Frugal Christmas: Decorating

I have gone from one extreme to another when it comes to holiday decorating, especially for Christmas.  When my boys were young I went overboard, way overboard.  Every inch of my home would be scrubbed then decorated from the front door to the bathroom. I  would take down all my art work and wrap them with holiday paper and ribbons then hang them back up. I quit doing that when I realized the number of trees sacrificed just to disguise a gift, or in my case the added cost to decorate my walls.

The year both my sons were living out-of-state and wouldn’t be with me for Christmas I did absolutely nothing to decorate for the holidays. It was just another day to me without them here. But then I slowly started to add a few things back in with the birth of my grand children.  Most of my decorating today comes from nature, such as painted pine cones, or a few handmade ornaments.

I balk at spending money on items that will only be used for a couple of weeks out of the year at which time will need stored….some where.  So in that spirit, I want to share a few ideas that will cost you next to nothing and give you that holiday feeling around your home.

Starting at the front door.

If I decorate nothing else I like to have something nice on my front door year round.  Here are a couple of ideas I found interesting.

Instead of a wreath, be different. Try this a pair of mittens, and some twigs and pine cones from outdoors would look welcoming on any door. You don’t have to overdo a room to make it feel festive. Just check out My Crazy Quilt life to see this mitten display and more ways to add just a few touches to your rooms for the right amount of decorating.


I couldn’t find the owner of this photograph if you do please share so I can give proper credit.  This involves collecting nothing more than an old rake and a jar of buttons.  What do you think?

rake repurposed

This candy wreath wouldn’t work on my front door as I have direct sunlight hitting it all morning. If you have a protected door or even an interior door that you want to decorate this would be perfect. After Christmas simply take a part and eat.  This comes from a series of 12 posts about Christmas here.

candy wreath

There are plenty of ways to arrange candy canes to create a wreath.  I wasn’t able to find the source on this one as my antivirus software freaked when I tried to link to the website, you have been forewarned if you try.

candy cane wreath

I found this next idea from Ashlee who has a lovely pictorial post on Christmas decorating.

pine cones

Looking for something bigger?  This idea uses wooden letters, but rather than spending the money I would most-likely use cardboard, I have enough of it. :-) You can see the tutorial here.

joy door hanger

Toilet paper rolls can be used in many ways, you don’t have to toss them in the recycling.  Here’s one tutorial you can follow to make a lovely wreath for your door.  If you have a few extras, make a couple of individual petals to hang on your tree.

toilet roll wreath

Okay, let’s move on from the front door, shall we?

Let’s take a look at inexpensive tree decorations now.

If you sew you will have plenty of leftover fabric pieces, many too small to normally use in everyday projects. Here’s one idea from Stumbles and Stitches with a full tutorial that will use up some of those scraps.

patchwork stockings

Do you  have a supply or source for corks?  If you like to decorate with nature corks fit right in. Add a bit of twine and you have yourself a cute tree ornament, or tag for on a gift.  Check out more cork ideas at The Homeless Finch.

cork tree

Want more fabric ideas?  You could use any type of fabric including denim scraps to make these.  Don’t forget that anything small enough to hang from a tree would be cute on a package as well.

source flicker

source flicker

  Do you have a collection of Christmas cards? Why not repurpose them into cute little ornaments. I found this at Better Homes and gardens.  Check out other ideas here.

handmade ornaments

If you didn’t use up all your pine cones yet, why not glue a few tiny pom poms on some and hang them on your tree?

pinecone and pom poms

I do love Charlie Brown!  I grew up watching A Charlie Brown Christmas, yes it really is that old, and so did my children.  Now my grandchildren get to enjoy the program.  I found an easy tutorial on how to make these cute ornaments from felt, but they are also available at Jessica’s Etsy store.

charlie brown christmas

You may remember that last year around this time I had changed out the last of my incandescent light bulbs, took them apart and used them for ornaments.  This tutorial doesn’t involve taking them apart which makes this ornament easier to make.

lightbulb ornament

I don’t happen to have dominoes on hand, but if I did I would be very tempted to make a couple of these cute ornaments. This tutorial is easy to follow, you will be a pro after a couple. :-)

domino ornament

I hope I’ve given you some inspiration to DIY your Christmas decorations this year.  I’ll be back next Monday with more Christmas ideas to help you stay way under budget this year.

If you have a tutorial you would like to share for gifts or decorations let me know at loisfield12 at yahoo dot com.

