Is money tight but you still want to add some Christmas decor to your home? You can decorate in budget-friendly ways and still have a beautifully decorated home! Click to see cheap and creative ways to do it! If you especially like cabincore, rustic, and farmhouse styles, these ideas are right up your alley!
Updated: December 3, 2021
Christmas Decorating When Money is Tight
When Christmas season rolls around, it feels like money is flying out the window. I mean, just roll it on down and start tossing out those dollar bills. Food, presents, activities, decorations… there’s just so much money being spent. It’s one thing if you have it to spend, but a whole different game when you are on a shoe-string budget.
First of all, we all know Christmas is more than just the marketing and materialism and physical possession. That’s first. It’s about Jesus and the fulfillment of God’s enormous plan to save the world. It’s about family. Making memories. And none of that has to do with money. So this is not about pointing you in the wrong direction or heaping guilt if you are in a tight spot financially.
But on the other hand, I’ve definitely been in the position when Christmas felt a little depressing because I didn’t have money at the time for those little splurges that add some sparkle. I’ve been in both positions, and current situation – well, as a SAHM who hasn’t gone back to work yet, we are probably on the tighter end of the spectrum. And while that’s sometimes difficult and often annoying, it’s pressed all the creative buttons in my brain to help me find ways to enjoy our life, enjoy our home, keep food on the table in sometimes out-of-the-box ways.
Christmas is no different.
Budget-Friendly Christmas Decorating Ideas to the Rescue
So this year is our first year in our forever house – not a mansion, but it is more than enough room for our family, in an area that we love, so, we’re not leaving. I brought a bunch of Christmas decor from our tiny house in NY, but to be honest, it really only goes so far in a house that’s bigger. Last year, we closed on our house on December 3rd, so we just kind of threw up Christmas decorations in the middle of unpacking.
This year, I’m aiming to be a little more thoughtful and create the rustic, farmhouse look I’ve been dreaming of for years. You know, that cabincore look for all the warm and cozy feels. So how do you do that when money is tight? Can your Christmas decor be both stylish and frugal?
The answer is yes, and I’m going to share how I’m doing it.
First, I want to set out realistic expectations. When your budget is limited, you may not be able to pull off every single look you love on Instagram. That’s OK. You can add pieces little by little over the years.
But honestly? Even on a tight budget, you can come pretty close.
So here’s how I’m making that happen in our house.
Inexpensive & Frugal (& Creative) Ways to Decorate Your House for Christmas
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1| Take inventory of what you have (and don’t be afraid to repurpose)
What Christmas decorations do you already have at home? Even if you don’t like it, you can repurpose it. Think about ways you can chalk paint ornaments or bowls, baskets, and containers. Do you have faux greens and flowers you can separate? Are there things you put on the tree that you can use somewhere else? Think about what is salvageable among what you have. And, it may need to make do for a few years until your budget expands. Totally OK.
This is really helpful if you are a no-waste family. I’m sure you have materials around the house you can re-use for decor.
Below is a picture of some berry stems I got from Dollar Tree. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with them, so I took them apart to make a garland for my light fixture (while I’ll be repurposing and updating this spring!)
Below is a picture of a crate I was using outside but didn’t really have a place. I had a Christmas hanging but nowhere to hang, so I took it apart and filled up the crate. Win-win.
Here is more of the same stems but in a galvanized bucket I usually keep on the porch.
2| Use cross-over fall decor
Before you totally switch out your fall decor for Christmas decor, what can you use for both? Things like pine cones, red berries, jars, vases, branches, picture frames are all things that can be adapted from fall to Christmas. What can you fill those jars with? What new printables can you put in picture frames? Are there letterboards or chalkboards you can change over with new quotes and sayings?
Lots of fall decor can work for Christmas decor (and even winter decor after).
Below is a picture of a tree I made for fall, using acorns. I just switched out the acorns and added the red jingle bells – from Dollar Tree for $1.
Here’s another year with ornaments!
