How to Make Your House Look Great for Christmas for Less

The holiday season brings with it lots of opportunities to kick back, relax, and enjoy spending time with friends and family. Unfortunately for our personal finances, it also brings with it an incredible array of opportunities for spending more than we should. Luckily, it doesn’t take too much hard work to avoid overspending on holiday decor. Here are some creative tips to make your house look cheery and festive for the holidays without breaking the bank.

The Tree

The Christmas tree is the centerpiece of holiday decoration; without it, it just won’t feel like Christmas. But trees can be pretty pricey, and when you factor in transport, the bill runs even higher.

There are a few things you can do to lower the price of your tree this year. If you absolutely have your heart set on a real tree, try going smaller. Since natural trees are priced by size, you’ll get a deal if you go for a shorter one. At home, you can place it on a small decorative table or in a pretty pot. DesignMom.com has lots of great ideas for decorating small Christmas trees.

If you won’t miss that classic Christmas tree smell, an artificial tree is a good way to go. A nice artificial tree around six or seven feet tall will be about $100 - $400. Of course, this is more than you would probably spend on a similar size natural tree, but if you get an artificial one, you can keep reusing it for years to come. Think of it as an investment that will make all future Christmas decorating much cheaper – not to mention easier. You’ll find good deals on artificial trees at Amazon.com, Walmart, or Target.

The Ornaments

Once you get your tree, decorating it is the next important step. Lights are essential, of course, and strings of them are pretty cheap at Target or Walmart. Heck, you probably have about 20 strings of lights tangled in some closet somewhere.

The real challenge is the ornaments. We’d all love to adorn our trees with beautiful blown-glass ornaments, crystal snowflakes, glittering garlands, and the whole shebang. But ornaments like that can be expensive, and if you have small children or pets, well, let’s just say they won’t last long. The good news is, all it takes is a little creativity to make your tree look great for almost nothing.

First, go natural! Pinecones are a classic holiday decoration and make great tree ornaments. Go outside and grab some small and medium-sized pinecones. Then use a bit of ribbon and a touch of glitter to make them into full-fledged ornaments. Here are the pinecone ornaments my family made this year.

Another creative way to save on your Christmas tree ornaments is to decorate with food. There are always the classic popcorn-and-cranberry garlands, which are quite simple to make – just use a needle and thread to string popcorn and cranberries into a garland.

Salt dough ornaments are also easy to make and very easy on the wallet. They look like cookies, but they bake harder than normal cookies, so you won’t have to worry about them crumbling (don’t try eating them though, they’re not very tasty). There are salt dough recipes and lots of great ornament ideas on Pinterest.

Of course, candy canes are another classic holiday decoration that will look great on your tree. Packs of 12 candy canes are only a few dollars at most stores. When they’re done being ornaments, you can enjoy them as the tasty treats they are. Well, it probably won’t hurt if you steal one or two off the tree to nibble on.

The Table

Besides the tree, there are lots of other ways to get your whole house looking festive for less. Try going to your local tree lot and asking for some of the tree trimmings. They cut the lower branches off of Christmas trees before they sell them, and they’re usually just thrown away. So, it shouldn’t be any trouble to ask for a few branches. Then you can use hot glue and wire to fashion the Christmas tree branches into table centerpieces and mantel decorations. Place a candle (or a few) in the center, and add some pinecones or holly as finishing touches.


Another cheap and easy idea is to make holly candle decorations. For these, all you need are clear glass vases (fishbowls or stemless wine glasses will also do), tealights, and sprigs of holly. Put the holly in the glass, then fill it with water and float the tealight on top. You can find directions and photos of the finished product at Heather’s blog, Inspire Me Heather.

The Stairs

To decorate the banister of your stairs, grab a few of those cheap artificial garlands. By themselves, they will look a bit pitiful, but you can follow these creative (and 100% free!) tips from Kelly at her blog, View Along the Way, for making your garland look lush and festive. She recommends gathering greenery from your neighborhood and adding it to the garland, along with embellishments like ribbons and lights.

The Wreath

A wreath on your front door will get your guests into the holiday spirit before they even cross your threshold. In some stores, premade holiday wreaths can be a little expensive. Amazon.com has a good selection of budget-priced wreaths. For the creative among you, it’s even cheaper (and not too difficult either), to just make a wreath yourself.

If you’re a traditionalist, only a wreath of holiday greenery will do. You can use trimmings from the local Christmas tree lot (or Home Depot or Lowe’s) and fashion them into a circle using wire and a hot glue gun. Then add some holly (artificial red berries will do) and a bow to finish it off. If you’re going for a rustic look, a burlap bow and some pinecones would be perfect.

There are lots of other ways you can get creative with your wreath. Most craft stores sell cheap FloraCraft foam wreaths, which can basically serve as your “blank canvas” to create any type of holiday wreath you can imagine. You can take glittery ornament baubles of various sizes and hot-glue them onto it, like this:

You can also make a similar wreath with gift bows. Haeley shows you how on her blog, Design Improvised. The entire project cost about $10 and took around 30 minutes to make.

The Atmosphere

Well, lucky for you, there’s no price tag on holiday cheer. When a house is packed with friends and family, it doesn’t cost a cent to enjoy the spirit of the season. So don’t worry if not everything is perfect. Set your shopping list aside for a little while, and enjoy what really matters with your loved ones. These times are priceless.

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