12 Decorating Tips For Christmas On A Budget

It's no secret that the holidays are an expensive time of year. According to Rocket Mortgage, Americans spend an average of $269 annually on holiday decorations alone. This doesn't include the money spent on outings, food, gifts, and travel expenses to see family. It's important that individuals and families on a budget save where they can, and luckily, it's easy to do where decorations are concerned.

TikTok, YouTube, Pinterest, and other social media sites are full of innovative ideas to give your home a festive aura without breaking the bank. You don't have to be an arts and crafts connoisseur to DIY many of the trends sweeping the internet. And if you don't like crafting, you can simply shop smarter to cut corners. Take some time this holiday season to stop by the dollar store, home improvement stores, online marketplaces, and popular arts and crafts shops. These places sell all the Christmas decor you could ever need without charging prices you'll regret later on. Follow these tips so you don't have to worry about having money left over for other holiday festivities.

Make everyday vases and bowls Christmas-y by filling them with ornaments

Everyone loves an elegant Christmas setup with vases filled with knick-knacks, seasonal flowers, and potpourri. These centerpieces make beautiful additions to tabletops, shelves, and vanities around your home but often fetch a high price. Pottery Barn sells the standalone bowls for nearly $200. Even "cheap" Amazon vases cost upwards of $30, and they may not be the quality or aesthetic you're going for.

Instead of scavenging the internet for reasonably priced decorative Christmas vases and bowls, you can make your own without much effort. All you'll need are some everyday vases or bowls, preferably clear or neutral-colored glass. If you don't already own them, pick them up at the dollar store for just over $1 each. Fill the vessels with holiday ornaments in your favorite color scheme. Use green or red ones for a traditional look, or combine silver, gold, and glitter-encrusted ones for a glamorous setup. Packs of plastic ball ornaments often come with five or more balls for $1.25 at Dollar Tree, and you can purchase multiple packs to try out different colors around your home.

The vase on its own may not be Christmas-esque, but the addition of ornaments quickly transforms it into the perfect festive centerpiece for the holidays. Consider adding floral accents and other Christmas knick-knacks, such as this $1.25 set of frosted greenery, to make them more unique for just a few more dollars. Each homemade centerpiece shouldn't cost more than $5 a piece, making it an easy and affordable DIY project for most households.

Buy Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn inspired decor at JOANN and Michaels

Big-name stores like Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn are known for their gorgeous Christmas collections. However, even with Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, their tabletop and wall decorations may still exceed your budget. A recent TikTok trend has brought every budgeter's dream to life. Creators are sharing how popular craft stores JOANN and Michaels have nearly identical decorative pieces for about 10% to 15% of the luxury prices.

TikTok user @Flipdaddie pointed out that Pottery Barn sells glass red and white Christmas tree decorations for up to $129 each, while JOANN carries a similar set for just $17.49 each. She also compared Pottery Barn's famous candy cane pillow, normally priced at $59.50, which can be found at JOANN for $19.99. If you're interested, Michaels also carries a red and white peppermint pillow that would make a great pair to the candy cane for only $17.99.

A tactical approach to finding these great deals is to browse wares at Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn first. If you find something you like, see if JOANN or Michaels has something similar. If they don't, don't feel guilty about splurging with the money saved from following other tips on this list.

Use flannel fabric to wrap year-round decor

Buffalo plaid is a popular pattern for scarves, shirts, and pajama pants, and is often made with fleece-like material. If you've grown tired of any garments or accessories with this pattern, don't toss them out. Buffalo plaid usually comes in red and black color schemes, making it perfect for repurposed traditional-style Christmas decor.

A scarf is the easiest item to innovate with. All you need to buy is a wreath hoop from Michaels for as low as $4.99 apiece. (They're even cheaper at the dollar store, though options are more limited.) Loop the scarf around the hoop, pin it in place, and tuck faux greenery into the fabric to add embellishment. If you have more faith in your DIY skills, cut the fabric into strips. Tie the fabric around old sphere-shaped ornaments or outdated Christmas decor to give it a trendy flannel look, thus creating the illusion of a brand-new holiday setup. If you run out of this material, you won't have to break the bank to finish your DIY project. Michaels sells 18 by 21-inch pre-cut fabric pieces for just $1.99.

