Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Free or Thrifty Christmas Activities

It seems like Christmas Activities came upon us quickly this year!  I was sort of scrambling to figure out things that needed to be done early in the month--like the advent calendar and our Christmas Calendar--to make sure we didn't leave out any of our favorite traditions.  If you're feeling the same way, I wanted to throw a list of funtivities out there so you can jump on the sleigh!

1.  Every year we make a special December Christmas Calendar.  We throw all of our Christmas Traditions on it.  This year I stuck it on the refrigerator so that the kids could see what's going on (it also reinforces days/month/weeks/dates that we're working on for homeschooling) and an added benefit is that it keeps the front of my refrigerator tidier!

2.  Spend an evening making a special trip to the store as a family to buy a popcorn tin.  Watch a little Christmas show, listen to Christmas music, or write Christmas cards as you snack on popcorn.

If you don't want to spend $5-6 to buy one, make some of your own Hint of Cinnamon Kettle Corn and throw it in a tin or container you already have.  Dollar Tree would probably have a cute container, too!  This way you can participate in a fun tradition without spending extra.

3.  If you enjoy the religious side of Christmas, find a live nativity, or find a church choir performance.  Many of these activities are free.

4.  Go for a drive or walk to see Christmas lights.  Make hot cocoa and cookies when you get home.

5.  Invite friends over to sing carols and have dessert.  This is one of my favorite traditions!  We always had a LOT of Christmas music going as a kid.

6.  Listen to the Christmas channel on Pandora.com. It's free, and there is a lot of great Christmas music to be heard!

7.  Set up your advent calendar.  It's ok if it's December 3rd.  Everyone will still enjoy it.  Fill it with something inexpensive like jellybeans if you're on a tight budget, or fill it with activities, like, "Make Cookies", or "Sing Jingle Bells", or "Make a Christmas Card".  It can be fun and free or inexpensive.

8.  Watch the Reindeer Cam!!  My kids get a total kick out of this.  It's just a video feed of a couple of Santa's reindeer.  Santa appears at specific times (see the website for details).  He juggles, "Ho, Ho, Hos", opens mail, feeds the deer, etc..  It's great!

9.  Make your own Christmas cards.  I usually get free or inexpensive cards on clearance.  This Christmas I'm going to give them some markers and let the kids have at the box that I picked up cheap last year.

10.  Has anyone ever sent you an Elf Yourself?  Why not join in the fun???  You could even make it your virtual Christmas Card and save on stamps.

11.  If you're looking for some fun crafts to do with kids, or adding to your home school curriculum, here is a free Christmas Printable I found.  There are a ton out there!  You just have to look around.

12.  Today I will be cutting out some circles with my Cricut.  I'd had an idea to make a "Kindness Tree", sort of the way we made our Thankful Tree, but I didn't want it to distract from the Christmas Calendar.  So I'll be cutting out the circles, we'll write an act of kindness that we've done or that somebody else has done for us throughout the day, and on Christmas, we'll read all of those things.  I already see teeny tiny hints our family moving into the secular parts of Christmas, and I want to make sure our focus stays where we want it.  I think this will help.

13.  Make goodies for neighbors and friends!  There are lots of goodies that can be made for a great price.  Take the opportunity to get to know your neighbors or coworkers a little better.

14.  Put Christmas books under the Christmas tree until presents arrive.  They look nice, and your kids will enjoy pulling them out and having you read the books to them!

15.  Have a Special Night.  My husband's family always had a night where they would turn off all of the lights/electricity, light candles, and have some foods that Mary and Joseph would have eaten (olives, grape juice, cheese, nuts, figs--or fig newtons--etc.), look at pictures and read scriptures of their journey.  The family would then go to sleep by candlelight.  It is one of my favorite traditions that we have kept in our family.  It feels so good in our home on Special Night.  It's so quiet and reverent.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Ways I Saved

It feels like I haven't blogged in so long!  We had a wonderful Thanksgiving break, I hope you had one too, and now we're ready for Christmas.

We had our Pilgrim's Feast for school lunch on Tuesday (pictured above).  My husband came home from work that day and was able to participate.  It was just wonderful!  The kids really enjoyed it.  I used almost everything that I had on hand.  We just had to purchase some dried cranberries, which I needed for Thanksgiving dinner anyway.  We'll definitely be doing this again.  We'll just use classier plates next time instead of clearance Halloween paper plates  :)

I made bread, cookies, burritos and Thanksgiving dinner, all earlier in the week.  After that, I basically quit cooking and we've been eating leftovers or quick meals.  I'll be making something nicer for dinner tonight!  :)

I ordered my husband's Christmas gift on Amazon on Black Friday.  I'm not sure if it was a Black Friday sale, but it was a steep discount, and they had a $20.00$100.00 purchase from this brand.  This being an investment sort of gift, I decided to get the upgraded version with the coupon instead of getting the one I had originally planned on and going under budget.  I think it'll be more versatile and last longer.  I was happy with the purchase!

Two other women and I are in charge of the children's program at church.  We have been making the children a gift for Christmas and I was able to make my part of the gift from things I had on hand.  We have a budget, but I like using my stash of sewing and crafting items for others when I can.

We went to a tree farm to cut down our Christmas tree.  While we were there, we took advantage of the free hot chocolate they offered with the tree, and the children got to visit with Santa.  We stayed right within our budget!

We went to Costco (yikes!  It's hard to stay within a budget there!) and stayed right within our budget.  We found a beautiful Bible stories book for our children that came out of their school budget.

I prepared our December budget in our big budget book as well as the little sub-budget book.  I have notated each purchase and we're right on track for the month.

I had the children make a few crafts this week out of things we had on hand.  My daughter and I made a bracelet, my son had fun beading a "worm", the children made funny faces by gluing cutout shapes onto a paper face, and I had the kids glue leftover leaves from our Thankful Tree onto legal sized construction paper for Thanksgiving Dinner place mats.