45 thoughts on “Frugal Christmas: Decorating

  1. Pingback: Christmas Crafting | Winter Owls

  2. I loved all the wonderful ideas. I always made lots of stuff from pine cones and stuff I found in nature and I have so much in my Christmas storage. Haven’t bought anything in YEARS! Last year I tried my hand at embroidered snowflake ornaments. I’ll give it another shot this year as I use them on gifts as embellishments. Sewed lots of soft ornaments for the bottom of the tree when little ones were around and finally passed them on. Each year brings a different needs.


    • I love a tree that has memories of where each ornament came from. They may not make the cover of fancy magazines but those are the trees that have real meaning and are more beautiful than some flashy decorated tree and home. Will you be putting up your tree and all your decorations this year? I have cut way back on what I put out. My favorite touch is one or two red poinsettia plants set about. I was always told they would die after Christmas, but last year mine continued to thrive, although the flowers had fallen off. I wanted to see if they would bloom this year until a certain puppy destroyed them. Thankfully he didn’t try to eat the plant, only play in the dirt. :-)


      • My poinsettia is still going strong with new green but I don’t see any flowers. Because I have the kids and some other family, I still decorate for the holiday. I do it mostly for myself because it’s my favorite time of the year. I have a fake tree I got at a thrift store so I don’t have to worry about it catching the apt building on fire. I’ve collected my ornaments for the last 25 years but have given away many of my decorations. Still trying to build a community here so I try to stay festive. I try to make new memories each year as long as we have them. Have a good Thanksgiving. Hugs, M


        • Marlene, I used to love decorating for the holidays, but I think I over did it so much that I lost the love for it. I still pull out a few decorations but have passed on my lights as I decided to quit using electricity for my holidays. I read an article on how much more electricity was used for all the holiday decorating and knew I couldn’t be a part of it any more.

          I like that you still look to make new memories and you are trying to build a community where you are.


  3. I really should read the comments, first!
    EcoCatLady – when our kittens were young, we tied the top of the tree to a hook in the ceiling in case they decided to climb it :o We never actually saw them do so, but you never know… a couple of glass baubles got broken because the (large!) dog wagged in the tree, though, his beautiful plumed tail just swiped them right off! We also had to be careful of the tea/coffee cups on the coffee table because his tail would drape through the cups if we weren’t :O He just loved to be with folks!
    Lois, are you familiar with Advent? We don’t have Thanksgiving but we do enjoy the 24 days up to Christmas, and especially the Sundays (with cake!) even though we aren’t religious. Lots of candles! It’s a nice time to be with family and enjoy the season and then Christmas for us is also a thanksgiving sort of celebration, just with a few fun gifts exchanged, lots of love and laughter, always!!


    • How funny!! I guess we all learn to work around our pets. My son barely had his tree up last year because the Golden Retriever puppy kept knocking things off just like your dog.

      Yes, we have advent here. I’m not religious but liked to use it as a countdown to Christmas for the children, it sure saves answering the question “When is Christmas?” I’ve never done much for advent other than a calendar with a few token gifts. Besides cake, how do you celebrate advent?


      • LOL it’s not so much cake as getting the family together for brunch on Sundays or having them over for tea/Christmas sweet specialities (biscuits AND cake!), for example, or making a point of having friends over or meeting them. There are Christmas fairs or markets during Advent, the local community sets up candle-dipping stations, 24 families each create one decorated window in their houses so you can take a stroll around and see the windows and if there’s a jug in there, it means you’re welcome to come in for hot tea and snacks… On Dec. 4th we bring in a small branch from a fruit tree that will bloom indoors, we usually buy or receive either an amaryllis bulb or poinsettia for the season, set aside time to make decorations together, bake, make cards or wrap gifts, watch a special movie. Special Christmas concerts or shows at theatres, in public or in churches around this time, too. Our gym class teacher brings in a bag of mandarine oranges on Dec. 6, St. Nicholas’ Day, to share out – the children receive bags of nuts, fruit and chocolates wrapped in shiny wrappers for this event, often handed out by St. Nicholas (or Santa) with his assistant Schmutzli (the “dirty” one who represents the bad and carries a switch…), often leading a donkey! So although Christmas is “big” and important, it’s more about seasonal activities. A lot of families keep the actual day (24th, here) quite low key – a simple real tree (put up on 23rd at the earliest!), hardly any cards, a table decoration, small token gifts and a nice meal (not turkey). It’s the company that is important!
        (Sorry this got so long – you asked… ;o)


        • Don’t apologize for this being long, I loved every bit of it. You have my head spinning on ways I could incorporate a few of these ideas into our celebrations. I especially like the way you celebrate St. Nicholas day with the children receiving bags of nuts, fruits and chocolates. My grandchildren would love this more than toys. :-) As the home that is vegetarian, the little ones love to peek into my pantry to see what foods they could ask to try that they don’t get at home. A few mom and dad have decided to buy them once knowing they would eat it. My grandson found split pea soup to be a favorite, and my granddaughter now loves sunflower seeds.

