MY FAMILY IS FRUGAL all year long, even during the Christmas season. We’re modest with our gifts and sparing with our decorations. Each year, our sprucing up consists of one cut-your-own Christmas tree trimmed with the same ornaments we used the year before. I can’t say the same for our neighbors. They pull out all the stops to create a seasonal spectacle.
There’s no need to take a long, cold sleigh ride to the North Pole to scope out Santa and his companions frolicking in snowy splendor. A short drive around my neighborhood reveals reindeer prancing across lawns and elves dancing in doorways. Santa himself strolls among candy canes or climbs down the chimney with a sack full of goodies. Strings of lights festoon trees, fences and eaves. It’s just as well Mrs. Claus stays home on Christmas Eve. She would be holly green with envy if she could see the dressed-up digs around here, and Santa’s wallet would be a lot lighter.
I’ve never been tempted to follow suit before. But this year, I decided to see what all the fuss is about—and how much it costs to be fussy.
With that in mind, I sat down one evening for some e-commerce on the computer. As a Noël novice, I know I can’t compete with the decorating doyens right out of the starting gate. I just hope to raise our neighborhood standing a couple of notches by adding a little more Christmastide curbside appeal.
Icicle lights for the eaves at $24 a strand seemed like a painless beginning, until I realized I needed five to span the distance. Holiday necessity also demanded a $24 single strand for the rest of the roof, along with seven lighted green garlands for the porch columns at $40 each. The house will be well lit for just $424.
I can’t leave the windows without the Christmas treatment. Some $320 would put a cheery wreath in 12 of them, plus $65 to dress up the front door. Total so far: $809.
Our newfound Christmas image is incomplete without a three-piece, lighted family deer set for $240. And for $53 more we’ll have a candy cane pathway coaxing visitors toward the front door. These additions make the outdoor bedecking complete for a mere $1,102.
Once inside, guests will find our messy tree farm specimen replaced by a pre-lit, “real feel” full Downswept Douglas fir. It’s a bargain at $435.98, marked down from $799.99. Extension cords, assorted holiday gewgaws and taxes take the decorating total close to $2,000. And, no, that doesn’t include the 10-foot-tall inflatable, Santa-garbed Grinch.
Let’s face it, for that much green, we could abandon our parsimonious habits and get downright decadent with our gift-giving. Or we could motor over to the next state and marvel at some world-class Christmas glitter.
Tempting as those merry visions may be, I think it’s safe to say we aren’t joining the Joneses in their festive illuminations this year. We’ll just take our usual leisurely drive around town to appreciate their exertions from the cozy comfort of our warm car. While my wife and daughter ooh and ah, I’ll try to hide my glee over the time and money I didn’t spend-–yes, my first two initials could stand for Ebenezer you-know-who.
Meanwhile, to pick out our Yuletide centerpiece, we’ll squeeze into the cab of the old pickup truck and head over to our favorite Christmas tree farm. Once there, the hardest task is choosing the almost perfect tree. The easiest is paying $35, which includes a complimentary cup of hot cocoa. Then, it’s home to hang the trimmings, with holiday music playing in the background. Christmas spirit? That’s all I need.
I broke down and bought a fake tree (after the holidays a few years ago) because the real ones no longer have any scent! Why is that?! Oh, and I I bought many strings of led lights after Cmas for 1$ a piece. Same old ornaments—most have a story.
We put up lights in the shape of a tree on our inside slider door where from a distance it looks like a lovely real tree. Frugally festive!
I did that in my very first apartment.
I put the same modest outdoor decorations up every year, because I want to make a small contribution to the holiday spirit on my street. A string of lights frames my small porch, a candle sits in each first floor window, and a wreath hangs from my door. Their cost was recovered many years ago. No flashing lights, inflatables or sound. I get repaid every year with smiles from my grandkids and my friends. (My indoor decorations also pretty much stay the same, and most ornaments on my tree have a story associated with them.)
Bah Humbug!! 🙂
Each year I do less and less. I think I will limit myself this year to one wreath I make myself from boxwood and holly growing in my yard!
I may pitch that idea to the family next year!
It’s a lot of fun . Last year we made three wreaths . I also oven dried thin slices of oranges to use as wreath decorations and had cinnamon sticks too. My daughter made a wreath of laurel and berries from our yard- her’s was the most beautiful.
I don’t put lights up any higher than I can reach with a 6 ft ladder. We have one lighted snowman in the front yard. That’s it. For me it’s more about the hassle factor. I don’t have the energy or patience anymore for putting up and taking down elaborate displays. I’ll leave that to the families with young kids. What I really get a kick out of are the various “Christmas wars” decorating shows on channels like HGTV. No thanks!
I like the big displays—in someone else’s yard.
Edmund, don’t forget the installation costs on top of those prices. Can you really imagine your 60- or 70- + year-old self outside, trying to maintain balance on a rickety old extension ladder, or (heaven forbid!) climbing around on your 10/12-pitched roof to install X-mas lights!? I sure as heck can’t, and I’ve always been a DIY- kind of guy. And if *you* can, I might suggest laying off that fruit cake and spiked eggnog, until your head clears and your senses return. You’re welcome!
I can imagine myself up that ladder, but I assure you my wife can not.
Hi, this is Chris. You must have chosen some of the most expensive decorations to feature in your post? We are frugal and have been doing the outside decorations for over 10 years now. We first started doing when it was the Great Recession and we got some really cheap lights, figures, etc from the after Christmas sales. Some of the figures we still use today. We started with several things, and added a few things yearly until we got the look we liked, then quit buying, other than to replace. We always bought what was available cheap at after Christmas sales or yard sales in the summer. LOL! We switched over to LED lights one year when we found a good deal. Spouse has also repaired things that they could. Our splurge one year was a long string of GE programmable chaser lights used in our picture window. Spouse bought in 2011 for $75 and they finally gave up the ghost this year, so we got our money’s worth from them. And spouse had found a replacement several years ago for cheap at the after Christmas sales, so we had another one to use. We put our Christmas lights up this past weekend. We have gotten so much joy from them through the years, and so many memories too. I wish I could post a picture so you and the other HD folks could see them.
I need your help with my shopping!
Some people may call you Scrooge, I call you sensible.
Christmas has descended into plastic and hot air. I have to admit though I did buy one of those $700 life like trees – just more practical when we moved to a condo, but we are on the fourth year using it and the lights were included.
This Fall I added up the cost of massive decorations for Halloween on the lawn of a house nearby. It included ten foot tall monsters. The total was about $5,000.
I may plunk down money for an artificial tree eventually, but that’s currently considered sacrilege in my household.
I spent almost my entire life in the Pacific Northwest. Having an artificial tree was NOT an option. Now that we’re in Arizona, I purchased a fake tree last year (with pre-attached lights). I have to say, it’s way easier to care for. The only thing I don’t like is the amount of space it takes up in storage for 11 months out of the year! It looks so real, two of our male dogs occasionally contemplate peeing on it…
You’re right about that storage thing.
I’m wondering if it’s because it looks authentic—or just shows their attitude toward faux fir.🙂
All my life I swore I would never have an artificial tree, but eventually I had to succumb out of necessity. I will say, stand three feet away and you can’t tell it’s not real – except no aroma and no needles on the floor.
I was in the “sacrilege” camp for decades, but I broke down during the pandemic. Still, unlike Big Bucks Quinn, I sure didn’t pay $700!