How to Create a Holiday Glow When Your Budget is Low

How To

Decorating your home for the holidays is a tradition that sets the stage for a festive feel, indoors and out. Left unmanaged, holiday decor can also eat into your holiday budget before you’ve even started to shop for gifts. (A recent LivingSocial deal for a holiday light installation package was recently offered for a whopping $399—marked down from the standard price of $799!) Here are some scrooge-free decorating ideas that will deliver a warm and festive holiday feel, while going on easy on your budget and the environment.

Add outdoor oomph

Even though the effect is beautiful, showcasing holiday lights outside your home can be a pricey endeavor. If you choose to hang lights, make sure to use the LED version. Not only are they durable (the string won’t go out when bulb burns), they are more energy-efficient (using about 0.04 watts per bulb) when compared to traditional incandescent lights, which use as much as ten watts per bulb. Seek out local recycling programs at hardware stores and grocery stores, like Whole Foods, that will recycle your old lights for you. You can even find savings through sites like, which offers a 25% off coupon to shoppers who mail in old lights for recycling. Home Depot also has a limited-time recycling program early in the holiday season that rewards customers with a store coupon.

Planning your outdoor light display in advance can help maximize the visual impact, while minimizing the impact on your budget. Instead of decorating every tree, shrub and structure, you can conserve money and energy by featuring one focal point with LED icicle lights and then support the glow with a strand or two of LED lights as an accent. Plan non-lighted décor in tandem, so that your lights showcase all of your decorations, but aren’t left to do all the heavy lifting. Set an automatic timer so your lights will power off when the neighborhood has gone to bed. The reasoning behind this is to protect the safety of your home, maximize cost-efficiency, and to save energy.

Bob and Cortney Novogratz, from HGTV’s Home by Novogratz, suggest creating your own outdoor display with items you find around the house. Spray metal planters and cans with green paint and fill them with branches that you have sprayed red, silver or gold. Garden gnomes can easily be transformed into elves with silver spray, too. Buy giant ornament balls and hang them on a small outdoor tree for a holiday statement that does not require illumination.

Bring warmth indoors

The Novogratz duo says that creating holiday magic indoors can also be easily executed with just a can of gold and silver spray paint.  Pick a single item, like pinecones, fruits, rocks, or leaves, spray each, and fill different glass containers with them. Display the containers around the house and on mantels. They also suggest shredding sheet music (either original or printed from the web) into paper ribbons and adding to hurricane glasses or clear vases that you have sprayed with shimmery paint for a classic holiday touch.

Becky Mallar, innkeeper and decorator of The 1785 Inn & Restaurant in New Hampshire, says the key to a lush holiday mantle is creating depth. Start with lots of greens (preferably ones that you’ve gathered from outside or from the trimmings of your tree). Build three layers of greens and secure them to the mantle. Place a mirror that you have adorned with an inexpensive accent, like glittery holiday wired ribbon, above the mantel to add fullness. Adorn with energy-efficient flameless LED candles for a warm glow and sprinkle in creative adornments like pine cones, ornament balls, candies and nuts. If you prefer to use “real” candles, choose those made of soy, beeswax or a vegetable base.

Interior designer Christine Schwalm recommends using your wrapped holiday gifts to serve as double-duty décor by placing them in a basket that will provide a pop of holiday color. Stick to solid color and chic stripes so you can use the leftover paper for occasions other than the holidays, and try to find paper made of recycled materials. Cut out images from old holiday cards for hand-made gift tags.


If you’re hosting, you can also create your own tablescape using resources from the outdoors—and your produce section. Gina Samarotto of Samarotto Design Group suggests using artichokes, apples, pears and pomegranates tucked into a few evergreen branches and displayed on a cake plate. Not only is it a visually appealing, it’s an eco-friendly way to spruce up your table and you can eat later! Schwalm suggests placing a small wreath flat on a cake stand, placing a large pillar candle in the center and dressing it up with ribbons for an instant centerpiece.

If kids are attending your holiday gathering, the Novogratz team recommends tapping into their creative energy with an interactive tablescape. Ask your butcher for a large piece of butcher paper that will cover the kid’s table for an instant giant coloring sheet. Fill containers with holiday colored crayons and sparkly markers so they can design their own holiday scene. For inspiration they can draw from, fill little present bags with pictures of holiday items and holiday words.

Stephanie Taylor Christensen is a former financial services marketer based in Columbus, OH. The founder of Wellness On Less, she also writes on small business, consumer interest, wellness, career and personal finance topics.

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