Last Minute Holiday Touches on the Cheap
Use What You Have Holiday Decorating
10 Great Holiday Decorating Ideas... On a Budget!
The same vendors who sell Christmas trees (at prices usually starting around $25 in our area) will often let you buy a bunch of trimmed-off or broken-off branches or even take these trimmings for free. We always go to visit our local tree seller as soon as he sets up shop and buy an armful of branches for a dollar. Then we tie these to the front porch railings with red ribbon and wrap the whole thing with white LED lights. We just run an extension cord in through the door to plug them in. We have been using the same lights and ribbon for several years now, so our only expense is the $1 for the greenery.
Another great thing to do with these trimmings is to make a miniature tree, if you don't have room (or room in your budget) for a full-sized one. When we lived in an apartment, I used to buy the trimmings and assemble them into an approximate tree shape in a tall wastebasket. I'd decorate it with red ribbon and ornaments from the dollar store. A box of a dozen miniature glass balls cost only a dollar. This made the place look festive around the holidays, and we didn't have to lug a whole tree up the stairs.
I am the Chairman of our Local Historical Society, and several years ago, we ran a free program about Victorian holiday decorating. The bulk of the holiday decorating ideas involved elegantly using nature's bounty around your home. Now I forage for pine cones, holly, and pine boughs and use them around my house. I also use edible decorations like a bowl of apples and cinnamon on the dinning room table and candy placed in pretty containers I have around the house and displayed on end tables. The fruit and candy are both decorations and a snack, and I simply replenish them when they are gone!
Carol in Palmyra, NJ
My money-saving tip is to make a beautiful, yet cheap centerpiece for your Christmas table or side table. Take two red apples, two green apples (preferably Granny Smith), a small bunch of red grapes, and a lemon. Roll these in slightly beaten egg whites and then cover them with icing sugar. Place some fir branches on a nice plate or tray and arrange the fruits on them. This also makes a beautiful gift.
As we speak, the stores are rushing to fill their shelves with this year's must-have items for holiday decorating. Don't buy into it! Green and red are still the traditional Christmas colors, and blue and silver will always be right for Hanukkah. For just this year, reuse what you have. You may find you really never need to look at those store shelves again. Plus, children love seeing the same decorations year after year, as they become their traditions.
Perhaps you will need a couple of new light strings or a new roll of ribbon to freshen your wreath. I still think a warm home with a sense of family history and beloved holiday items is so much nicer than a home done up in the latest theme for the year.
Donna in Dallas, TX
If you find yourself with a tree to decorate, but not enough ornaments, you don't have to go out and buy a bunch of expensive new baubles.
You can hang collectibles and other decorative items you already have, using ribbon to tie them to the tree. On my first Christmas on my own, in a tiny studio apartment, I had a little Charlie Brown tree. I used some of the small unicorns from my collection to hang on the tree, along with some candy canes and bows made from a few yards of cheap lace trim from the fabric store. It was festive and quite charming. You could hang anything from your Christmas cookie cutters to small stuffed animals or anything else you like. Not only is this frugal, but it's more personal, as it's things you already own and love. Obviously, use common sense in hanging anything fragile, breakable and valuable.
Another great, colorful way to fill your tree is with the Christmas cards you receive. Punch a hole in one corner for a diagonal hang or in the center top for a straight hang, and use an ornament hook (or bent paper clip) to hang it on the tree. They take up a lot of empty space, so you won't need as many ornaments. Extra photos of family and friends could be used the same way.
If your heart is set on traditional ornaments, shop the sales for a bunch of the inexpensive glass ball ornaments, a string of lights, tinsel, and garlands. It will look festive.
If later on you want the nicer ornaments that reflect your own tastes, start collecting them, especially at the after-Christmas sales. Some families purchase one special new ornament every year, per person. Choose the ones you really love, and as your collection builds, you can begin to weed out some of the cheap ornaments, as you won't need as much filler.
Finally, if you're crafty and creative, you can always make your own ornaments, using anything from salt paste to old Christmas card pictures. And if you're a parent or grandparent of little ones, well, no trinket will shine as brightly on the tree as something made from their tiny, loving hands, just for you.
We live in the Mid-Atlantic section of the country and pine trees abound. We visited a museum once that was selling ornaments made out of twigs, pine cones, and dried flowers. A light bulb went off, and we have been making our own decorations ever since. You can forage and get your items from nature, including the ones mentioned, acorns, walnuts, and leaves. Just spray paint, hand paint, and/or use marker on the items. You can embellish them by using hot glue to affix stickers, sequins, etc. and they come out beautifully. And, of course, don't forget to make your own wreaths and do the same with them. This is very economical, and we always get compliments and requests for our items as gifts.
Take the Next Step:
Share your thoughts about this article with the editor: Click Here
Sign up for our free weekly eNewsletter Surviving Tough Times.
Looking for an answer to a frugal living question? Click here to ask a
Dollar Stretcher Stretchpert!
Copyright 1996 - 2013 "The Dollar Stretcher, Inc." All rights reserved unless specifically noted.
Contact the Dollar Stretcher at:
PO Box 14160
Bradenton FL 34280
"The Dollar Stretcher, Inc." does not assume responsibility for advice given. All advice should be weighed against your own abilities and circumstances and applied accordingly. It is up to the reader to determine if advice is safe and suitable for their own situation.