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Money Tight This December? Here’s How to Have a Happy Holiday Season in 2022 for (Practically!) Free


Dec 01, 2022 7 min read

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Free Christmas Ideas

It’s been a tumultuous year for the economy, with rising interest rates, mounting inflation and the looming threat of a possible recession. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that you might be feeling the pinch this holiday season.

Luckily, the magic of the holidays has very little to do with how much money you spend! Think back to your best memories of this time of year. You’re likely picturing time spent together with loved ones, rather than extravagant gifts. 

If a desire to be cautious with spending is leaving you anxious that you won’t be able to have a memorable holiday season this year, keep reading for our list of free (or practically free!) ways to celebrate the festivities.

Free Holiday Activities

Drive or walk around your neighbourhood to look at the lights

There’s been an explosion in popularity of Christmas light shows in recent years, but often the most festive and creative light displays are right in your neighbourhood! Why not fill a Thermos with hot cocoa and take a walk or drive to see the lights that are right on your doorstep? You could even search online to see if there are any local streets where they really go all out, like Inglewood Drive in Toronto or 55A Street in Vancouver.    

Tree-lighting and menorah-lighting ceremonies

Many communities organize tree- or menorah-lighting events, often with music and children’s activities. Not only is this a great way to make some holiday memories, but you might also meet some of your neighbours or community members.

Rent movies and books from the library

You might be surprised at just how much your local library offers. Many have a comprehensive collection of DVDs and even access to some streaming services, meaning you can have a cozy movie night without having to take on costly subscriptions.

Free colouring activities

If you’re looking for a way to entertain the kids during the winter break, you’ll find a wealth of free, printable activities on sites like Pinterest. If you don’t have access to a printer, again this is where your local library might come in handy!


Volunteering gets to the heart of the true meaning of the holidays: giving to others and spreading joy. Donating your time to a local soup kitchen, food bank or care home is a great way to get into the festive spirit while doing good in your community. Volunteer Canada provides a list of volunteering opportunities and helps you find your perfect match!

Make your own advent calendar

A homemade advent calendar can be as simple as taking 24 slips of paper and writing a joke or activity on each. Put the pieces of paper in a jar then pull out one each day during advent. This is so much more fun and engaging than candy, and you may even start a new family tradition of doing this every year! Why not write the 24 slips of paper for next year as well, so that you’ll have forgotten what’s on them by the time the holiday season comes around and they’ll be a surprise!

Some ideas for advent calendar activities:

  • Choose your proudest moment of the past year

  • Say your favourite thing about the person on your left

  • Make up a dance to your favourite festive song

Christmas on a budget

How to Give Gifts on a Strict Budget

There can be a great deal of pressure to give gifts at this time of year, but that isn’t always easy when your financial situation is less than secure. Here are some ways you can still give gifts from the heart without breaking the bank.


If you’ve been given something that isn’t quite to your taste or that you don’t have much use for, why not gift it forward to someone who might enjoy it more? 

Have a clear-out and sell things you no longer need

The run-up to the holiday season is an excellent time to clear your home of items you no longer use, as not only will you make some money, but you’ll also make space for any gifts your family might receive! Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace are excellent places to get started with selling your used items.

Christmas assistance

Charitable organizations like the Salvation Army offer practical assistance to those who are struggling during the holidays. From food hampers to gifts for the kids, there is help available.

Give homemade gifts

Nothing captures the magic of the holidays more than a homemade gift! There are lots of things you can make with items you already have in your home, like:

  • Bath bombs

  • Cookies

  • Exfoliating sugar scrub

  • Candied nuts

  • Chocolate bark

  • Salt dough decorations

Gift ideas for Christmas on a budget

How to Decorate for the Holidays for Free

Decorating the home for the holidays is often one of the things that people look forward to most! Luckily, there are some easy and fun ways to deck the halls without spending a dime.

Look for items in nature

Things like pine cones and fir branches are very traditional and festive decorations, and have the added bonus of smelling lovely. Take it up a notch by decorating the pinecones with glitter!

Free printable decorations

There are a whole host of free printable decorations to be found online, from banners to candle holders.

Make decorations with household items

You’d be surprised at how many beautiful decorations you could make with things lying around your home, or even your garbage! Cardboard boxes, empty jars, wine corks; all of these have the potential to become ornaments that you’re proud to decorate your home with. Why not put some on festive music and make a fun afternoon of crafting your decorations?

Free Christmas gifts Canada

Get Prepared for Next Year

Your future self will definitely thank you if you start your preparation for next year’s holiday season as soon as possible. Not only will this reduce stress next year, but it will also allow you to spread the costs over a longer period of time, reducing some of the pressure on your wallet. Here are some ways you can get ahead:

Take advantage of the year’s biggest sales

The biggest sales events of the year tend to come on Boxing Day, Labour Day and Black Friday, so these are excellent times to make some holiday purchases in advance. If you’re buying for a child, think about the developmental stage/size they’ll be at when you intend to give the gift, especially if it’s a considerable time in the future.

Consider a cashback credit card

If you don’t already have one, a cashback credit card could be a great way to accumulate some extra money throughout the year as you make your regular purchases. Many credit card issuers pay out cashback annually in December, meaning you’ll get a nice lump sum to help cover the cost of the holidays next year! However, remember to only spend an amount that you can pay off in-full each month so that you don’t have to pay any interest. If you end up carrying a balance on your card and paying interest, this might outweigh any cashback you earn.

Make the most of rewards and loyalty schemes

Think about the places you shop most and make sure that you’re taking advantage of their reward schemes. Most grocery stores offer some kind of reward system, allowing you to accumulate money or credit whenever you shop. For example, Metro offers Air Miles, Loblaws, Shoppers and Real Canadian Superstore use PC Optimum points. Make sure you download the cellphone app for the loyalty scheme as well, as many offer weekly coupons with exclusive discounts and chances to earn bonus points.

You could also look into services that reward you with cashback, like Rakuten and Ampli. One excellent extension to add to your internet browser is Honey, which automatically searches for coupon codes you can use as you shop. 

Buy groceries throughout the year

Of course, there are some fresh foods that you won’t want to buy until closer to the holidays, but with dry and canned goods, there’s no reason why you can’t start collecting them throughout the year. This could be particularly useful to bear in mind if you’re a few dollars short of a bonus threshold (example: spend $50 and get 20 bonus loyalty points).

Some items that will keep well throughout the year:

  • Cranberry sauce

  • Canned vegetables

  • Stuffing mix

  • Gravy granules

  • Dried fruit

  • Candy

  • Hot chocolate mix

  • Baking ingredients (sugar, flour, baking powder)

The Bottom Line

The magic of the holiday season is found in the moments spent with loved ones, not in extravagant trips or expensive gifts. By taking advantage of the tips above, you’re sure to have a festive and memorable holiday season without breaking the bank. 

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