For those of us done with our holiday shopping, this week is on cruise control — a few days of enjoying seasonal music, savoring a cup of Christmas cheer and sampling smells of cinnamon and pine in the air.
But there’s one more expense you may not have put much thought into this month: entertaining kids out of school for the holidays and playing host to visiting friends or relatives.
Whether you have a whole houseful or just a cozy couple, here are some ideas for spending quality time while spending hardly any money:
Get some exercise. Go hiking on one of the beautiful trails around metro Atlanta. For an all-day hike, pack sandwiches and apples for a lunchtime stop. Try Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park for a dash of Civil War history or Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville for scenery.
Sightsee. Take in the lights in a well-decorated neighborhood. If “looking” isn’t enough for children in your car, turn it into a game. Collectively choose the top five houses along the way and then rank each one to determine which house on your tour wins best of show. Or bring a thermos of hot chocolate from home and stroll through a free attraction like Centennial Olympic Park’s Holiday in Lights in downtown Atlanta.
Cook up some fun. Bake holiday cookies together, and make sure everyone gets in on the act. Start an assembly line to mix the dough, roll it, cut cookie shapes, place them on the cookie sheet and put them in the oven. When the cookies are taken out and have cooled, start another assembly line for frosting, sprinkles and candies. Enjoy the fruits of your labor with large glasses of milk.
Turn some pages. Read a classic together: “The Night Before Christmas” or “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” are good options for gatherings with small children. For adult gatherings, take turns reading from a favorite novel (points go to the most theatrical narrators) while sharing some good wine.
Paint the town red. Or blue. Or whatever your creative genius imagines. Provide one or two inexpensive watercolor sets, add paper and — voilà! — instant painting party. If they need ideas, encourage children to paint holiday scenes. Be sure to cover the table or floor with newspaper or similar covering for messy painters.
– By Lauren Davidson, Atlanta Bargain Hunter