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How to Create the Ultimate Christmas Display on a Shoestring Budget

Lia Sestric
How to Create the Ultimate Christmas Display on a Shoestring Budget

This article originally appeared on How to Create the Ultimate Christmas Display on a Shoestring Budget

Americans are expected to spend over $1,000 during the 2018 holiday season — up 4.1 percent from last year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. And if you plan on creating an extravagant Christmas lights display or decking your halls with wreaths, mistletoe and ornaments, you could end up spending even more.

But you don’t have to go over budget. Even if you’re low on funds, you can still turn your home into a winter wonderland. This holiday season, consider a few cheap holiday decorations so you can spruce up your home without spending a fortune.

1. Decorate With Faux Wrapped Gifts

Who says the only place for Christmas gifts is under a tree? Empty boxes wrapped up festively can pack a real punch and brighten up a room when decorated with bows and ribbon. Stack boxes near the fireplace, hang a few on the walls or make a tower of faux presents and use it as a centerpiece.

Another option is to use actual gifts as holiday decorations. Then, on Christmas morning, you can organize a fun scavenger hunt for your kids to hunt down the family’s presents. They’ll enjoy running around the house, and you won’t need to take down so many decorations when it’s time to clean up.

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2. Repurpose Wrapping Paper

If you have extra wrapping paper, consider using it to create unique holiday decor for your house.

Repurpose the art on your walls for the holidays by taking wrapping paper and cutting out borders for paintings. Then, frame the pictures for instant holiday decor. Don’t forget to top it off with a bow to complete the festive look.

3. Use Your Children’s Old Toys

Toys are another unique way to decorate for the holidays if you’re on a budget. Money expert and blogger Catherine Alford has said she uses her children’s toys, like a nativity scene they received as a gift, to decorate.

Although some toys are designed for Christmas and will fit easily in holiday displays, non-Christmas-themed toys can also work. Your children might have old toys they no longer use but have special meaning to you and them. Try turning these toys into Christmas tree decorations by attaching a hook or string. An old train set for the base of the tree is another great decoration.

4. Find Materials Outdoors

If you want to get really frugal, grab a jacket and head outside. Branches can make for wonderful Christmas displays, said Lauren Greutman, a frugal living expert.

“Simply go outside and collect some thin branches and spray paint them white. Place them in a heavy vase and decorate with lights, tinsel and/or Christmas ornaments,” she said.

Glitter can also work quite nicely. There’s really no wrong way to jazz up these branches, so let your imagination run free.

Pine cones are a fun alternative to branches. Your kids can decorate them to look like reindeer, you can wrap them in battery-operated string lights that will light up your mantle or you can use them as Christmas table decorations.

5. Shop at the Dollar Store

Although you probably shouldn’t buy toys from the dollar store, it’s definitely the place to shop for Christmas decorations. The store offers staples like candles and vases, plus discount seasonal items.

“Use the dollar store as an inspiration for your holiday centerpiece,” said Greutman. “Pick up some vases, pebbles and tea light candles for an inexpensive decoration piece. Then, place [them] on a plate and surround with holiday ornaments for an extra special flair.”

As you’re there, snatch up other items that can be used for holiday displays, like ribbons and pre-made bows, holiday stickers and more.

6. Make Ice Lanterns

Glowing lanterns on the front doorstep of your home can add a nice touch for Christmas, weather permitting. The best part is they are quite simple to make. You can likely find the materials you’ll need in your kitchen:

  • Water
  • Plastic container, such as Tupperware
  • Plastic cup
  • Candle, such as a tea light or pillar

To make the lantern, fill the container with water. Place the plastic cup in the center of the container and weigh it down. Put the container in the freezer. Once frozen, run the container under warm water to loosen the mold. Pop out the cup and mold. Place a candle inside and your display is complete.

If you live in a warmer climate, you can achieve a similar look by filling containers, jars or vases with Epsom salt or rocks and placing a candle inside.

