Its been nearly ten years since I lost my job during the recession. Those were some pretty tough times for many moms. Holiday season is particularly difficult when trying to stay on a tight budget. Dazzling lights, trees, wreaths, gorgeous nativity scenes and stars… it was all right in my face, everywhere. As tempted as moms may be by all of the decorating possibilities, there are times when we need to figure out how to do more with less.
Through years of experimenting and trial and error, I’ve managed to learn a lot about affordable home decorating for the holidays:
It all starts with a tree - Any tree will do. There is no rule that says moms have to buy a real or large tree, or a real large tree. It can be a small tree in any color. I use a medium-sized white tree since it looks great with contemporary decor. There is no need to put a lot of decorations on it, either. Sometimes, less is better - especially if you’re like me and have a small living room that will look too cluttered with an overly decorated tree. I recommend investing in an artificial tree rather than a real one. Even though the initial cost is higher, the artificial tree will last for years to come. If, however, you’re certain that your financial situation will be improved a year from now, go ahead and get a real one for this year. This Old House offers helpful advice on how to pick the perfect real tree.
Bringing out the cozy decor with inexpensive throws and pillows - Add a bit of warmth to your decor with fuzzy holiday throws in colors like red, green, silver, gold, plaid, etc. Any retail store like Walmart sells cheap, pretty throws for $10 and less. I like to mix things up a bit. In some rooms, I’ll cover a piece of furniture with a festive throw in some rooms, and keep them rolled up and plopped up with pillows in other rooms. I’ve only ever had compliments about the throws from guests; none of them have ever seemed to realize that they were just cheap Walmart items.
Being frugal with dining room decor - Since you’re probably not planning to throw a fancy Christmas dinner this year, you can get away with cheap, yet inventive dining room decorations. Last year, I used an ordinary red woolen scarf as a table runner. For the centerpiece, I just placed one large green candle surrounded by several mini white candles. This year, I plan to experiment with pine cones and whole walnuts by painting them gold or silver and placing them strategically around the kitchen.
Displaying cards and family photos - Some of the most beautiful decorations are something that friends and family send you for free: cards. Hang them up around the fireplace, front door, or on the wall surrounding the tree. Take out a few of your favorite family photos from the past year and display them with gold and silver picture frames. I have a personal preference for the silver ones, since they match my white tree.
Saving money on outdoor decorations - No home is complete during the holiday season without a wreath hanging on the door. Like the tree, just about any wreath will do. You can get a plain one and just decorate it yourself. I just use a red ribbons, mini candy canes, and small red ball ornaments. If you’re a DIYer, Better Homes and Gardens offers tutorials on making “easy & inexpensive Christmas wreaths”. As for lights, it’s perfectly fine to go with a minimalist approach. Simply outline the windows or door with a string of lights, or place one large snowflake lighting decoration on each window.
If there’s one thing I learned through experimentation these years it’s that making the house look festive and pretty does NOT have to cost much money.
Sam Jones is a digital marketing expert, social media and branding consultant and guest blogger for various publications, including Business2Community, Inbound.org and EZSiteBuilders. In her free time, Sam is an avid traveler, foodie and lover of all things technology. She's also a fitness fanatic (in the making).