These Throwback Hobbies Now Make Money as Side Gigs

The gig economy, supercharged by a pandemic, is breathing new life into some bygone hobbies, ones associated more with retirees than entrepreneurs.

Life indoors drove many folks to experiment with tactile hobbies like bread baking and quilting. What started as a way to pass the time could blossom into a side hustle with a little know-how.

Online platforms such as Facebook Marketplace, Etsy and Instagram as well as the revival of flea markets – often with a trendy, indie twist – offer novel ways to make money on those age-old crafts and activities.

Here’s a look at six trending hobbies that could make you serious money. These are not your grandma’s side gigs.

6 Throwback Hobbies That Make Money as Trendy Side Gigs

1. Antiquing

Buy old furniture and/or tchotchkes, then resell them for a profit. The concept is straightforward, and it’s sometimes referred to as upscaling or upcycling when you work a little magic on the item to bump up the price tag.

The Penny Hoarder spoke to Sara Chen, a master of upcycling. She focuses her efforts on flipping furniture, hunting for antique, mid-century modern dressers online via Facebook Marketplace.

When she finds a good deal, she buys it, sands it, paints it, primes it and resells it — usually for triple or quadruple the purchase price. She’s able to make $3,000 a month consistently.

Her secret (besides serious painting skills)?

“Post as many pictures from different angles as you can,” she told The Penny Hoarder, noting that taking photos is her favorite part of the flip. “It’s also probably the most important part.”

Make sure they’re high quality and in good lighting. The more the better.

2. Baking

It takes time for dough to rise.

Baking, because of the equipment required, is a hobby that can be difficult to scale into a side gig or a business. But over the years, The Penny Hoarder has talked with several bakers who made it work and a few who started during the pandemic. You can lean on their advice no matter what stage you’re at.

Sarah Tennant started baking as a hobby when she was 14 years old. She decided to try to earn a profit from her skills by taking ad hoc requests from friends, family and referrals.

In her guide for The Penny Hoarder, she outlined how her cakes, which she priced much lower than professionals, still brought her in $400 a month.

College roommates Sarah Chappell and Julia Finfrock found success with their sourdough side hustle called EarlyRisers. In October 2020, the duo started out selling plain sourdough for $7 a loaf. As orders increased, they started experimenting with flavors, adding chocolate-chip, rosemary, garlic and other flavors to the menu. These speciality loaves sell for up to $11.

“It was a lot of trial and error,” Finfrock told The Penny Hoarder.

3. Crafting

Thanks to online marketplaces like Etsy and Amazon Handmade, crafting is seeing a huge comeback. And we have plenty of ideas for you to cash in on its popularity.

Local fairs and online marketplaces are ideal places to sell easy-to-make holiday decorations.

Some examples of low-cost decorations include:

  • Scrap wood stocking hangers
  • Sock snowmen
  • Pumpkin spice soap

Of course, you’re not limited to holiday decor. You could also try your hand at DIY greeting cards or handmade wedding invitations. When you’ve decided exactly what you want to make and sell, keep costs low by finding cheap crafting supplies. Dollar stores are a good place to start.

Pro Tip

To find a nearby market or fair to hawk your creations, search Festivalnet.

Two women plant potted plants.
Getty Images

4. Gardening

Millennials love plants, according to Money, the Huffington Post, CNBC, Business Insider, the New Yorker and apparently the entire internet.

Further proof: A plant aesthetic has blossomed on social media, especially Instagram. The hashtags #Plants and #PlantsofInstagram have tens of millions of posts. Outside of the local market scene, a lot of small-scale operations use Instagram to sell their plants.

Selling succulents probably isn’t going to allow you to quit your day job, but it may pad your savings or help you pay down debt.

One gardener, Stephanie Spicer, made $1,200 in a single season. In her guide to selling plants, she outlines exactly how to choose, fertilize, present, price, advertise and sell them.

5. Knitting, Sewing, Quilting

Boo, fast fashion trends. Yay, making and altering your own clothes. As sustainability becomes more of a conscious decision for many consumers, skills like knitting, sewing and quilting are seeing renewed demand.

Pro Tip

If you want to start out small with handmade clothing, blankets or accessories, Amazon Handmade or Etsy are two of the best places to sell online.

If you want to lean into the gig – beyond a few online sales – there’s some money to be made. The Penny Hoarder spoke with retired geologist Pat Martinek, who found a way to monetize her weaving and spinning skills through her side business The Fyber Cafe. Martinek raked in $10,000 a year by using chiengora, aka recycled dog fur, to create garments and keepsakes.

“It is warmer than other fibers, so a scarf or sweater made with chiengora can help you withstand the most brutal temperatures,” she said.

Ella Trout, a college student at the University of Vermont, is another example of how to cash in on the handmade trend. She founded puppycatco, her sustainable fashion side hustle, a couple years ago.

