For all its joy and cheer, Christmastime pulls us in many different directions — physically, emotionally, and financially. It can be tough to keep up with all the demands, including your holiday budget.
You can’t control the cost of perfect gifts for everyone on your list. You can’t control the unpredictable expenses that always seem to come with the season. But you can go out of your way to save money on Christmas decorations, leaving plenty left over to spread holiday cheer. There are plenty of ways to deck the halls in style for less.
Ways to Save Money on Christmas Decorations
You can save money on holiday decorations with these tips for proper planning, smart sourcing, and strategic shopping.
Plan Before You Go
Planning your holiday decor before you start shopping gives you more opportunities to think strategically and find savings.
1. Start Planning Early
The further ahead you plan your holiday decorations, the more time you have to set up chances to save.
You can shop around, buy just what you need, and avoid last-minute markups. You’re also more likely to find what you’re looking for instead of making do with whatever’s left on the shelves.
If you wait until mid-December, you have to hastily buy what’s available without any research. And you’re often stuck at a specialty or big-box store just when they’ve marked up prices the most.
2. Pick a Theme
What do you want your holiday decorations to look like this year? You have lots of options.
You can go classic with a Dickens theme. Or focus on the religious meaning with a peaceful Nativity scene. Or perhaps your kids or grandkids are all about the latest Disney princess.
No matter what you decide, once you’ve settled on a theme, it narrows the types of decorations that make sense. It doesn’t matter how cute a novelty or bauble is. If it doesn’t fit the theme, it stays out of the cart.
3. Decide Where to Decorate
Themes and goals do little to help you save if you fill your cart with vaguely appropriate stuff you’re unsure how you plan to use. Go through your house and decide what kind of thing might go in each location.
You don’t have to make final decisions yet. Just know what space you have available.
That open spot on the side table might accommodate a wicker basket filled with clove-spiked oranges or a holiday-themed candy bowl. But a taper candle or nutcracker will be dwarfed by that space.
Take notes. Use online images to help you envision the final look. You can even take pictures of your home and use a graphics editor like Photoshop to create mock-ups.
4. Set a Budget
Run the numbers for your holiday budget. Don’t forget to include what you’d like to spend on holiday gifts, travel, entertaining, and fun. From whatever’s left over, set a maximum amount to spend on decorations this year.
Then remember the saying. “It’s called a budget because you don’t budge.” This budget is a promise to yourself, so keep that promise.
5. Make a List
Going grocery shopping with a list can save you big on food bills. And the same applies to your Christmas decoration shopping.
Once you have a plan and budget, write down the things you need and how much it’s likely to cost. Don’t forget to include related expenses like batteries and tea lights.
If the things you want send you over budget, rethink each decoration. Put anything you decide to cut on a wish list. You may be able to get them if you get a fantastic deal or find an alternative before you go shopping.
Otherwise, once you’ve got your list under budget, stick to it to ensure you don’t overspend, no matter what cool upgrade shows up in your decor shopping journey.
Think Before You Shop
You have a plan, but you’re not ready to shop yet. Before you head to the store, think about how you can get the most bang for your buck, how fancy your decorations need to be, and alternatives to buying brand-new decorations.
Every decoration you can save on or get for free is a decoration you can move from your wish list to the shopping list.
6. Embrace the Power of Showrooming
“Showrooming” is a term retailers use to describe going into a store to physically interact with a product only to buy it cheaper online. Retailers hate showrooming because it cuts into their profits.
But for a consumer, showrooming is a fantastic opportunity. Many online listings fail to give a good enough sense of the size, colors, and quality of the product. The wait for shipping can mean receiving a disappointing decoration with little time to do anything about it.
Don’t just walk away once you’ve settled on a product. Many big-box stores match Internet pricing if you can show them what’s available. But don’t just buy it, either. Wait until you’ve seen what’s out there.
7. Invest in Quality Where It Counts
Imagine you have to choose between a $120 door wreath and a $12 one. If the cheap one lasts just one year, and the expensive one lasts 10 years or more, the expensive wreath is the better choice.
It’s better to buy just one or two quality things each year and amass a stellar collection over time than buy lots of cheap stuff you continuously replace. So aim to buy a few high-quality pieces each year instead of large collections of cheap baubles that will break or wear out.
Your tree is one of the best examples. A quality artificial Christmas tree lasts 10 years or more and costs just two to three times as much as a live tree of a comparable size. That means it’s between three and five times as good a deal before you even consider the fire hazard or costs of watering and disposal.
That said, some things, such as fads and kids picks your children will outgrow, are better cheap and disposable. You can pick those up at the dollar store or a budget retailer.
As you’re making your plan, decide what needs to be an investment piece and what you can cheap out on.
8. Opt for Multitaskers
Items that serve just one purpose are the bane of budget-conscious shopping. Decorative ones are the worst of the lot. They get used once each year and spend the rest of the time in storage.
