The average adult who purchased Christmas decorations last year in the U.S. paid approximately $55 for them, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation. But savvy shoppers can trim that budget significantly. If you'd prefer to put your holiday funds towards gifts, here are some tips for significant savings on Christmas decorations.
1. Wait Until After Christmas
It might be tempting to buy the latest, greatest holiday decorations early in the season, but the best deals happen after Christmas.
Many stores put holiday items on sale the day after Christmas. As the days go on, the deals can get even better, since these items are extremely seasonal — after all, at this point the average holiday decorator is planning to pack items away rather than add to this season's display.
Big-box stores and chain-based drug stores are great places to get deals after the holiday. As the seasons change, the store needs its floor space for other incoming goods, such as garden and patio supplies for spring.
If you do decide to stock up on decor after the holidays, avoid falling into the "on sale" trap by making a list of what you're seeking before visiting the stores. Only purchase items on that list if you want to save money after Christmas is over.
2. Take Advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday Deals
The term "Black Friday" was coined in the 1960s as a reference to hand-kept shopping ledgers, where black ink indicated profitability. The day after Thanksgiving was a day when most businesses got to celebrate changing their books from red pen to black. It's now widely accepted that big-box stores unveil their best deals of the year on Black Friday, and open much earlier than normal business hours to promote the event. Deals can be found on everything from holiday decorations to apparel, electronics and home decor. To find the best bargains, subscribe to your favorite retailer's email lists prior to the event or scour the paper for Black Friday ads so you can plan your route of attack.
For those who don't want to battle the crowds at the mall, Cyber Monday is the online shopping equivalent. In 2016, Cyber Monday was the largest online sales day in history, according to Adobe data. Cyber Monday this year looks to be even bigger — more than 56 percent of consumers surveyed by RetailMeNot said that they plan to make a purchase on Cyber Monday, compared with 39 percent last year.
3. Explore Price Matching
If a holiday decor piece you like — such as an artificial tree — costs too much at your favorite store, price matching might be one of the best money-saving solutions. Many well-known stores such as Walmart, Target and Bed Bath & Beyond will price-match a competitor's everyday price or sale price, saving you the hassle of extra stops on your shopping trip. Walmart even matches prices found at online retail sites like Amazon.
It's important to note that Walmart will only match an online retailer's price if both Walmart.com and the online seller have the item in stock and if the item is sold by an actual competitive retailer, not a third-party seller. The other catch is that price matching typically applies to a specific brand or model of a product, and it might be difficult to find the same brand in two unrelated stores. Walmart and other stores also limit customers to one of each item per day — in other words, you probably can't pick up ten strands of outdoor lights via price matching at one time.
Price matching can offer significant savings when used on expensive items, such as holiday trees or outdoor light displays — especially when you can avoid shipping charges or driving great distances by picking up the items locally.
4. Swap Out Incandescent Lights for LEDs
Old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs use more electricity than newer LED lights, a fact that is particularly pertinent around Christmas. The savings can be significant if you switch from large C-9 incandescent light strands to their LED counterparts.
In fact, the Department of Energy estimates that a six-foot Christmas tree lit 12 hours per day for 40 days with old-fashioned C-9 light strands uses, on average, $10 worth of electricity. A tree lit with C-9 LED light strands for the same amount of time uses only 27 cents worth of electricity.
Incandescent mini-bulbs cost $2.74 to operate, according to the same Department of Energy report, but running LED mini-bulbs for the same time costs just 82 cents. The figures are based on 50 C-9 bulbs or 200 mini lights per tree.
LED bulbs are also safer than their incandescent counterparts because they do not get as hot when lit. LED strands can be plugged into one another in the same wall outlet without overloading the circuit, since they draw relatively little power.
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5. Remember That Coupons Count
You might not find coupons specifically for seasonal decorations, but stores — such as chains like Michaels and Bed Bath & Beyond — offer weekly coupons ranging from 10 percent to 80 percent off any one item. The coupons are offered in print form on sales circulars and digitally via the company's website.
Always read the fine print on weekly coupons. Some coupons are good even on sale items, though larger discounts are often valid only on non-sale items. Michaels also frequently offers coupons good for specific items, such as wreath forms, ribbons or picture frames. These deals are excellent ways to save on supplies for DIY Christmas decorations.
Coupons.com savings expert Jeanette Pavini recommends checking manufacturer and retail store websites to find additional holiday coupon deals. You should also check out their social media pages and visit Coupons.com for the latest offers.
"Look for coupons on Coupons.com for the stores you want and their competitors," Pavini said. "You can always bring in a competitor's ad to match the coupon offer."
6. Learn to Make Your Own
Making your own Christmas decorations offers you the opportunity not only to save money but also to flex your creative muscles. If you aren't sure what to make or where to begin, sign up for a free decoration-making workshop at your favorite local craft store. Michaels, for instance, hosts free classes on the Saturdays leading up to Christmas. Learn how to make festive ornaments, mini trees and other holiday decorations.
To participate in the Michaels classes, you might need to purchase the base of craft, such as a clear ornament or a wreath form. However, the store takes care of the add-on materials and everything else needed to complete the project.
