11.07.2023 By Amy Miller, AFC®

10 Cheap or Free Holiday Activities

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holidays are one of the happiest seasons for many of us….and can quickly become the most costly. On average, Americans spend around $1800 on gifts, travel, food, and events from November – January each year.

Related Topics


Of course, we all want to enjoy the holidays, but we also don’t want to break the bank or end the season carrying new and unnecessary debt. With the holidays quickly approaching and knowing that inflation is wreaking havoc on many of our wallets, we’ve put together a list of 10 Cheap or Free Fun Activities that you can do as a family this holiday season.

  1. Attend a Holiday Parade, Tree Lighting Ceremony or Festival. Many communities host an event the weekend after Thanksgiving or the 1st weekend of December to kick off the holiday season that is totally free. Most also have Santa there and ready to meet the kids, hear their wish list, and pose for a quick photo.
  2. Host A Movie Night. Instead of a big (and costly) party, invite your friends over, show your favorite holiday film, and serve hot chocolate and smores. Have each friend bring one item, like marshmallows or candy canes to cut back on cost for everyone.
  3. Volunteer. Another substitute for a holiday party – gather your friends and family and volunteer at a local shelter or soup kitchen. Clean out the pantry and donate while you’re there.
  4. Go Caroling! What better way to get into the holiday spirit than to walk around singing your favorite songs and spreading cheer to your friends, family, and neighbors? And it’s totally free! (make rehearsing an event too)
  5. Make DIY Gifts. Presents don’t have to come from a store or be costly to be special and appreciated.
  6. Bake Holiday Treats and Host a “SWAP” party. It’s the season to break out the cookbook and bake up batches of your best holiday sweets and treats to share. Call up your friends and family to join in on the fun by coming together and exchanging tasty goodies.
  7. Take a Holiday Lights Driving Tour. There are typically lots of lights adorning buildings, homes, parks, and public areas during the season. Pack up everyone and drive around checking out the displays. It’ll only cost a few gallons of gas. Maybe pack some holiday sweets and hot cocoa to enjoy on the ride.
  8. Create a Holiday Scavenger Hunt around your neighborhood or town. It will take a little work beforehand but will be a big hit with your friends and family….and can be done completely free!
  9. Host a Toy Exchange. Do your kids have too many toys – many that they’ve outgrown and don’t play with anymore? Gather other families for an exchange party. Each kid will walk away with something new that won’t cost a dime.
  10. Cut Down Your Own Tree. Make a whole day of it. Bundle up, pack a few snacks or picnic lunch, and head out to a farm near you to chop down your own tree as a family. Doing so can save on the cost compared to buying one at a local retailer.

Start the holiday season off right by taking the America Saves Pledge, pause for a check-in, and get a clear view of your finances. Pick your savings goal and we’ll be your partner along with way and will send text and emails full of tips, tools and resources to keep you motivated.

Check out these related insights!

11.30.2018 By Darlene Aderoju

5 Holiday Mistakes That Could Cost You

11.01.2017 By Madalyn Pemberton

How to Save During the Holidays

Related Tags



If we feature you in our newsletter, you get $50.

You May Also Be Interested In...