Friday, December 3, 2010

Anatomy Of A Frugal Christmas Tree

(This is what happens when a Charlie Brown tree gets it's BLING on!)
 Every year Dear Hubby and I argue over real vs. a fake Christmas tree. When we bought our house, the person we bought it from sold us his Christmas tree for $50.00.  The tree is 8 feet tall (we have a vaulted ceiling in our living room), and it would not fit into the smaller home he had just bought. We used that artificial tree for 10 years (he had used for 10 before that), but sadly the tree is on it's last leg. It's an some assembly required  project. It's kind of like a Christmas tree jigsaw puzzle. Each row of the tree limb were color coded. I say were, because, the colors have worn off or faded until they ALL look the same. One year I tried to recolor them with Sharpie markers, but that all rubbed off quickly. So, now it just "Russian Roulette". If you follow the picture diagram included, and you argue with your spouse for two hours if those are the red or orange limbs, the tree might come out looking normal, or it might not. Then there was the problem of the branches just popping out of their allotted slots at any given time and falling on the floor. This freaks out the dog who was sleeping under the tree, sending her into with corner with a nervous tick!  This also freaks out the stressed out Momma, and sends her into the corner with a nervous tick, too! Needless to say, two years ago, I made the corporate decision to retire the tree. I have been on the look out for the past two after Christmas sales to buy a new tree on clearance, but so far I have been unsuccessful! :(

The last two years we have had a live tree. We are lucky to live in a semi rural area. We can purchase a tree permit for $5.00 from the U.S. Forest Service. Dear Hubby and the kid's have been making an after Thanksgiving trek into the woods to find our Christmas tree. Dear Hubby's brother lives on the way to the place designated to cut our tree, so sometimes his family buys a permit and tags along too. Sometimes Grandpa tags along to offer advice. There is the cost of the gasoline we use to drive to where the tree is cut (about 40 miles from where we live), but they always stop and visit Dear Hubby's brother's family, and they are making family memories. I consider it money well spent. Now that you know way more about my Christmas tree adventures than you ever wanted to know, I will get back on track!

Artificial Christmas trees are definitely an investment purchase. You want to buy something you will be happy with for along time, and will hold up to some wear and tear. After Christmas clearance sales are a great way to find a cheaper Christmas tree. I have been going that route, because Dear Hubby is a MAJOR Christmas tree connoisseur . He is very finicky about the style and general "bushiness" of artificial trees; hence, my lack of success on the clearance sales.  I have also seen lovely trees at consignment shops, and thrift stores. Yard sales, Craig's List, and the classified section of you newspaper are other resources for finding a good used Christmas tree.

Decorating your tree can be a budget buster, too. I have been lucky, because my Dear Sweet Grandma started a tradition when my siblings and I were little. She would deliver a home made Christmas ornament for each grandchild along with our Christmas gifts. The theory behind this tradition was that at some point we would all grow up and go out on our own. When the time came we would have ornaments to put on our own Christmas trees. Grandma was a very wise woman! I was the only granddaughter, so I ended up with a bevy of  angel and pink themed ornaments. My mother carries on the tradition now for her own grandchildren. Each year  I alternate themes. One year I use our homemade ornaments. The next year I decorate with glass balls (bought on Christmas clearance for $.75 a box), snow flake ornaments (Dollar Store purchase) and candy canes (grocery store purchase). Dollar Stores are great resources for ornaments and garland. They are especially great for finding cheap filler ornaments. After Christmas clearance sales are also a treasure trove for ornaments and decorations, you can get very nice decorations for super cheap! Thrift stores are another great resource, too. I  have found boxes and brand new ornaments at thrift stores for $.50 to $1.00. Some are new and never been opened.

Making your own ornaments is another great option. The second Christmas we owned our house I was in the mood to create a themed tree, but we were on a very, VERY tight budget that year. My two oldest children were 5 and 2, and I was pregnant with Child #3. One afternoon, I invited my neighbor and her little kid's( who was also on a tight budget) to come over an make ornaments with us. First walked over to the common area in our neighbor that was loaded with pine trees. We gathered pine cones and brought them home. We painted the pine cones with craft glue and sprinkled them with white, silver, and gold glitter. After they had dried we attached Christmas ribbon to the fat end of the pine cone with a gold thumb tack. We also whipped up a batch of Cinnamon Applesauce OrnamentsSince I was going with a cabin theme I cut out fish, mouse, and lob cabin shapes. My friend used bell, angel, and star cookie cutters. We also whipped up a few Reindeer ornaments, too. Our little kid's had so much fun helping the Mommies make Christmas ornaments, and we use items we had salvaged from around our house. Oh my, I seem to be in a Reminiscent mood today, I apologize!

A tree skirt is the only thing I ever struggle with. I don't believe I have ever owned one. Every year  I have had good intentions of buying a pattern and  whipping one up on my sewing machine. Of course, that never happens. Then I decide that I will watch for one to go on clearance, but I never do. I have always ended up draping a fabric tablecloth,  an old twin sized quilt, a piece of Christmas fabric (bought on clearance), and this year a crocheted throw (afghan) I rummage out of a clearance bin at Walmart for $5.00. Maybe, I should put "Get Yourself A Decent Tree Skirt" number one on my Christmas To Do List!

Now that your have endured my "Stories From Christmas Past" monologue, hopefully, I have given you some ideas to help you decorate your own frugal Christmas trees! Which do you prefer, a  Live or Artificial Christmas Tree?


  1. It's the Christmas spirit that makes a tree beautiful and yours is simply gorgeous! When we've lived in cold weather areas in the past, we always went and cut our own trees. After we got to Phoenix, we tried it once and it was not the same cutting a tree in the desert with sand blowing in your face so we bought a fake 11 years ago. It was a pre-lit fancy one with a remote control where you could change the settings and even choose which colors of lights would come on. That part doesn't work anymore so we kind of get whatever wants to light up when it wants to. Now that we've gotten rid of our carpeting and no longer have to dig needles out of it, I'd love to go get a real tree at a Christmas tree lot but I haven't been able to convince Hubby to spend the money since we have the fancy fake. One of these years ...

  2. I loved your post about your Christmas tree, especially about the poor dog!

  3. We had an artificial tree for the two years we lived in Key West (the dried ones shipped in were all dry to the bone by the time they arrived) and the three years we lived in Japan (same as Key West) and we couldn't wait to get rid of it; I think we sold it at a yard sale for about half of what we had paid for it. Like yours, it was a jigsaw puzzle to put together and we dreaded getting it up.

    We live in live tree heaven now, the NW, and I love nothing more than the scent of a freshly cut pine or fir tree in our home at Christmas. I know it's better to save a tree, but we're not there yet. this year's tree will be a small one versus the usual 7 foot one we put up.

    Your tree is beautiful! I think a patchwork quilt for a tree skirt is a lovely idea. We had one I bought at a craft fair for years, but it finally fell apart. The one I have now I found on the sale rack at Fred Meyer after Christmas. Nothing fancy, but it does the trick.

  4. I love the smell of a fresh tree, but I definitely prefer to have a fake tree. No needles on the floor, no disposal, and best of all, no $30 price tag for a cheap tree!



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