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7. Use Items You Find Around the House
Save the most money by spending little or nothing at all — by repurposing Christmas decor from items found in and around the home. Even if a few craft supplies are needed to finish the project, the cost is still minimal. You can string garlands of popcorn, collect pine cones, or even reuse strands of ribbons from recycled gifts. Glitter and spray paint goes a long way in spiffing up items these household items.
"A big trend is rustic decor," Pavini said. "There's a lot you can do by bringing the outside in. Find some pine cones or fallen branches, tie a ribbon [on] or spray paint [it] a festive color, and it's a simple, on-trend decoration at a low cost."
8. Use Deal-Sharing Sites
Deal-sharing sites, such as Slickdeals.com and Savings.com, aggregate discounts, coupons and deals in real time, displaying offers for both online and brick-and-mortar stores. These sites come in especially handy in the weeks leading up to Christmas, as they can help you determine where to find the best deals on lights and artificial trees without searching through loads of flyers or store websites.
To find deals, enter a search term such as "Christmas" or "Christmas decorations" into the search box on either site. Click on any individual deal that shows up. Some results will be limited-time sale offers, though others will be coupon codes to use at checkout on a store's website. Turning to deal-sharing sites is just one of many online shopping hacks that will save you money.
Pavini said you could even earn money as you are hunting for holiday decor deals. "If you find a code elsewhere that Coupons.com doesn't have, submit to their Savings Guarantee, and they'll pay you $25," she said.
9. Go Thrift Shopping
Many of the best deals are not found in traditional big-box stores. Thrift stores often offer an abundance of holiday decorations and crafting supplies — especially if you shop months before the Christmas season. Consignment shops that carry home decor can also be good sources of Christmas items. Some independent resale shops will even offer cash or store credit when you trade in unwanted items, resulting in more money to spend on seasonal decor.
And a bonus? Popular thrift store chains like Goodwill and Savers also donate a portion of their proceeds to neighborhood nonprofits so you're actually supporting the local community with your purchase. That's a win-win.
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10. Hit Up the Garage Sale or Host Your Own
You know what they say: "One man's trash is another man's treasure." Yard sales are a great way to earn some quick dough if you're feeling a little strapped for cash this holiday season. Simply clean out your closet, gather up your unwanted items, set a base price and get to marketing. Hang signs around your neighborhood and promote your best items on Facebook and Craigslist. To make payments easier, you'll likely want to accept credit cards so consider using apps like Square or Venmo.
If you're interested in seeking out treasures of your own, you can proactively search for yard sales in your area on sites like gsalr.com. Just enter your zip code, and the site will aggregate all the upcoming sales in your neighborhood.
11. Scour Craigslist
Craigslist is another treasure trove for finding local goods and services. The modern-day version of the classifieds, you can scour ads for everything from jobs to housing. Do a site-wide search for "holiday decorations" or "Christmas ornaments" to see what people are giving away or selling. A popular source for those moving or remodeling, cover all your bases by checking the free, barter and for sale sections, as you never know what people will part with cheaply.
12. Use Neighborhood Listing Apps
There are dozens of apps available to share, swap and sell stuff to people in your own neighborhood. The benefit of selling locally is alleviating the hefty shipping fees for buying and selling items online. A few suggested community marketplaces are Carousell, letgo, SocialSell, OfferUp and Nextdoor. All allow you to quickly snap a few photos of your items, create a listing and securely message between buyers and sellers.
"You can use sources like Nextdoor to find holiday decor that's slightly used or even brand new from your neighbors who have over-purchased or are moving," said Pavini.
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13. Properly Store Your Decorations for Reuse
Properly storing your Christmas lights and ornaments is both an art and a science. When the holiday is over, the lazy will simply toss everything into a box in the garage, but this risks breaking ornaments and bulbs and leaving light strands hopelessly tangled in knots. By taking a few extra minutes at the end of the season to properly store your Christmas cheer, you not only save yourself time next year, but also minimize the risk of needing to buy new decorations.
If you don't want to invest in an ornament storage container, you can make one with a variety of items you find around the house. Good Housekeeping suggests using an egg carton or plastic apple containers to separate breakable ornaments. The goal is to find something to use as dividers so the glass ornaments don't chip when they accidentally knock into each other.
There are a number of hacks to store Christmas lights, as well. Martha Stewart suggests wrapping light strands around flat cardboard or paper towel rolls. Cut slits in the cardboard and secure with zip ties. You can also recycle items like Pringles cans for storage and reuse tissue paper or bubble wrap for safekeeping.
14. Switch to an Artificial Tree
It's the dilemma of the season: You love the smell of fresh pines, but you know real Christmas trees are both messy and generally bad for the environment, since the majority ending up in landfills after the holiday season. Plastic trees are generally less harmful to the earth if kept for at least nine years.
According to the American Christmas Tree Association, artificial trees pay for themselves in just two years. The average cost of a real tree is $46 and the average cost of an artificial tree is $78. You're not only saving money but doing your part to save the planet.
15. Plan an Ornament Swap
An ornament exchange is a fun way to keep your decor looking fresh without spending a dime. Invite your best friends and colleagues over and ask each to bring a wrapped ornament up to a specific dollar value. Upon arrival, each guest is randomly assigned a number. That number is the order in which they will choose their gift, white elephant style. When it's their turn, they can either pick one of the wrapped presents or steal one that has already been chosen.
It's a great excuse to get your girlfriends together, so make sure you have seasonal bites and drinks to entertain.