Being on a budget can be especially discouraging during the holidays—with so much pressure to shop, it’s easy to focus on what we don’t have and can’t afford. Thankfully, festooning your hearth and home with holiday decorations doesn’t have to break your budget! Here are some smart ways to fill up a space with Christmas decor while remaining frugal.
1. Search For Second-Hand Lights and Ornaments
Every year thrift stores are swamped with strings of lights that someone would rather donate than detangle. Beyond your local Goodwill, flea markets, and yard sales are great sources for affordable Christmas decorations. Don’t have time to scour shops in person? You can check out what’s for sale on shopgoodwill.com (the auction site of Goodwill stores).
While the selection of ornaments and decorations can appear a little picked-over in the weeks right before Christmas, it’s still worth looking at second-hand shops before paying full price for anything.
2. DIY Christmas Decorations
Not only is making your own Christmas decorations cheaper than purchasing a full set at Target, getting crafty is a fun way to spend time with family.
Spend some time poking around on Pinterest for a plethora of do-it-yourself Christmas decor ideas! There are pins teaching you:
- how to trace perfect snowflakes,
- make darling snow globes from mason jars,
- build reindeer with wine corks, twigs, and glue,
- create lovely Christmas scents on the cheap,
- or cover pretty much anything in glitter for holiday sparkle and cheer.
To minimize your crafting costs, search for projects that use recycled materials or supplies that you already have in your craft stash.
DIY Christmas decorations: fake fruit & glitter; fabric covered poster board Christmas tree cones. Image: Lauren Honea.
If Pinterest becomes too overwhelming, Buzzfeed put together a list of “26 Last-Minute DIY Christmas Hacks” that includes creative uses for cotton balls, coffee filters, and cardboard boxes among other inexpensive craft materials.
DIY Tip: If you’re crafting with supplies you’ve gathered from outside, such as pinecones, don’t forget to bake them on low for a short time—or risk a few bugs appearing mid-craft.
3. Shop Like a Pro
Stores like Papermart and Nashville Wraps cater to professional event planners and decorators by offering steep discounts on decorating supplies bought in bulk. You’ll find 25-yard spools of wired ribbon to dress up wreaths for about a third less than at craft stores. Also available is a very merry selection of birch branches, wreaths, and baubles at prices 20-40% below retail.
Don’t have time to shop online? Search Google for “[your area] party supplies” to find where local pros stock up.
4. Save On Greens
Some Christmas tree sellers offer deals on weekdays when traffic is slower. And if you’re willing to wait to deck your halls until the last minute, you may find even better markdowns during the week before Christmas.
Another option is to check online for Christmas tree coupons. Savings websites such as Groupon and LivingSocial sometimes offer great deals for local cut-your-own tree farms—sometimes offering up to half off!
Also, don’t forget to keep the boughs that get lopped off as your tree is shaped. Extra pieces can be artfully arranged on almost any surface, making an extra-thrifty mantel topper or a table centerpiece.
5. Decorate Some Cookies
Keeping home-decorated sweets around might not be perfect for your waistline, but it certainly helps create an atmosphere of holiday cheer. Start with a simple sugar cookie recipe, cut out shapes using Christmas cookie cutters, and decorate with whatever you have on hand—from sprinkles to chocolate chips or even marshmallows.
It’s an inexpensive way to get into the holiday mood (most baking supplies go on sale before Christmas). Plus, sharing extras with friends and neighbors is a nice way to kick off the holiday season.
6. Host a Christmas Decoration Swap
If you’ve got Christmas decorations you just can’t stand to hang up yet another year or if you get crafty and can DIY in bulk, hosting a Christmas decoration swap is a fun way to trade what you don’t want for what you do.
7. Turn Up the Music
Whether Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, or classic carols, a wide variety of Christmas playlists are already put together for your listening pleasure on Youtube—it’s the easiest and cheapest way to fill your whole home with Christmas cheer.
8. Finally, Don’t Be Afraid To Ask
If you’re preparing for a particularly budget-conscious Christmas, don’t be afraid to reach out on Facebook to ask friends if they have any extra decorations. You'd be surprised how many of your friends’ households likely have an epic collection of Christmas lights, baubles, or other decor, some of which is bound to go unused. And don’t be shy—if you don’t try, you’ll never know!
For more ways to save, see also: 28 Best Ways to Save Money During the Holidays