Last weekend, I packed up all of my fall decorations. Into the box went acorns, pinecones, dried corn, and pressed leaves. Just call me Fancy Pants. Or not. I definitely prefer natural and simple decorations in my home. The items are easy to gather, the look is relaxed, and the expense stays low.
I can appreciate an elaborately decorated home, but I don’t want to live in it. And it would be much harder for me to let my kids explore and enjoy the season without worrying about that priceless antique vase.
It really is possible to achieve a warm, welcoming home, even one that changes with the seasons, without breaking the bank. Half of these ideas require no money at all!
Here are a few of my favorite places to find inexpensive decorating items and inspiration:
Shopping Your Own Home
Before I decorate for the holidays, I do two things:
- Clean my house from top to bottom. Decorations on top of clutter just looks like more clutter. Put away or, better yet, get rid of anything that isn’t beautiful or useful in your home. It will lower your stress level, and immediately make your home look better.
- Pull out anything that could double as Christmas decorations: vases, pitchers, trays, jars, cloth napkins, and mirrors all get put to work holding or displaying things around my home. It makes sense to own things that do double duty. Thinking outside of the box can save money while achieving the same results.
Gathering Items from the Great Outdoors
Craft stores make me feel panicky and claustrophobic. So many options! Where do I start and why do all these people look like they know what they’re doing?! I buy a few items, but I shop at these stores just to fill in the gaps, which makes my budget and my blood pressure much happier.
I feel most inspired outside. Are you rolling your eyes yet? It’s true though. The colors and patterns in nature are hard to beat. I wander around our yard with a pair of clippers and a bag, tossing in anything that has a neat texture or seasonal colors.
Live in an apartment? No problem. Ask for clippings at the farm where you cut your tree, talk to your friends about getting some greens, or go for a walk and fill your coat pockets with pinecones. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have so many beautiful options right outside our front doors. Take advantage of it!
Spending Money on Decorations
If all my Christmas decorations was just moss and sticks, it would obviously look a bit wonky. I add a few inexpensive items from hobby or home improvement stores to achieve a finished look. Even though you may have to plan ahead in July, thrift stores or garage sales are also great places to find unique items. Here are a few decorating items I am willing to buy:
Ribbon – There are so many cool designs and colors, and prices are low during December. Tied around a package, twisted through a wreath, or twirled around a railing, it takes everyday items up a notch, giving them that festive Holiday Inn feel. Also, wire-edged ribbon makes you look like you know what you are doing, and you won’t even break a sweat.
Candles – I love lighting candles for special occasions. Like Pizza Night on Friday. My kids get very excited, the pace slows down, and it adds a special spin to an otherwise normal event. I buy most of my candles (and frozen yogurt) at IKEA.
Burlap & Twine – Burlap is around $4/yard. With a coupon, it is a very inexpensive way to add a rustic yet finished look to just about anything. I absolutely love tables draped in burlap. It’s such a simple backdrop for whatever goes on top. And, Twine, how did I ever live without you? My husband needed some to finish a project the other day, and I had a hard time parting with it. We need his and hers, obviously.
Wreath Forms & Wire – Making your own wreath is incredibly easy and inexpensive. The forms can be re-used each year, and the wire lasts a long time.
Spray Paint – My friend Ruth is the Queen of Spray Paint. Her tables and chairs are like wooden chameleons, changing color at the drop of a hat. We all tease her about it, but we’re secretly jealous of her skills. She has definitely won me over to the land of paint fumes. It really is a quick, inexpensive way to change things up. Anything from pinecones or branches to Goodwill finds or tired decorations takes on a whole new look with a coat of paint.
Actual Decor Items – Most of my true Christmas decorations (ornaments, stockings, tree skirt, etc.) were either from my childhood or Target’s clearance bins. It’s a crazy assortment, but it works. I mix together shiny store stuff with natural backyard stuff and try not to collect too much stuff that only works for one holiday. It seems crazy to spend a bunch of money on items that will sit in a bin out in the garage for eleven months of the year.
Checking out the Produce Section
Finally, my favorite place to find beautiful holiday decorations: the grocery store, especially the produce section. For Christmas, you could buy pears, apples, pomegranates, citrus fruit, or cranberries. Or head over to the bulk section and fill bags with cinnamon sticks, cloves, nuts, or candy. Whether it is just displayed in a bowl or enlisted for a project, it adds life and color to any area.