This is a candle jar I made that I switched out the popcorn inside during the fall, and for Christmas, I put in pine sprigs, cinnamon sticks and dried oranges.
3| Start placing your items around your house, and then make a list of what you need to complete your look
After you assess what you have in stock, start setting up. You’ll probably change and move things around a million times (hand raised!), but you’ll start to get a feel for how things will look and what you still need to add. Do you need a Christmas picture on a shelf? Or a Christmas tree to sit on the tabletop? Where are there blank space you need to fill with Christmas decor and what do you think you might want to put there?
For inspiration of what you want your home to look like, take a look at these rustic farmhouse Christmas decorating ideas! You’ll find a ton of ideas to inspire!
4| Hit up Dollar Tree, Walmart, and other cheap stores
I’ve found so much success going the cheap route first. I suggest Dollar Tree first because, obviously, it’s usually the cheapest (although Hobby Lobby will probably have better faux greens and flowers for 50% off, for $1 or $1.50, so I’d look there for that kind of stuff first).
Dollar Tree has been amazing for ornaments used for decor, jingle bells, picture frames, wrap, vases, tea lights, candles, candy canes, foam for floral arrangements, ribbon, etc. Start at Dollar Tree, then hit Walmart, Dollar General, Five Below (best prices on scented pine cones I’ve seen).
And there’s always my favorite – Target Dollar Spot. Oh my word, I’m there just about every week and usually pick up something!
On this porch alone, the 2 mini pine trees, the 2 sleds, the skis, the buffalo check buntings, and the mini-wreath are from the Target Dollar Spot (which is available online!). The red ornaments in the jar are from Dollar Tree.
This sign was from Target – and it’s really 8 signs! Four boards, with a different image on each side! That is a killer price! The stems were from Hobby Lobby for $1.50 each.
5| DIY what you can
I usually will go through Pinterest or walk through stores for inspiration (always taking pictures), then see if I can DIY it myself. You can DIY so many much more than decor than you think! If you need some DIY inspiration, you can take a look here – these are some of my favorite rustic farmhouse Christmas DIY projects and many of them are super-easy.
And here are 21 projects I’ve done around my own house for Christmas – these are EASY, FAST, and CHEAP. Most can be done in one sitting, in less than a half hour.
And if you need other types or varieties of Christmas DIYs, here are DIY Christmas Wreaths – classy farmhouse wreaths that are beautiful and original and DIY Scandinavian Christmas Decorations, perfect for minimalists!
But after a while, your brain will just start generating ideas of what you can DIY.
I couldn’t afford that faux evergreen garland and wreaths, so I made my own!
Tutorial for the wreath and dried oranges here!
Here are some stamped books that was a DIY project! So much better than paying for it! And the pail below it is also repurposed. It used to be bright, shiny sparkly red!
6| Use ornaments everywhere
Ornaments are some of the cheapest, easiest, prettiest decor to use if you are low on money. Dollar Tree has a bunch of sparkly ornaments in a package for a dollar. I use them as filler the most, but they also look amazing when you hang them from chandeliers, from windows, even in picture frames.
If you want to try making them yourself, here are 40 easy DIY Christmas ornaments in farmhouse style.
7| Use natural objects
Christmas has a wintery, outdoor feeling to it, so things from nature are a natural fit! You get a lot of bang for the buck from pine cones, which you can dip in paint for a snowy, flocked look. Greens from Christmas tree scraps or pine, cypress, or juniper trees in your yard, the woods or parks also work fantastic! Cinnamon sticks are another natural element you can incorporate. You can also gather up branches and logs to put in buckets or baskets, and those look great too.
I love that fancy, expensive evergreen garland, but it’s just as easy to use real evergreens! For free! Throw in some dried oranges and you have a beautiful display! I also used the cypress branches in the glass bottles, too! I also added some to the glass bowl (which is repurposed as well!).
I used these pine cones for fall. Just switched out the container to a Christmas one (which was part of a gift I received! Free, too!)