She started by screenprinting her dog and cat designs onto T-shirts, but changed her business model over the years. Now, she sews and alters clothes to be more environmentally sustainable. Trout uses Instagram to sell her creations, and she told The Penny Hoarder that her handmade clothing and accessories earn her up to $1,500 per month.

A woman looks through the book collection at a library.
M.K. Williams looks for books to check out at Town ‘N Country Regional Public Library in Tampa, Fla. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

6. Using the Library

Libraries are one of the only remaining places where you can just exist. For free. There’s no expectation to spend money. That alone should be reason enough to visit.

As an additional incentive, libraries offer access to a bunch of interesting things beside books that can help you launch a side gig or business. Tools, baking equipment, seeds and even high-tech are often available at no cost through a process called intra-library loans.

“Maybe you want to make a cow-shaped cake. You don’t have to buy that cake pan,” said Bob Anstett, of Broward County, Florida’s library system. “You can check it out from a library.”

In addition to the fun stuff you can rent for free at your local library, Anstett explained that libraries have expanded to home community workshops called makerspaces. Makerspaces offer up all kinds of equipment for locals to tinker with and use to hone new skills.

“You can come in and take a basic class at [our makerspace] and use our sewing machines,” Anstett said. “Used to be that you were called a knitter or a carpenter or a woodworker. Now, you’re a maker.”

Adam Hardy is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.




Selling Your Home During the Holidays? 7 Tips to Help Sell It Fast

November 30, 2020 December 14, 2020 by Julia Weaver

Updated on December 14th, 2020

Believe it or not, the holiday season can be a great time to sell your home. It’s true that the housing market typically heats up during the spring. However, the holiday season is often overlooked as a prime time to sell, especially this year. 

Why? First of all, there is typically less inventory in the housing market, allowing your home to easily stand out among the available inventory. And though there are technically fewer buyers overall, the homebuyers that are looking are far more serious about finding a home within a specific timeframe. So, make your home warm and inviting and open it up to those looking to buy, because selling your home during the holidays might be your best present this year. 

Selling your home during the holidays

Selling your home during the holidays

1) Stage for the holidays. Think clean, cozy, simple.

Yes, you should absolutely decorate your home during the holidays even if you are trying to sell it. The real question you should be asking is, how much

One thing that happens to all homeowners is that we tend to accumulate a lot of stuff. This is especially true of holiday decorations. As you begin decorating, channel your inner stager or designer. This year, for the sake of appealing to the buyers touring your home, use your best decorations as holiday accents without drawing attention away from your home’s best selling features.

Your home may have large windows with a great view or an expansive kitchen fit for a chef. Whatever sold you on your home when you first bought it is most likely the same feature(s) that will sell your home during the holidays. Don’t cover up your view with an excessively large Christmas tree and avoid filling your living room in snow globes, nutcrackers, and a large nativity scene. You want to accentuate your home with holiday decor, not bury it.

Holiday decor can help prospective homebuyers imagine your house as their future home. If you have a fireplace, decorate it with garland and hang stockings from the mantle. Use candles and essential oil diffusers with iconic scents of the season, such as pumpkin spice or balsam and cedar. You especially want to keep your home clutter-free and need to clean it regularly. Belongings can easily begin to pile up during the holidays, so make sure you stay on top of it. Create an environment that makes prospective homebuyers feel comfortable and warm the moment they walk through your front door. You want them to feel at home.

Consider working with a professional home stager to create the perfect holiday look to help your home stand out from the competition.

Selling your home during the holidays

Selling your home during the holidays

2) Price your home to sell 

You and your listing agent will most likely come up with a pricing strategy together based on comparable homes in the area, what the current housing market is doing, and what the demand for housing looks like or is projected to do. Ultimately, several variables go into pricing your home to sell, however, there are a couple of easy tricks that can help attract homebuyers.

Price your home competitively

If your home looks like all the other homes on the block with similar features, then a lower price point will definitely draw in more traffic than your rivals. However, if your home is the largest one on the block, has more acreage, or a double car garage and pool, you can price your home based on the increased value it provides. Check out online estimates for how much your home is worth and then compare them to other houses in your area.

Use strategic price points when listing your home

Have you ever noticed while you’re grocery shopping that almost all prices end in .99, such as $1.99 or $4.99? This simple manipulation of pricing is called setting strategic price points and actually makes the price of something appear smaller (or cheaper) than it really is. The same exact concept works when pricing your house to sell. For example, if you decide your home could sell for $500,000, pricing it at $499,000 can (theoretically) draw in more traffic and possibly more offers.

3) Make your curb appeal a top priority

Your neighborhood may actually look more appealing to homebuyers during the holiday season. You don’t want to go overboard with your exterior holiday decorations, but you want to make your house shine along with the other homes on your block.

