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Holiday Decorating Ideas for Your Home – Splurge or Save?

By Laura Williams

holiday decorationsThere’s nothing quite like a home full of holiday decorations to put you in a festive mood. However, not all decorations come cheap.

Don’t throw away your entire holiday budget on decor that may not suit your style down the line. Instead, invest your money wisely by identifying and even splurging on the decorations that will define your holiday spirit for years to come.

Then, add special “saves” that round out your decor without breaking the bank. Saving money this holiday season will help you with holiday stress management.

Holiday Decoration Sense

Before you purchase new decorations, think carefully about what you already have on hand, what you’re likely to want to change from year to year, and what truly defines the holiday for you. For instance, if you look back on your childhood with fond memories of personalized Christmas stockings and homemade Christmas decorations, you may want to continue the tradition with the next generation by investing in beautiful stockings and creating handmade tree ornaments.

After you assess your personal needs, you’ll be able to make sound financial choices without getting caught up in the hoopla of the season. As a general rule, reuse or re-purpose items you already have on hand, invest in heirloom pieces or decorations that will last for years to come, and save on “trendier” decorations that you may not want to display every year.

Decoration Splurges

When it comes to decoration splurges, the items that hold the most meaning are the ones you should invest in. For many people, these are the religious pieces or the focal points for other decorations.

Consider splurging on the following:

1. Christmas Trees

Whether you get an artificial Christmas tree or a real tree, it will be the center of attention within your home. If you prefer an artificial tree, it’s worth paying more for one that’s well made. This ensures it will last for years despite regular storage and assembly, which can lead to heavy wear and tear.

To cut down on some of the wear, look for artificial tress that are relatively easy to assemble and store, but that still look full and beautiful when on display. If you prefer a fresh Christmas tree, be willing to spend a little more to get a real stand-out. Even if you can’t afford many other decorations, your beautiful tree will make up for the “missing” decor.

2. Heirloom Pieces

Some holiday decorations are meant to be passed down through the generations. If you want to create a holiday tradition that will last, be willing to spend more on a beautiful menorah, fine holiday china, or a nativity scene for your mantel, says Ruth Soukup, founder of Living Well, Spending Less and a Savings.com DealPro.

Growing up, my mother gave me and each of my siblings a single piece of a nativity set each year. We displayed our nativities around the house, and by the time we left for college, each of us had our own full set.

3. Stockings

If you plan to fill stockings with goodies every year, make the experience special by purchasing beautiful stockings with personalized embroidery, says Soukup. Not only will everyone in your family love hanging their stocking each year, but the stockings will add an attractive “finish” to your holiday decor.

4. Tree Toppers

No Christmas tree is complete without a statement tree topper. Don’t put just any old topper on your tree – make sure you choose an angel, star, or other sentimental decoration that you can create a tradition around. Finish each year’s decorating festivities with a toast as you don your tree’s special topper.

5. Dishes

If you plan to host formal dinners or holiday parties and want to impress your guests, serve them on beautiful holiday china. The dishes don’t necessarily need to have a holiday theme – just choose pieces you can easily mix and match with a variety of other holiday decor. Keep in mind that while the dishes themselves may be a splurge, you can save on things like chargers, linens, and stemware.

holiday decorations

Decoration Saves

Almost all other holiday decorations can be considered a “save.” While you could spend lots of money on ornaments and centerpieces, there is no need to do so.

Here are some ways to save on other traditional holiday decorations:

1. Ornaments

Some ornaments cost as much as $10 to $20 apiece, but you can create a beautiful display for a fraction of the cost. Deck out a tree with simple silver glass balls or vintage thrift store finds.

You can even make your own ornaments by spray painting inexpensive wood cutouts of doves, stars, or candy canes with silver or gold paint. Finish your tree with strands of cranberries and a light dusting of tinsel.

2. Greenery

You can pay an arm and a leg for wreaths or boughs of greenery from specialty stores, but what’s the point? Save a bundle by picking up fake greenery from a craft store or cutting fresh boughs from your own trees.

To give the branches a store-bought look, spray them with a light dusting of silver or gold spray paint and hot glue pine cones or holly berries along the branches.

3. Outdoor Decorations

Whether you just string up a few strands of lights or you go all-out with fancy lawn decorations, you can usually plan ahead and save a lot of money by shopping for lights, lawn deer, inflatable Santas, or lawn nativity scenes right after the holidays. You may be able to find discounts up to 75% off the pre-holiday price.

4. Table, Fireplace, and Mantel Displays

There are numerous ways to create beautiful holiday displays for your table, fireplace, or mantel by using or re-purposing supplies found around your home and yard. I recently created a fall table-scape by filling clear vases with pine cones and potpourri, and then adding candles I had sitting around the house.

If that’s not your style, consider filling a clear vase with glass ornaments and tie a wide ribbon around it. Alternatively, place a small rocking horse in the center of your table and use wood blocks to spell out phrases like “Merry Christmas” or “Noel.” You could even create displays using candy canes, Christmas mints, or colorful seasonal fruits.

Setting Your Holiday Budget

Even if you take advantage of holiday decoration “saves,” make sure you set a budget before hitting the stores. While small items like greenery, pine cones, and spray paint don’t cost much by themselves, they can add up quickly if you’re not keeping track.

To ensure that you don’t overspend, put cash in a holiday decoration envelope to use specifically for decorations and supplies. Once the money is gone, you’re done spending for the season – simple as that. Not only will this envelope budgeting system force you to be more conscientious financially, it may also force you to be more creative with the supplies you already have on hand.

holiday ornament family

Other Considerations

If you’ve just moved to a neighborhood, check with the neighborhood association to see if there are outdoor decoration guidelines. Some neighborhoods go all-out, while others limit what’s acceptable. These guidelines could affect your bottom line when it comes to outdoor decoration purchases.

