Family Ties

7 Ways To Celebrate The Holidays When You Can’t Afford To Visit Family

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You love your new job. Your new coworkers are amazing, your new city is fantastic and your new place is incredible. You also love the opportunities you know you’ll have because you were willing to move away from your hometown to pursue your career goals.

Picking up and moving away really has its benefits, but it also has its downfalls. No matter how much you love your new life in your new location, it’s tough to be so far from family during the holiday season.

Maybe you can’t take the time away from work to travel home, or perhaps, like most millennials, you don’t have enough in savings to afford the travel costs right now. Whatever the reason, going home for the holidays just isn’t an option this year.

It isn’t easy to get into the holiday spirit when you can’t be with your loved ones, but there are plenty of ways to celebrate the holidays when you can’t afford to visit family.

Thanksgiving Dinner holidays

1. Decorate like you would at home

Just because you aren’t with your family doesn’t mean you have to give up on tradition. Decorate your home or apartment the way that you helped decorate your childhood home while growing up. You can keep the spirit of the holiday alive even if you can’t be there in person to spend the time with family.

Bake cookies, turn up the holiday music, and enjoy the fact that you don’t have to stress about holiday travel. Turn your home into your own personal holiday retreat.

2. Start your own traditions

This is your time to start your own holiday traditions! The holidays can be a big blank slate if you want them to be. Eat the foods you want to eat, decorate the way you want to decorate, and decide which events and ceremonies are important to you. Being alone for the first time during the holidays is a great way to assess your priorities and figure out which traditions you want to keep and which you’re likely to toss.

holidays tradition

3. Spend your holiday doing charity work

If you can’t go home for the holidays, consider spending the holidays engaged in charity work. Serve dinner at the soup kitchen or deliver toys to children through local charities. Contact your local community center or Boys and Girls Club to see if they need any help with holiday programs for the kids. There are endless ways to give back during the holidays, especially if you would have just spent the day alone.

4. Volunteer at a care facility

Retirement homes, hospice care centers, and elderly living facilities all have aging members of our community who due to age, sickness, or distance, can’t go home for the holidays either. Volunteer a few hours of your day to help bring some holiday cheer and the joy of the season to the aging members of the community.

holidays volunteer

5. Attend the local holiday celebrations

The holidays are the best time of year to experience the local flavors and traditions of your new city. Find a festivalto attend, watch your city’s parade or holiday events. Go ice skating with friends and then walk the town to look at lights while drinking hot cocoa. Enjoy all of the holiday activities that are available in your new city. Next year during the holidays, your city may even feel like home.

6. Host a holiday party

holidays party

It’s practically a guarantee that you’re not the only individual who can’t go home for the holidays. Open up your home, and host a meal or party to offer holiday refuge to friends, neighbors, and coworkers. Plan a potluck where everyone brings their favorite traditional holiday dish, and then have a white elephant gift exchange after the meal. It won’t be like home, but it will be a fun evening spent with friends, instead of a lonely evening spent without company.

7. Start saving for next year

Don’t feel guilty for being away from family because your career just won’t allow it this year. It’s okay to have a low key holiday every once in a while. Since you won’t be traveling, you’ll probably save quite a bit of money this year. Set aside the money you would have used on the holidays so that you will be able to visit your family next year if you want to.

Don’t feel like you can’t decorate how you want to and celebrate how you want to just because you won’t be with family. Make the most of your situation this year and branch out into your new community. Offer your help, time, and efforts to others. Get out into your new city and take part in their holiday traditions.

And who knows? Perhaps by enjoying the different ways to celebrate the holidays this year, by next year your new city will feel like home.

If going home for the holidays isn’t an option this year, how will you spend the holidays?

Invibed is an online destination that makes personal finance relevant, accessible and entertaining to millennials. Follow Invibed on Facebook and Instagram.


  • Robin Rue

    These are all wonderful ideas. Most towns have big celebrations this time of year, so that is a great way to get into the holiday spirit.

  • Such great ideas, especially this time of year. There are so many times when we cannot get away or afford to travel and these tips really help. We love to have our own traditions and I know as a dad we are trying to offer these to our daughters to help them continue traditions into the future too!

  • polarbelle

    Nothing will help you feel holidayish, despite being lonely for family, than attending local holiday events. If you can’t summon up what it takes to raise a tree, go get your fill of the ones in town that are already decorated for you to enjoy. etc….nice post

  • Jacqui @FlightsFancyMom

    These are great tips and ones for me to look at in the future. My family would be extremely upset if I weren’t home. As it is, I moved one state away, about a 30 – 45 minute drive and the way they act? I moved to the other side of the country lol. Can’t imagine what would happen if I REALLY did move! Thanks for sharing!

  • Dee

    You have given some awesome tips. I think one of the best ways to celebrate the holidays when you are not close to family is to invite friends over or go volunteer to help others.

  • Candy Kage

    We spent years away from family due to be in the military. We always made sure those without families came to our place for some good family food and fun.

  • I sometimes spend the holidays away from my family because I work in a hospital and it’s not so bad. I think you just learn to do things your own way!

  • Alli Smith

    When my husband, kids and I lived half-way across the country from my hometown, we couldn’t make it home for Christmas. I invited lots of friends in the same situation as we were in and I had 25 people for Christmas Dinner. It was different, but fun!

  • Pam

    I know quite a few people who have had holidays without family for one reason or another’s. creating a new tradition sounds like a way to make a less than ideal situation into a good one.

  • These are great tips for so many. I like the idea of creating your own family traditions at home. I will share this post with a friend.

  • Bella

    I am fortunate enough to be able to go home for Christmas this year but that isn’t always the case. This is a great post to keep the spirits on regardless of who you are with on Christmas.

  • rika agustini

    Great tips.. My husband always take our kids to care home… Thanks for sharing!

  • These are great suggestions and something I can totally relate to right now. Since I’ll be more than 8 months pregnant by the time Christmas rolls around, we won’t be travelling to visit family (as we usually do). It’ll be a different holiday season but still exciting!

  • Lori Who Needs A Cape?

    I think starting your own holiday traditions is a wonderful idea. Being home is wonderful but definitely not feasible sometimes.

  • blm03

    This is such a great list. Imoved 4 hours from my family and we have had to start all our own new traditions.

  • Such great ideas I am lucky to be able to visit my parents whenever.

  • Theses are all great ideas! Starting new traditions is one of the best ones that I have done myself!

  • OhNikka

    I love hosting an Uguly Christmas Sweater Brunch every year with my friends and family!!!