11 Festive Ways to Decorate for Christmas on a Tight Budget

You don't have to fork out a fortune to have jolly holiday decor. Our ideas don't cost much, but the holiday spirit they add is priceless.

Updated October 26, 2023
Christmas ornament and pinecone display in jar

When you're on a tight budget, decorating your home for Christmas can be challenging. However, with a little creativity and ingenuity, you can find inexpensive ways to adorn your home and trim your tree without having to stretch your holiday dollars. We detail some affordable ways to make your home merry and bright on a budget. 

Simple Ways to Decorate Cheaply

Christmas decorating on a budget is easier than you think! Use these ideas to make your home festive without costing a fortune.

Family Christmas Photo Display

Since Christmas is all about sharing precious family memories, mat black and white copies of snapshots from past years on red and green patterned Christmas paper and place them in inexpensive silver frames for a personalized display.

Decorate With Ornaments

Use ornaments you have on hand or buy a few boxes at your local dollar or thrift store.

  • Fill bowls or vases with Christmas balls or hang them from a chandelier for instant holiday charm.
  • Hang ornaments from tinsel wrap around your stair railings.
  • Fill low-profile wooden crates with ornaments to place on your mantel or to create a rustic centerpiece for your table
  • Mount Christmas garland around your door frame and tie ornaments to it.
Fast Fact

Another cheap, but meaningful, ornament idea involves cutting up your leftover wedding invitations into strips. Use a pencil to curl the paper pieces and arrange them in clear ornament balls that you snag at a craft store. Add small strips of ribbon or beads to bring some flare and hang them on your houseplants. 

Christmas Card Decorations

Holiday cards add vibrancy and whimsy to your home. Place them across the mantle or attach them to an inexpensive piece of wide red ribbon hung on a wall, door, or kitchen cabinet.

Alternatively, keep your favorite Christmas cards, cut the front images out, and place them together in an attractive frame to create a beautiful Christmas collage. Add a Christmas quote and small embellishments such as buttons, ribbon bows, or silk flowers for a one-of-a-kind piece of holiday artwork.

Make Christmas Crafts With Kids

girl hanging paper snowflakes in window

Children love Christmas, so having them help to make decorations is guaranteed to be a fun activity.

  • Make paper snowflakes or beaded snowflakes to put in windows.
  • Complete free printable coloring pages and hang on doors and in rooms.
  • Use clothespin angels to decorate the tree. Trace around angel cookie cutters on scrapbook paper, glue the cutouts to clothespins, and clip to a rope or ribbon. Add embellishments, like hearts or stars, as desired.
  • Visit your local craft store and find plain, flat wooden ornaments. Then, grab sequins, glitter pens, pompoms, and other craft supplies you have lying around your home to make your own custom ornaments. 

Gift Wrap Decorating Ideas

Incorporate gift wrap and bows into your holiday decorating by using these ideas.

decorative Christmas bow on staircase
  • Gift Wrapped Doors: "Wrap" your kitchen cabinets and doors by taping wrapping paper onto their surfaces. Add ribbon, a sprig of greenery or a bow, and a "do not open until Christmas" tag to complete the look.
  • Holiday Gift Mountain Display: While this might not seem like a great budget-friendly decorating tip, the boxes you use don't actually have to be filled with presents. Just wrap an assortment of various boxes with the prettiest paper you can find. Then, stack the empty boxes in the corner for an instant dose of holiday cheer.
  • Use Festive Bows: Look for a sale at your local craft store, then purchase several spools of pretty velvet ribbon. Tie large bows around your banisters for simple holiday decor that you can leave up throughout the winter season. Cheap, ready-made present bows look pretty stacked inside a crystal bowl or jar as well.

Candlelight Decorations

christmas decoration floating candle in jar with cranberries and greenery

Candles add a touch of romance and sophistication to your holiday decor. They're also very inexpensive and available in almost any color and size you can imagine. Add fresh greenery and cranberries to a fishbowl or mason jar. Cover with water and float a tea light on top.

Also, mirrors make small Christmas centerpieces look bigger, thus giving you added decorating impact for little to no additional expense. They are especially effective when paired with candles.