If it turns out that the association requires all white lights, for example, check with your neighbors to see if you can borrow supplies for your first year on the block. This will give you the chance to wait until after the holidays to stock up on your own supplies.

Final Word

Getting the best holiday decorations has very little to do with how much you spend. It all comes down to what’s most important to you. Do you want to continue family traditions, start new ones, or simply express yourself?

In addition to your priorities, put some thought into your surroundings. Look at your indoor and outdoor spaces to see how and where to place your creations, finds, “saves,” and investments. And don’t forget, holiday decorating is fun! Grab your family and friends, put on some music, and make memories. After all, that’s what the season is all about!

What are some of the ways you’ve saved money on holiday decorations? Do you have any favorite holiday splurges?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Laura Williams
Laura Williams holds a master's degree in exercise and sport science and enjoys breaking up her day by running her dogs, hitting the gym, and watching TV. Having been in charge of her own finances since the early age of 12, she knows how to save and when to spend, and she loves sharing these tips with others. Laura ditched her career as a fitness center manager for the relative freedom of home-based writing and editing work. She stays busy by working on her own website, GirlsGoneSporty, a website designed to help the sporty woman live the sporty life.

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  • http://thriftability.com Lisa Kling

    I agree, Laura: finding simple items from around the house to accentuate a fragrant spruce garland and pine cones is an elegant – and inexpensive – way to go. My mom used to string popcorn and cranberries on thread or string ( a great family tradition)… and having the kids make garlands from green and red construction paper helps them feel as though they’ve contributed. (Keeps them busy, too!) Thanks – great ideas here!

  • http://www.squarepennies.blogspot.com Maggie@SquarePennies

    I love a natural look to give freshness to a room. I fill a large basket with pine cones and sprigs of fresh greenery from our pine trees. It’s beautiful, smells wonderful, and is similar to Williamsburg Christmas decor. A bowl of fresh fruit always looks welcoming and looks more festive with some oranges and lemons studded with whole cloves . If you are just starting out, choose either silver or gold accents for your decor to give a unified look. We like to make ornaments to become future heirlooms. Gorgeous stockings can be made by upcycling sweaters. Beautiful ribbons can be arranged on the Christmas tree or along a mantel with ornaments and greenery for easy elegant decor. If the ribbon is wired it is easier to arrange year after year. Just wind back on the spool to use next time! Costume jewelry often finds itself on my tree as unique ornaments. I also like to frame old Christmas cards for holiday art. Enjoy!

  • http://twitter.com/girlsgonesporty GirlsGoneSporty

    Hi Maggie & Lisa – What great ideas! I definitely remember making construction paper garlands as a kid – what fun! And Maggie, I love using cloves on oranges, but had never thought of using them on lemons. I will definitely be giving that a try this year.

    –Laura

    • http://www.squarepennies.blogspot.com Maggie@SquarePennies

      Thanks. Another garland idea is to have the kids trace their hands on a piece of felt. Cut them out carefully & attach them to make a garland. Fun in red & white! You can hang them on the mantle, on a stair railing, above a window, or strew down the center of a table. With embroidery or an embroidery pen add each child’s name and the date. It can be added to each year to see how they’ve grown.

  • Penny Pinching Pro

    My fiance and I just did a little decorating today. We moved in together over the summer, and neither of us is generally in town for the holidays so we were starting with almost nothing. With a limited budget, even more limited space, and keeping in mind that we wouldn’t actually be here for Christmas, we decided not to get a tree. Instead, we bought some garlands and made a 2-dimensional tree on the wall. We strung some lights up on it, added some ornaments that he happened to have, and for about $15 we have a Christmas tree! It looks a lot better than I was expecting it to, and it will be easy to take down, store, and set up again next year.

  • http://twitter.com/girlsgonesporty GirlsGoneSporty

    PPP, I love it! That would be a fun way to jazz up kids’ rooms too, let them get in on the holiday decorations.
    -Laura

  • Joy2b

    To have ornaments that remind you of people, set aside Christmas cards, and let your kids cut out Christmas shapes (use a cookie cutter and a pencil to draw the shape, and a hole punch or pencil to punch a hole for a string or hook). Jot names on the back, as you may find the kids are curious next year about who’s card is whose.

    For a decorated look that’s fast, after lighting the tree, attach long ribbons to a small loop (I used a 6 inch embroidery hoop, which is just small enough to fit under the Christmas angel’s skirt), and throw it over the top of the tree. You’ll have colorful ribbons draping down on every side, without spending a lot of time arranging garlands.

    If you are considering a permanent tree, a prelit one can be handy. Attaching small, unbreakable ornaments permanently makes both set up and clean up easier.

    To make the tree seem full and glowing with light, hang shiny balls along the center of the tree. This will create a fuller look from all directions, and the lights of the tree will be reflected over and over again. Large silver and gold balls, which would normally look too simple at the outsides, are simply perfect for this.

    Buy very pretty gift boxes (the dollar store is an unexpectedly good source for this), tie them closed with pretty ribbons, and reuse them for the same child every year. While kids will hope to see a non-standard box or two with a special toy in it, they may also recognize their santa box, and be more gentle opening it. Also, if you have a regular set of boxes to fill, it can help to keep the presents from getting overwhelming.

    To keep the kids from waking you at dawn, hang stockings with their name on them, fill with a little candy and small toys, and tell them that they can open these when they wake up. They’ll be excited, play with the toys, and have some illicit fun eating candy before breakfast. If they’re homemade stockings, it really adds something. They don’t need to be large.

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