9 Ideas for At-Home Holiday Experiences

While the holidays can be a wonderful time of year with twinkling lights and joyful family gatherings, they can also be a huge strain on your budget. Between buying gifts, fancy celebratory dinners out, special party outfits, and expensive holiday travel, you might feel financial pressure.


If you plan to skip the travel this holiday season, you’re not alone. According to Bankrate, 52% of Americans are staying home for the 2023 holidays due to budget concerns. Choosing to stay home for the holidays and having a tighter budget doesn’t mean you have to forgo the season’s festivities, though! Here are nine affordable or free holiday activities to help you celebrate with friends and family.  


1. Holiday Movie Marathon


Holiday budgeting might mean you don’t have the cash to hit up your local theater, but you can still have an amazing movie night at home! Queue up A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, those cheesy Christmas rom-coms, and all your other feel-good faves for a movie marathon. Cozy up on the couch in your comfiest pajamas, invite some friends, pop some corn, and settle in for a night of holiday cheer. 


2. Host a Craft Night


A craft night is the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit — and you can make practical crafts that can double as gifts or decor. Some ideas for your craft night include:


  • Wreaths
  • Fake floral centerpieces
  • Ornaments that can be given to family and friends as Christmas gifts
  • Sustainable wrapping paper from items around the house
  • Cozy fleece tie blankets
  • Christmas cards from paper and craft supplies you have on hand


Invite your friends, set out some seasonal snacks and drinks, and get crafting!


3. Do a Cook-Along Over Video


Are you separated from friends or family members for the holidays? Do you have a recipe you’ve been dying to try out? Host a virtual cook-along! It’s an excellent way to get your loved ones together virtually — and you get a yummy dish or treat out of it. 


For a successful cook-along, make sure you:


  • Find a date and time that works for all invitees and won’t leave anyone feeling rushed.
  • Select a recipe that works with everyone’s skill levels.
  • Share the recipe with plenty of time for participants to gather ingredients.
  • Test the video link beforehand to ensure it works.


4. Throw a Holiday Potluck


Wondering how to save money during the holidays while still having a celebratory meal? A potluck is the perfect solution. Making all the dishes for a holiday meal takes a lot of time, energy, and money. You can ease the strain by asking each attendee to bring their favorite holiday dishes. Think duck, stuffing, mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, pie, etc. Organize your potluck with a food signup sheet — you don’t want half your guests to show up with pumpkin pie!


If you’re entertaining in a small space, spread the food throughout your home or set up a buffet-style meal to avoid overcrowding the table with dishes. Make sure you have plenty of the hosting houseware essentials on hand before the big day – silverware, plates, cups, and a coffee maker for after-dinner beverages.


5. Invite Friends Over for a Read-a-Thon


The holidays are the perfect time to don your coziest pajamas and snuggle up with a good book or two — and you don’t have to do it alone! You can invite your bookworm friends for a holiday read-a-thon. Most people choose to do 24 hours of reading, but you can adjust the time frame to fit how long you and your friends can read (and stay awake). 


Check out some cozy or holiday-themed books from your local library, have everyone bring some festive snacks, and set up a comfy reading area in your living room with tons of blankets and pillows


6. Watch Christmas Light Show Videos


Christmas on a budget might mean staying in, but you don’t have to sacrifice your favorite traditions like Christmas light viewing. You can find countless Christmas light videos online for convenient and free viewing. Find light shows across the country where people have outfitted their homes with thousands of Christmas lights synched to music, or search for livestreams of Christmas light trails nearby. You get all the joy of viewing Christmas lights without spending money or leaving the comfort of your home!


7. Host a Themed Game Night


Nothing brings friends and family together quite like a game night, and you can easily find themed games or put a holiday twist on your favorites. Think holiday-themed trivia or charades, a Christmas song/carol guessing game, a snowman-building competition, or a white elephant party with a low or $0 spending limit. Best of all, you can host many games virtually or in person, allowing you to include loved ones close and far. 


8. Bake Your Favorite Holiday Treats


When it comes to classic holiday activities, you can never go wrong with baking. Whether you’re a military family away from family for the first time or just couldn’t manage a trip home this year, baking is sure to help you get in the holiday spirit — and it can be relatively inexpensive. 


Whip up a cake using a box mix, canned frosting, and festive sprinkles, or bake a batch of your favorite sugar cookies and royal icing. If you want to skip the baking but enjoy decorating, you could purchase a gingerbread house kit!


9. Decorate for the Season


Nothing helps you get into the holiday spirit quite like decorating your home for the season. Add some throw pillows in fall colors or Christmas colors to your couch. Hang a festive wreath on your door. Fill a vase with some faux fall flowers. You can even DIY holiday decor with items around the house or inexpensive supplies from your local craft store. 


Get Your Home Holiday Ready with CORT Furniture Outlet


The holidays can be daunting when you’re on a budget. It seems like the list of parties that require new outfits, gifts for random people, and even just grocery shopping is never-ending. But there are enjoyable ways to make the most of the holiday season without going out every night and often without even swiping your credit card!

Staying in when your home is lacking comfortable, high-quality furniture isn’t quite as appealing, though. Turn to CORT Furniture Outlet when you need to spruce up your space without wrecking your holiday budget. You can find lightly used furniture that’s flexible and perfect for hosting at up to 70% off, meaning you don’t have to skimp on quality just to fill a gap in your home decor. Find your perfect piece online or in-store at CORT Furniture Outlet today.

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