Budgeting for gifts is a no brainer, but the holiday season is filled with many other expenses that often get overlooked including Christmas trees and decor. According to the National ChristmasTree Association (NCTA), Americans spent a whopping $2.35 billion on tree purchases alone in 2013, which doesn't factor in all the costs of festive trimmings.
From trees to lights to ornaments, decking the halls can quickly add up. Before you get wrapped up in the spirit of the holidays and throw your budget to the wintery wind, review these Christmas tree buying tips to keep your spending in check.
Over 33 million real Christmas trees were bought in 2013, compared to half that in artificial tree purchases. Those who opted for realtrees spent an average of $35 while fake-tree buyers doled out nearly $50 more. On the surface, it may seem like real trees are the way to go given the average price differential. However, their faux counterparts can bring joy to your family for several seasons at a much lower cost in the long run.
The size of your tree is important, both from a space and budget perspective. Typically, bigger trees are more expensive, so measure your space and determine the optimal height and width of your Christmas tree. While the most popular size is between 7 to 7.5 feet, make sure it's 12 inches below your ceiling. This allows room for a tree topper and keeps your space looking proportionate. Consider marking the wall and floor where the tree will be placed to visualize how much space it will consume using masking tape. Hayneedle, an online provider of holiday trees, offers a detailed look at size and width options.
Closely inspect options.
Whether shopping for a real or fake tree, consumers should closely inspect their options before purchase. For the real thing, look for rich green trees that are heavy, fragrant and somewhat moist to the touch. These characteristics are representative of a well-hydrated tree, which is key to freshness and longevity in your home. Fake tree buyers should inspect the symmetry of a tree and run their fingers through the branches -- if the PVC needles end up in your hands or otherwise feel chinsy, this is an indicator that it won't last you many seasons. Keep looking for a better value.
Switch to LED.
Buying the cheapest lights isn't necessarily a money saver; you'll likely have to replace strands in a year or two. Consider LED lights for brighter, safer and longer-lasting strands that also use less energy and keep your electricity bill down. Incandescent lights generate more heat and might increase the risk of fire for real treeowners.
Get discounts on decor.
Holiday decor is at its priciest and likely won't see discounts until the last few days before the holiday. However, that doesn't mean you can't score savings right now. Look for pretty tree baubles at discount retailers like Target where you can find cute pieces like Variety Shape Ornament Set in Bright Copper andHoliday Nutcracker Ornament Set. You can find cheap, unique decor items at thrift stores and antique malls. As for tree skirts, we love Tribal Appliqued Christmas Tree Skirt from One Kings Lane and Pre-owned Vintage Green Holiday Tree Skirt from Chairish.
The Internet is the best place to look for deals on fake trees and you can run quick price comparisons using sites like PriceWatch.com and ShopSavvy. While many retailers may not sell the same specific tree, comparing prices on similar sizes and styles can help you pinpoint the best deals. Don't forget to search for coupon codes to save even more. Sites like CouponSherpa.com make it easy to save on decor essentials from popular home retailers and department stores who sell trees and all the festive trimmings. For example, you can save 25-percent off your order from Macy's, $10 off $75 at Sears or score free shipping plus $5 off your order from Target.
Look for second-hand steals.
Whether moving out of state or simply upgrading or downsizing, there are many reasons people sell their faketrees. This is a great opportunity to snag a second-hand Christmas tree at a super low price. A recent search on Craigslist found an 7-foot pre-lit tree for a mere $60, compared to an average of $200 sold at retailers. Thrift stores like Goodwill are another great place to check for second-hand faux trees as well as sites like eBay. You may even try your luck of finding potential freebie on FreeCycle.org.
Get ready to haggle.
When shopping for real trees at a tree lot, you may have room to negotiate depending on the timing and type oftree you purchase. If you have a soft spot for Charlie Brown trees that have noticeable flaws, point this out to the seller and request a lower price. Procrastinating on your Christmas tree purchase will yield less variety but better prices, since both real and fake tree sellers are eager to rid their floors of inventory as Dec. 25approaches. Finally, fake tree buyers should use TrackIf.com to track the price of their tree and snatch it up when the price drops or request a price adjustment if a sale or coupon occurs after purchase.
Wait it out.
Ultimately, prices on Christmas trees and decor will only get cheaper as the month goes on. The best deals, however, will come after the holiday passes. If you can stand one season without a tree and trimmings or make do with what you have, you can score savings of up to 80 percent on fake trees, lights, ornaments and other trimmings.
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