Frugal Holidays: 5 Christmas Traditions We LOVE


Christmas traditions.

Do you have any?

Here are 5 of ours:

toilet-paper-advent-calender 1. Advent calenders

This is one of my kid’s favorite traditions & we can get them to do just about anything if I bribe them with: “We need to clean up first if you want to do the advent calendar later.” (Bribery totally works.)

This advent calender is for the girls. We bought the boys a Lego advent calender–which even I think is sooo cool.

I made this advent calendar out of toilet paper rolls (thanks pinterest!). I hot glued (can I say how much I HATE hot glue guns? I have half a dozen burn marks all over each hand) the empty rolls to cardboard cut in the shape of a tree, filled them with various little gifts I purchased from the dollar section at Target (I spent about $20 on treats/gifts to fill it with)–Hello Kitty bracelets & necklaces, Christmas themed erasers & stickers, crayons, small pens, candy & other small trinkets.

(I wrote out the numbers for Amalia, instead of using numbers because I want her to practice her reading.)


christmas-books 2. 24 days of books

Wrap 24 books &  open one each night until Christmas.

I did this a few years ago because I had purchased so many books for their Christmas presents, & decided I wanted them to savor each book, instead of opening a pile of books on Christmas. This year, to make it affordable, we bought two boxed sets of books (a Roald Dahl collection for the boys & Fancy Nancy for the girls) from Costco, plus a few others. Costco sells many boxed sets & book packages that make buying lots of high quality, new books rather affordable.

Even though we have plenty of books, I want my kids to grow up with the idea that the best gifts are books. And brand new books are always such a treat.


christmas-stories 3. Christmas stories each night around the Christmas tree

Joseph has a ritual of reading to the kids from a read-aloud every night as part of the kid’s bed time routine. After the kids do the advent calender, & open their book gift, he reads a story from this Christmas collection.


nutcracker-tickets 4. Attend Christmas cultural performances

Though we’re frugal, as I’ve mentioned before, one thing we always find ways to make money for are the cultural arts (& books).

This year Joseph & I are attending the symphony’s performance of Handel’s Messiah as well as a Holiday Pops concert.

I’m taking the three older kids to the Nutcracker ballet. I’m not going to lie, spending $150 on Nutcracker tickets was not an easy choice, but after some discussion with Joseph, we decided we’d rather go without gifts for each other so our kids could have the experience & memory of attending a classic performance of the Nutcracker.

Attending cultural events throughout the holidays isn’t always cheap, but we believe strongly in providing influential experiences for our kids that will hopefully last in their memories for a lifetime. Going to these events really helps add a whole other dimension to feeling the Christmas spirit. And of course, these events don’t always cost money–many non-profit groups & religious organizations put on cultural events for free.


merry-texmas 5. Sending care packages to loved ones far away

This is really a new tradition for us. It’s our first year we’re far away from any family, so we decided to go all out & send our family little Christmas packages.

We’re sending these “Merry Texmas” dishtowels (Texas-centric paraphernalia is everywhere–in fact, the wrapping paper for the kid’s books is also Texas themed) along with a bag of our chocolate mint drizzled popcorn, our homemade Christmas cards with our Christmas family photo, & a homemade ornament (I had planned on showing you these this week, but this post is long enough already, I’ll save them for next week’s Frugal Tuesday post). We want to make sure our family doesn’t forget about us, so this is the perfect opportunity to send some love & make sure they know we’re thinking of them during the holiday season.

Frugal Holidays Part 1: Simple gifting
Frugal Holidays Part 2: 5 reasons why decluttering before the holidays is essential 
Frugal Holidays Part 3: DIY washi tape Christmas cards
Frugal Holidays Part 5: DIY clay baked ornaments


What are your favorite Christmas traditions? 


  1. Michaela
    on December 4, 2013 at 7:49 pm said:

    Great Advent calendar idea! I’ve been wanting to make Audun a homemade calendar but forget that I need to get started in November and then December 1st has already arrived 😛

    I love books. We didn’t have a TV growing up so we would go to the book store or the library to get stacks of books that we would take home and read for hours on end. To this day, reading is one of my favorite activities…and we still don’t have a TV.

  2. lfwfv
    on December 3, 2013 at 2:05 pm said:

    I love the advent calendar you made and the 24 books idea especially. And Salem’s expression on the picture is priceless! ha!

  3. Michelle
    on December 3, 2013 at 1:58 pm said:

    I love the Texas wrapping paper!!!! Cute ideas.

  4. Laurie
    on December 3, 2013 at 1:02 pm said:

    How lovely! And I agree that the experience of attending the Nutcracker at Christmas–or any high-quality production any time of the year–will last a long time. It’s so worth it!

    As for holiday traditions: years ago when I still lived with my parents, my mom, dad, brother, and I would always drive around on Christmas Eve looking at all the Christmas lights in town. And here’s a non-traditional tradition: My brother and I started putting up our outside Christmas lights when we were in our teens. Without fail, every year while stringing the lights, we’d get into a fight (verbal) about the best way to go about hanging the decorations…while we were standing on the roof…where all the neighbors could see and hear. One year my mother said, “Please don’t fight on the roof,” but my brother and I looked at each other and both said, “But that’s part of the experience! It just wouldn’t be Christmas without our annual Christmas-light-stringing fight.” Almost 20 years later, I do still miss that. 🙂

  5. Danielle @ LabelsAreForTinCans
    on December 3, 2013 at 11:11 am said:

    What lovely traditions! When I have kids I would love to try some of these out – especially wrapping books up.

    As a musician and arts lover it makes me so happy to hear about recognizing the importance of cultural performances in kids’ lives!

    I always love putting up the tree and holiday baking with my Mom.

  6. Adina | Gluten Free Travelette
    on December 3, 2013 at 10:45 am said:

    I love the 24 days of books tradition! Such a smart idea – I’ll have to file that one away for potential future use.

    This year, we’re also doing a big push and holiday cultural events. This Thursday we’re headed to a community theater to see a play about Christmas play about Paris during WWII and we’re thrilled we managed to find super on sale tickets to the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker performance.

    • Janae Wise
      on December 3, 2013 at 10:50 am said:

      Awesome! I love the Nutcracker & hope I get to see a live performance every year until I die 🙂