Walking into the holiday decorations aisle of your local discount store is generally a fast route to an empty wallet — and all for items that will be used just a few weeks out of the year. Isn’t there a better way? There is: a holiday decorating plan of attack.
With a little preplanning, you can make your home look festive for the holidays without breaking the bank. It all starts with a plan that starts with a firm budget and some specific ideas for what you’d like to do with that money. Hop online to investigate local options and deals. Finally, set out to the stores armed with your plan.
1. First, check what you already have. Look in the attic, the basement, your closets, and anywhere else you might have stashed the odd decoration from previous years. Did you throw out that older centerpiece last year after all? Do the light strings still work? Do you have decorations for other holidays or events that might work now, too?
2. Get inspired online. There’s no end to the number of inexpensive holiday planning and frugal holiday decoration boards. Try search terms like “frugal holiday decorations” and “inexpensive Christmas decorations” to get started.
3. Go outside. No matter where you live, we’re betting you can find something worth bringing inside to lend a festive air to your home. Pine branches, acorns, pine cones, berries (make sure they’re safe around children and pets), and apples or dried apple slices are all traditional choices for holiday décor. Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path — a “tumbleweed tree” or strings of chili peppers make charming winter decorations, too.
4. Shop at holiday crafts fairs. Community newspapers, church newsletters and billboards, and Craigslist will all help you find local holiday crafts fairs and garage sales, an invaluable resource for inexpensive holiday décor (and gifts, too).
5. Choose a theme. Choosing a guiding theme not only prevents you from hopping around and spending money on things that don’t really go together, but it helps you build a unified look that will grow more impressive with each passing year. Delight family and friends by putting a personal spin on the usual holiday décor: Hang holiday tree decorations reflecting family members’ hobbies, or pull out family collections (a treasured silver tea set? the kids’ seashell collection?) and display them interspersed with holiday greenery and baubles.
6. Add candles for instant atmosphere. Inexpensive candles from the dollar store lend a touch of class. Group them for maximum impact. Or display a single votive or smaller candle in a glass or bowl nestled in a base of Epsom salts — look, it’s wintertime snow!
7. More of most anything looks great together. Your tree ornaments look dashing when piled up in a pretty basket or stacked high in a glass vase. Even something as simple as stashing a handful of candy canes in a glass adds a wintry touch.
8. Cut your own tree. If you live near a national forest, you can get a permit to cut your own tree from the U.S. Forest Service for as little as $10. Make sure it’s legal before cutting a tree on other local land.
9. Buy a tabletop tree. A smaller tree is not only less expensive, but it requires fewer ornaments to fill and is easier and less messy to transport, set up, and take down.
10. Haggle with tree lot salespeople. At some independent tree lots, you could find a little room to wiggle on price. Don’t be afraid to give it a polite try.
12. Go LED for holiday lights. LED lights use less power and don’t create a fire hazard like traditional lights can — and all at about the same initial price.
13. Don’t run holiday lights all night long. Protect your electric bill by illuminating your holiday lights only during the evening and early night hours. Plug them into timers, or be scrupulous about turning them off after a certain hour.
14. Shop the after-holiday sales for next year. The best plan for saving real money is a long-range plan. Hit the stores hard after the holidays and snap up the best deals on decorations that fit your theme, style, and budget price point. You’ll be delighted to open up your holiday decoration storage boxes come next winter.
15. Make sure to reward yourself. The holidays can be expensive. If you find yourself putting gifts or decorations on a credit card, be sure to use a rewards card for that purchase. Rewards can add up!
How do you save money creating a festive atmosphere at home for the holidays? Share your favorite tips and ideas below!