          I agree with you in that Christmas should be about the season and the activities that could be planned throughout, not just the one day so many celebrate. Thank you for sharing your holidays with me.


  4. (Sorry, I am catching up backwards, here!)
    More wonderful inspiring and free ideas – and most I have never seen before (which is saying something ;o). Thankyou!
    We don’t often find regular sugar candy canes here but there are packs of plastic ones to hang on trees which didn’t cost much – they would be ideal to make these things you show. Great idea.
    I particularly liked the mitten decoration. As I knit, I have just the pair of cabled mittens I could use – I was planning on doing a simple cranberry heart for my door and the mittens are a great addition :) with a nice ribbon bow and a small “Merry Christmas” ornament that is in my collection! Yay.


    • Swiss Rose, it’s good to know when you stop by you aren’t reading material you have already seen before.

      With global markets I am surprised you don’t have real edible candy canes. We have so many varieties here, there’s the original peppermint and now boxes of fruit flavored ones, coffee flavored etc.

      Good to know you found a couple ideas you would like to try, I’m sure the mittens with cranberries will be lovely, hope you share it when it’s finished.


    • Jen, I too very much like that rake idea. Finding that rake done up for the door reminded me to look to upcycle and save everything. If even a broken rake can get new life pretty much everything can. :-) The pom poms would be a great afternoon project with the little ones who love to see what we will do next with the pine cones they collect.


  5. I, too, used to decorate all over the house. I had boxes and boxes of decorations. I would pack up all my normal stuff and replace with with holiday decorations. And do the reverse after the holiday. It would take me a few days. I was working full time then. I don’t know how I found the time. Over the years I got tired of the process. No one else seemed to enjoy it but me and by the time I got to the holiday – I was tired. Now, of course, all the holidays have become less in all regards because my mom is in Assisted Living and can’t make it home for holidays … a fact that makes me sad and dampens my enjoyment of these events. My focus is on being with her and not on how my house looks. I look forward to the holidays just “being over.”

    Maybe, like you, I will get more enthusiasm when I have grandchildren.

    I enjoy very much checking out all the options you have shared.


    • Hello. Elaine. How are you?

      Yes, I was the same way. although now that my children are grown they have told me how much they loved Christmas time because of the time I put into decorating. They have told me it kept them excited for weeks and took some of the focus off the presents they would receive.

      Even when I decorated the entire house, it didn’t look traditional. I used only blue lights, would change out curtains for heavier one in blues and reds (which were the two dominant colors of Christmas to me). I would add pops of color everywhere, even in the children’s bedrooms along with small trees throughout the house.

      I’m glad to know they appreciated the work, but if they want it now they can replicate it in their homes as I am done. ;-)

      I’m sorry your mother is in assisted living. Is she close enough that you can be with her on Christmas?

      When my grandmother went into a nursing home I wanted to bring her out for Christmas, my grandfather wouldn’t allow it. He said she would never go back and it would hurt him more to see her pain at returning. Knowing that my boys and I took the time to decorate her portion of her room and make it festive. We even found little things we could wrap for her to open each day between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was usually something consumable so as not to clutter up her room, but ended with something practical or special, whether it was a new top or an inexpensive piece of jewelry (we always had to be aware of possible theft).


      • Yes she is close. About 30 minutes away. I visit her about 4 time a week. We would love to bring her home for holidays but I have 20 steps into my house and she can’t climb even one. So the holidays are hard in assisted living because many resident are limber enough to go home for a visit.

        Still we try to make things merry for her, having the main meal with her at assisted living. This year we will go early on thanksgiving to watch the parades as well.


        • Elaine, I am glad she is close by. I was about the same distance from my grandmother. Thank goodness gas prices were cheap then. I begged my grandfather to let me take her out to shop for gifts, or just to take her out to eat, but he was terrified she would be reminded of all the things she lost and refused to let me. We did spend a lot of time with her and did what we could, including taking our Christmas to her. My boys were in their early teens at the time, so we packed up their gifts, the meal, everything and then celebrated with her.


