Get expert advice delivered straight to your inbox.

Skip to Main Content

13 Christmas Traditions to Rethink This Year

There’s nothing like a global pandemic to make you rethink some of your Christmas traditions. Do I really want to host a potluck? Should we even bother with new Christmas outfits? Guess I’m doing all my Christmas shopping online this year! 

We all look forward to Christmas traditions, like decorating sugar cookies, watching Elf with the kids, or wrapping Christmas presents late at night while sipping eggnog. But sometimes, cramming in all the fun can get overwhelming. And then it’s not even fun anymore.

This year, ignore the pressure to people please and, instead, go for the Christmas tradition ideas that don’t stress you out. Let’s be real here, 2020 has been stressful enough, so don’t pile more on your plate than you can handle. From holiday parties to gift wrapping, here are 13 Christmas traditions to rethink this year.

1. Annual Christmas Bash

If you’d rather not spend weeks planning and prepping for your annual Christmas party, then don’t. Forget the cheese ball, homemade hot cider and Santa cookies, and just get together with your pals at a local restaurant that’s open. Split the check and enjoy a simple, stress-free evening with your nearest and dearest.

And since this is the year of virtual everything, you could always host a Christmas party on Zoom or FaceTime. It’s out of the ordinary, but then again, so is this whole year. Send out the invite to your friends and throw the whole thing virtual style. The power of the internet, who knew?

2. Competitive Light Display

Make spirits bright with Christmas lights until your heart is content—but just remember all those lights come with a hefty price tag when the electric bill hits. And guess what? Santa can still find your house even if it’s not decked out with gigantic, colorful bulbs from top to bottom.

If you go all out with decorating, it should be because you actually enjoy this Christmas tradition, not because your over-the-top neighbors guilted you into a light display worthy of Rockefeller Center. Your time and money matter more than how many people drive by to ooh and aah at your light display. At the very least, put your lights on a timer. Your electric bill will thank you. You don’t need to light up the neighborhood until the sun comes up. 

3. Elf on the Shelf

This is a hot-button issue that can divide people faster than the “When do you start listening to Christmas music?” debate. So, we won’t get into the pros and cons of the Elf. We’ll just say this: If you’re a die-hard Elf on the Shelf fanatic, keep that Christmas tradition going without running yourself ragged every. single. day. The good ole Elf doesn’t need to build a Lego amusement park in the middle of the night, and he doesn’t have to leave a gourmet treat for the kiddos every morning either. Keep it simple and keep it fun. You can be creative without stressing yourself out.

And if you’re done with this Elf on the Shelf business, just tell your kids he went back to the North Pole—for good. Oops.

4. The Shopping Frenzy

We like a deal as much as the next person, but if you’re shopping for sport, take a time-out. This year, there’s really no need to wake up at 3 a.m. on Black Friday to battle other equally sleep-deprived shopping warriors just to get the best “deal.” Thanks to COVID-19, retailers have had to rethink their holiday shopping strategy. Most stores are stretching out their sales throughout the entire month of November and offering doorbuster deals online.


Start budgeting with EveryDollar today!

Shop from the comfort of your couch while eating leftover pie and watching White Christmas. Buying Christmas gifts should be fun! But just remember—don’t let the pressure to spend destroy your budget.

5. Christmas Cards.

It’s okay if you didn’t have time or money to schedule a photographer, buy matching red-and-white outfits, and order hundreds of glossy prints this year. Cards are a meaningful gesture, but don’t make them more difficult or expensive than they need to be. 

Skip the photog and use photos you took earlier in the year as your family Christmas photo. Print a simple 4x6 from your summer vacation and plop a “Merry Christmas” sticker on it. Done and done. Keep your eyes peeled for websites like Shutterfly that offer 10–15 free Christmas photo cards. (You just pay the shipping costs.)

And if you don’t want to bother with photos at all, you can still enjoy this Christmas tradition by limiting your card list and having the kids help you craft some beautiful handwritten notes with stickers and glitter. How fun is that? 

6. Travel

Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays, but you might have to rethink how you’re getting there this year. If you’re up for flying, good news for you! Prices are down compared to what you’d normally see. If driving is more your thing, be prepared for more traffic on the road thanks to less folks flying this year. 

If home isn’t within driving distance, you could start a new holiday tradition, like meeting your folks at a halfway point between your two towns. And don’t forget, you can always use your “get out of jail free” card here. If you really don’t want to deal with the hassle of traveling, you’ve got a good excuse this year. 

7. A Freshly Cut Tree

Christmas trees are a must in most homes, but if you dread the drama of picking the perfect, overpriced gem from the tree lot, try something else. What we mean is, use the garage sale special buried in the back of your attic. (You know it’s in there.) Or buy a tree at your local craft store with a coupon. What really matters is how you decorate it and who you decorate it with.

If you really want to get a real tree, there are a few budget-friendly options to look into. Check around your area for a local forest that welcomes those who want to chop down their own Christmas tree. Or just wait until it gets closer to Christmas Day before you buy it. That price will keep dropping as the big day gets closer.

