How to Decorate for Christmas on a Budget

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. How to decorate your home this holiday season.

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By Faith Teel
Special to

This year has been a tough year on many budgets, but that doesn’t mean you have to hold back on the Christmas decorations. Instead, plan wisely, search for bargains, use what you what you have and create your own decoration as well. This holiday is about joy, not money. In this article, we’ll give you lots of tips for making or finding inexpensive Christmas decorations that sparkle with good cheer despite their humble origins.

Christmas for Kids
If you have children at home, now is a great time to fall back on traditional favorites. Keep in mind that we’re not the first generation to have Christmas on a budget; our parents and grandparents all knew how to “deck the halls” with things they already had at home.

Salt Dough Ornaments – Salt dough are like cookie dough, except that it doesn’t spoil and it’s inedible. It’s typically made of just salt, dough and flour, and any old-fashioned cookbook (or new-fangled recipe website) will have a salt dough recipe. Your kids can use salt dough to make decorative “cookies,” bake them, and then paint them with craft paint. Be sure to add holes for ribbon so that they can be hung on the Christmas tree!

Paper Chains – Paper chains are simple loops of paper combined to make a long garland that can be wrapped around your Christmas tree. They’re easy to make with a stapler or a pot of glue. Use ordinary construction paper, or up the ante with gorgeous wrapping paper or scrap-booking paper. (Children really appreciate good paper.)

Snowflakes – Every kid has cut dozens of snowflakes made from paper folded into six or eight sections. This year, jazz them up by using golden or silver paper, or try using colored paper in several layers so that the holes in one snowflake show the colors of the one behind it.

Popcorn Strings – One of the old-fashioned traditions that we’d like to see a return to is the string of popcorn on the tree. Use air-popped kernels for a long-lasting garland that doesn’t smell like butter.

A Sophisticated Christmas
Kids’ decorations are cute, but sometimes the Martha Stewart in your heart calls you to decorate with a more grown-up, sophisticated palette. Luckily, Christmas ornaments don’t have to be expensive in order to look expensive.

Paper Ribbons – This is the grown-up version of the kids’ paper chain. Get some lovely parchment paper or some elegant wrapping paper. Cut the paper into one-inch-wide strips and glue them end-to-end to make a long “ribbon.” In your best handwriting, use a magic marker to write the words of a favorite carol or poem on one side of the paper ribbon. Wrap your ribbon around your Christmas tree or hang it over a doorway.

Presents on a String – Save your tiny boxes throughout the year and wrap them in elegant paper. Run a string through them using a big darning needle, and then hang them in your house as a garland. Use bigger boxes as decorations on a fireplace mantle or a hall table.

Glittery Branches – Two of our best friends in budget decorating come together in this craft. Check your yard for shapely dead branches, and then spray them with metallic spray paint for a lovely winter sculpture. Hang Christmas ornaments from the glittery twigs.

Bring the Outdoors In – This is a great time to trim back that holly that’s been overwhelming your sidewalk. Look for pinecones and evergreen branches, too. We’ve even scored a branch of mistletoe when the landscapers were trimming it out of the trees at our local park.

Heavily Ornamented – Do you have more Christmas ornaments than you can fit on your tree? Why not hang them everywhere else, too? Chandeliers are prime candidates for Christmas ornaments, and so are doorways. Do you have a spare tree topper such as an angel or a star? Try topping the end of a stair banister or the finials of a bedpost.

Apples and Oranges – Another of our favorite decorating tips is to use tomorrow’s food for today’s decorating. Apples and oranges are lovely when heaped in a basket with a few pinecones and a red velvet bow. If you have a cupcake stand, replace the cupcakes with fruit to make an apple “tree.”

Dessert – Fruit isn’t the only decorative food. To quote that classic cookbook, “The Joy of Cooking,” “desserts give a hostess a chance to build a focal point.” An elegant cake can make a gorgeous centerpiece for any dinner party. If you’re not an expert at frosting, cut a paper “snowflake” and lay it over a dark cake (such as ginger or chocolate). Sprinkle the cake with confectioner’s sugar and then carefully remove the paper. The paper will leave a pattern in the sugar.

No matter how slim your budget is, you can always find a way to make a cheerful Christmas. Just stick to the old-fashioned essentials, and remember: it’s not about how much money is in your wallet; it’s about how much love is in your heart.

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