Deck the Halls Without Breaking the Bank

By Emily Starolis

There’s nothing like the warm feeling you get when you see your house lit up and decked out for the holidays. It’s one of the most satisfying ways to share our holiday spirit with neighbors and everyone else who visits us throughout the season.

Remember that the cost of all those knickknacks can add up quickly, so keep an eye on décor spending to have more left over for gifts. With that in mind, here are 10 ways to keep your home in all its seasonal glory without breaking the bank.

1) Shop your own house
Scan the stuff you already own for all things red and green for Christmas; silver and gold for a general holiday motif; or blue, white and silver for Hanukkah. Old toys in these colors can add a vintage flair to your theme. Have a bunch of glass jars or paper bags you’re not using? Turn them into luminarias and light up your walkway. Float flowers or candles in crystal bowls or goblets and use them as centerpieces. Trim the shrubs and decorate your mantel with the trimmings.

2) Set a budget
Holiday décor can seem like a small annual cost, but if on separate trips you pick up lights, tchotchkes for inside the house, a tree, yard ornaments, etc., you can end up spending at least several hundred dollars. Take a look at your regular budget and set aside an amount in cash you can afford to spend on holiday items – whether it’s taken from your entertainment budget or elsewhere — and spend only that amount.

3) Compare prices
As the holiday season approaches, retailers will be competing to offer the best prices on lights, wreaths and other decorations. Scour the ads and look online to see who has the best deals. Some stores pledge to not only match any competitor’s price but also to discount any item until they beat the price.

4) Shop online
Online often is where you find the best deals — even on holiday decorations. Look for discounts and keep an eye out for free shipping if you spend over a certain amount.

5) Create your own decorations
Search Pinterest or Google, and you’ll find an endless number of tutorials and step-by-step holiday crafts that make amazing and unique decorations. Bonus: This could make for a fun afternoon activity for the whole family.

6) Buy in bulk
Order craft supplies in bulk from big manufacturers that typically sell to decorators and event planners, such as papermart.com or save-on-crafts.com. You’ll find deals on all sorts of stuff, from 25-yard spools of wired ribbon, to lights, to birch branches and wreaths — all for below retail value.

7) Buy secondhand goods
Browse the holiday goods at Salvation Army, Goodwill and other secondhand shops for deals that can’t be beat. Chances are you’ll find some unique items. Shopgoodwill.com, Goodwill’s auction website, also offers great deals.

8) Go to the dollar store for decorations
Ah, the trusty dollar store. It’s a treasure trove of holiday goodies this time of year and you won’t beat the prices.

9) Time your purchases
The early bird — and the super late bird — gets the worm, at least in the case of general holiday deals. If you buy your decorations before Thanksgiving or after the holidays, you’re likely buying last year’s leftover stock, so you’ll find some huge discounts. Otherwise, many stores follow a distinct pattern with their discounting. Outdoor décor is marked down in early November, indoor in mid-November and tree trimmings after Thanksgiving. When it comes to Christmas tree shopping, look out for deals during the week when traffic is slower. You’ll also find that most everything is marked down the week before Christmas.

10)  Ask around
Are you a few strands short with your Christmas lights this year? Why not ask your neighbors if they have extra, or even better, post to Facebook to see if someone has strands of working lights to spare? You’ll never know if you don’t try. Maybe you can arrange a trade and help each other out.

So often it’s a combination of sneaky expenses we forget about, like holiday decorations, that end up breaking our budgets. Now you know how to avoid that this year and have an even happier holiday season. Happy, and more importantly, responsible shopping!

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