8. Gift Wrapping Service

If it’s free from the store, go for it. But do you really need to pay someone to wrap all your gifts? Nope. Sure don’t. This isn’t the North Pole, after all. And watch out. Even if you DIY, the costs can still add up.

Skip buying all those handcrafted bows, spray-painted twigs, and fancied-up fabric that will only get trashed on Christmas morning. You can still be creative without spending gobs of money. Why not cover your presents in the Sunday comics or colored butcher paper instead? Then have your kids decorate the paper with stickers, stamps and crayon creations. Trim it with some ribbon or twine, and you’re done! Or save a ton of money just buying a roll of wrapping paper and a bag of bows from the dollar store and calling it good.

If you’re traveling, skip lugging these bulky presents with you. Give gift cards, or ship the stuff straight to your family members’ front doorsteps (then wrap when you get there).

9. New Christmas Outfits

You’ve seen them on your Instagram feed—ads of the cute kids with matching Christmas pajamas circled around the fireplace. They looked so happy, well-behaved and cozy. You decided then and there your family needs matching Christmas jammies. And what about at church? You picture everybody walking into the candlelight Christmas Eve service in their brand-new Christmas threads.

 We get it. It’s easy to think you "need" new outfits every Christmas. You can’t possibly wear that dress or tie you wore two years ago. Or can you? Oh, yes. Yes you can. Pass along the Christmas hand-me-down outfits for the kids, pull an old faithful outfit from the closet, and spruce it up with new accessories. You and your family can still celebrate Christmas without decking yourselves out in a new wardrobe.

If you’re still going to church virtually, then you don’t even have to be tempted with new outfits there. Score! But we don’t know what to tell you about the pj’s. That’s one piece of clothing that was actually essential this year, so . . . 

10. Overnight Shipping

Is waiting until the last minute your favorite Christmas tradition? Well, don’t fall for it anymore, especially this year. With so many people shopping online this Christmas, shipping is going to be nuts. And the wait times for packages (yep, even from Amazon Prime) are going to be long. So don’t wait until the last minute to get all those presents under the tree. If you order a few weeks earlier (like now), you could score free shipping and have your gifts arrive in plenty of time for Christmas. Nobody likes coughing up an extra $25 for overnight shipping, so order any online gifts ASAP.

11. Holiday Party Extras

Ugly Christmas sweaters, Secret Santa and white elephant gifts—oh my! Sometimes it feels like people are just trying to get you to overspend in December. And if you do try to bow out of a planned festivity, you catch the nasty side-eye from someone. But listen, you can get your jingle bell rock on while still being frugal. And you don’t need a Christmas miracle to pull it off either.

Join in if you want to, but be sure to set a budget for your spending and stick to it. That might mean you check out a thrift store to hunt for the tackiest Christmas sweater you can find. Or grab the most random item around the house for your office white elephant gift—like that "Mom Life" trucker hat collecting dust in your closet.

12. Giving Only Money

You might think giving only has to do with dollar signs. And yes, being generous with your money is an incredible way to give. And if you can give that way, then do it. But don’t forget that being a generous person doesn’t always involve money—there are plenty of ways to have a heart of giving without spending a dime. You can bake cookies and pass them out to your neighbors, write heartfelt notes to your family members, or volunteer your time to help out in your community. Doing kind things like this goes a long way!

13. Overblown Holiday Feasts

Potlucks, man. They’re not very 2020 friendly. We’re not saying you need to ditch family dinner or potlucks with your friends, but be considerate. Ask them what they’re comfortable with this year and then go from there. And maybe take this as your out for not having to prepare the Who pudding, the Who hash and the roast beast. (Grinch references, anyone?)

If you do throw a get-together this year, cook the main course of turkey, ham, duck or whatever your tradition may be, and ask your guests to bring the side dishes. That way, you’re not stuck with the bill for that feast, and everyone feels happy because they helped out.

Rethink Your Christmas Traditions Without Becoming a Scrooge

We’re not trying to burst your Christmas tradition snow globe over here. Just remember: Christmas is all about spending time with others and blessing them—not spending money just because every Christmas commercial told you to. 

It’s okay to rethink what traditions are worth your time and effort. If anyone asks why you’re not going all out this year, just tell them you want to spend more time truly savoring the Christmas season. 2020 has been a tough year for everybody—some more than others. So just be up-front and honest. People will understand. 

And bottom line? Don’t get so caught up in the Christmas fun that you bust your budget. If you’re looking for some budget-friendly gifts that actually create lasting life-change, grab something from our online store or use our fancy gift finder to look for some meaningful gifts for the people in your life!

Did you find this article helpful? Share it!

Ramsey Solutions

About the author


Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

Related Articles

How to Survive the Holidays
Personal Growth

13 Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress

While the Christmas season can bring joy and laughter, it can also bring loads of stress. Get ahead of the season with these holiday stress-reducing tactics.

Dr. John Delony Dr. John Delony