Creating Memories

Affordable family fun during the holidays.

From November until the start of the new year, credit cards seem to get a better workout than most people. For many parents, the period can be simultaneously joyful and stressful.

Thanks to the following cash-saving secrets from Laura DiNardo and Megan Pinto, founders of www.twofrugalmommas.com, you won’t lose your mind or all of your hard-earned income. Plus, you’ll learn wonderful ways to spend quality time with the brood.

  1. Schedule movie night. During December, ABC Family offers its 25 Days of Christmas programming. Watch favorites, such as Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Frosty the Snowman and the Harry Potter flicks. Simply grab the clan, curl up on the couch, pop the popcorn and relish the free show. Download the full schedule at www.abcfamily.go.com/specials/25-days-christmas/schedule.
  2. Implement super Saturdays. Each Saturday, see www.twofrugalmommas.com for a new listing of seasonally focused family activities to enjoy at various stores and other locations at no charge.
  3. Research upcoming community events. This time of year, such events include parades, Christmas and Hanukkah festivities, holiday storytelling sessions at local libraries and other wintertime jaunts. Also check out www.parentguidenews.com to access a calendar of events in your area if you live in New York or New Jersey.
  4. Take a break from cooking and dine out. Visit www.twofrugalmommas.com for an extensive list of coupons and deals at restaurants. Restaurant.com is another great site that allows users to purchase gift cards at great rates. “Some mega-deals allow families to get a $25 gift certificate for only $5,” says Pinto.
  5. Plan a potluck evening. Invite your friends and neighbors over for a casual meal. “For a fraction of the cost of dining out, you can have great dinner at home with wonderful company,” says DiNardo. Plus, when everyone brings something, dinner is fast and easy.
  6. Visit local churches to view nativity scenes. Even if your family doesn’t celebrate Christmas, the scenery, animals and decorations are aesthetically pleasing for all. Nativity scenes also reinforce the spiritual message of the holiday, which is often overshadowed by mainstream commercialism.
  7. Go to the theater. Many towns offer affordable tickets to the classic production The Nutcracker. Most playhouses also have discounted tickets for children and seniors. To find a performance in your area, visit www.nutcrackerballet.net/html/show_directory.html
  8. Drive through different neighborhoods to admire decorative lights. Kids won’t be able to contain their excitement as they view the festive displays. Put on some celebratory tunes in the car to fully get in the spirit.
  9. Revisit the old-world charm of a Victorian holiday. Pinto suggests families explore the Maplewood Dickens Village in Maplewood, New Jersey. Convivial festivities, such as horse-drawn carriage rides, carols, concerts, refreshments and shopping nights, are all part of this complimentary treasured community custom. Programming runs every weekend until December 25.
  10. Create your family traditions. With a bit of brainstorming, it’s easy to find jovial things to do at your home. “Whether it’s baking cookies, going Christmas caroling, cutting down a Christmas tree, having a make-your-own sundae party or hosting family game nights, there are always inexpensive ways you can have fun at home without spending a lot,” says DiNardo.

In the end, it’s important to break away from the yuletide rush. The true joy of the season comes from savoring the time spent with close friends and family members.