During these winter days, your lawn may not be that lush green it usually is during the summertime and your trees may currently be barren. That’s why making your curb appeal a top priority is necessary when selling your home in winter. Make sure to pick up all the sticks, dead leaves, and any other debris and that your lawn is neatly trimmed. Even during the colder months, a few weeds that poke up from the ground can make your lawn seem neglected. If you have pictures of your home at alternative times of the year when your curb appeal is burgeoning with flora, these may also be a good idea to have available for homebuyers during home tours. This way, instead of homebuyers trying to picture your house in other seasons, they can just see it for themselves.

4) Keeping your property safe for homebuyers

Outside temperatures are well below freezing during the holiday season in most of the United States. Driveways and walking paths are blanketed in snow and ice, and icicles hang from gutters like glass curtains. A legitimate concern for home sellers in one of these colder climates is how to keep your property safe for homebuyers. The only thing you can really do is be proactive and break out that snow shovel and start clearing a path.

If you’re expecting snow on an almost weekly basis, then it might be best to hire out professionals to come by once a day and make sure your driveway, front steps, and any walking paths are cleared for people touring your home.

Yellow shovel for shoveling snow when selling your home during the holidays

Yellow shovel for shoveling snow when selling your home during the holidays

5) Turn on the (holiday) lights

To complement the coziness of your home, you’ll also want to make it bright. Turn on all the lights in your house during open houses and virtual home tours. It may be the darkest time of year outside but you can make sure it doesn’t feel that way inside your home.

This is a great time to replace burnt out light bulbs and fix light switches that aren’t working. You may also want to consider making all your interior lighting the same color temperature, such as a soft white which brightens rooms without giving you that institutional feel. This will help with consistent lighting throughout your home, creating a balanced feel as potential homebuyers walk through each room.

6) Take professional real estate photos when selling your home during the holidays

The best thing you can do for your house in terms of marketing it to potential homebuyers is getting professional real estate photos taken. In fact, research shows that professional photos can help sell your house faster and for more money. This is the one time you don’t want to have your holiday decor on display. In fact, getting your professional photos taken of your house before you decorate is a must because holiday decorations essentially create a time-stamp of your home. 

If you have trouble selling your home during the holidays be sure your house isn’t still rocking holiday lights in the listing photos come February or March, or you risk turning off potential homebuyers. Plan on hiring a professional photographer as soon as possible so you can decorate for the holidays and enjoy the season.

7) Get Santa’s perspective with aerial photography

It doesn’t matter if you live in sunny Tampa, FL, or buried in snow in Minneapolis, MN, consider aerial photography to help make your home stand out this holiday season. If your home has acreage, a view, or any other amenity that cannot be fully captured unless it’s done by air, then aerial photography may be just what you need. 

Drone photography offers buyers a unique perspective of your home and can help make your listing stand out among the other homes for sale online. It also gives potential buyers an overview of your neighborhood along with other amenities that may be within walking distance of your home.


The 4 Best Things to Buy in January — and 4 to Avoid

people celebrating

January brings a new start for many people, thanks to New Year’s resolutions and a renewed motivation to accomplish their goals. For some, this new start might include revamping their spending habits after a long season of buying gifts for themselves and others.

Black Friday and the winter holidays are already an extended shopping period, but in 2020, Amazon Prime Day also fell much later in the year than usual. A good number of people may be burned out on shopping by now; if you’re not, you’re in luck.

Plenty of January sales are worth watching for in 2021. And what goes on sale in January, exactly? Keep an eye out for home fitness equipment to finally see deals, as well as winter clothing and bedding. However, it’s not all great buys — be sure to check out what to avoid in January, too. And once you’re done reading, head to our guide on what to buy every month of the year, so you’ll know the items to shop for later in 2021.

The 4 Best Things to Buy in January

Fitness Equipment

New Year’s resolutions about getting fit are prevalent, to say the least, so we typically expect home fitness equipment to go on sale in January. While it might be more expensive or harder to find this year, that doesn’t mean we won’t see any deals. Over December 2019 and January 2020, we saw a similar number of exercise equipment deals that were Staff Picks, meaning we designated them as “best of the best” offers. However, we saw almost 50% more equipment deals overall in January, compared to the month before it.

Expect January sales on exercise equipment to bring discounts of up to 60% off or more.

On the low end, you should be able to find sales taking up to 20% off select products at stores like Amazon and Target. But other retailers will have deeper discounts — up to 60% off or more. Either way, watch for these sales in January to focus on specific items or categories. For instance, in January 2020 Dick’s Sporting Goods knocked up to 63% off strength equipment, which included weight benches and dumbbells, among other items.


