For families with children, Christmas vacation might feel daunting. Our regular, scheduled lives will suddenly be unstructured with empty days on the calendar. I find that my family is not at its best if we are either too busy, or if we have too much time to kill and no semblance of a plan.
Here are some thrifty ideas that we are going to try to end the year well as a family:
Each Christmas, my kids get a challenging new puzzle. We find a corner of the house where it stays set up and we all work away at it. Puzzling slows down the pace of the holidays, giving a feeling of accomplishment as a team.
To save money, instead of buying a new one each year, swap puzzles with a friend.
2. Search It
Many places offer free (or inexpensive) winter break events – check local libraries, websites like Kids Around Canada, events at your local community centre, and even free/cheap skate & swim times.
3. Off-Season Drive-In at Home
On a mild night, head out to your family vehicle. Bring out a movie to play on a portable DVD player or computer, and call it a family drive-in. Of course, pajamas, blankets and popcorn are a must.
Set aside a block of time to be “unplugged”. Ignore the phone, turn off the television and computer, and just spend time together. This would be a great time for family charades. Nothing can humble a parent, and amuse a child, more than mom & dad clucking like chickens.
5. Kids’ Dinner Choice/Dessert First
Let your children choose what to have for supper one night. Age permitting, let them cook it too, or at least help. This might even be a good night to try out a new recipe or have dessert first.
6. Help Others
Consider who might need some holiday cheer. A neighbour? A family friend? Brainstorm as a family how to help someone else. Shovel their driveway, invite them for hot chocolate… think beyond your own home and give back to ohers.
7. Embrace Board-dom
Dust off the board games and rediscover games you may not have played for a long time. Classics in our home include Risk, Monopoly, Checkers and Life. Another personal favorite of mine is playing Sculptionary – which uses Pictionary cards and Playdough. No talent required!
Pull out family movies or photo albums. Share your “Remember when…” moments. I once showed my boys a picture of me as a toddler. Confused, one of them said, “Hey, that’s me… but why am I wearing a dress?”. Kids love to hear stories about themselves, and be reminded of memories they may have forgotten.
My boys tease me that every time I put their snow pants away, we have a blizzard. It happens every year! We all enjoy having some snowy fun. Tobogganing, outdoor skating, snowmen making… let it snow! Our kids love taking markers outside and colouring the snow. Apparently green snowballs fly the fastest and red snowballs spiral best.
10. Slumber Party
Before taking down the Christmas tree, why not spend one night as a family with sleeping bags spread out around it? My boys are planning a Christmas Eve camp out with daddy this year, but you could have your slumber party any time during the holidays.
Be sure to appoint different photographers (have each family member take turns with the camera) to capture this year’s holiday fun; kids often catch moments that we might miss – and this will give the usual photographer a chance to make it into the pictures.
There is power in simplicity and slowing down. For a season that is typically rushed, instead, let’s savour this time together. Hopefully some of these suggestions will contribute to “peace on earth” in your home.
What ideas do you have to make this a fun holiday time on a dime?
Karen Gauvreau is a contributing writer for MapleMoney.com. She was once voted, “Most Likely to Use Coupons Even If She Won the Lottery.” She is a wife and a mom of 4 boys that she affectionately calls her Blue Balloons. She proudly manages her family’s household on one salary by living frugally, and by creatively earning occasional income.