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Holiday Decorating on a Budget

Love to decorate but short on cash? Make your home festive, without breaking the bank! Here’s how.

’Tis the season to deck the halls with boughs of holly — and icicle lights, inflatable Santas, tons of ornaments and other trimmings.

In these money-tight times, decorating can put a real strain on your budget. Fortunately, there’s an alternative to overspending on decorations — and you don’t have to become as miserly as Scrooge to do it. The key is to change your expectations and pare down.

“You don’t need a perfectly coordinated house to have a special holiday, and you’ll get back to the true spirit of the holidays by rethinking your spending,” says Tracey McBride, author of Frugal Luxuries by the Seasons. “Plus, when you simplify your decorations, you’ll feel less stressed and overwhelmed.” This year, follow McBride’s tips to make your home merry and bright — on a budget.

Get Your Family Involved
Ask your husband and children to tell you their favorite holiday decorations. You’ll find out what really matters (cookies, a spectacular tree) and what doesn’t (perfectly wrapped presents). “Kids like it when you ask about, and respect, their opinions,” says McBride. Plus, “involving them will prepare them for the fact that your decorations will be simpler this year.”

Repurpose Household Items
Instead of buying more knickknacks that will sit in your closet the other 11 months of the year, find alternative uses for what you already have. An old quilt can become a charming tree skirt; sheets and shirts from the rag pile can be ripped and tied into rustic bows; a garden urn can hold a mini-tree; and baskets can display gifts. Think creatively. “You have to wrap presents anyway, so why not use them for decoration too?” says McBride.

Display Edible Decor
Arrange the season’s vibrant produce — apples, pomegranates, squash, oranges — in a crystal bowl for a stunning centerpiece. Include a few ornaments or cut flowers for extra pop. “After you’re done with the decoration, you can eat it. That way, you don’t waste anything,” says McBride.

Shop Smart
Hit the dollar store and stock up on inexpensive candles (white ones look elegant, and leftovers can be used throughout the year), doilies (staple them to a streamer for a snow-like banner) and ribbon. Garage and estate sales also yield great bargains. “Make a list before you go so you don’t fill up on junk you don’t need,” cautions McBride. “Spending just a dollar extra is still a waste.”

Let Nature Inspire You
Mother Nature is the best decorator, so use her supplies to create a cozy, wintry atmosphere. Arrange sprigs of evergreen, holly and aromatic herbs, such as rosemary, in a vintage water pitcher. Display a pyramid of pinecones on your grandmother’s china and hang mini-bouquets of greenery on door frames. After the holidays, go green and use the foliage as compost!

Dress up Family Photos
The holidays are all about family, so honor that tradition by making your photos part of the decor. Wrap wall frames with ribbon (tie it around opposite corners so you don’t obscure the image) or top frames with pine boughs. Print out pictures of past holiday gatherings and hang them from the tree, or string them along a ribbon for a photo garland.

Limit the Lights
Stringing lights all over your house can bump up your utility bill by hundreds of dollars, so cut back this year. Frame a few street-facing windows with lights and turn them off before going to bed for energy savings that are good for your budget and the environment. McBride recommends investing in LED lights, which use one-third less electricity and don’t burn out as quickly as conventional ones.

Now that you’re not stressing over the time, money and energy for decorating, you can focus on what’s really important this holiday season!

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