A Christmas tree is a must in most households. But consider forgoing the Santas, reindeer, and candy canes for more general decorations. For example:
- Pine boughs and holly, which can stay up for most of winter
- White lights instead of multicolored, which you can string outside all summer
- Snowflake and winter art celebrating the weather more than the holiday
As you map out your Christmas decoration plan, incorporate as many of these elements as possible.
9. Shop Your Home First
Before you set foot in a store, go through your home. Pull out all the Christmas decorations, winter equipment, and general decorations. Look in your donations box and the toy trunks.
You may find exactly what you need or things that are close enough. You may even find something that’s even better than you planned.
Depending on how established your household is, it can cut half or more of the items off your shopping list. As a bonus, it means you have fewer new things to find a home for when the season is over.
10. Shop Your Neighbors & Family
After you’ve run through the potential decorations in your home, check with people you know. Find out if they can lend you anything for this year’s plan and offer to return the favor.
Better yet, set up a neighborhood decoration swap. At a swap, participants meet to exchange their unwanted stuff for things they need without spending a dime.
11. Team Up With Friends & Family
Warehouse clubs, retail supply outlets, and large online lots sell goods in bulk at a discount. During the season, you can find decorations like wreaths, tree baubles, and lights among those deals.
The problem is you only need one household’s worth of decor. Buying the bulk package for everything you need won’t save you money.
Fortunately, nearly everyone you know probably wants or needs them too. So go in on the bulk purchase and split it. That helps you save on your purchase without ordering more than you need.
Take this one step further by getting together with three to six other households. Plan several Christmas decoration themes you all like. You need the same number of themes as you have households.
Avoid fads and pop culture phenomena. A “Frozen” Christmas theme may look dated in three to six years (or your kids may have lost interest).
You each buy the decorations for one theme, then trade at the end of every season. That gives all participating households several years’ worth of Christmas decor for the cost of just one year’s supplies.
Just ensure you set a budget range to ensure everyone feels they got their money’s worth each year. For example, every household should spend a minimum of $75 but no more than $100. You can also establish rules like avoiding tall pieces that don’t fit in every house.
12. DIY It
Before you buy anything, look into what you can make yourself. Homemade decorations ranging from popcorn strings to paper snowflakes to small wrapped boxes can save you a surprising amount of money over buying something comparable.
Or come up with something unique. For example, string last year’s Christmas cards on twine for an attractive, meaningful garland you can update every year.
You can turn the whole project into family time with the kids. Each age group has something to offer, and they can be proud of the finished product knowing they contributed.
But note that some DIY projects cost more than just buying the alternative. For example, you could easily copy that wine bottle message display you found on Etsy, but when you can’t buy in bulk like the original designer, the cost of supplies adds up fast. It’s cheaper to buy it from the Etsy shop.
Do your homework and choose homemade only when it saves money.
Knowing where to shop (and not shop), how to get discounts and earn rewards, and when and how to compare products can save you a lot if you take the time.
13. Start at the Thrift Store
Thrift shops can be an excellent source of clothing, books, games, and toys. But many also put out seasonal items when the time is right. Some might need some TLC, like a touch of paint or stitching up a tear.
Even if you can’t find holiday decor, you might find some inexpensive supplies for a seasonal DIY. For example, pick up a well-loved doll or broken jack-in-the-box for your Isle of Misfit Toys display.
14. Shop the Dollar Store
While quality is essential for decor you need to last, the Christmas season often calls for stuff you can only use once, such as fake snow or tinsel strands.
You can also find inexpensive candles, jars and vases, artificial flowers, and baskets to fill with holiday-themed baubles like pine cones and Christmas balls. Things like these should last for years if you take care of them. A creative mind can turn them into eye-catching decorations on a budget.
While dollar store selection varies by retailer and location, many carry a surprising variety of Christmas-themed goodies for less than big-box retailers. For example, Target sells Christmas stockings for $5 and up, but my local Dollar Tree sells perfectly good ones for a buck.
But if you need more than a few pieces, check other options for decoration sets. For instance, Target offers several packs of multiple decorations for $25 to $30. If that pack contains more than 25 or 30 individual pieces, you’d spend more replicating it at the dollar store.
15. Shop at the Craft Store
When you’re picking up supplies for your family night DIY, don’t overlook the craft store’s other finds.
In addition to craft supplies, you can often find Christmas-themed components that can serve as decorations. For example, you can nab scented or glittery pine cones, miniature reindeer and Santas, and assorted season-themed picture frames. And they tend to cost a fraction of what you’d pay for something similar in the Christmas aisle elsewhere.
16. Be Careful at Big-Box Stores
Big-box stores like Home Depot, Target, and Best Buy can be a blessing or a curse for saving money on Christmas decorations. They carry some products at prices lower than other retailers but tend to mark up other items substantially.
Their general profit model is to bring you in for a good deal. Then, once you’re inside, they bet on you noticing other things you want or need. And you pay more than you should because it’s convenient.
Stick to your list and only take advantage of the good deals when shopping at these locations.
17. Avoid Specialty Stores
Local holiday pop-up stores appear every season in unused storefronts or holiday markets.