Here’s a blend of pine cones and cinnamon, which I mixed with faux berries and some jingle bells!
8 | Wrap boxes to use as decor
This is one of my favorite ways to decorate. What’s easier than wrapping up some boxes? And you can make it even cheaper if you use food boxes – like cereal boxes, pasta boxes, pizza boxes… the possibilities are endless. You can get wrapping paper at Dollar Tree, but even take it up a few notches and get a nice, butcher paper, farmhouse-y paper from Walmart for $3.
Use raffia, jute string, or ribbon to tie them up and add some berries and greens (that’s a great way to re-purpose some old decor you don’t’ really want to use anymore), and it looks amazing! And if you want someother real creative wrapping ideas, take a look at some insanely easy gift wrapping ideas that look amazing!
If you have the right-sized pail or bucket, you can also put rolls of wrapping paper inside for decor as well!
9| Free printables or gift bags in frames
I’m a big fan of free printables – they are so accessible on Pinterest. But you might be like me and your printer spazzes out every other day. My new favorite alternative? Gift bags! There are so many beautiful ones, that look like frame-able to me. You can put them all together as a beautiful vignette!
I got these bags from Walmart and the frames from Dollar Tree! I’m so happy with how they came out!
Free Christmas printables are EVERYWHERE on Pinterest. Below is one I made myself – ‘O Come Let Us Adore Him’ and you can grab the 8×10 free printable here.
I also have very inexpensive printables in my Etsy shop! You can take a look there as well! All 3 prints in the picture below are in the shop!
10| Lights everywhere
Using white lights and candles is a super cheap way to add festive decor. You can get strings of lights at Dollar Tree and just start hanging them around windows, on shelves, through garland – so many ways and places to add lights! Candles serve the same purpose – they just cozy everything up instantly. If you aren’t a fan of candles because of toxicity, you can use battery-powered tea lights and candles, too!
I threw in some battery-powered lights with jingle bells on them into some hurricane vases with Christmas potpourri plus a few battery-powered tea lights and candles!
Here, I used some sparkly garland I had and made wreaths, and just added some lights on the top!
11| Christmas Cards as Decor
Christmas cards are free decor that shows up right in your mailbox. I’m always at a loss for what to do with the cards I get, so they don’t end up just taking up space on the kitchen counter. Using them as decor is the perfect solution! If you need so ideas and inspiration for how to display them, here are 21 DIY Christmas card display ideas – many SUPER easy but really creative (like the one you see below – SO easy!) I’m all about multi-functional decor (advent calendars are also another way to decorate while fulfilling a functional purpose, too!)
12 | Do a Friend Decor Swap
Chances are, you have some decorations you’ve lost interest. And chances are, so do your friends! How about setting up a little Christmas Decor Swap? Even items that might seem outdated can be repurposed and given new life when they are looked at with fresh eyes!
Just the Start of How to Decorate for Christmas on a Budget
I’m just scratching the surface of ways you can decorate on a small budget. Trust me, once your mind starts going in this direction, the ideas will just start coming non-stop. You probably have more on hand than you think you do, and there is so much inspiration out there to get you going.
You can still enjoy the holidays when money is razor-thin. The people around you and the reason for Christmas – Jesus- is what Christmas is truly about. But I admit that a pretty space and cozy decor can help set the mood. Nothing wrong with that either.
And I truly believe our homes should have open doors, especially during the holidays. So many people are alone, and while decor is great, it’s the love and hospitality that will make people feel welcome. The decor is a support to the love and warmth people feel, not an end in itself. So with that in mind, don’t stress if your budget is small. With a little creativity, you can do an amazing job making your home a cozy space to celebrate with everyone you love.
If you want to see the whole 2019 Christmas home tour, you can check it out here! And here’s the 2020 Rustic Glam Christmas Home Tour! Sometimes just looking through others’ ideas can spark some original ones of your own!
Thoughts? I’d love to hear them! Leave a comment below! And I’d love to see what you come up with! Tag me on @100affections on Instagram!