The Best Time To Buy a Christmas Tree To Save Money

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From groceries to gifts, global supply chain issues are serving up grave hurdles to retailers — and in turn, shoppers — this year, making this holiday season a somewhat chaotic one. Alas, even Christmas trees have not been spared. Due not only to the same supply chain and shipping obstacles clogging up other industries, but also to climate-related disasters such as drought and heatwaves, a Christmas tree shortage is upon us

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The American Christmas Tree Association strongly recommends that consumers in the U.S. shop for their tree early this year, as chances are high that limited stock will sell out fast. Even artificial Christmas trees are going to be hard to come by given that the U.S. supply chain is overwhelmed with increased demand for goods, materials and transportation. And what consumers can get their hands on will be mighty expensive given the astronomical cost of shipping this year.   

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Experts Say To Shop Early for Christmas Trees

With prices for Christmas trees bound to skyrocket, it’s important that consumers carefully time their purchases in order to get the best deal. Expert advice strongly points to getting one earlier rather than later. 

“For fresh cut trees, inventory is certainly tight,” said Alison Caldwell, horticultural buyer at Hicks Nurseries. “I have placed my orders earlier than ever this year to secure what we need for the upcoming holiday season.”

Caldwell added that the real tree shortage isn’t entirely a new thing. 

“I believe we are still feeling the impact from the economic downturn in 2008 when hundreds of thousands of trees didn’t get planted which now would be reaching harvesting size,” Caldwell said.   

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How Soon Is Too Soon?

Though getting one earlier than later should save you some money, there is such a thing as buying a real Christmas tree too early.  

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“For a real Christmas tree, you need to find that ‘sweet spot’,” said Kyle Tobin, founder of Christmas Lights Toronto. “You can’t be too early (or your tree could be down to the bones when Christmas arrives), but you can’t wait too long. If you do, you’ll be paying more and the tree lots will be packed [with buyers].”

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Store Until Ready To Decorate

If you want to get a solid deal on a tree (and ensure that you get one in the first place), your best bet is to buy it ASAP and store it until you’re ready to set it up and decorate it. You can in fact do this with a real tree.

“For a fresh tree make sure there is a fresh cut at time of purchase, and place it directly into a bucket of water, stored out of the sun and wind in a cool location,” Caldwell said. “The garage is a perfect spot.” 

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

Alternatives To Consider If Fresh and Artificial Are Too Pricey

“Try a Plywood Tree if you can’t find a live tree or if a new artificial tree isn’t in the budget this year,” said Susan Maloney, professional home management blogger at “For a modern Christmas tree alternative, this tree is fashioned from sheets of birch plywood with stars carved off. There are plenty of additional alternatives online if you search for ‘plywood Christmas tree patterns.'”

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Helpful: From Airfare to Gifts to Your Tree, How To Save on Every Aspect of Holiday Spending

How To Keep Your Fresh Tree in Great Shape All Holiday Long

Stew Leonard’s tree experts recommend buying a fresh tree that is 1 foot shorter than your ceiling to allow enough room to top the tree with a star or angel. Additionally, they highlight the following tips:

  • To check freshness, remove a needle and bend it in half.  If the needle gives but doesn’t snap, the tree is fresh. 
  • Before taking your tree home, get a fresh cut of at least ½-inch to 1-inch to eliminate the heaviest build-up of sap and make sure it has full bark so it is easier for the tree to take up water in the stand. Also, make sure to get the bottom branches trimmed to allow for at least 6-inches of the trunk to stand comfortably in the tree stand.
  • Customers should never shave the bark off their tree; the tree actually “drinks” through the bark. Stew’s tree experts also recommend adding Stew’s Miracle Tree to the tree stand, which is a special formula developed with their growers that replenishes the tree’s nutrients immediately. Simply fill the tree stand with one part Stew’s Miracle Tree and two parts warm water.  
  • When you get home, place your tree away from a heat source and direct sunlight and keep your tree hydrated with plenty of water. This is especially important for those putting their tree up earlier this year.

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About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.

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