7-Day Low-Cost Christmas Countdown [Alternative To Elf On A Shelf]

I’ve been getting a kick out of the creative Elf on A Shelf shenanigans that my friends have gotten into this year. Their elves are all over the place, creating chaos and havoc each night while their kids are sleeping. It’s funny. I enjoy it. But for the umpteenth year in a row, I haven’t bought one. I kind of suck at everything holiday-related (except the food).

But this year, I’m pledging to do better. Because even if I’m not quite in the holiday spirit, my children are and they deserve more than a mommy who’s reading a book while they decorate the Christmas tree. (True story. I’m sorry, kids.)

So I came up with a fun little countdown to Christmas that I think I can stick with. It’s only one week long, I have most of the materials needed and what’s most important is that it will give us quality time together every day. So let’s get to it!

7-Day Christmas Countdown

7. Make cupcakes for my husband’s coworkers.

I enjoy baking, but I do not enjoy eating everything by myself. (Okay, yes, I do.) But this accomplishes three things: It allows us to spend time together, we get to eat cupcakes, AND my husband gets to look like the greatest boss ever for bringing in cupcakes on a random Thursday. We’re making these goodies:




6. Make gifts for their teachers

Last year we made their teachers chocolate-covered candy canes (to swirl in hot cocoa). They were easy to make and a hit with both teachers. This year, I think we’ll stick with the coffee theme (my son’s kindergarten teacher has 8 children at home, so I’m sure she has a coffee IV.) We’ll decorate some mugs and fill it with goodies.

5. Donate toys to kids in need

I went downstairs last week and could not believe how many toys and games my kids have. I did a sweep earlier this year, but with grandparents who spoil them like crazy, the clutter doesn’t stay away long. But we’ll be packing up their “baby toys” and clothes and donating them to our local “Help Me Grow” program, which gives gently used items to families.

4. Make an ornament 

As my kids decorated the tree this year, I took a quick walk down memory lane with all the ornaments we’ve collected over the years. Each year I’d like to add at least one personal ornament that showcases where we are as a family or what the kids were into at that time.


3. Write a card to great-grandparents

My children are very lucky to still have their great-grandparents alive and relatively young (80s). They adore their Gigi (as in two “G’s” for great-grandma) and their Grandpa Abe but they don’t get to see each other as often as I’d like. They’re going to send them holiday cards (complete with physical photos of them over the past year) and write a little note from each of them. I know my grandparents will get a kick out of that!

2. Go driving to see the Christmas lights

There is nothing my kids love more that seeing houses lit up with Christmas lights. In previous years I’ve found some pretty cool drive-through light displays and they are finally big enough to actually see them from their booster seats. LOL. To find some in your area, just Google “Christmas lights + your city” and you’re sure to find a few options to choose from.

1. Christmas Eve pajamas and a movie

I’m sure you’ve seen this floating around on Facebook at least once or twice. One gift box filled with new pajamas, popcorn, a Christmas movie and hot cocoa. We’re going to watch “Home Alone” this year, since my kids have never seen it, then move to some of the classics: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, etc. I can’t wait!

christmas box

What traditions do you have in the days before Christmas?


  1. We always get new pjs on Christmas Eve! It’s such a nice tradition, but I really like the idea of giving a box with pjs, popcorn and a Christmas movie! Home Alone is one of my daughter’s favourites.

    For Christmas we always exchange new ornaments as gifts, either bought or handmade. My husband always gets a new Peanuts one every year.

    We also bake banana bread on Christmas Eve so we can eat it for breakfast Christmas morning every year. I figure since Christmas day is such a hectic day, especially in the kitchen, it’s nice to have banana bread with fresh fruit as a light, healthy breakfast that’s easy to clean-up afterwards.

  2. We don’t have any but this year we’re making cupcakes and doing the Christmas eve box. My 6 yr old felt some kind of way seeing his older siblings ornaments from previous years and he not having one (they make them each year in school). And since he didn’t make one in Kindergarten, we’re going to make him one this week. He’s super excited. So I guess making ornaments will be a tradition we do every year too.

    • Oh… and I make Pecan French Toast Casserole every year. It’s the one that has to sit overnight. Lawd. I think I’m looking forward to that the most. It’s SO good!