10 Ways to Save Big on Holiday Decor This Season

Family Matters on 11.14.11
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Photo: Jason D'Great / Creative Commons

Captain Obvious says, "The easiest way to save money on decorations is to decide you aren't going to spend your money on decorations."

But then what? We don't want to have a grinchy Christmas with no festive decor gracing our abodes; however, if we blow our holiday budget on decorations, there's less to go around on gifts. This is quite the holiday conundrum. What are we to do?

Fire up some holiday tunes and roll up your sleeves. Or roll up your pant legs and put your feet up (some of these solutions require more work than others.) Here are 10 ways to keep up the spirit for less money.

1. Use What You Have

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Do you really need to bring more stuff into your house? Head into your storage area and take stock of the decorations you already own. You might be pleasantly surprised by how much you have. After all, how did you get through the last several holiday seasons? At the very least, this exercise will help you weed out what you definitely don't want anymore.

Think about using your decorations differently this year to give your home a different look. Take a garland that you would usually wrap around the tree, and swirl it around a banister or use it as a swag around a doorway. Place a wreath on a shelf, ledge or mantle rather than hanging it outside.

A beautiful and simple way to make your home look holiday-ready is to find places to drape or wrap strands of white lights. Framing windows in white lights (either by draping strands from the curtain rods or using clear packing tape around the window frame) is an easy-but-dramatic way to transform your living space.

2. Go Minimalist for a Chic Holiday Style

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Some years you just can't go nuts with holiday decorations, whether you're dealing with finances, a crushing work schedule, or the flu. So don't! And there's no reason to feel bad about it, either. You don't need an excuse to go for chic simplicity, because it's always in style.

Quick tip: strategically place Christmas tree ornaments on bookshelves and in bowls on your end tables, a trick I learned from my interior designer sister-in-law. Subtle, yet eye catching.

3. Go au Natural

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Let's go foraging outside for decorations! The possibilities are truly endless. No matter what kind of landscape you have, whether it's seashells or bare branches, you can embellish your gifts from nature with ribbon and lights to hit a holiday high note.

You can opt for a more traditional look by placing pine cones in a bowl or a vase. For a dash of color, mix those cones with ball ornaments. Or if you're feeling ambitious, spray paint the cones silver or gold. Make garlands, wreathes and centerpieces using evergreen boughs or holly branches.

4. Make Your Own Garlands

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You can make garlands by alternating cranberries with pieces of popcorn. Adorn your threshold, mantle, bookcases or tree. Drape a strand or chain over your buffet or china cabinet.

Craftmodo gives details on how to make an old-fashioned popcorn and cranberry garland. Here are two tips:

The popcorn you string should be a day old, fresh popcorn breaks too easily...Waxed dental floss is another choice for the string, it won’t break and can make it easier to slid the cranberries on.

If stringing popcorn and berries isn't your thing, you can opt to make paper chains with construction paper or fancy wrapping paper to use as garlands instead. Or make this adorable Christmas-tree shaped paper chain advent calendar to give the kids a fun way to count down the days until Christmas.

5. Bake and Decorate a Gingerbread House

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While making a gingerbread house is a fun and delicious undertaking, these projects require some time and planning. Teach your kids the value of preparation and perseverance, as well as how to develop a multi-step project over time.

Simply Recipes gives step-by-step instructions on how to make a gingerbread house: from making the dough and the icing, to the actual construction of the house, to tips on decorating your tasty architecture.

If going completely from scratch sounds like too much trouble, you can purchase a kit from the grocery store for guaranteed success.

6. Sew Your Own Christmas Stockings

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As long as you ditch your inner perfectionist and dial up your ambition, this craft can be fun and easy. You could pick just about any fabric you already have around the house, even an old t-shirt or sweater. Felt is the simplest material to use because it cuts easily and won't unravel. You can follow directions online, or use your favorite colors of felt and yarn and wing it.

Here's an etsy how-to video on how to make your own stocking.


7. Cut Paper Snowflakes

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Gorgeous and elaborate paper snowflakes are fabulous decorations, and fun to make. Hang or place snowflakes anywhere you want a dash of elegance and festivity.

Here is a new twist on ye olde favorite from instuctables:

Now, these ain't your mama's paper snow flakes, these are intricate, themed creations. I have been making these delicate decorations now for over ten years. I was originally taught how to make them by a very good friend of mine, Glenn Tong. My first encounter with them were by Glenn using them as decorations at a Christmas party my family used to attend every year. I can remember as a small child looking up in wonder of his marvelous creations: dancing pigs, the Eiffel tower, and lobsters.

You can follow the directions on instructables to make a "joy" or a "love" snowflake, or get creative and use their method while trying your hand at your own intricate snowflake design.

8. Line Your Bookshelves or Mantle With Holiday Cards

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I love using the holiday cards we receive in the mail from friends and family as a way to decorate our space. Get your own cards out in the mail early this year (I should try following my own advice -- I'm terrible about holiday cards, although this year I vow to step it up.) Then count on friends and family to supply some decorations for you as their cards roll into your mailbox.

Proudly display their holiday greetings anywhere you want a more festive look. You can punch holes in the cards and string them with holiday ribbon; hang them up on the wall or across the top of a doorway or bookshelf like a banner. Or forgo the hole-punching and ribbon, and simply stand the cards up on shelves, the mantle, end tables or a buffet.

9. If You Must Shop, Set a Budget

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If you think you absolutely must shop, don't just meander around without some goals, or you'll be at risk of making some wacky, overpriced impulse purchases that could be cause for regret. Decide what you plan to buy and what your limits are before you leave the house.

Rather than shopping on a whim, first decide what exactly you're looking for: Ornaments? A tree? Lights? Now that you know what you want to buy, how much money are you willing to spend? Hit the store with a strict dollar amount in mind that you're willing to part with, whether it's just $10 or $100.

If you are determined to get the most bang for your buck, and you'd rather avoid the holiday crowds, then it's probably easier to comparison shop online to get the best price.

10. Shop Discounters

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Don't be afraid to check out your local dollar store for holiday décor.To get an idea of the kinds of finds you'll come across, check out the Dollar Tree's web site for their holiday selection. You will be pleasantly surprised at what you can buy for a buck.

If your budget has a little more wiggle room than the dollar store, but you don't feel like going bananas with your wallet in a department store, then try shopping at discounters like TJMaxx, Marshalls or Home Goods. These stores are my personal favorites for high quality goods at discounted prices. While the selection at these stores can vary by the area, they are often fun to shop at for the element of surprise. It's almost like visiting a flea market for the "random" factor, in that the offerings are frequently unique and unexpected.

Happy holidays!

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