7. Decorate With Ornaments and Handmade Crafts

Over the years, your collection of Christmas ornaments will likely grow. Whether gifted or bought impulsively, you could end up with too many ornaments to decorate your tree. So with the excess, string together the ornaments with a colorful ribbon and hang them over a doorway, across the fireplace or above a window.

If you have craft paper or even coffee filters, grab scissors and create snowflakes. You can find templates online for free. You can then display them in a window or string them along and use as a garland. This can be a fun project for the entire family.

8. Reuse Bottles, Cans and Jugs

If you look around your home, you’ll likely find more than a thing or two that can be repurposed for Christmas decorating. If nothing jumps out at you right away, here’s what to look for: Empty wine bottles can be painted in Christmas colors and used as vases for flower arrangements. Paint bottles into Rudolph or Santa, or spell out thoughtful words like “joy.”

Tin cans and milk jugs also work well to create Christmas characters like Frosty. Paint a tin can white, and use construction paper and buttons to make a smiling snowman. If you use a milk jug, add string lights so your decoration glows warmly.

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9. Use Your Kid’s Artwork

Children make a ton of holiday-themed crafts at school. Start saving those items, and repurpose them every year for your Christmas display.

You can either designate a particular wall of your home to show off the artwork or hang them throughout the house. Some crafts might even go nicely on the tree. Your kid’s artwork will make for great conversation pieces with family over the holidays and add a personal touch to your decor.

10. Get Cooking

Gingerbread houses and candy canes be used in your holiday decor as well. Have a fun afternoon baking a gingerbread house with your kids, and then deck the halls with their frosting- and candy-covered creations. Candy canes that might come home with your kids from school or from holiday swaps at the office can deck candles and mantle garlands alike.

Another great option is to stick oranges with nutmeg cloves — the house will smell like Christmas from the minute you walk in.

Try These Ideas: 22 Uses for Your Leftover Candy Canes

11. Use Extra Bows

If you have extra bows from your holiday gift wrapping, there are countless ways you can repurpose them to add a festive flair to your home. One especially cheery option is to create a wreath out of extra bows. Simply glue the bows to a Styrofoam or wire wreath, which you can easily make for yourself.

12. Tie Ribbons Around Everything

Yards and yards of ribbon can be purchased inexpensively from craft stores like Michaels or even a dollar store. Once you’re stocked up, tie ribbons around everything from dining room chairs to kitchen appliances. And although red and green are excellent color options, also consider silver, gold and white for festive and elegant alternatives.

Find Out: How to Get Through the Holidays When You Can’t Afford Them

13. Make Paper Chains

Instead of buying an Advent calendar, get your kids into the holiday spirit by making a paper chain with them. All you’ll need is plain white or brightly colored construction paper, scissors and tape.

Cut the paper into thin strips, and then tape one strip into a circle. Loop another strip around it, and tape the second circle shut. Keep going until you have enough paper chain to string all throughout the house — or at least to keep the kids in suspense pulling one loop off every day until Christmas.

14. Hang Up Your Photos

Most people have holiday photos, whether they’re of the kids visiting Santa at the mall or last year’s company party. Adding them to your decor creates instant Christmas flair and lets you relive those fun memories.

You get bonus points if you use festive frames or a bit of double-sided tape to put them on the wall in a Christmas tree configuration.

15. Display Your Holiday Cards

When holiday cards start coming in from friends and family, don’t just toss them in a basket or in a pile. Use the beautiful cards as decor to liven up your mantel, a wreath or even a mirror. Hang a thin wire or length of twine across a mirror or a window, and hang or pin holiday cards on the wire. It’s a great way to remind yourself of the people you love the most on a daily basis during the holiday season.

Click through to read 40 ways to save money over the holidays.

More on Holiday Saving

Elizabeth Nicholas and Erica Corbin contributed to the reporting for this article.

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