They’re almost always far more expensive than big-box stores and the Internet. Sometimes, they have really neat, exclusive decor, but they’re rarely worth the extra cost.
Closely related are the year-round specialty shops like Hallmark and Disney stores. Their price tags are similarly out of proportion with other options.
18. Run Everything by Amazon
Amazon has immense buying power in multiple industries, meaning they can outprice almost all their competition on a multitude of products.
So before you buy anything from another retailer, check to see if Amazon can do better. If they can and you can receive it in time, that’s the better choice. That’s especially true for Prime members, who get free shipping on almost everything on the site.
This plan is especially frugal if you have an Amazon rewards or Amazon Prime rewards credit card. Both cards offer cash back on every purchase. But stick to your budget and avoid a standing balance.
19. Leverage Customer Loyalty Programs
If you have loyalty rewards cards at stores that sell Christmas supplies, now is the time to use them. For example, the Kohl’s rewards you racked up in November could get you discounts on mantel decorations or lights and garlands.
Run the numbers first. Stores with rewards programs typically have slightly higher prices than the competition. So ensure the savings provides a lower final price than you’d pay elsewhere.
20. Remember Shipping
When you shop online for decorations, don’t forget to account for shipping costs. A discounted online purchase can cost the same or more as an in-store buy after you cover the cost of transportation.
It’s crucial to keep an eye on shipping costs with large objects like inflatable yard decorations or an artificial tree. Shipping them costs the retailer real money, and they pass that cost on to you.
If possible, stick to retailers that offer free shipping, like Amazon and Overstock.
21. Don’t Skip Black Friday & Cyber Monday
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are best known for deep discounts on high-ticket gifts. During these events, you can find good savings on decorations or related products like craft supplies, LED candles, and batteries.
22. Learn to Love Singles’ Day
Singles’ Day is a popular Asian shopping holiday that falls on Nov. 11. Although it’s a newer phenomenon, it already dwarfs Black Friday in terms of overall dollars spent. Singles’ Day sales are only available from Asia-based retailers. So look closely at shipping costs and estimated shipping times to avoid nasty surprises.
23. Use Cash-Back Apps & Browser Extensions
Cash-back apps like Ibotta and Rakuten give you cash back on purchases made at member stores. It’s the equivalent of using a coupon at the register. These deals focus primarily on groceries and restaurants but include retailers who deal in holiday decor. So you can find deals if you look.
Each transaction is only worth a small amount, but the savings accumulate into a single larger periodic payment. Depending on the app you choose, you can receive it via a cash-transfer app like PayPal, check, or free gift card.
You can get similar results online from browser extensions like Capital One Shopping or Honey. These interact with your shopping cart, automatically scanning the Web for coupons to reduce your price for whatever you buy.
24. Pay With Cash-Back Credit Cards
Use cash-back credit cards to pay for all your Christmas purchases, including decorations. When you use one of these cards, a percentage of your purchase becomes a rewards credit on your account.
Later, you can redeem those rewards to reduce the balance on your card or receive a cash payment or gift card. Some cards have other options, like airline miles.
When buying Christmas decorations with cash-back cards, use the one with the best rewards for your needs.
For example, say you have two credit cards. The Capital One Quicksilver card offers 1.5% back on all purchases, while the Costco Anywhere Visa gives 1% cash back everywhere and 2% at Costco. So opt for the Quicksilver when you’re at most retailers, but switch to the Costco card when you’re in the warehouse store.
You can also look at reciprocal discounts from your credit card-associated frequent flyer plan. For example, American’s Simply Miles program offers discounts or extra miles for purchases at 30 retailers. Some of yours might give blanket discounts or other deals at shops where you want to buy your decor.
But use caution. Spending too much on credit cards can saddle you with debt for months to come. The interest can cost more than the value of the rewards. Only spend what you can afford to pay back immediately, and pay off the balance as soon as possible.
25. Stack Discounts
You can save even more by stacking discount opportunities.
For example, you might look at Ibotta and find it has a 7% cash back offer at Michaels craft store for purchases of up to $100 in value. With that in mind, you find they have an inflatable snowman yard decoration for just over $100.
After a little more research, you find a 20% off coupon on the Michaels website. Between that and the Ibotta deal, you’re at a total of 27% saved.
But don’t stop there. At the register, pay with a 2%-cash-back credit card to get even more rewards.
Discount stacking requires research and planning but can add up to hundreds of dollars unspent or returned to you over a holiday season.
If you really want to save money, take this year off. Use what you have or leave your home undecorated. Take the money you would have spent on Christmas decor, and put it in a savings account until January.
With the holiday season in everybody’s rearview mirror, whatever stock stores still have goes on deep discount. You can pick up all your Christmas cheer for pennies on the dollar. It’s something you can do every year. Use January’s purchases at the end of the year, then buy upgrades in January.
You can’t use this strategy to save on Christmas decorations this year, but it’s a strong strategy for budget-friendly holidays for a lifetime.