Are the Most Expensive Christmas Trees Worth It?

Glowing Christmas fireplace and living room, with tree, and stockings hanging from mantel by fireplace.
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Americans will drag tens of millions of trees, both real and artificial, through their front doors this holiday season — and most of them will pay more than they did last year. How much more depends on where they get their tree, what kind they get and a variety of other factors. When it comes to Christmas trees, more expensive is sometimes but not always better. Here’s what you need to know.

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Check Out: The Best Time To Buy a Christmas Tree To Save Money

Americans Will Spend $2 Billion on Almost 35 Million Trees in 2021

The nonprofit American Christmas Tree Association (ACTA) commissioned Nielsen to gather data on the big, big business of Christmas trees. When all is said and done in 2021, U.S. households will have spent $984 million on 21.6 million real trees and $1.01 billion on 12.9 million artificial trees.

As you can see, artificial trees cost quite a bit more. The ACTA reports that the average cost of a real tree is $46 and the average cost of an artificial tree is $78.

Make Your Money Work for You

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Where You Buy Has a Lot To do With What You’ll Pay

Before you consider whether it makes sense to buy a real or fake tree, or whether it’s worth springing for a more expensive version of either, it’s important to understand that you can save money just by buying it in the right place. It’s never the right move to pay more for a tree that you could have gotten somewhere else for less.

According to the ACTA, here’s how the average cost of real trees varies by purchase location:

  • Home improvement/DIY stores: $44
  • Tree farms: $46
  • Tree lots: $48
  • Garden centers: $53

For artificial trees, here’s what you can expect to pay according to where you buy:

  • Large outlets like Kroger, Target or Walmart: $65
  • Home improvement/DIY stores: $100
  • Department stores: $103
  • Craft/hobby stores: $106
  • Christmas specialty stores: $176

Check Out: Your Complete Guide To Getting Ahead and Saving on Holiday Shopping

Artificial Trees Pay Dividends Over Many Christmases

Now that you know to shop at home improvement stores for real trees and big-box retailers for fake ones, you might be on the fence between the simplicity and beauty of an artificial tree or the charm and unbeatable smell of a real tree. If you’re worried about the environmental impact, the ACTA assures buyers that both have a negligible impact on the planet and global warming.

Make Your Money Work for You

If your chief concern is cost, go with an artificial tree — if you can afford it upfront. Fake trees cost more, but if stored properly they can last for 10 years, according to the ACTA, making them by far the more cost-effective option over the long term. Even a $400 artificial tree pays for itself after just five years.

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Are Pricier Aritificial Trees Worth It?

The problem is that $400 is by no means the ceiling for fake trees. The New York Times released its top picks for 2021 and they range from just under $200 all the way up to $1,800. In most cases, it really is a get-what-you-pay-for scenario.

The pricier models are easier to set up, take down and store. They last longer, they feature more beautiful and brilliant lighting, and on the higher end, they’re incredibly lifelike — although when it comes to Christmas trees, there’s truly nothing like the real thing.

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What About the Different Prices of Real Trees?

Here, too, you can expect to see a whole bunch of different price tags when you shop. Much of it has to do with size — not surprisingly, bigger trees cost more. With artificial trees, more expensive models are generally better, but with real trees, “better” is subjective. Different kinds of trees serve different kinds of purposes.

For example, according to Good Housekeeping, Douglas firs are the fullest but Fraser firs are best for hanging decorations. White firs have the best smell, Scots pine retain their needles the best, and Norway spruces have the best shape.

Read: Where To Get Unique Holiday Gifts Without Leaving Your House

In 2021, Every Tree Will Be the Expensive Tree

If you’ve been paying attention, you’re aware that soaring inflation is making the cost of everything more expensive and clogged supply chains are making everything harder to come by.

Christmas trees are no different.

The ACTA and all the major consumer groups are urging everyone to buy their trees — real or fake — as early as humanly possible. Prices are already higher, and as supplies dwindle and demand rises on the approach to Dec. 25, things could get ugly. Consumer Reports expects the price of artificial trees to rise by 15% — up to 26% in some markets.

The price of real Christmas trees, on the other hand, is expected to rise by no more than 5%. So, if you were planning to buy an artificial tree, you might want to hold off until 2022 and buy a real tree this year. If you’re dead set on an artificial tree, consider buying a used one on eBay, Facebook Marketplace or your local thrift store as a placeholder until inflation subsides.

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About the Author

Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street's investment community in New York City.

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