staples along the back just to make sure it was secure.

4) Screw Back on
Screw the cushions back onto the chair, and you’re done! You have brand new looking chairs!

The end Product-Recover Old Chairs

These look great in my dining room now and they look like I bought them that way!

MY New Dining Room-Recover Old Chairs