How to Save Money While Decorating for The Holidays

The words “Christmas” and “frugal” often seem mutually exclusive. While gifts and travel make up the bulk of the season’s expenses, decorating also has considerable costs. Everyone wants a festive home, whether to enjoy on their own, or to delight family and friends. It’s easy to overspend on lights and readymade decor, however, which simply adds to the financial headache of the holidays.

Luckily, it’s possible to cheaply transform any home into a winter wonderland. The trick is to combine creativity with the same budgetary restraint you’d use for any major purchase. Whether you want to rely on your own craftsmanship, or score decorations from unconventional sources, these Christmas decorating ideas let you save money at an expensive time of year.

Set a Budget

A primary reason that Christmas decor drains finances is neglectful budgeting. In the rush of the season, between tracking sales and planning parties, we simply fail to acknowledge the cost of decorations. Year after year, money spent on Christmas decor becomes a tidy sum. As with any major expense, you must set a budget to maximize your investment.

“Christmas decorations are often forgotten in the holiday budget, and before you can say ‘happy holidays,' you have spent more on lights than you did on your nephew,” says Michelle Hutchison, global money expert for “Don’t forget to factor the decorations into the holiday budget, and don’t make exceptions.”

An important point to remember is that expensive decor — that inflatable Santa for the front yard, for example — only gets used for a single month. Instead of flashy, go for classic, and invest in high-quality ornaments and lights that will last for years. Also, if you keep your decorations simple, you will have more of your budget to spread around the home.

Add Some Greenery

The Christmas tree typically stands as the most important piece of a home’s holiday decorating scheme. Whether you have it nestled in a den or proudly displayed in the front window, your tree will likely comprise a sizable portion of your holiday budget.

If you want an artificial tree, keep your eyes peeled for a bargain at thrift stores and garage sales. If you prefer the natural look and live near a state park, call and inquire about any tree programs. Sometimes, state parks with an abundance of small, aggressive evergreens will allow visitors to pay a small fee to harvest one themselves.

Nature provides several additional ways to enliven your home for Christmas cheaply.

“Clipped evergreen twigs can be arranged in small cups to look like miniature trees,” says Deemer Cass of Fantastic Christmas Tree Delivery. “Collect them from three or four different types of trees and gather them in one place. It will give the impression of a snug little forest.”

A festive wreath, which can also be made from gathered branches, provides a focal point for the front of your home. To decorate a tree with natural goodness, cut fruits such as oranges, lemons, apples, and pears into thin slices, then place them in a low-temperature oven. A few hours later, you can pierce the slices and thread them with string for some festive, fragrant ornaments.

Do it Yourself

The do-it-yourself ethos can extend throughout your holiday decorating plans. Homemade holiday vignettes allow you to spread the cheer from room to room. To make a vignette, grab some spare ornaments, a few evergreen branches, and candles, and arrange them tastefully on top of a dresser or media stand. With a keen eye, you can likely lots of materials for decorations in everyday items around the house.

“Get into the festive spirit and save money through crafts,” says Michelle Hutchison. “Think Christmas wrapping recycled from funny papers and personalized stockings made from old pillow cases. An added bonus is that Christmas craft activities will keep kids entertained.”

For a simple centerpiece, fill a nice bowl with evergreen branches and ornaments. To make attractive and unique garlands, use sheet music. Purchase books of sheet music at a used bookstore cut the pages into strips, then staple them into loops to chain together to the desired length.

Dress Up the House

It’s possible to enliven your home further with subtle arrangements of everyday items. For example, candles provide a cheap and effective means to achieve a warm, holiday ambiance. Grocery stores will typically have utilitarian and religious candles for cheap; buy several and arrange them in groups throughout the home.

Blankets and throw pillows can also help encourage a feeling of seasonal coziness. Search your closets or browse thrift stores for items with gold, green, or red accents. You can even create a makeshift Christmas throw with a sheet of cheap plaid fabric.

If you have gifts, then you already have decorations. Wrap them early and place them under the tree, or distribute them creatively around the house. Framed pictures of friends and family can also serve as hangers for spare ornaments. To decorate your bedroom, cut some strands of ribbon and arrange them on pillows to create the illusion of large, fluffy “presents.”

Take Care of What You Have

All these budget-friendly Christmas decorating ideas mean nothing if you have to duplicate your efforts.

“The best way to save money on decorations, in the long run, is to properly pack and save them once the season is over,” says Annie Draddy, owner of home decor and organization service Henry & Higby. “Improperly wrapped lights can get knotted, wreaths crushed, and ornaments scratched or broken.”

If you’ve spent money on decorations, invest a few more dollars in proper storage containers. To save even more, use these containers to store goods you purchase at after-Christmas clearance sales. If you wait to buy until right after Christmas, you can typically find quality decorations at drastic discounts.

Going over-budget on Christmas decorations can give anyone a case of the humbugs. Budgetary considerations aside, the effort you put into these Christmas decorating ideas will also leave you with customized, singular pieces that express your originality. Decorate the right way, and you can celebrate the season without ruining your budget.

Blog courtesy of Doug Matus, personal finance writer. Source: