Planning frugal, family-fun activities to enjoy during the holidays

Family outings don’t have to break the bank to be fun and enjoyable.

From Thanksgiving through the end of the year, there are multiple opportunities to spend time on family outings, but it isn’t necessary to spend a lot of money to enjoy the adventure. Planning the outing in advance and including any expense to be incurred goes a long way to control costs and prevent overspending. It can be easy to get carried away and overspend on family activities, but if it isn’t part of your spending plan, it can mean playing catch up further down the road.

Begin by using an internet search engine to look up free or frugal things to do in your immediate area. Most cities have a list of things to do in their area. Some cities have free activities and most have a general list that can include free things to do. Don’t just rely on the internet, either. Local newspapers, local libraries and schools regularly publish area events. Ask your family to help make a list of things they would like to do together too.

Keep in mind that local community colleges will often offer low-cost activities for families. Pre-registration may be required. Arts and crafts stores, home improvement stores, and hobby shops offer inexpensive or free workshops for children and adults.

A family game night is the answer if you would rather spend family time at home. Remember the ages and skill level of your family members. Choose games that maximize each person’s participation.

Once the list of activities is made, estimate the costs associated with each activity and decide which fit into your budget and your schedule. Now the real planning can begin. Don’t forget to consider stay at home vacations as well. Baking or cooking together is a great family activity.

Whatever activity you decide to do, remember that spending time with family is the ultimate goal.

Michigan State University Extension offers financial literacy and homeownership workshops throughout the year to help you become financially healthy. For more information of classes in your area, go to either or Additionally, you can take the Financial Health Survey at MI Money Health to access if you’re financially healthy and discover more ways you can improve your financial health.  

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