You can find bedding deals any time of year, but outside of Black Friday, January might just be when we see the most. This is due in large part to retailers offering what are known as white sales. These events can feature discounts of up to 70% or 80% off on sheets, blankets, pillows, towels, and other soft home goods. Whether you need to upgrade your own sheets, outfit your guest bedroom, or just stock up on extras, this month is a prime time to snag all the soft home goods you need.

SEE ALSO: What to Buy Every Month of the Year in 2021

Look to stores of all types to offer great deals during these events, including JCPenney, Target, Kohl’s, Macy’s, and even designer outlets like Nordstrom Rack. And prices will be unbeatably low — think bath towels for as little as $3. Also keep an eye out for these sales to go by other names, like “bedding and bath sales,” for instance.

Winter Clothing and Styles

If you’ve held off on stocking your closet with sweaters, scarves, and gloves so far this winter, you’ll be glad to know January is a good time to buy cozy items at lower prices. The month might not have as many clothing deals as December, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking. As retailers start to make room for spring apparel, winter selections will be hitting clearance shelves.

Watch for common discounts to be around 60% to 75% at stores like Superdry, 32 Degrees, Kohl’s, and Macy’s. Stores like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Belk, meanwhile, will likely knock up to 75% off, and Jos. A. Bank could have discounts as high as 85% off.

Watch for clothing discounts between 60% and 75% off at stores such as Kohl’s and Macy’s.

You might think winter clothing on clearance is mostly coats, but it’s not. You’ll also probably find gloves for as little as $4, thermal socks for $5, cashmere socks for $8, scarves for $10, and beanies for $13. And yes, you can count on finding jackets for around $10 and coats for as little as $15.

January apparel deals aren’t all for winter clothing, though. You can also expect to see items like sunglasses for $6, polos for $2, and T-shirts for $3. So even if you aren’t in the market for winter styles, it’s a good idea to check out the January sales anyway.

Holiday Decor

Scoring deals on seasonal decor thanks to deep discounts is one of the most exciting things about the holidays being over. The best time to begin looking for these items is during After Christmas sales, but some of those sales will carry on into January. Start planning now, and you can expect to save up to 75% on everything from trees and lights to ornaments and seasonal candies.

SEE ALSO: Every Major Store’s Holiday Returns Policy for 2020

Watch for stores like Kohl’s, Walmart, Hayneedle, and eBay to offer the best deals in January on different kinds of holiday decor. However, there’s also a good chance Home Depot and Lowe’s will have their own post-holiday sales to celebrate. So be sure to check them for items like lights and outdoor decor such as inflatables.

4 Things NOT to Buy in January

Not everything you’ll see in January will be worth shopping. Check out the table below for the items you should avoid this month, and when you should buy them instead.

Item Don’t Buy Buy Why?
Gym Memberships In January In June January is usually a great time to buy gym memberships, but many gyms are still dealing with closings and occupant limits. Hold off until June, when gyms could have their operations closer to normal.
Video Game Consoles In January In November The latest Xbox and PlayStation consoles are too new to expect discounts right now, but by the end of the year, we should see bundles at notable price lows.
Smartphones In January From September to November The biggest models are typically released in the fall, so hold off on buying a new iPhone, Pixel, or Samsung smartphone until then.
Laptops In January In November Don’t expect January to carry any big sales on laptops. If you need a new machine, you’re better off waiting for the discounts that come with Back to School sales in late summer or Black Friday events in November.

Readers, what January deals are you hoping to see? Let us know in the comments below!

Related DealNews Blog Posts:

DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


How to Make Moving During the Holidays a Painless Experience

Moving during the “most wonderful time of the year” is anything but wonderful. At a time when people look forward to cozying up at home, the last thing most of us want to do is pack boxes, clean, and wrangle odds and ends.

But some people don’t have a choice. Selling your home in the winter, graduating from college, or relocating for a new job are just some of the reasons people move during the holidays.

If you find yourself in this scenario, trust us when we say that moving doesn’t have to ruin your holiday fun. The following tips will help make it less hectic and more bearable. We promise!

Include a change of address in your holiday cards

This year, you can kill two birds with one stone with your holiday cards: they can also serve as your change-of-address announcements.

“If you know your new address, consider including a change-of-address note in your holiday cards to alert family and friends,” says Melissa Pollock, lifestyle and organization expert at PODS.

Donate seasonal items

The holiday season is a prime time to spread goodwill to others.

“Consider giving some of your gently used items to those who may otherwise have no way of affording them,” says Jonathan Self, a real estate agent at Center Coast Realty in Chicago.

Warm clothes, in particular, are in demand at consignment stores during winter months, and parents welcome toys for their kids. If you’re not sure where to donate your goods, your local Salvation Army is a good place to start.

Ask for a holiday discount

You may find that movers are in the giving spirit this time of year and will show their appreciation for your business.

