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34 Free (or Inexpensive) Things to do this Holiday Season!

Christmas tree in Flagstaff, Arizona

1. Send out free online greeting cards to family and friends

What better surprise than opening up your email to find a charming holiday card from a faraway friend or family member? Sites like 123greetings.com offer a wide range of specialty cards for loved ones and acquaintances, all with cute songs and graphics. It’s totally free and saves you a ton of time over venturing out to the crowded post office! All the recipients I’ve sent these to seem to really love them. Once you send one, they will be looking forward to a new one on every occasion!

2. Plan a holiday movie marathon

Watching a fun lineup of feel-good, festive holiday movies is the ultimate December activity. Make some hot cocoa, prepare a few festive snacks, decorate the house, and snuggle up with your holiday favorites. No DVDs on hand? Don’t worry, cable channels like ABC Family, Lifetime, Hallmark, and ION have a whole lineup of movies throughout the season.

Be sure to check out Snowglobe, Holiday in Handcuffs, and 12 Dates of Christmas on ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas lineup. Lifetime has some great movies too, including Crazy For Christmas, Holiday Switch, The Road to Christmas, and Holiday High School Reunion. Hallmark is well-known for their abundant selection of cozy, feel choices including Eve’s Christmas, Mrs. Miracle, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, and Come Dance with Me. Set your DVR to record a bunch or just be on the lookout for your favorites and tune in during the live airing!

3. Hunt for budget holiday decor

Spend the day browsing local garage and yard sales, thrift shops, Goodwill, and any other discount stores for amazing prices on great holiday decorations. You might even find some cool vintage treasures that you can’t find anywhere else! Stand apart from everyone else with a few unique gems.

4. Head to your local sledding hill

Skip the overpriced ski resorts and snow plays areas in favor of a local hill at a town park. Knowing that you are saving money and avoiding the insane crowds makes the experience all the more fun. So get out there and enjoy some old fashioned fun with the family! Make some hot cocoa and sit by the fire to warm up when you get home!

Even a warm weather area like Tampa Bay offers locals a chance to go sledding on real snow!

Even a warm weather area like Tampa Bay offers locals a chance to go sledding on real snow!

5. Bake your own festive treats

Skip the prepackaged expensive grocery store treats and have fun making your own, while saving money in the process. You can find all sorts of recipes online, even if you need specialty recipes like gluten-free, low sugar, or dairy free.

6. Make handmade holiday gifts

Your recipients will appreciate the time, thought, and effort put into their special gift much more than they would ever appreciate a store bought gift. Take your time, be creative, and have fun designing your own creative present!

7. Whip up your own holiday beverages

Say goodbye to overpriced Starbucks Peppermint Mochas and Pumpkin Spice Lattes with your own cheaper at home version. You can find many recipes online for these festive drinks, and they won’t cost a fraction of the price! Plus, you can easily customize your drink to be lower in calories, free of dairy, etc. Check out this article on  10 Peppermint Mocha recipes to get started!

8. Find free holiday events in your community

Search local newspapers, the library, the Chamber of Commerce, etc. for area holiday events. Many communities offer an abundance of free and low cost events including tree lighting ceremonies, holiday parades, and various light shows.

One of the many light displays at a free holiday event in Prescott Arizona called Valley of Lights. This drive-thru light spectacular is definitely worthy of a visit!

One of the many light displays at a free holiday event in Prescott Arizona called Valley of Lights. This drive-thru light spectacular is definitely worthy of a visit!

9. Enjoy budget friendly winter activities

Skiing isn’t the only fun winter sport! Check into sledding at a local park, ice skating at a nearby pond, or taking a brisk walk at your local park/forest. There are so many fun things to do during the winter season: don’t let the cold weather stop you! Exercising in the brisk weather will not only get you out of the house, but also help you burn off some of those holiday calories!

It's hard not to get out there this winter when you have a place as quaint and beautiful as Myles Standish State Forest in Plymouth County, Massachusetts!

It’s hard not to get out there this winter when you have a place as quaint and beautiful as Myles Standish State Forest in Plymouth County, Massachusetts!

10. Load up on cheap holiday necessities at Dollar Tree

Pick up a few holiday mugs, gift wrap and bows, and cute knick knacks like snowglobes, all for only $1.

11. Enjoy a Netflix holiday marathon

Netflix has a surprisingly nice collection of holiday movies each year. If you do not already have a subscription, now is the time to consider it! For just 8 bucks a month, you will get to enjoy 100’s of movies and TV series. A few great holiday selections for 2015 include: 12 Dates of Christmas, One Magic Christmas, Ernest Saves Christmas, Christmas Crush, White Christmas, Switchmas, and many more!

12. Check your local theater to see if they are screening any holiday classics

Many theaters screen holiday favorites on select dates in December, either for free or for a really low price. You can’t beat seeing classics like A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, and It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen!

The Jane Pickens Theater in Newport, Rhode is a gorgeous historic theater which screens a few holiday classics each year. Last year, they aired "White Christmas" for free on Christmas Eve as a gift to the community!

The Jane Pickens Theater in Newport, Rhode is a gorgeous historic theater which screens a few holiday classics each year. Last year, they aired “White Christmas” for free on Christmas Eve as a gift to the community!

