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Tip/Thought of the Day

10 Low-Cost (or Free) Ways to Spend Time Together During the Holidays

The holiday season is a time to celebrate together, taking time to appreciate loved ones and bring our communities together. Most often though, it also means higher expenses for everybody. Food, gifts, events, travel, it all adds up. We’ve compiled ten ways to spend quality time together that are low-cost or free, helping put the focus where it belongs.

Send Holiday Wishes

The art of writing a letter is quickly disappearing. Yet many of us can attest- receiving a handwritten letter or card from somebody is incredibly meaningful. Writing a letter to somebody is one way to spread holiday cheer. This is also a great exercise to do with children. Encouraging them to show gratitude for how others have made a difference in their lives or highlighting something positive about others can set children on a path of incorporating gratitude and community building into their lives. Some ideas for the letters:

  • Share a special memory about the recipient that was meaningful to the writer.
  • Share thanks for something the recipient did that made a difference
  • Praise a characteristic that really stands out about the recipient- patience, generosity, humor, integrity, persistence.
  • Compliment their efforts in something that is close to their heart. Do they love gardening? Mention how you’ve noticed their yard always looks tended to and beautiful. Do they take great pride in how their house looks? Point out your favorite feature and that you notice the detail that went into it. Are they very athletic? Share if their discipline and persistence is inspiring to you. In short- notice the details that matter to them!

Host a game night

Holiday get togethers don’t have to be lavish and expensive. Invite family and friends and have them bring their favorite game and snack and spend a few hours together sharing the fun. This can be several nights over the holiday season that rotates between households, making it something to look forward to and keeps the togetherness alive.

Look at old photos together

Sharing favorite memories with others is a great way to bond and spend time together. Looking at old photos is a conversation starter and way to reminisce. It provides a window into your past, what was meaningful to you as a child, is a way to share family history, and also encourages other people to share favorite holiday memories. Don’t have old photos? Start a tradition of taking photos together and scrapbooking. It provides an avenue to spend time together now and can be something to look back on in the years to come.

Prepare a family recipe together

Many families have wonderful holiday traditions that get passed onto the next generation. Often, it revolves around food. What better way to spend time together than to get everybody in on the preparation? It helps relieve the stress of one person making large quantities of food for everybody and teaches the next generations the meaning behind the tradition. Not near family? Invite friends over to learn how to prepare a meaningful dish, host a cookie baking day, or learn how to make an entirely new dish together!

Go on a holiday walk or drive

Many people will agree, some of their favorite memories revolve around piling into a family vehicle and driving through neighborhoods lit up with Christmas lights and creative decorations. In Tucson, we are fortunate to have several neighborhoods whose residents light up their homes for others to enjoy. The Winterhaven Festival of Lights is a Tucson tradition (note, there are no drive-through dates for 2023). This year, it runs from December 9th-25th, 6-10p each night. The festival is free, but the Community Food Bank requests donations of nonperishable items to help those in need. You can read more about Winterhaven, here.

There are also trolley tours, hayrides, and the newest addition, party bikes! Going on foot is a personal favorite and allows families to also participate in a game of holiday “I Spy”, highlighting favorite aspects of the decorative scenes.

Make salt dough ornaments

image courtesy of:wholefully.com

Handmade ornaments are fun to make, supplies are inexpensive, the ornaments can be used as gifts, and are a wonderful addition to any holiday decor. The dough is easy to make:

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup table salt
  • Slowly add 1.5 cups of water
  • Mix together than knead by hand.
  • Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to roughly 1/4″
  • Shape the dough using cookie cutters or other tools (butter knife, toothpicks, the edge of a cup, etc).
  • Make a hole with a straw or toothpick to thread string later
  • Bake at 250F for 30+ minutes.
  • Cool, then paint.

Watch your favorite holiday movie or show

Dress up in your holiday best and screen your favorite holiday movie or show. An alternative is to dress in your holiday “worst”- think crazy holiday sweater. Keep the theme fun, but simple. No need to buy anything new, use what’s available and get creative.

Indoor picnic

Sometimes it’s fun to change the routine and mix things up. It can be as simple as setting up an indoor picnic and eating a meal near the Christmas tree, snuggle up near the fireplace, or even near a window with a great view. A fun task with children is to make a backdrop. Using large sheets of paper, draw and color a fun holiday moment and use the wonder of imagination to set the scene. We admit, not all of us are as gifted in using our imaginations as the years have passed, but through the eyes of a child anything is possible. Give it a try, you might be surprised how much fun it is!

Read a book

Head to your local library or bookstore and pick out a new holiday book to read together. Libraries are a great option if you incorporate this regularly into the holiday season- pick up new books whenever you’re ready, without the expense. Another option is to swap books with friends and family. Reading is a crucial for kids, as it helps expand their vocabulary, builds confidence and independence, improves their concentration, and is also a great screen-free way to pass the time. Adults benefit from reading too, as it can help reduce stress, encourages the continuity of learning, boosts cognitive health, and more. Pick up a book (or two!) this holiday season!

These are just a few ideas on how to spend quality time together without breaking the bank. The holiday season is about strengthening bonds, celebrating community and traditions, and being grateful for all we do have. Do you have any favorite holiday traditions? Share them in the comments!

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