By Shannon Serpette for – The look on your children’s faces on Christmas morning is priceless. But make no mistakes about it – their joy does have a price tag attached. And the people who foot that bill are Mom and Dad.

With children off school for their Christmas and New Year’s Eve break, the financial drain of the holidays isn’t limited to the gifts that are opened on Christmas morning. You’ll also be expected to take them places and do things.

If you’re looking for a way to help your children enjoy the holidays without making you look and feel like The Grinch, we’ll give you some tips. And the best part is that they’re free.

Go Old School with Holiday Decorations

Back in the day, people didn’t have a lot of disposable income to squander on decorations. They used simple items and ingredients for making their holiday decorations. And, it turned out, kids loved making these crafts, even if they didn’t have a pound of glitter to work with.

If you have kids in junior high and younger, they’ll get a kick out of making these inexpensive decorations. Crank the Christmas tunes, pop a bowl of popcorn, get a needle and some thread and watch them have fun making garlands of popcorn to hang up.

If you don’t want the mess that goes along with popcorn, the old classic staple, a paper chain, remains a popular craft activity at the holidays. All you need is red and green construction paper, scissors and tape or a stapler. Your kids will have so much fun doing this craft and hanging it up that they’ll ask to do it every year.

Another favorite each year is making snowflakes – all you need is scissors and some standard computer paper. If you aren’t the artsy type, don’t sweat it. You need absolutely no talent to pull off this craft. Each snowflake is different so that takes all the pressure off of you.

Hit the Matinee

Hollywood execs have your number. They know when your kids are out of school and cooped up inside because of the winter weather, you’ll do anything to find an activity to get them out of the house and keep them entertained. And so they release every kid-friendly movie they can churn out during December.

But you can outsmart them a bit. While you’ll still probably end up at the movie theater checking out the 1,531st superhero movie to be released this year, you don’t have to turn into The Incredible Hulk as you hand your money over to the cashier.

Go to a matinee instead of a night movie and you’ll save a fair amount of money. Just make sure to skip the concession stand or you’ll be eating your savings.

Don’t Forget the Parades

Most towns and cities have a parade – whether it’s big or small – so children can catch that glimpse of Santa to fuel their frenzied excitement about the holidays and possibly keep them on the straight and narrow for a few days more. Staying on the nice list can be exhausting, especially when they’re freezing standing there at a parade, but they’ll be rewarded with candy thrown by the people on the parade floats.

While they may complain temporarily about the cold, they’ll be glad they braved it later that night when they’re warm on the couch, cuddled up with their bag of goodies.

Check Out the Lights

Do you have a Clark Griswold in your neighborhood who isn’t happy until every square inch of his house is covered in Christmas lights? Take advantage of all your neighbor’s hard work by admiring it with your children. Do a walking tour of your neighborhood to see all the decorations people put up.

If your neighborhood isn’t spectacular, do a driving tour of your town. You won’t have to pay a penny to admire someone else’s decorations. But your kids will have a great time hanging out with you and judging which house is their favorite.

Enjoy the Outdoors

What better way to fight cabin fever and the calories from all those Christmas cookies than by sledding or having a snowball fight?

Don’t let your kids have all the fun. Make this a true family activity. Let your kids see how experience beats youth when it comes to letting the snowballs fly. Channel your inner Will Ferrell from the movie Elf and annihilate your competition in the snowball fight.

Hijack their sled and show them how you can still slide down the hill with the best of them.

You’ll be making memories together and, even when they’re grown, they’ll laugh as they remember the epic wipeouts you had.

Shannon Serpette is a mother of two and an award-winning journalist and freelancer who lives in Illinois. When she’s not spending time with her children, she is often pursuing her favorite hobbies – running, metal detecting and kayaking. She can be reached at

Posted by Fathers Incorporated

Fathers Incorporated (FI) is a national, non-profit organization working to build stronger families and communities through the promotion of Responsible Fatherhood. Established in 2004, FI has a unique seat at the national table, working with leaders in the White House, Congress, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Family Law, and the Responsible Fatherhood Movement. FI works collaboratively with organizations around the country to identify and advocate for social and legislative changes that lead to healthy father involvement with children, regardless of the father’s marital or economic status, or geographic location. From employment and incarceration issues, to child support and domestic violence, FI addresses long-standing problems to achieve long-term results for children, their families, the communities, and nation in which they live.

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