Forget the expensive Swarovski crystal centerpiece! Take your kids on a scavenger hunt right in your own backyard or the local park for some pinecones, evergreens, colorful leaves and shiny rocks to create a holiday centerpiece you will all be proud of!
Instead of holding your breath while your kids sip grape juice over an antique white linen table cloth, get a roll of brown craft paper or white butcher paper, which costs less than 5 cents a foot. Set a few bowls full of crayons on each table and let all the kids (and adults) doodle and draw during and in between courses.
Who needs Pottery Barn for high-end decorations? Check out thrift stores, garage sales and Craigslist to get everything from Christmas wreaths to placemats and stockings to ornaments. By shopping used, you can get holiday decorations and home accessories for pennies on the dollar.
Get together with other families for a holiday decoration and ornament swap. Bring all the items that you want to trade or give away. Whatever doesn't get swapped at the end of the night can be donated to a local charity. A swap is a great way to get together with friends and neighbors while you also revamp your holiday decor without spending a dime.
Author Helen Coronato of Eco-Friendly Families suggests decorating a tree living in your yard instead of buying a cut tree to save money and add a little bit of green to your holiday routine.
Forget shelling out $10 a ticket to see a movie. With Netflix or cable movies on demand, you can find movies that you have never seen for just a couple bucks. So break out the popcorn and watch some holiday classics, or discover new favorites together as a family.
In this digital age, we often forget about all the simple ways to have fun. Kids (and adults) can play hide-and-seek, charades or numerous other old-fashioned games. Board games are fun too -- from Candyland to Monopoly to Risk. Kids can put on puppet shows or plays for the rest of the family with props you have around the house.
The holidays are a great time to give back to your local community. Ask your kids to go through their toy boxes and closets to select toys, clothes and other items to donate to local children's shelters, The Salvation Army and other organizations. You also can seek out local volunteer opportunities in your area by using websites like Volunteermatch.org. Volunteering together can be a very rewarding bonding experience.
Visit your local library, sign up for a card and borrow some books. And while you're there, check out their schedule of workshops and classes, as well as their collection of video games and DVDs -- which you can rent for free!
Check your local parenting guide, chamber of commerce website, parks and recreation department or convention bureau for a listing of the festivals, musicals, plays and other holiday events that are going on in your community. You'll be surprised how many free and low-cost events take place during the holiday season.
Above all else, don't forget the most important part of your holiday celebration -- bonding and connecting with the ones you love. That's what the holidays are truly all about!
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