“Book your moving company early and ask for a discount,” says Val Burmester, an agent with Engel & Völkers Seattle. “This time of year is not as busy as others, so the movers might feel more generous and agree to a reduced price for their services.”

Another bonus: Your moving date is more likely to be available to book because movers aren’t as busy during this time of year.

Keep gifts to a minimum this year

Secret Santa gift exchanges, Yankee Swap parties, and traditional gift-giving among your friends and relatives are all part of the holiday season. However, the last thing people who are moving need is more stuff.

To keep the mess to a minimum, Pollock recommends asking people to not bring or send presents until you have moved into your new home.

“As an alternative, consider keeping gifts wrapped until you arrive at your new place for easy packing and unpacking,” she says.

Recycle supplies

Relocating involves a lot of moving supplies like bubble wrap and boxes, but you don’t have to spend a lot on them.

“To avoid waste and save some money, reuse the boxes and paper from packages you receive during the holidays,” Pollock says.

Ask your friends for their leftover boxes and wrapping paper as well.

Pack accordingly

You’re bound to have a lot of boxes on your hands, which can make it difficult to find your box of decorations. But make it easy to deck your new halls by packing your ornaments, garlands, and festive adornments last.

“Load your holiday decor boxes last so when you move into your new home you can give it an instant holiday feel,” Burmester says.

Give yourself the gift of a moving company

If you have to move during the holidays but you’d really prefer to reduce the stress of moving, Self recommends gifting yourself (and your family) a professional moving company. It’ll be more expensive than moving boxes yourself, but hiring an extra set of hands will allow you to focus on the parties and festive get-togethers that happen during this time of year.


A Mom’s Practical Guide to the Best Ideas for Your Family Christmas Bucket List

25 inexpensive ways to celebrate the holidays
Christmas family traditions that won't break the bank!
free and cheap guide to Christmas Family Fun
frugal family fun for the holidays
25 frugal ideas for your family's Christmas bucket list
A mom's guide to the best family Christmas bucket list

25 Christmas Family Traditions that won’t bust the bank

The holiday season is a magical time for many families, the excitement, the treats, the cost!

The cost?!?

Ouch, yes it’s true, the holidays cost money. Sometimes a lot of money. But they don’t have to! You can absolutely get in all your Christmas family traditions without spending a lot of money! You just need to keep your eyes open, have a flexible schedule, and be ready to appreciate the small moments. Here are my top 25 choices for your family’s Christmas Bucket List (mostly) on a Budget!

A mom's guide to the best family Christmas bucket list

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure for more info

Fair warning, I did give a few options that included spending money, but nothing very expensive. So pick and choose what fits your family and your holiday budget. As going over budget doesn’t make things easier come January!

Start your Christmas bucket list off early in the season

One – watch the parade

In my home, Christmas begins Thanksgiving morning. Sounds a bit hasty, but watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a huge hit! We sit in our jammies, have coffee, and talk about our favorite floats (and how we have no idea who the musical acts are). Then when the dog show comes on, right after it the parade, we start cooking! We have the dog show on in the background, and then when that is over, we put on Miracle on 34th Street, a total classic that we watch multiple times during the season!

Two – the first gift of Christmas

This one also happens on Thanksgiving, but after all the gluttony. We sit and watch The Polar Express (we’re a movie watching kind of family), and then after that, we all go into the living room, where my mom hands out the first gift of Christmas (just like in the movie). It’s always something small, a box of truffles, a knick-knack, or something like that, but it’s a fun way to officially ring in the holiday season!

Three – a visit to the tree farm

If you can, I strongly encourage you to go to a local tree farm vs. a tree lot to get your tree. Our local Christmas tree farms have absolutely stepped up their game and make it a full outing! Hot cocoa, fire pit with marshmallows, rustic holiday decor items for sale, petting zoo, and of course, the tree! You pick your tree out, and they shake it and wrap it up (bring some cash $10 -$15 for the guys working outside in the freezing cold). Last year our local farm even had a spot for our #4 item…

Four – pictures with Santa

Now, I have to say it, but this doesn’t fit my Christmas bucket list “on a budget” criteria, as DANG, those pictures can be spendy! I think we paid $45 for three photos on a flash drive (facepalm). But they are worth it! My daughter gets SO excited to see him, and we always send out her pictures to family members, and they love it too!

You have to decide if this fits into your budget or not. Maybe you have all your kiddos visit Santa at once and sit down around his feet for a combo photoshoot (vs. individually going up). Or maybe you can find a Santa for free (I am sure there are opportunities, we just really liked the Santa at the farm).

Five – sleep under the Christmas tree

So I don’t mean to sleep under the tree literally, but having a living room (or wherever your tree is) “camp in” that first night that you put the tree up! Make it an event, bring in lots of blankets and pillows, watch a holiday movie, have hot cocoa!

