This holiday season, suggest timeless and (mostly) costless holiday traditions to your friends and family. Not only will they praise your supreme creativity, they will probably be pretty pleased that they are saving a few dollars.
Make Your Own Holiday Cards
Designate a night where you and a couple of close friends or family members can relax and make cards to send out. While it may be easier to get a box of cards from Hallmark and send them to all of the people who make your life wonderful, creating your own cards is more personal and cheaper. Apartment Therapy even has tips for making cards from recycled bags and magazines.
If you have kids, you can even outsource the card-making to them, because who wouldn’t want an adorable, hand-drawn card from Junior? Just write down a short message that you want on the cards and hand the job off to the little elves. Double bonus if you can get them to lick all of the envelopes for you too.
Find a Family Movie
One of my best friends told me he and his family go to the movies every Thanksgiving after dinner. He explained that the process of choosing a movie was always unpleasant, even laughing at the fateful year when his grandmas and parents all went to see the slightly vulgar Meet the Parents.
My family has always had a couple movies that we will all sit down and watch—Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Airplane, Young Frankenstein—but at Thanksgiving there is only one thing on our minds. After every Thanksgiving meal since I was about 6, I have watched Home Alone with my grandpa and cousins. Eventually my aunts and uncles joined. Now it is a completely free holiday tradition that we all look forward to.
Of course, not every family loves the plight of Macaulay Culkin as much as we do, so go out and find your own perfect holiday movie. Maybe it is “It’s a Wonderful Life,” maybe it is “Elf,” either way think about the youngest and oldest people in the family and try to find something that is entertaining for them.
Entertaining is great. Paying for everyone to come over and eat all of your food is less great. If you are hosting a party offer to make the main course, but let others bring salads, desserts, and other munchies. For a party with friends, tell everybody to bring their favorite thing that their grandma makes. It is a great way for people to be involved without feeling like you are assigning dishes. Plus, it is a conversation starter.
With family, it is even easier. Every year before Thanksgiving there is an email thread where everyone fills out what they are bringing and where we are having the holiday. Fortunately, we have it down to a science: one aunt always makes potatoes, one always makes rolls, and Grandma ALWAYS makes the pies.
There is enough stress around the holidays, don’t take on more than you need to when entertaining.
Get on Board with Board Games
Start an annual tournament in your family. The game can be really anything, but just make sure that everyone can be involved. When I was younger we would play team Trivial Pursuit, where one adult was with every kid. As the kids of the family (myself included) grew up, we started Scrabble competitions.
Board games are an inexpensive way to get everyone in the same room having fun and talking. One thing that I have noticed is that my cousins and I never forget who won the year before or the strange words that come up (Grandma once tried to use the word “feets,” which we immediately struck down). These memories are priceless, and cheap.