Hungry? Grab an apple off the mantle. Limes getting a bit wrinkly? Not a problem. Enjoy them for a few weeks, then toss them in the juicer. And you know I’m not joking. See? Items can be beautiful and useful.
What are your favorite inexpensive items to decorate with?
Looking for more ideas?
Follow Frugal Living NW on Pinterest!
Fantastic range of boards from best recipes and tips for frugal living to gardening and budgeting help.
This post may contain affiliate links. See the disclosure policy for more information.
We used to slice up toilet paper tubes. Paint or using markers to decorate with tinfoil. Then put battery tea lights in them on the shelves in university.
I’ve seen them strung together for the tree or around the apt. I’ve seen beer & pop cans made into a Christmas tree…or branches sprayed with metallic paint & then homemade decor hanging off of them.
Recently our neighbor moved but she would decorate the tree outside our townhouse’s with burlap wrapped as bows on the branches. I think she used twist ties or long pieces of flower wire from the dollar store.
I’ve since seen ideas to paint plastic yogurt containers and hang them upside down like bells. A tinfoil ball is glued inside
Metallic craft paint inside & hung on outside branches.
An old wreath circle from last year’s wreath can be wrapped with 3 or 4 feather boas from the dollar store. Sprayed with hairspray so the pieces are more encouraged to stay together. Then run a pack of battery operated lights from dollar store
Hang on the sheltered porch Or in the 2nd set of doors of your mudroom :).
A friend used to use her orangza sheer skirting from a old bridesmaid dress. She cut it so it was a long length. Wrapping it around the mantal & curling some colorful lights. Then she put in the 3 L white candles that were for show. Seriously we never knew it was a dress til she told us.
Live near the sea? Several pieces of drift wood *& shells, rinse in water & let dry first. Then tuck fake cranberries * fake holly berries around the edges. Add a few candles.
Dress your apt door in wrapping paper or simply create a poster with color printer or markers that says merry Christmas. .
Plus all yours
I have to say I love the Christmas atmosphere and buying some new Christmas decorations is an inseparable part of it. But to be honest, the idea of making my own decorations never came to my mind because of the lack of time typical of this period. But now I see these wonderful products and I have to say they look even better then the stuff I usually buy at Vancouver Christmas market which is one of the most visited events here in Vancouver every December. Now I can say I will definitely add some handmade decorations to the ones I have collected over the last years.
Thanks for the ideas! Bought our first home this year and it seems so plain, but I’m not willing to spend very much on decorations. This gave me hope I can be creative enough to make it nice. Love the comment with the homemade potpouri idea too, thanks!
This is very very nice. Thank you for this post.
We spend Christmas at a hotel visiting family and have to fly. I go to Goodwill when we get there and buy a bunch of Christmas decorations. They tend to be very cheap since it is so close to Christmas and it makes it less depressing to be in a hotel. After the holidays I pick a favorite to fly back with us and donate the rest back to Goodwill.
For an inexpensive stove top potpourri that makes my house smell festive, I dry some orange peel (place on counter for a couple days after eating an orange to dry). Place dried orange peel, a couple whole cloves, and a cinnnamon stick (I get both in bulk section at Winco) in a pan on stove, fill with water and bring to a boil, then simmer. Be sure to keep checking water level so pan doesn’t dry up and add as needed. Sometimes if I have an extra spiced cider packet around, I will add a couple teasp. of that to my mix as well! It smells so homey and yummy!
Twin Mom says
Check in the bulk section at Winco or in the Mexican food aisle at most grocery stores for cinnamon sticks. I think I paid $0.99 for a dozen in the Mexican food section a few years ago. (and they’re probably mostly old now)
I made salt dough ornaments with my little one this year, super easy and cheap to make and she had such a great time. I also dried orange slices, they can be used as ornaments for the tree on on wreaths
I found cinnamon sticks at Dollar Tree, they were in the food aisle!!
Winco has them in bulk for super cheap, like a few cents a stick.
My boyfriend and I recently moved to Portland, and all of our Christmas decorations are still in our hometown (about 5 hours away) and we won’t be able to get them in time for Christmas. So I woke up a little bummed this morning because my apartment is very un-festive and we don’t have much money (or space) for new decorations or a tree. Your tips have perked my spirits and now I think I better rummage out in the yard and through some old stuff to get this place extra festive! Plus, I feel exactly the same way about those craft stores!!!