Save on Decor: Frugal Holiday Decorating Tips

Frugal Holiday Decorating

Nothing says "Christmas!" like a beautifully decorated home. Fragrant greens, twinkling lights, holiday centerpieces all set the stage for a merry holiday season.

But at what cost?

If you believe catalog vendors, department stores and florists, be prepared to lay down a bundle to create that holiday home. Each year sees a set of new colors, new images, new trends, all designed to part you from your holiday dollars.

Take heart! There's no need to break the bank to decorate your house for the holidays. Simple strategies and a dash of creativity can go a long, long way when it comes to decorating. Try these ideas for the festive--yet frugal--home.

Use what you have

Before you dash out to the craft store or trim-a-tree shop, pay a visit to the attic or storage room. Memories fade from year to year, so refresh yours with a quick inventory of the holiday decorations you already have on hand. Keep them firmly in mind as you read Christmas magazines or check out the Festival of Trees displays. Can you update your decor with a few simple additions?

Think local

Wherever you live, look to the natural world for a source of inexpensive decorations. I've piled gold-tipped pine cones into bowls in Georgia, threaded dried apple slices into wreaths in Apple Country, and even wound twinkle lights into spray-painted tumbleweeds in arid Nevada.

Look around you for inspiration, and bring Mother Nature inside for the holidays. Her price is right!

Fly your own colors

Each year, designers and stylists promote a new, hot color scheme for holiday decorating, hoping to spur improved sales through color obsolescence. One year, holiday colors will trend bright, primary and inspired by the 1960s. The next, "retro" schemes are back, with rich reds and dense, dark green taking center stage.

The best defense against the annual hot-color changeover is to claim a personal decorating strategy: choose a color, a texture and a metallic and stick to it for life.

For your personal color, choose any color except green--green is a Christmas neutral. For texture, think plaid, or satin, or velvet, or calico; a personal choice of the finish you want to display. Metallic? Silver or gold: pick one.

How does it work? Say you've chosen the color deep red, the texture velvet, and gold as your metallic. So long as a new decor item contains at least two of your three personal choices, it'll work.

Bright-blue velvet ornaments will fit in as long as last year's red ornaments are also velvet-textured. If calico is your texture choice, color is up for grabs, so long as every new item sports a calico texture. Or, vary the textures, so long as the colors stay in the same deep-red family, and all metallic tones are the same.

Forming a personal decorating strategy is a smart move. Shopping the after-Christmas sales is much easier when you know to grab every red velvet anything on that sales table.

Display collections and souvenirs

Rout out all those teapots! Unpack Auntie's salt-and-pepper shaker collection! Holiday decorating dovetails nicely with displaying collections. Group grandmother's demitasse cups and saucers around a teapot on a tray, and add holly branches for an instant centerpiece.

Don't ignore the mundane! I got big, wide smiles from my poker-playing husband when I decorated a tiny tree with playing cards and bow-clad bottles of airline drinks. Mini-pretzels threaded on a ribbon completed the Doctor's Playroom Tree, and it was amply admired by every male who passed through the house.

Those who travel do well to think "Christmas!" when it comes to souvenirs. Souvenir Christmas ornaments are widely available, pack well, and make a wonderful decorating splash.

If you have collected enough ornaments, consider creating a travel tree: a small tree displaying souvenirs, postcards and ornaments. It's a great conversation piece at holiday parties.

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Think theme--and spread the word

Choosing a personal theme for Christmas decor not only makes decorating meaningful and fun, but gives others a head-start on gift-giving. Building a stock of holiday decor around a theme is easy when you spread the word!

My mother, Texas-born, decorates her home in a Southwestern motif. Finding a Christmas gift for Mom is as easy as buying a string of chili-pepper lights or tiny bottle of Tabasco.

(And for Mother's Day, who can forget the garage-sale find of a lighted Lone Star Beer sign? Don't laugh--she loves it!)

Whether it's angels or Santa or gingerbread or your home town football team, choosing a theme can simplify decorating decisions. Tell the world, and you'll find your decor given to you!

It's bazaar

Don't neglect local craft fairs or holiday bazaars as a source of inexpensive Christmas decorations. Most items are reasonably priced, and generally, the proceeds go to a good cause. Support your local crafters and save!

Look to the kitchen

Food and decor intersect at Christmas time--and never more happily than when the whole family gets in on the fun. Build a gingerbread house with the children. No matter how crooked the walls or droopy the roof, you?ll have created a centerpiece--and memories.

Use a soda straw to punch holes in cookies; string a ribbon through the holes and hang your creations on the tree. Even such simple touches as a bowl of nuts on the table serves the holiday decor scheme

Holiday decorating. It can be beautiful, lively and fun--and frugal. Practice these frugal decor strategies . . . and save money on holiday decorating!