6 Ways to Save Money on All the Holiday Fun

families can save on skating and other activities during the holidays The holidays can get pretty expensive -- especially for families with kids. And we're not just talking about presents and stocking stuffers! There are so many fun activities to take advantage of during the most wonderful time of the year, but paying for them can add up quickly, so it's a great idea to start with a budget and stick to it!

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Cameron Huddleston, columnist for GOBankingRates.com, says one of the best ways to avoid overspending on holiday activities is to figure out beforehand how much you can afford to spend without relying on credit cards.

"If you've already spent a lot on gifts, there might not be much room in your budget for entertainment," she notes. "On the flip side, if you want to give experiences rather than material items, you might be able to afford more photo ops with Santa, ice skating in the park, or riding in a one-horse open sleigh. The key is to determine a dollar amount that fits within your budget, then stick to that amount -- even if you have to put cash in an envelope marked 'entertainment' and stop taking advantage of holiday events once that cash runs out."

Here, six ways to get through the season without going broke on all the holiday fun.

1. How to save on a holiday activity–filled day in the city:

Heading to a metropolitan area to take in the tree, see a show, skate around a rink? Look for discounts on daily deal sites before you leave the house.

"Check sites such as Groupon and Living Social for discounts on holiday events and activities," Huddleston advises. "Also, call or check the websites of ice skating rinks, museums, and other establishments that offer holiday entertainment to see if they offer discounted rates on certain days of the week."

2. How to save on holiday movies:

We all know that purchasing even a couple of movie tickets on date night can rack up quite the bill these days. Taking the kids to see this year's cute holiday flick? Fughettaboutit!

Instead of going to the theater to see a holiday movie, queue up Netflix or iTunes for a classic (Miracle on 34th Street, anyone?), and watch it in the comfort of your own home. Make popcorn, whip up hot cocoa, and enjoy a relaxing night in that won't cost a fortune.  

"Let your children invite their friends over to watch holiday movies [and] make Christmas cookies," Huddleston recommends. "It's an inexpensive and fun way to keep kids entertained during the holiday break."

3. How to save on mall Santas:

Ugh, waiting in line to see Santa at an overcrowded shopping complex is probably going to rob you of your holiday spirit!

Skip visiting Mr. Claus at the mall, and check your local events calendar. There's a strong possibility he'll make an appearance at a nearby tree lighting ceremony. If he does, grab a photo with him then, and pass on the overpriced portraits you'd feel compelled to purchase at the mall.

"A good way to stretch your holiday entertainment budget is to take advantage of free events in your community -- from tree lightings at the park to readings of Christmas classics at the library," Huddleston says. "Check your community calendar or city paper for a listing of events."

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4. How to save on a holiday party:

Hosting a holiday gathering can get pricey pretty quickly! Instead of breaking the bank on a big buffet, why not ask guests to bring a little something along?

"You also could invite families over for an ugly Christmas sweater party, and make it a potluck and BYOB, so that you don't have to foot the bill for the entire event," Huddleston suggests.

5. How to save on holiday concerts:

Sure, it's fun to take the kids to see a holiday-inspired performance, but show tickets and parking are expensive. Instead, look for concerts at local schools, which are often free and packed with young talent.

You can also find caroling events fairly easily, and if you can't, why not host your own?

6. How to have some good, old-fashioned free fun:

Read a holiday-themed book together. Or load up some thermoses with hot chocolate and take a drive through your neighborhood to admire the festive light displays. Make your own gingerbread, or pick up a kit at the store, and have hours of fun creating your own masterpiece. 

Rather than start the new year with a bunch of debt and nothing other than some memories and a few selfies to show for it, consider these inexpensive alternatives to pricey traditions. Children will remember the fun you shared, not how much it cost, so don't worry if you can't swing a fancy outing this season. After all, what really matters most is spending time together.

 

Image via rdaniel/Shutterstock

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