Invest in a fake Christmas tree that lasts for decades

The live Christmas tree industry is worth over a billion dollars and is one of the most popular holiday traditions. When families and individuals go out to buy a tree, it costs anywhere from $45 to over $800, depending on the size. Real Christmas trees are undeniably gorgeous, fill your home with a natural holiday fragrance, and are eco-friendly if you recycle them properly. The major cons are that they aren't the most feasible option for those on a budget, since they're only good for a single season.

Instead of shelling out money each year for a real tree, cut that cost out of your budget by buying an artificial tree. For example, Home Depot sells an artificial 7.5-foot tree for $299. This tree is pre-lit with white LED lights, has an included stand, and is connected to an on and off-foot pedal. In comparison, a live 7.5-foot Christmas tree from Home Depot costs $149. This price doesn't include a tree stand or string lights. Looking at the short-term, an artificial tree is more expensive outright. However, just two years of buying live Christmas trees costs the same as buying one artificial one, not including the added accessories. Don't be afraid to explore Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and other local listing sites for an exceptional deal. People often sell old trees for many reasons and will give you a great price to take it off their hands.

Check local tree lots for free branches and twigs for homemade decor

However, you don't have to avoid live tree lots altogether this holiday season. If you're an avid DIY-er, these are the perfect places to find spare tree branches and twigs for holiday decor. This advice is especially useful if you live in the middle to southern regions of the United States, which don't have as many naturally growing pine, spruce, and fir trees you can harvest yourself in the woods.

Visit the local lots and see if the tree purveyors will part with fallen sticks from their trees. They're likely to sell them for cheap or even give them away for free. You can then use the branches to make wreaths, garlands, and bouquets that will decorate your entire house. With this in mind, try combining these foraged items with other ideas on this list to save a few more dollars.

Shop for gently used decor on Facebook Marketplace

Gently used artificial trees aren't the only Christmas items found on listing sites like Facebook Marketplace. Log onto Facebook and visit the Marketplace tab. Search the word "Christmas," and you'll find hundreds of decorative items people no longer want or need. The prices are not set in stone, and many sellers are willing to haggle and give away items as they want them gone. You'll find artificial trees, lights, garlands, dishware, ornaments, decorations, and collectibles.

These items become more in demand the closer you get to Christmas, making them more expensive. Try to shop before December or after the new year to get the best deals. As always, check the description and condition of the item before you commit to the purchase. It never hurts to check out the seller's information to vet whether it's a real Facebook user and if they've made honest sales in the past.

You should also make sure they live nearby. Transportation is expensive, especially if buying something big like a life-size statue or artificial tree. If the tree doesn't fit in your car, find out whether the person is willing to deliver (probably for an extra fee) or if one of your friends or family members can lend you their SUV or van. Both of these options are likely to be cheaper than renting a U-haul, which starts at $19.95 and goes up from there.

Create a dollar store ornament table runner

Every dining room table needs a Christmas-themed table runner when winter comes around. These are long strips of cloth made of thick fabric and embroidered with common holiday symbols and scenes. The more intricate the runner, the higher the cost, and the most beautiful options are usually well over $50. 

If this number is out of your budget, you're in luck. Tiktok user @SimpleMadePretty came up with a cheap and unique solution that works for any size dining table. You've already explored how to use ornaments to make stunning tabletop centerpieces. Now try using it to unroll a table runner filled with baubles, garlands, and other holiday decor. The content creator used red plastic ornaments, a string of fishing line, and other embellishments to make a prominent table runner unlike anything you can purchase in-store.

Buy ornaments in bulk on Amazon for as low as $2.39 for 24 pieces, and fishing line for only $5.99. Simply thread the fishing line through the tops of the ornaments to make a long dangling display, which you can drape over any table. The creator also laid down a long piece of fabric and adorned the line with pinecones, which can also be done for cheap by following other advice on this list.

Forage for pinecones and decorate them

There is no better deal than what is found in nature for free. If you live near any trails or forested areas, go on a hike and forage for fallen pinecones. Unfortunately, if you don't live in the Southeast, Northwest, or a few middle states, you may be out of luck. However, if you live in a state absent of these natural gifts, pick them up for cheap from popular stores like Michaels and JOANN for about $5 a bag. There's also a 24-pack on Amazon for less than $15.

Once you've collected your pinecones through foraging or shopping, it doesn't take much to transform them into Christmas decor. First, pop them in the oven for 30 minutes at 200 degrees to kill any pests lurking inside. Then, place a pile of them in a wicker basket to make a festive tabletop or floor decoration. Pick up Target's red berry Christmas sprigs for $5 and some spare ribbons and bows, and hot glue them to the pinecones to add more holiday spirit. You can even fold any leftover flannel fabric over the side of the basket or underneath the pinecones to make it match other decorative accents in your home.

