6 Festive, Frugal Ways to Spruce Up Your Home for the Holidays
Commit this to memory: There is such a thing as too much.
Ever been to someone’s home at holiday time, and it looked as if the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Gaudy got blitzed on eggnog and vomited yuletide cheer all over the place? Singing wreaths on every door. Electric candles in all the windows. Blinking boughs of holly strung across the ceiling. And that’s just the basement.
People tend lose their minds as soon as the red-and-green rubber tubs come out of storage. My parents, for instance, place a five-foot-tall, animatronic, talking Santa Claus in the middle of their living room — like he’s part of the family. No matter where you go, the guy stares you down with his beady, black eyes, watching and waiting, I’m convinced, to make his move. It’s beyond creepy.
That’s exactly what happens when you don’t use discretion when decorating for the holidays — you scare the bejesus out of your loved ones and they refuse to visit. Then it’s just you and your soulless robot-elf friend stuffing your faces with fruitcake and watching It’s a Wonderful Life for the umpteenth time. Oh, the irony.
There is a solution, however, and it’s simple: Don’t go overboard. Keep it classy. Set a budget.
Believe it or not, you can decorate for Halloween, Christmas, Hanukkah — whatever you’re celebrating — without alienating your family and drawing the ire of your neighbors. The best part is you can do it in fresh, fun ways without going broke. Here’s how.
Twice a year — in the spring and fall — I clean out my closet. The rule is, if I haven’t worn an item in more than a year, it gets donated to charity. I institute a similar rule with holiday decorations. If I didn’t use an item last year — and I don't plan to use it this year — it must go. There’s no point in keeping things that you’re not going to use. They take up space, create clutter, and will eventually make you a candidate for an A&E documentary. Take a moment to love the item, cherish it, and say your goodbyes. Then put it in a bag with all the other past-its-prime junk and exchange it for a sweet tax-deductible receipt. If you’re still feeling bad about tossing it out, remember that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. You’re not throwing it away, but rather providing happiness to a stranger. Yeah, go with that.
Use Good Judgment
When you get dressed in the morning, do you put on every accessory you own? No. Why? Because you’d look stupid. Now transfer that logic to your home and ask yourself, would I put up every decoration I own? No, you wouldn’t, for a similar reason — your house will look a hot merry mess. Thus, after you’ve chosen the items that will go to charity, do another inspection. Are there items in your stash that you definitely want to display? Likewise, are there items that could be stowed away until next year? Sure there are. Put out the decorations that you can’t live without and store the others until next year. Your visitors will appreciate it. Heck, they might even stay for dessert.
Survey the Room
Before you start plastering every inch of your home with holiday paraphernalia, stand in each room for a couple minutes and devise your plan. Choose a few items from your inventory and place them around. Remember that you don’t have to overdo it; a little goes a long way. Plus, an even distribution of decorations will create balance from space to space. Also, try not to remove year-round décor to accommodate holiday swag. If you’re relegating cherished family photos to the hall closet from October to December, you’ve got too much stuff.
Make Your Own
Instead of buying new items, consider DIY decorations. Personally, I like to have one-of-a-kind pieces, and original art is the best way to accomplish this. You can pick up a bundle of magazines at holiday time that will teach you how to make all sorts of neat stuff. Blank canvases are inexpensive too, and they’re perfect for creating lasting family memories, especially when you involve the brood. Pick up some paint, brushes, and smocks and let the kids use their imaginations to make holiday-perfect wall hangings that will fill a void in your home for years to come — especially after they’ve left the nest.
Before you head to the nearest discount department store to stock up, try your local thrift shop. Remember when I said that one person’s trash is another’s treasure? Well, that applies to you too. You never know what hidden gem you’ll uncover at a Goodwill or Salvation Army. To save even more money, find out when deeper discounts are offered. Some shops have days — generally during the week — where specially marked merchandise is on super-sale.
Hit Up the Sales
An experienced shopper knows never to pay retail, and holiday decorations are no exception. Every year I head to Target for its annual unloading of all things seasonal, because prices plummet the day after Christmas. But, beware: Dec. 26 is for amateurs only. In fact, I don’t go until Jan. 3 or later — for several reasons.
The first is that stores are a mob scene right after Christmas. Everybody is returning unwanted gifts and trying to get new items on discount. I avoid this situation at all costs. A measly 25 percent off is not worth the headache. The second reason is that directly after Christmas the items aren’t discounted heavily. You might find up to 50 percent off, but if you wait until after New Year’s, you can scoop up bargains at up to 90 percent off — and that’s major money saved.
But I know what you’re thinking — by then, all the good stuff will be gone. Perhaps. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, which brings me to reason number three of why I wait until Jan. 3 to stock up for next year. By waiting until most of the heap is picked through, I lessen the chance that I’m going to buy on impulse. How can I? There’s not much left. I’m smarter about my purchases at that point and able to make informed decisions on whether I really need an item or not. Your goal should be twofold — to save cash and to replenish your supplies of wrapping paper, tape, ribbons, cards, etc. That's it. Stock up and walk out. You do not need that animatronic, talking Santa Claus. Trust me.
Mikey Rox is an award-winning writer/journalist and the founder of Paper Rox Scissors, a copywriting and creative consulting company in New York City. His work has appeared on CNN.com, LifeStylerMag.com, BrokeAssStuart.com and Recessionwire.com, among many others. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more by Mikey: