When I got out of graduate school I was working in a school and working toward getting my +30, which basically means graduate school plus an additional 30 credits of graduate level work and then you get paid more! Unfortunately I got the +30 and then stopped working in a school (womp womp). Well, as part of this +30 I took a graduate level course on parenting, I didn’t have any children at the time, but was helping parents and their kids and figured it might be helpful. The class was so so hard, but so so amazing (shout out to Dr. Leo Sandy), and I learned many things that have stuck with me.
One of the things I will never forget was actually not central to any one class, but as an aside, Dr. Sandy was talking about his kids and he said don’t forget, when you’re very little, doing something even once makes it a tradition. For some reason it stuck with me and now that I have little ones of my own I see it playing out over and over again. Just last week after my kiddos got in their costumes for halloween, my son went out and sat on the front steps for a picture “because that’s what we do every year”, last year was actually the first year that we did it, but yay! A new tradition!
Similarly, my most favorite memories from when I was a kid are of all of the traditions we did every year. There weren’t many, but I can still remember them being something that brought the whole family together, which was saying something because there’s 12 years between myself and my oldest sibling.
Anyhoo, this has all been on my mind because I love love love Christmas and it’s an easy time to incorporate traditions that will last for years to come AND they don’t have to be expensive. Here are my top ten:
- On Christmas Eve we always have Chinese food. This one is not so frugal but we have a great reasonably priced restaurant and we always do take out, so we save a bit there- you also get a TON of food.
- Also on Christmas Eve, the kids get new pajamas and a new to them book to unwrap. I buy them pajamas the day after Christmas and last year got them for 80% off! I will generally also buy them a “like new” Christmas book from Amazon. Last year I paid $12 for 3 books and used credit card rewards to pay for them so I had no out of pocket costs.
- Popcorn! We have popcorn a LOT, but we always make sure to have some on Christmas Eve and popcorn, even with butter, is really inexpensive!
- We buy a real Christmas tree. Ok again not totally frugal BUT Lowes actually has online deals for live Christmas trees! I kid you not, I got mine for (I think ) 25% off last year.
- On the Saturday after Thanksgiving I wait until the kids are in bed and then I go absolutely crazy decorating the house, I put the lights on the Christmas tree, but not the ornaments because we do the tree together. Then when they wake up it’s like a Christmas explosion and they can see what’s new and what they remember from last year. What’s new is always purchased in the days after Christmas for the following year. Christmas decorations at Michael’s are 80% off in the week following Christmas. The important thing is remembering where you put them! I now have a dedicated spot and bins for holiday decorations.
- Each Frugal kid gets an ornament for Christmas that means something to them. Single ornaments at places like Michael’s are great because there are almost always coupons and it helps fill out your tree with things that have meaning.
- We have a re-usable Advent Calendar and the kids take turns putting one piece up a day. We take this time to talk about what their favorite part of the day was. They LOVE doing this and can’t wait to talk about their day.
- We drive around and look at holiday lights- aside from the gas money it’s a pretty cheap activity. We will also sometimes bring snacks with us.
- We like to do lots of coloring and arts and crafts. There are many many free coloring pages available from Mr. Google.
- Last but not least, I fill their stockings with and also buy gifts that are things that they need and I probably would have purchased anyways. I will buy things that are a little more fun and less utilitarian than if I was just purchasing for every day. Things like chapstick, hair ties, hair clips, tooth brushes, band aids, a new shirt or pants or I’ll crochet them a new hat. Sometimes half the fun is unwrapping the item. Last year, I put juice boxes in their stockings and they were ecstatic because I never buy juice boxes. My son wondered out loud if this year Santa would bring them again 😉
Anyway, I hope I got your wheels turning and would love to hear about your own frugal (or not so frugal) traditions.