Now that Thanksgiving is gone, the Christmas season is upon us. Despite the fact that it is still autumn for another 4 weeks, fall and harvest motifs are put away for another year and it is time to get out all things Christmas and winter related. That’s right, it’s Christmas decorating time. That’s my big project for this week.
Christmas decorating can be an expensive proposition. But with proper planning, and the long-term in mind, you can put together an amazing Christmas display on a budget.
The keys to budget Christmas decorating are three-fold: 1)Slow and steady wins the race, 2)Energy efficiency, and 3)DIo-It-Yourself projects. By implementing these three keys, you can have a home full of Christmas cheer without the accompanying empty wallets.
Built up a stockpile of decorations over time
This one tip is the biggest key to keeping Christmas decorating affordable. Don’t try to have the best Christmas display on the block on your first year. Start small and work your way up. My mother has enough ornaments for two trees. Window peels for every window. Tea doilies, oven mitts, table top decorations. My mother decorates the home big time.
All told, she has well over $1000 worth of decorations. But she has never spent more than $50 in any given year. Over the last few years, she’s slowed down considerably (running out of space to put the decorations!) and only buys a dated ornament, a tradition my parents started when they got married a week before Christmas. But she has put in the investment already so now she can afford to have a decorated home for almost no money.
Buy decorations the week after Christmas
The cheapest time of the year to buy Christmas decorations is the week after Christmas. As stores try to clear out their holiday inventory to make room for the next seasonal event (just 7 more weeks until Valentine’s Day!), it is not uncommon to see sales of 50% off. This is the time to buy Christmas decorations.
Our first Christmas, we had a spindly, little 2 foot Christmas tree. We could fit about a dozen ornaments on it. The day after Christmas, we were able to pick up a 7 foot tall artificial tree for $25. A lot of people prefer real trees to plastic, but I grew up next to the Pine Barrens. I got a lifetime supply of smelling pine trees; I don’t need my home to smell like one as well.
It used to be that January held two nasty surprises for over-enthusiastic Christmas revelers, the credit card bill, and the electric bill. Having a great light display used to mean spending hundreds of dollars on power. But LED lights use next to no electricity. One Texas man is making a splash on the web with his 25,000 light display set to the tune of the song Gangnam Style. In an interview, he claims that the lights are only adding about $15 to his December electric bill.
If you already own the older style lights, slowly (see above) start buying strings of LED bulbs. Unlike with household light bulbs, there isn’t a price difference any more between incandescent lights and LED ones. Switching will pay for itself within four years, plus you can often find coupons for places like Target which sell LED lights during the holiday season. Click here to find current Target coupons for your next trip.
Bonus tip: hanging the Christmas lights
Invest in a set of the screw-in mini hooks and attach them to your home where you want to put the lights. These will stay up year-round (they are too small to be seen from more than a couple feet away). String the lights from these hooks to be done in a fraction time. At the end of the season, they will come down even faster! Plus, you will never have to buy staples to hang your lights again.
If you are handy with a saw and a paintbrush, you can make those reindeer cutouts for a fraction of the cost that they sell for. In fact, before he died, that is how my grandfather earned extra money to buy Christmas presents for all the grand-kids.
If you know someone who already has one of these, ask if you can borrow it to trace the outline for a form. You can trace it directly onto the plywood you will be using to make your first reindeer (or any other Christmas cutout decoration).
Can you knit or crochet? There are hundreds of patterns available for Christmas themed items ranging from pot holders and tea doilies to afghan throws. My mother even has a nativity made of yarn.
If you have a spare set of white plates and can paint, consider painting your own Christmas scenes or patterns on them. You can display them as-is as decorations. Or you can get them re-glazed and actually eat off them.