Use dollar store knick-knacks to make your own Christmas wreath

Traditional and artificial wreaths cost a pretty penny, and Balsam Hill sells beautiful collections for prices ranging from $119 to $689. While their holiday wreaths are truly breathtaking, they aren't within everyone's budget. Instead of spending a few hundred dollars on one of these arrangements, consider crafting your own with a little DIY creativity.

You can't go wrong with your local dollar store. Stop by the crafting supplies and mini ornament section to find all kinds of ribbons, mini figurines, stickers, wooden picks, foam shapes, and tinsel stems, perfect for creating your own Christmas wreath. Each pack shouldn't cost more than $1.25, letting you load up with artistic possibilities. Pick out a wire wreath frame or basic pine garland for just $1.25, collect some floral accents for the same price, and build your own indoor or outdoor wreath for just a fraction of other retailers' prices. Simply stick the flowers into the wreath, hot glue a bow on top, and glue any other accents you might like.

DIY a felt tree skirt with cheap craft accessories

Even the most beautiful tree can't hide the unfashionable tree stand used to prop it upright. A tree skirt is necessary for tying your Christmas look together and accentuating the focal point of your holiday decor. Tree skirts from Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, and other popular chains run upwards of $100, making it a heavy investment come the holidays. Instead of spending so much on fabric covering, many people sew their own. If you don't have a sewing machine or the skills to do so by hand, there is a budget-friendly alternative.

Craft a no-sew version by using a yard of dyed felt and hot glue. Pick up craft felt from JOANN for $7.99 per yard. While you're there, also consider purchasing a Christmas Holly Felt Trim for just $10.99 for detail. If you use the previously mentioned buffalo plaid idea, you could even pick up Michaels cotton fabric for $1.99 to match your tree to the surrounding decor.

Making the tree skirt should be easy, even if you aren't an adept craftsperson. Fold the yard of fabric once and cut it in a half circle with a smaller half circle in the middle. When you unfold it, you should have a bagel-shaped piece of fabric. Cut a slit down one side so you can wrap it around the tree. If you want to go the extra mile with a felt trim, hot glue a skirt trim for embellishment. And that's it! 

Simmer a pot of spices instead of lighting candles to get that holiday smell

It doesn't truly feel like Christmas until a motley of holiday scents fills the air. Cinnamon, cloves, fir, gingerbread, pine, rosemary, and star anise are just some of the popular notes found in holiday candles this time of year. Seasonal fragrances help create a holiday atmosphere, but popular brands like Bath & Body Works and Yankee Candle sell their candles for over $25 apiece. Investing so much money in an item that isn't going to last longer than one season isn't appealing to those on a budget.

As an alternative, create your own scents using items from your kitchen. Gather common holiday spices such as cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice berries, and star anise. If you don't already have them for cooking, shop around on Amazon for seasoning collections that sell for about $10. Add them to a slow cooker or stovetop pot, and add fresh cranberries, a whole orange, and even a sprig of rosemary. Simmer them on very low heat with two to three cups of water to fill your home with the smell of Christmas. Keep an eye on the stove, and when the water begins to get low, add another cup or two to keep the scent wafting. Don't be afraid to customize your concoction — use other spices or cut out ingredients to your preference.

Don't forget the After Christmas sales once the season's over

When December comes around and Christmas is on the horizon, holiday-themed decor is in high demand. Stores release entire collections that are only available for a couple of weeks, and thousands of people rush out to buy these limited-time items. No matter how reasonably priced these collections seem, you'll never beat the prices that come after Christmas.

Post-Christmas sales start immediately after December 25, as retailers want to sell off unwanted inventory. For example, Walmart's clearance sale starts on December 26 with 50% off, and if any items remain, they're cut to 75% off a few days later. In years past, Macy's does a similar sale, except it has 50% to 80% off with an additional 15 to 20% off online. Target, Kohl's, Lowe's, and Home Depot are also well known for hosting great sales the day after Christmas.

Typically, the further you get from Christmas and into the new year, the better the sales become as stores become more desperate. Just keep in mind that the closer you get to January, the smaller the clearance section becomes. Post-Christmas day sales aren't a secret. The millions of people who shop are bound to scoop up most of the merchandise over the course of the next two weeks.