PCA 2020

Snow Much to Do! 10 Ways to Indulge in the Holidays on a Budget

The snow has fallen, the lights are up and the holiday season is well on its way. This means there is a ton of fun ahead, but it’s also easily one of the most expensive times of the year. Here are 10 simple budget-friendly family fun tips to keep you and your little ones entertained throughout the holiday season without breaking the bank.

1. Millarville Christmas Market. This annual market, which takes place from November 8th to 11th, is the perfect occasion to get you and your family into the holiday spirit. Get an early start on shopping, enjoy the beautiful display of lights, indulge in the wide variety of market food and even get the whole family on a hayride. For more information, including hours, vendor information and more, visit www.millarvilleracetrack.com.

2. Spirit of Christmas. Head out west to Bragg Creek’s Spirit of Christmas, for two weekends of real reindeer, Santa Claus, horse-drawn wagon rides, ice sculpting and more. The event takes place on December 7th and 8th, as well as the 14th and 15th. For more information, visit www.visitbraggcreek.com.

3. Christmas in the Rockies. Head even farther west to Banff, and enjoy the Santa Claus Parade, Christmas crafts, wagon rides and hot chocolate under the moonlight. Why not make a weekend of it and do a little tobogganing, ice skating and winter hiking in the Rockies? For more information, visit www.banfflakelouise.com and look under ‘Area Events’ for the festival details.

4. DIY sleds. Get creative with the whole family and make yourselves some homemade sleds! See what you can find around the house that might work as a sled; garbage bags and cardboard boxes, large Tupperware containers and their lids, cookie sheets, serving trays, bubble wrap and pillows all work great. Try to put a few of these items together and make them extra slippery (you can wrap them in plastic wrap if needed), and make the ultimate homemade sled; and then take them out to a nearby hill to try them out! Who knows… you might have a little engineer on your hands! Select a hill that is not too steep with a long and clear run-off area. Make sure the hill is free of hazards such as bumps, holes, obstacles, rocks and bare spots. Choose a hill that is away from roads, railways and parking lots. And remember: all sliders should wear a helmet to protect their head. A ski or hockey helmet is recommended.

5. Snowman family. Immortalize your family – at least until a Chinook rolls in – by creating an entire snowman family replicating yours in the yard or a nearby park. Replicate each member of the family, and use personal belongings (clothing, etc.) to complete the look. When you’re done, get a full family photo with each person next to their snowman so the memory lives on long after the snow melts.

6. Homemade Christmas gifts. Taking the time to make gifts this holiday season will not only save you a bundle of money, but the gifts will also mean more to the recipients than the regular store-bought variety. Photographs with hand-decorated frames, your child’s art, baked goods, clay works and painted pots with flowers planted in them are all great, inexpensive options. Handmade holiday cards are also an excellent way to save a bundle of money while keeping in the spirit of the season.

7. Cookie decorating party. It’s time to bring back the old-fashioned holiday party! Invite a handful of friends and their kids over, serve up some fruit punch and snacks (it doesn’t hurt to throw in a mandatory ugly Christmas sweater policy!), and get decorating. Have an assortment of plain sugar cookies or gingerbread cookies ready, along with a nice variety of icings (mix icing sugar with a little bit of lemon until you have the desired icing consistency - or simply purchase cookie decorating tubes at the grocery store), candies, sprinkles and other toppings for the kids to use. When they’re all done, throw on a holiday movie for them to watch (with plenty of popcorn of course), and wrap up the cookies so the kids can take them home while you get some adult visiting time with the other parents.

8. Indoor camping. Bring summer back for a night of ghost stories, s’mores and snuggly sleeping bags, all in the comfort of your own home. Ditch the technology and electricity for the evening, and play board games under the glow of a flashlight, roast marshmallows in the fire (if you have a wood fireplace… if not, zap the whole s’more in the microwave for a few seconds. This is the one exception for the no technology rule!), and simply enjoy each other’s company. This is also a great way for your kids to have a sleepover with a couple of friends.

9. Build a snow fort. Grab a couple shovels, a bucket, a spray bottle full of water and bundle up - it’s the perfect time of year to build a snow fort! To make the walls of the fort, hard-pack snow in the bucket and then unmould it onto the ground. Spray with water to form an ice coat, and repeat, stacking the packed snow a few buckets high, and making sure a small area is left open for an entrance. If the kids are feeling extra creative, fill up a couple of spray bottles with water and a few drops of food coloring, and have the kids decorate the fort with a rainbow of colors.

10. Have a pajama party. There ain’t no party like a PJ party! Whether it’s the whole family, or just the kids and a couple friends, dressing up in pajamas for a whole day and night is a ton of fun without much effort. Break out the cozy blankets, as many pillows as you can find, and some snacks, games and movies. It’s the perfect way to simply relax and have a much-needed lazy winter day.

Do you have a budget-friendly family fun tip that you’d like to share? Email it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and it could be featured in the next Calgary on the Cheap!

Stephanie is a freelance writer specializing in travel and food writing. For more information, visit www.stephaniearsenault.ca.

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