Go all out on a hot cocoa bar! You need to spend a little money, but this could be a great Christmas family tradition that everyone will look forward to! These super cute marshmallow hot cocoa mugs are hard to resist! Grab some chocolate peppermint stir sticks to add some fun or grab some delicious Ghirardelli sauces to make your hot chocolate just right.

Six – get your Christmas advent calendar ready

Christmas advent calendars are always a favorite in our household. In the past, we’ve ended up with the chocolate ones from the grocery store, but I’d like to do it a bit differently this year.  

If your family is religious, Pink Fortitude has some lovely advent scripture printables to help you count down the days while celebrating the hope and love of the season.

If your younger ones want a more hands-on calendar, try the Lego’s City advent calendar, where they build a different small Lego toy every day! This is more expensive than the ones from the grocery store, but it’s a set that they can build with for a long time.

Or maybe you want to start your advent tradition; this beautifully decorated wooden Christmas Tree advent calendar can be used every year, handed down to future generations! Make your own small gifts, or chocolates, or handwritten notes to hide behind each day’s number!

Or to bring to the fun (or relaxation) to a friend The English Tea Shop’s advent calendar is a great way to sample new flavors and still take part in counting down the days until Christmas.

Yes, some of the above calendars are spendy, but you can reuse them. But in my heart, I still prefer the $2 chocolate candy filled ones.

Seven – mail a letter to Santa

I remember going through the Toys R Us holiday catalog and cutting out toys that I wanted and pasting them onto my letter to Santa! But sad to say that this next generation of kids won’t experience that particular catalog.  

You can still make it a fun afternoon crafting your kiddo’s perfect letter. You can make your own with just pen & paper, or here is a great inexpensive option if you want a cute formatted Santa letter. Or if you’re an Elf on the Shelf household, then be sure to check out this option, complete with book and special paper!

Christmas bucket list items at home

Eight- bake some Christmas cookies

The holidays aren’t really the holidays unless you have treats right? That’s why this is my favorite item on our Christmas bucket list on a budget list! Your cookies don’t have to be fancy; they don’t have to taste amazing either. You just need to have a good time with your family making them! You can pick red & green frosting, or sprinkles or holiday shapes, basically anything you want!  

If you have little hands baking, here are some good cookie cutters with safety tops, as you don’t want super sharp metal. For some holiday cookie inspiration, check out The Christmas Cookie Cookbook (over 100 holiday cookie recipes!)

You already have most of the baking ingredients; you may need to invest in some sprinkles. Maybe about $5 – $15.

Nine – make your house smell like the holidays

I happen to be in love with Christmas pomanders (but I didn’t know it was called this until writing this). Basically, it’s an orange with a bunch of cloves stuck in it, and it smells heavenly! My mother used to make a decorative bowl of these and put it on our hall entry table, so you smelled it right when you walked in! Check out Hello Homebody post to learn how to make your own, I promise you’ll love it!

You may have cloves already in your pantry, but if not, then this should cost less than $12 for small oranges and cloves.

An even cheaper way to make your house smell like Christmas is to decorate with evergreen boughs. Just go to a place where taking cuttings is permitted (get a variety of greens – juniper, pine, holly) and make your own decorations!

Ten – make your own holiday decorations

There are so many wonderful ways to decorate your home that are inexpensive! Not only will it be a fun activity for your kids, but they will be keepsakes to remember each year when you pull them out! Here are a few of my favorites

  • These origami waterbombs are great because you can use any color scheme you want to fit in with your home decor! These are perfect for kids a little bit older with patience and can pay attention to the process.
  • Another memory that I have is making cinnamon ornaments when I was little, they smell amazing and can be made in any shape/design that you wish! (now good cinnamon is fairly expensive, so be sure to buy some that is not spendy for this activity).
  • This gumdrop Christmas tree is so fun! I can picture a whole mantle with different sized “trees” to have a more modern feel to it!

Eleven – learn about other countries Christmas traditions from around the world

An excellent way for kids to learn about other cultures is by experiencing traditional food dishes. So if you feel that you’ve done all the “regular” holiday traditions type stuff, this is a fun item to layer in! Check out Love These Recipes for her free Christmas Around the World Cookbook for kids!

Twelve – have a holiday game night

Now, this activity can get spendy in a hurry, so be sure that you are getting games that will appeal year after year. This Christmas Monopoly game is sure to be a hit!

This award-winning Santa Claus game teaches younger kiddos that it’s fun to give (as well as receive). Which can all agree kiddos need some encouragement in this area.

Who doesn’t love Rudolph? This Aquarius Rudolph the Red-Nosed Journey board game is perfect for the whole family! You’ll journey through the icy winter wonderland finding all the misfit toys and bringing them back to Santa so he can give them to all the little good girls & boys!

