Every year, my kids nag us for weeks about putting up the Christmas tree. They can’t wait to bring the boxes of Christmas ornaments out of the attic, unwrap the treasures in them, and place them all on the same side of the tree. There’s also a village of little buildings to go on the mantel.
But the Christmas season lasts just a few short weeks, and I like to spend as little as possible on holiday decorations.
So how can you decorate fill your Christmas tree with ornaments without breaking the bank? These strategies I’ve used will get you started.
One: Buy Used
Many of the things the kids enjoy the most were bought at thrift shops, garage sales, and estate sales. There, I picked up vintage Christmas ornaments, some still brand new in boxes, that had been forgotten for years or decades in people’s attics. And often you can get these for pennies on the dollar.
I’ve even picked boxes of brand-new, and still boxed, Christmas ornaments out of the trash.
In December, I take the kids to the local hospital’s thrift shop (the Goodwill works also) and let them take home whatever Christmas ornaments they like. Last year, they found the buildings, some Department 56, for our village. The total cost for the 5 buildings? About $8.
New additions to the Christmas ornament collection last year cane from an estate sale and included a molded glass teddy bear, beaded wreath, handmade yarn Santa, Santa’s Workshop, and miniature cuckoo clock. All were bought for less than $5.
Two: Don’t Buy Only in December
One August about 10 years ago, I was shopping the garage sales when I found a large collection of 1960’s glass Christmas ornaments. I brought home 2 boxes of old-fashioned Shiny Brite balls, some hand-painted with designs, for $3.
Unwrapped from their 1960s newspaper, the Christmas ornaments got new ribbon hangers and a stay on the Christmas tree that year for (probably) the first time in decades. Everyone thought they looked great.
Last summer, I was walking through Chicago’s River North neighborhood when I spotted a going-out-of-business sale at a high-end furniture store. I bought about 20 handmade glass balls, and several beaded snowflakes for about $30. The previous December, these Christmas ornaments, which had been stored by the merchant for the following year, had retailed for $25 apiece. I’ll probably gave some away as gifts, because we already have more Christmas ornaments than we need.
Three: Make Ornaments, or Save What the Kids Make
Yes, I know not everyone is crafty. But you don’t have to be talented to string beads or popcorn while you’re watching TV.
Other contributors on Associated Content have written craft instructions, such as “Cheap and Thrifty Christmas Ornaments to Make at Home.” All Things Frugal describes 3 Christmas ornaments anyone can make.
A former colleague of mine has for decades decorated her Christmas tree with gingerbread cookies. Every year, she has a party her kids look forward too, where friends come to help them make cookies to use as Christmas ornaments.
If you can’t or won’t make Christmas ornaments, let your kids do it for you. Ornaments are, after all, a common school project in December. You can also save-and hang-other small objects your kids make throughout the year.