13. Find a free holiday concert

Instead of attending an expensive symphony show, why not attend a free local show at a church? These are often just as fun, with the added bonus of being gorgeously decorated for the season!

14. Make your own festive gifts for your pets or find cute Christmas themed toys at the dollar store

Your pets won’t know the difference!

15. Shop in person versus online

Shopping at the mall or local shops doubles as budget friendly entertainment. Not only will you get to stroll around  and see all the pretty lights, you might even be treated to some festive caroling. As an added bonus, you’ll save on all the extra shipping fees associated with online shopping, not to mention the hassle of returning items that are the wrong color, size, etc.

Holiday shopping with gorgeous decorations and a synchronized music and light show, complete with snow, at The Shops of Wiregrass in the Tampa Bay area.

Holiday shopping with gorgeous decorations and a synchronized music and light show, complete with snow, at The Shops of Wiregrass in the Tampa Bay area.

16. Decorate your home and tree with creative craft projects

Not only will you save money, but your decor will stand out from the rest. Pick an available night with the family and turn it into a festive, budget friendly activity!

17. Build a snowman

If your lucky enough to live somewhere with snow, get out there and enjoy some youthful, old-fashioned fun!

18. Pick a night to check out the neighborhood lights

Take a leisurely walk or drive around your neighborhood to view all the pretty lights. Put it to a vote and decide who has the best display!

19. Find a cute coffee shop that goes all out with holiday decor

Enjoy a steaming cup of their specialty seasonal drink and relax for a bit!

20. Throw a potluck holiday gathering

Have everyone bring a fun dish to save yourself time and money. Relax and enjoy the party instead of spending the entire night cooking and cleaning!

21. Make your own holiday ornaments

All it takes is a clear ball and then its up to your creative genius. Find cheap supplies at a Walmart, Target, Michaels, or your local thrift shop.

22. Take a snowshoe walk

If you have a pair of snowshoes, get out on the trails at the first sign of snow. Snowshoeing is a wonderful way to get out in the fresh air, burn a ton of calories, and enjoy some great winter scenery. Don’t have your own pair? Don’t worry, you can usually rent them for 10 bucks or under.

Snowshoeing in Bethlehem, New Hampshire.

Snowshoeing in Bethlehem, New Hampshire.

23. Make homemade cocoa

You probably have all the ingredients already in your pantry. Browse online for 100’s of free recipes. A delicious homemade cocoa is less costly, more delicious, and healthier than a pricy one bought out.

24. Volunteer

Find a local business that needs help like a soup kitchen or animal shelter.

25. Adopt a new pet

Taking care of a new cat or dog that would otherwise be sitting in a shelter alone over the holidays is a wonderful way to bring happiness to both of your lives. If short on extra spending money, check your local newspaper ads as those who can no longer house their pets usually have no fee, only expect a good home in return for the adoption.

26. Check out a classic Christmas novel

Check out a classic like “A Christmas Carol” from your local library and enjoy an old fashioned night of reading (a real book) by the fireplace!

27. Go window shopping downtown

Many storefronts put on a great display this time of year. If you live in a large city like New York or Chicago, you must check out the annual holiday window displays at Macy’s.

The annual holiday window displays at Macy's on State Street in downtown Chicago.

The annual holiday window displays at Macy’s on State Street in downtown Chicago.

28. Find a group of friends to go caroling with

Have a blast singing your favorite holiday tunes with this old fashioned festive activity!

29. Download free holiday music on Freegal

Freegal is an awesome free library service which allows you to download a select number of songs per week. Check to see if your library participates!

30. Lounge on the couch and enjoy your favorite TV series

Whether from Netflix, the library, or your own DVD collection, you can easily track down your favorite series without spending too much.

31. Plan an old fashioned family board game night

Take out all your old faves like Scrabble, Monopoly and Yahtzee, make some popcorn, and enjoy the time off with your family.

32. Visit a museum on a free day

Many museums offer free holiday exhibits this time of year. Also be on the lookout for free general admission days throughout the month at any local art museums, science museums, as well as any other cultural attractions.

The Art Institute of Chicago offers free admission to Illinois residents every Thursday from 5-8pm. Search for similar deals in your town.

The Art Institute of Chicago offers free admission to Illinois residents every Thursday from 5-8pm. Search for similar deals in your town.

33. Enjoy a winter art walk

Most downtown areas offer art walks throughout the year with free appetizers and wine samples. Enjoy a night strolling around town, while also taking in the pretty holiday lights.

34. Attend a free or cheap zoo lights celebration

Many small towns host an annual Zoo Lights celebration, which won’t cost more than a few bucks per person. You can also check sites like Groupon and Living Social for special deals. If you are lucky enough to live in a city with a free Zoo Lights event (like Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago), be sure to take advantage of this great opportunity!

Walking through a gorgeous tunnel of colorful lights at the annual free Zoo Lights at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo. Check for free or low cost zoo events in your state!

Walking through a gorgeous tunnel of colorful lights at the annual free Zoo Lights at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. Check for free or low cost zoo events in your state!

What are some of your favorite free and/or low budget activities to enjoy during the holiday season?

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