Decorate With Food

String a garland made of popcorn, stick candy canes on your tree, and make a centerpiece from apples and pinecones. Making edible gingerbread cookie ornaments is also a great activity that's fun for the whole family. Bowls or apothecary jars filled with holiday-colored jellybeans also look festive when strategically placed around the house. Additional ideas include:

Christmas garland made of popcorn and cranberries
  • Peppermint Ornaments: Place green or red (or both) peppermints inside cookie cutters and bake until melted. The result is beautiful peppermint ornaments that you can hang on your tree and throughout your home. You can also hot glue peppermints around the outside of a red or white candle.
  • Clove and Orange Centerpiece: Adding clove studded oranges to a serving tray or basket creates a stunning and deliciously scented centerpiece. For added elegance, add bits of fresh greenery, cranberries, acorns, cinnamon sticks, and other accents.
  • Gumdrop Tree: Cover an inexpensive styrofoam or cardboard cone with gumdrops to make a festive tree. Or cover a styrofoam ball with gumdrops, add a ribbon, and hang it from an entryway for the perfect "kissing ball."

Bring the Outdoors Inside

Let nature help you with your holiday decorating by using items from your yard.

  • Make wreaths and garlands using pine tree trimmings.
  • Fill a basket with pinecones and berries and tie a ribbon around the handle or around the base.
  • Fill a hurricane candle holder with small pinecones or acorns and add a dollar store flameless candle.

Easy Holiday Light Display

Christmas tablescape with white fairy lights in glass jar

Loosely place an inexpensive string or two of colored or white lights into a large metal bucket or basket. Fill with greenery, pinecones, ornaments, and berries. Plug it in for a beautiful display that looks perfect on your hearth or in your entryway.

Nostalgic Ideas

nostalgic teddy bear Christmas decoration

Add a couple touches of past holiday memories with these two ideas:

  • Wooden Sled Display: That wooden sled you have in your shed from your childhood makes a great outdoor display. Simply lean it against your house and add fresh greenery and a ribbon.
  • Stuffed Animals: Chances are, you have a few treasured teddy bears and stuffed animals in your attic or closet. For a nostalgic look, gather them and display the collection on a bench, chair, or under your Christmas tree. Tie holiday ribbon around their necks for added whimsy.

Uses for Holiday Bedsheets

Clearance red or holiday-themed bedsheets can be used as tree skirts and tablecloths. Pillowcases that come with the sheet sets can be stuffed with newspaper and tied at the top with a ribbon. Set them in corners to look like small versions of Santa's sack.

Budget-Friendly Shopping Ideas

When buying Christmas decorations, it pays to spend some time bargain shopping. 

  • Thrift Stores: Even though it may take you a while to sort through the merchandise, thrift stores tend to have a nice assortment of cheap Christmas decorations. Since holiday decorations are only used for a short time each year, most will be in fairly good condition. For the best deals, try to visit stores that are located in the wealthiest neighborhoods in your area.
  • Online Auctions: You can find almost anything on eBay, including Christmas decorations. Just remember to factor the cost of shipping into your final purchasing decision and to buy from sellers with an established track record whenever possible.
  • Dollar Stores: If you're not a regular dollar store shopper, you may be surprised by the selection of holiday decorations. Stores such as Dollar General and Dollar Tree are great places to find inexpensive gift wrap, ribbons, bows, greenery, candles, and Christmas ornaments. They are also a great spot for finding all kinds of glassware, including vases, candleholders, and fish bowls,
  • Estate Sales: When someone dies, their collection of Christmas decor gets picked apart by the family, and then the remnants are sold for a bargain deal. These types of sales can bring the opportunity to get high-end decor for cheap. Look for these events in wealthy neighborhoods to find the best Christmas items.
  • Seasonal Deals: Although it might not seem like much fun to buy Christmas decorations on December 26, this is often when you can find the most impressive bargains. Stores must quickly get rid of all seasonal merchandise, so it's not unusual to find savings of 50% to 75% during after-Christmas sales. However, you'll need to arrive early to beat the crowds and ensure that you have the best selection.

Back to the Basics

You don't have to sacrifice beauty when you decorate your home on a budget. On the contrary, natural botanicals and simple homemade decorations add an elegance and whimsy that you can't find in mass-produced, store-bought items. In addition, when you involve your family in making your decorations, you're creating holiday memories and traditions they'll cherish for a lifetime.

11 Festive Ways to Decorate for Christmas on a Tight Budget