Or if you’re looking more for holiday party games, be sure to check out the fan-favorite holiday Minute to Win It games from Play Party Plan!

Take a break between games for some treats! A fun way to make treat time special is an indoor electric S’Mores maker. No campfire smoke or hungry bears included! Just yummy treat time, which you can use throughout the year!

Thirteen – grab some Christmas crackers

These are a traditional holiday favorite from around the world! Each Christmas Cracker in this set contains a party hat, a joke, and a small gift. They are sure to make your holiday dinner memorable!

Fourteen – Make your own gingerbread house

Now, I would like to think that I am an amazing chef. Yet, I know this isn’t true. Still, one year I would like to make our own gingerbread houses from scratch!  Easy Budget Recipes has a great post with a free template and a video!  

Could this be the year that my inner creative cooking genius comes out? Maybe! But even if it doesn’t come out perfect, that’s not the important part. The important part is that my little one and I have a great day doing it!

Fifteen – A Christmas Movie Marathon

This one is such a cliche, as OF COURSE you’re going to have a movie marathon on your Christmas bucket list! Be sure to check out all your video subscriptions before buying new ones. Disney + is sure to have a lot, Netflix has some cute original holiday content, and check Amazon Prime too if you subscribe.

Mix in black & white classics with cartoons, and even some Hallmark holiday favorites too! I won’t give you a list of must-watch movies, as there are already 67,956 posts about great holiday movies. But this is a great frugal option, even one you could repeat every weekend is you want!

Yet, if you do want uplevel your movie marathon, you can always splurge and tell the family that festive holiday apparel is requested!

You can’t go wrong with matching family holiday Snoopy pajamas! I mean, right? Or if you want a more practical item, the fan in your family could have a festive Star Wars sweatshirt! Or for the young man of the household a Marvel Avengers gingerbread hoody!  

If your family members are movie buffs maybe uplevel the experience to include a holiday movie trivia quiz! Everyone thinks they’re a pro and it might be time to crown the winner and end the debate once and for all!

Sixteen – send some Christmas cheer with a homemade card

If you have a little crafter in your house, making Christmas cards can be a fun way to spend an afternoon. With this activity, you need to be mindful of your budget, as all crafters know that buying supplies can be a budget slippery slope!  

Wandering Hoof Ranch has a great post on making your own cards, and she even uses some items from nature to make your cards unique (and save some money). She uses pine needles, twigs and greenery along with ribbons and cut-outs to make the cards shine!

Seventeen – snuggle up with a holiday picture book

Every night, either my husband or myself read books to our little one. During Christmas, I bring out the box of picture books that my mom read to me when I was young. I’m not sure who looks forward to it more, me or my little. But our holiday book time is always special.

Here are some of my favorites (both new and old), gleaned from over 40 holiday seasons…

As an adult, I reread The Christmas Story by Jean Shepard every year. Even though the book takes place all throughout the year, it still retains the holiday feel.

Now you don’t need to buy these, please go to your local library and check them out for free! My best advice is to go the day after Thanksgiving, as holiday books always get checked out fast!

Make storytime even more special by reading in front of the tree every night!

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Christmas bucket list items to do in town

Eighteen – Go downtown to see the festive holiday fun 

Going out to “shop” doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money. One of my favorite things as a child was going downtown to see all the department store window displays! One Pacific NW store would always do their windows themed on the 12 Days of Christmas song. So we’d park, get some hot chocolate from the coffee shop, wander the streets, look at the displays, and enjoy the holiday hustle & bustle!

We’d time it to coincide with the special holiday tree lighting event, which is another great free option for families to do! Just Google “tree lighting + your town” to find out local times & places.

Don’t forget to have your own day to do some relaxed Christmas shopping, either alone or with a good friend. When you’re out don’t forget to see if you see anything that you want for Christmas, be sure to write it down with the name of the store and send it to your spouse!

What? You don’t need anything for Christmas? Of course not, but what do you want for Christmas? If you’re not sure be sure to look here for inspiration on finding the perfect gift for mom (aka YOU)!

Nineteen – pick a Giving Tree item

While you’re downtown, see if any of the businesses are hosting a Giving Tree. This is where the business (in partnership, usually with a local nonprofit) will put up a tree with gift tags on it. The tags will tell you about a family or person who needs an item for the holiday.

It’s an excellent activity for families to do together. It helps teach children about the importance of helping others and learn that gifting can be just as rewarding as receiving a gift. Bringing joy to people should be tops on all of our Christmas bucket list!

Twenty – find a choral event

Listening to Christmas carols, or a choral show can be a special holiday moment. Even if you happen to be walking along the street and see a quartet singing take the time to stop and listen. Appreciating the moments as you find them (and not rushing around like crazy) can turn an ordinary day into a very special one. Especially for little ones who don’t see live signing very often.

