Want to spend some family time together during the break? These 5 budget-friendly Christmas break ideas bring the family together for some quality time.

Welcome to the great winter break time warp. The days seem both simultaneously incredibly short and much too long. The build up before Christmas, filled with eager anticipation and the busy joys of traditions, often makes my kids lose their junk and fight like cats and dogs. After all the presents have been unwrapped, if I’m not careful I can succumb to the post holiday blues and feel a little let down, wondering if all of the effort to try to make Christmas come off without a hitch was really worth it.

Christmas Break on a Dime

In the last days of December and the first days of January, we would sit quietly, playing with new things in separate rooms until inevitably one of my girls would reel out the three words that make every mom hear the sound of nails scratching on a chalkboard . . .

Mooooooom, I’m bored.

Deep within my heart of hearts, I long to reply in a kind and affirming, yet corrective voice, “Dear children, you simply cannot be bored. Your rooms are filled with so many good gifts. Scattered under the Christmas tree are new things – toys and books and clothes – that you ripped into mere hours ago. We have a television and crayons and board games. You have crafty items and puzzles and a gaming system. There’s no way you’re bored.”

However, if my own holiday malaise has gotten the better of me, I’m more likely to respond with a bit more grit in my tone of voice and maybe threaten to make them clean house all afternoon instead. Just sayin’.

Last year, I decided to replace the redundant cycle of the winter break blues with intentional activities to make a difference and make memories. Sure, there’s plenty going on in our nearby city . . . museum exhibits, special holiday celebrations at the zoo, and shows and plays galore. And there’s more than one holiday blockbuster that I’d like to take them to see. However, our family can’t budget to eat out or pay admission every single day of winter break.

So, I got creative and we tried out some of the following ideas to make the most of our time together without driving each other crazy OR breaking the bank.


Volunteering at a food bank is a great way to keep your kids busy and teach them an important lesson of kindness over christmas break

Serve Together

My husband regularly says that when one of our kids is off track, they simply need a better story, a way to shift their eyes from their own circumstances to the needs of other people. You’re probably not going to found a non-profit with your family between semesters (kudos to you if you do!) and so rather than getting bogged down on what you can’t do, start small. Consider the following ways you and your kids might serve together over winter break.

  • Visit an elderly neighbor or relative. Bring treats for that person or their caregiver.
  • Go caroling in the nursing home.
  • Prepare lunch for someone working long hours during the holiday season and deliver it.
  • Volunteer to ring bells or meet a need with the local Salvation Army.
  • Clean the toys in your church’s nursery. Anyone can use a Lysol wipe.
  • Shovel a snow covered driveway or two.
  • Bake cookies to take to your office or workplace.
  • Write letters to or Christmas Cards for soldiers. Contact your local Red Cross for instructions of where to send them.
  • Make fleece blankets to give to a local homeless outreach.
  • Collect pasta from your friends and neighbors to donate to a food pantry. Better yet, reach out and ask what items they have the greatest need for.
  • Babysit together for a family with young children so the mom and/or dad can take a break.

Really, the sky is the limit. Ask your kids to help identify needs and solve problems in their local community. You might be surprised with the ideas they share. Want more ideas? Check out 15 Christmas Service Projects for Families.

An at-home family movie night is a budget-friendly christmas break idea

Make Up Your Own Movie Marathon

There are several family favorite movies that I want to be sure to watch with my kids, from holiday favorites to broadway musicals to epic sagas. Why not choose a movie or handful of movies to check off your list this winter break. Here are a few ideas to get your juices flowing. Obviously, keep in mind your own family preferences and the ages of your kids. You may even want to screen a movie or two if it’s been a long while since you’ve seen it.

The Night at the Museum Trilogy

America The Story of Us from the History Channel

The Complete Star Wars Saga

The Harry Potter Movies

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy or The Hobbit Trilogy

The Complete Toy Story Collection

Anne of Green Gables Collection

If you don’t already own these films or have access to them from any streaming services, put them on reserve from the library right now. Our library also features binge boxes filled with collections of films that are similar – Steven Spielberg classics, Marvel movies, British flicks, musicals, and more. Your library is the perfect cure for a boring break. Don’t forget to pop popcorn and put on your pjs.

Bust out the video games for a family fun night to save some money

Video Game Tournament

My girls love to play games on our Wii. They love it even more when their parents play with them. Whether you crush it on Just Dance or channel your inner Princess Peach to defeat all your enemies, Mario Party style, you probably have a game or two no the shelf that’s been unplayed. Play with your own family unit or expand your bracket to include friends, neighbors, and extended family. Speaking of brackets, you can even print your own bracket to keep track of scores and to see who advances to the next round.

Take a stroll around the neighborhood and see the christmas lights

Christmas Light Tour

Your city is more than likely filled with more wonder in the evening hours now than any other time of the year. Plot out a path to hit the best displays in town. Make some hot cocoa to take in travel safe mugs. Bring a cookie or two to much on in the car. And have plenty of sing-a-long Christmas classics to pump through your speakers. Google your town or city’s name with light displays to find some that might be in your area. Or better yet, ask your friends and family on social media the neighborhoods or houses they don’t miss every year.

Sharing some christmas stories around the tree is a great way to spend time together as a family

Read a Classic Series of Books

There’s nothing like a good book that leads to another good book. Encourage your kids to dive into a piece of classic literature or a popular series. Check out the first two books the day before break begins so they’re ready to roll on day one. Or take advantage of the long time periods you might spend in the car traveling to and from visiting family to listen to audiobooks. Our family has listened to more than one lengthy series even in the short 15 to 20 minute trips we take around town. Need some ideas?

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

The Magic Treehouse Series by Mary Pope Osborne

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry

Again, like with movies, consider the ages of your children and your family’s preferences when choosing a series. But beginning them on a journey of getting to know characters who will become like friends is a great investment for winter break and the years to come. If you don’t own the books already or didn’t get an Amazon gift card hit the local library. Some libraries even have digital borrowing programs where you can listen to audiobooks your phone, iPod, or tablet for free!

Creating a winter break that your entire family can enjoy takes more planning but results in better memories. Setting expectations and getting your kids excited about what they get to do can create a more hospitable environment where you all enjoy the time off a bit more. For even more ideas, head to 15 FREE Christmas Break Activities.

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Cherie Lowe
Cherie Lowe is an author, speaker and hope bringer. Her book Slaying the Debt Dragon details her family’s quest to eliminate over $127K in debt in just under four years. As her alter ego the Queen of Free, Cherie provides offbeat money saving tips and debt slaying inspiration on a daily basis.
Cherie Lowe


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