Like so many people out there, you might be on a tight budget this holiday season… whatever the reason may be. So, are you wondering how you’re going to appropriately decorate your apartment or home and still be able to afford gifts for your family and friends?
Here is a very important hint: don’t underestimate what your local second-hand and dollar stores have to offer! A lot of people I know tend to run to the dollar store for quick, last minute necessities: a roll of paper towels, a greeting card, maybe a bottle of dish soap. But places like Big Lots, Dollar Tree, Dollar General, whatever you have in your area are actually an untapped wealth of holiday treasures. Read on for some suggestions of things you can look for in stores such as these, how to utilize them to spruce up your decorations, and fill your abode with Christmas spirit that won’t eat into your holiday budget.
1. Ribbon, ribbon, ribbon! Before I moved out on my own and started accumulating my own set of holiday decorations, I vastly undervalued the many uses of ribbon. At my local dollar store one day, I discovered wire-edged ribbon. After playing around with it for a while, I found that I could use it to add some simple, yet beautiful accents to my meager Christmas tree. Take four or five individual six-foot lengths (the height of my tree, but you can adjust it to your own) of the wire ribbon and fasten it to the top of the tree, held in place by the tree topper or tied into the base with the wire twist-ties you find on bread bags. Arrange the ribbon so that it cascades down the sides of the tree in gentle curls. You’ll be surprised how much life this adds to your tree, no matter how few ornaments or other decorations you have for it! In addition to the tree, I have also taped ribbon to my door to make it look like a giant gift box, wrapped the ribbon around a garland and used it to line doorframes, and tied it onto the backs of my kitchen chairs in bows.
2. A homemade wreath is just as pretty as an overpriced, pre-made one. Instead of spending a good twenty dollars at Walmart on a pre-made Christmas wreath for your front door, make one! You will need a plain, green wreath of whatever size you want (I found mine at Walmart, about a foot in diameter for around five dollars), a large bow with a twist-tie on the back, and any decorations you desire. My suggestions are the same type of wire-edged ribbon mentioned previously, miniature ornaments made for miniature Christmas trees, miniature candy canes, or tinsel garlands (all can be found at the types of stores mentioned in this article for reasonable prices). Arrange and attach these accents as you see fit, using hot glue guns or twist-ties as fastening agents at your discretion. Get yourself a door hanger if you don’t already have one, and put your masterpiece on display!
3. Scents can pull everything together. One year, at Big Lots, I found a rather large, tri-wick, pine-scented candle. This same candle lasted me two separate holiday seasons, and that was even when I burned it nearly every day from mid-November to early January. Especially if your tree is fake, a pine-scented candle burned on a regular basis, or even another holiday scent such as cranberry or gingerbread, can bring your holiday decorations to life by filling your home with the comforting scents of fall and winter.
4. No fireplace? No problem! For a few weeks prior to my first Christmas in my new apartment, I wondered where I would find a suitable Christmas stocking and where on earth I would hang it, since I didn’t have a fireplace. I found plain, felt stockings at Dollar Tree, bought a tube of glitter, and decorated my own: one large stocking for myself and a miniature stocking for each of my two cats. I wrote names in liquid Elmer’s glue and drew pictures of snowflakes, snowmen, stars, etc., and then sprinkled glitter over the glue to create simple, inexpensive, home-made stockings that have since lasted me for the last four years or so. As for where to hang them, I found plastic command hooks and placed them along the top of my entertainment center to hang the stockings from, in lieu of a fireplace mantle. When I still wasn’t satisfied with the lack of the fireplace, I made up for it by buying a few electric candles, used from Goodwill for a dollar a piece, and put them in my front windows to add that warm, golden glow to the apartment that I would have otherwise obtained from a cozy fire. The candles I found are resilient and durable, and are light-sensitive so that they only come on when the sun goes down, therefore saving electricity.
5. Tie in the table. If you have a kitchen or dining room table, dress it up! If not, even a coffee table will suffice. Start with an inexpensive table cloth and/or runner, both of which can be found at any of the aforementioned stores for cheap. Depending on your holiday color scheme, choose colors that complement each other… such as blue and silver, green and silver, or red and gold. Lovely centerpieces can be made easily at low costs. Here’s a suggestion for a do-it-yourself, inexpensive centerpiece: use a flat, reflective surface of some kind (mirrors are great if you can find them without frames) as a base, and use three pillar candles of varying heights (and colors, if you so desire), arranged in a cluster on the mirror. Then add two or three clear glass tealight holders or votive candle holders with candles in them, and arrange them around the pillar candles. Finally, scatter glass beads (such as you might find in a fishtank or inside a vase full of silk flowers) and/or confetti or glitter sparsely around the surface to add some shimmer. The lit candles will reflect off the mirror and the glitter, creating a gentle, majestic glow suitable for any holiday decorating scheme!
The keys to low-budget decorating are bargain shopping and creativity. In my experience, one could very easily obtain all of the above-mentioned items for a grand total of twenty to thirty dollars if you know where to look. Keep an eye on clearance bins and sale racks at your local bargain shops, dollar stores, and second-hand stores, play around with your materials, and before you know it, your humble home will be glowing with tasteful holiday spirit.