Twenty One – celebrate the season of giving

One of my favorite things during the holidays (as a child) was to donate to bell ringers at storefronts. The Salvation Army has a long tradition of hosting bell ringers, and you can even volunteer for a shift! What a great way for older children to give back to their community.

Or it’s an excellent way for smaller children to donate their change to a worthy cause! For my own little, she has three money jars, one for saving, one for spending, and one for giving. The holidays are a perfect time to open her giving jar, and she can directly donate to the ringer’s red kettle.

The Red Kettle campaign raised $147 million in 2018 to help over 23 million Americans with food, shelter, and social services!

Twenty Two – do a random act of kindness

Another great way to have your children develop their sense of community is to do a random act of kindness. One time during the holiday season, we go out to eat with the intention of doubling our bill. Whatever the total is for our food, we give the same amount as a tip. Now, we’re not going out for lobster or anything crazy. Just a meal, where our server gets a nice surprise.

This activity doesn’t have to be big; you can pay for the car behind you in the drive-thru, or in the past, we’ve brought donuts for the volunteers & staff at a local animal shelter.  

Your kindness doesn’t even have to cost anything. You can shovel snow for your elderly neighbor, or get groceries for them. You can put up Christmas lights on their house, or bake them cookies.  

For more Christmas kindness activities, be sure to check out Coffee and Carpool’s post for 24 great ways to help kiddos be kind to others!

Twenty Three – drive around and look at the Christmas lights

A great impromptu free activity can be everyone piling in the car and driving around some neighborhoods to look at the Christmas lights! Bring some blankets so you can roll down your windows to get a better view (and some houses have coordinating music)! Here’s a cute Christmas light scavenger hunt to make even more of an event for your kiddos!

Twenty Four – go find some snow!

It seems that white Christmases are a thing of the past, well, I’ve never had snow at Christmas. But many times, we’ve driven up into the mountains to find some holiday fun! Whether you drive up to a lodge to relax for an afternoon or go adventuring into a state or national park, be sure to take a moment and build a snowman! Bring some rocks for eyes, carrot for a nose and a scarf to complete the outfit, because you have to take pictures!

Twenty Five – experience a candlelight service

I wasn’t raised in a very religious household, and we never really went to church. Yet, we did always go to Christmas Eve candlelight service at our grandparent’s church. I must admit there was something magical about it, with everyone quiet and serene. The choir singing in the candlelight glow.  

So, even though I’m not religious (and you may or may not be), I can respect the service and feel the warmth. I encourage everyone to go at least once. Ask your friends where they go or look at your town’s local Facebook group for suggestions.

At the end of the day

My most important tip on enjoying your Christmas bucket list is not to try and do it all! Plan to under schedule your family outings as little ones (and moms) get tuckered out easily with everything that is going on! Spend money on the activities that really speak to your family and then let the others pass by. Besides, there’s always next year! So be sure that you are taking the time to actual enjoy the holiday season!

Whatever you do, these frugal Christmas family traditions will help make memories for years to come! Many of my fond memories are at Christmas, and I swear that one year I even saw Santa flying in his sleigh, totally true story! I hope you’ll add some of these frugal Christmas bucket list items, and find a new family favorite tradition!

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What are you putting on your holiday traditions list?


5 Creative Ways to Decorate Your Home for Halloween

Goblins and witches and ghosts, oh my! How many of these ghoulish creatures will you be greeting this Halloween? Hopefully you’ll have the candy and creepy (but cute) ambiance to avoid the “trick” end of “trick-or-treat!” If you haven’t yet decorated for the holiday, don’t worry. Here are five easy ideas for a “spook-tacular” home.

  1. Eerie Entranceway
    • Paint black jack-o-lantern faces on small, glass votives. Drop a flameless tealight candle in each of them and use them to decorate around your front door.
  1. Frightening Florals
    • Black calla lilies have a wonderful dark, purply color. Plant some in flower pots around your home for a gloomy look with an exotic twist.
  1. Raven’s Nest Wreath
    • Remember last year when you weren’t as prepared for Halloween? Nevermore. Grab a twig wreath from your local craft store and place a faux black bird in the middle.
  1. Black Cat Pumpkins
    • Paint two pumpkins, one smaller and one larger, all black. Stack the smaller one on top of the other, and add eyes, a nose, and whiskers. Add cat ears cut from card stock and stand back! You won’t want these bad boys crossing your path.
  1. Mummified Glassware
    • Whether you’re serving up a glass of pumpkin flavored punch or a dish of fun sized candy bars, dress up your glassware to match the mood. Tape gauze to the bottom of the cup and wrap upwards, tucking in an end piece at the top to secure it.

With decorations like these, you just might have trick-or-treaters flocking to your home—if they’re not too scared, that is!