December is the season of gift-giving and spending time with your friends and family. With all the festivities around the corner, gifts, outings to the Christmas market, and vacations can add up. The last thing you want to do is go into the New Year with a panic over the current state of your bank account. Use this article to get some new ideas of activities to do over the holidays and gift-giving exchanges that do not break the bank and help you create some valuable memories with the people close to you.

New Activities

Holidays traditions are all about spending time with your loved ones and while a nice resort vacation or extravagant gifts are nice, they often result in going significantly above budget. The time spent together with your family and friends is truly the invaluable part and there are many cheaper alternatives that will guarantee you to have memories for a lifetime.

Over the past few years, my friends and I have made it a tradition for us to spend the holidays accomplishing three activities together. On our winter bucket list is to go ice-skating, binge watch Christmas movies all night, and create a playlist with all our top song choices from that year. While these are all relatively simple activities, the limited time I get to spend with my friends has always brought some of the best memories we’ve had together. After what feels like a never-ending finals season, there’s truly nothing better than completing this bucket list with friends.

Of course, not all of these activities interest everyone but here’s an additional list of activities that are fun and will put you into the holiday spirit!

  • Baking Christmas treats
  • Volunteer at your local shelter or food bank
  • Assembling care packages for the less fortunate
  • Organize a potluck
  • Tour neighbourhood Christmas lights
  • Cook meals for your loved ones

Gift Exchange Ideas

Secret Santa is a classic way to exchange gifts within a large group of family and friends. By randomly drawing who you will be buying a gift for, your identity is kept in confidentiality. The added bonus is that on the day of the gift exchange, it ends up being a fun game to find out who was the Secret Santa.

Another great idea is to get a group of people in a game of White Elephant. Set a price limit for everyone to bring a neutral gift, and to add a fun twist, ask everyone to buy a gift under a certain theme! At the exchange, the first person opens their gift and keeps it. Every new person that opens their respective gift can swap it with one of the gifts that have already been opened. At the very end, the first person has the option to swap their gift.

A personal favourite of mine is to not put the emphasis on getting the best gift ever, but buying joke gifts for my close friends. Whether it is something that is completely out of the blue, relates to one of the inside jokes my friends and I hold or would be something really funny to open, these types of gifts often cost a significant fraction of other gifts.

The holidays are arguably one of my favourite times of the year because I get to spend time and create new memories with my family and friends. The memories made from the simplest activities really have become the things that I remember most and I hope that these ideas give you some ideas on how to take on the holiday season without breaking the bank.