  6. I want to make that first candy cane wreath right now! I just love how it works so well. Not that I didn’t like the other ideas, but that one captured my imagination. I might just make it. I want to try to make a gingerbread house by myself this holidays – though I saw kits in the store for as little as $5. I won’t cheat – I like baking, and it’ll be a challenge!


    • Sarah, I’m sure you can find the candy canes out already. If I were to pick one of the two that is the one I like as well. My family doesn’t care for the mint candy canes, preferring the fruit flavored ones, so I plan to make one in multi-colors, After Christmas I’ll send it home with the children and let everyone enjoy eating it.

      I have never been great at making Gingerbread houses, I tried a kit both times. Not sure if it’s just cheap ingredients, but all I made was a mess and couldn’t get them to stay together.


  7. I really like the mitten idea. In the past I usually just stick some greenery, dried hydrangeas and dogwood branches that I’ve cut – in whatever pots are still on the porch from the summer. I’m not sure I’ll even bother with that this year. I might hang a wreath outside. My mom always makes me a wreath with some branches that she cuts from the property.


    • Heidi, it seems my favorite, the mitten idea, is a favorite of everyone. I can just see a few years down the road everyone copying these ideas and pulling out their extra clothes to decorate. :-)

      How lucky you are to receive a wreath each year from your mom!


  8. We have a pine cone with balls and sequins glued on that my son made in kindergarten that we still have. The pine cone was glued to a spool base for the Christmas tree effect. I really like it and not only just because my son made it, but because it’s quite cute.


    • Live and Learn, that does sound cute. I draw the line at glitter which just gets on everything. Attaching it to a spool is such a good idea. I have plenty of paint here so I think I will dip a few pine cones to display in a bowl on the bathroom vanity for a bit of color this year.


  9. I love all kinds of crafty ideas :-) although I still have enough Christmas decoration, I keep it in mind for when I have less of it, or for when one of my brothers get their own place and need for decoration ;-)


    • Alynia, I had considered that many wouldn’t need these, but then figured some people are just starting out, and some like me got rid of most everything beginning a new phase in life.

      I also find giving a handmade ornament is a good gift idea for those who don’t want or need gifts. If they are small enough they can pack them away with the rest of the decorations.


    • Willowarchway, I think natural decorations are the most beautiful. Having everything buried in snow and the cold I like to have that connection to nature brought inside. Plus, I like the unusual, so I avoid doing what everyone else does such as filling a tree with balls and lights.


  10. I love these ideas, but I must confess that I’ve never actually decorated for Christmas, or any other holiday for that matter. Not having kids it just never seemed like something worth bothering with. Besides, it’s just one more thing for the cats to destroy and/or eat. But I do like looking at other people’s decorations! :-)


    • But that’s half the fun–watching the cats with the Christmas tree. They love hiding under it (and one of them in it) and batting at the ornaments. We have special ornaments for them that we hang on the lower branches that they bat at and take off and chase around the room. We joke that we get up each morning and redecorate the tree after the fun they’ve had the night before.


    • You don’t put up decorations for your kitties to play with? :-) I completely understand not decorating. If there were no small ones around I would simply bring out my winter blankets to drape over the furniture and call it a day. While I have returned to simple touches through the apartment I refuse to use lights, I just can’t justify using up more electricity, but like you enjoy seeing other peoples displays.


    • Oh my… when I was really small we used to get a real tree each year… that was before cats! It all ended rather spectacularly when the cat climbed to the top of the tree and the whole thing came crashing down leaving ornaments, tinsel, pine needles and water everywhere. Plus, we had all of these beautiful silk wound ornaments that my grandmother had made by hand and well… I don’t think they survived that first Christmas with pets. My mother swore us to secrecy since she knew that Grandma would be heartbroken to think of her beautiful handmade ornaments being destroyed. I also remember cleaning up some very, ummm…. colorful and sparkly dog poo after that Christmas!


      • What a Christmas that must have been. ;-( Cat, I can’t recall when artificial trees became so popular. We always had real trees, we picked a day to go out and cut down our own each year. We had one that didn’t like to stay and heard it crash, no assistance from 4 legged-family members, during dinner. From that moment on we had this one hook screwed into the wall that would be used to tie the tree in place.


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