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Few moments are more magical than the first snow of the season, and few treats taste better than that first sip of hot cocoa on a cold day. For a moment, it feels like the fairy tale version of a winter wonderland is here to stay. But when the holidays are over and the wind chill drops below zero, the magic recedes and the winter blues set in.

Some people escape the wintry bluster by fleeing to warmer climates. But while seasonal relocation sounds ideal, most prefer to stay home. Fortunately, the winter months don't have to be gloomy. There are plenty of fun and affordable ways to beat the winter blues indoors and bond with family and friends while you're at it.

Here are a few ideas for keeping the seasonal doldrums — and your spending — at bay:

Go Camping Indoors

When you spend the better part of four months inside, the risk of going stir-crazy is real. But you can break up the winter monotony by creating novel experiences in your own home. Break out your summer camping gear in the living room or den, and have your family members cozy up in a tent for the night. Institute a no TV rule even if it's sitting a few feet away. Tell scary stories, play games, start a sing-a-long — all of the activities you'd do at a real campsite. You might even modify classic campfire treats by grilling hot dogs in the oven and making stove-top popcorn. Adapting this quintessential outdoor experience for your living room might feel silly at first, but it's all a part of the bonding experience.

Host a Cookie Swap and Hot Cocoa Party

If you're feeling antsy after months in the house, your friends and their families probably are, too. Why not bring everyone together to create cozy memories? A cookie swap and hot cocoa party is a great way to have fun without spending a ton of money. Have each family bring a batch of their favorite cookies so that no one is stuck providing all of the treats. Buy a bulk set of hot cocoa mix and some inexpensive toppings such as miniature marshmallows, peppermint candies and chocolate chips. For less than $30, you can create a memorable evening that brings magic and whimsy back into the season.

Start a Book Club

What better way to beat the winter blues than getting lost in a good book and discussing it with friends? Make this a no-cost activity by borrowing from the library or reading works that are available in the public domain. Meet at a different member's house each month instead of gathering at restaurants so that no one feels pressured to spend on food or drinks. If your friends aren't avid readers, organize regular movie nights instead. Choose only from the movies you already own or can access through someone's existing streaming account.

No matter what your budget is, create activities to look forward to throughout the season. The more happy, positive associations you create, the less you'll dread winter when it comes around next year.

Disclosures

This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

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