Festive Decor For Less

Create a festive holiday feel in your home for less

Hosting any kind of holiday gathering means putting up a few decorations to set the mood. If you’ve put off the job until the last minute, or you just have no desire to spend hundreds on an elaborate tree dripping with ornaments, here are some ideas to get you started without emptying your wallet.

Decorate the greenery you already own. Who says your ficus isn’t festive? A strand of LED lights won’t hurt it, and you might not want to take them down. The same goes for any sturdy houseplants – even cactus. Arrange them in a row against a wall for a nontraditional backdrop.

Put your leftover wrapping paper to use. Brightly wrapped books stand in for stacks of presents. You can also line serving trays or even fill empty photo frames with holiday paper. If you’re really crafty, you can create bows, place mats, streamers and even paper trees.

Shine lights through glass. The new strands of affordable, battery-powered LED lights are perfect for coiling inside mason jars, glass vases glass building block cubes or even glass serving bowls. Because the LED strands don’t get too hot, you can incorporate ribbons or other ornamentation.

Raid the yard for supplies. Pinecones and freshly cut sprigs of coniferous trees make an easy mantel drape, table runner decoration or even a tiny tree stand-in. Pinecones are perfect for dipping in metallic paint or dusting with glitter – a great art project for little ones if you have some around.

Make Christmas cards into something special. With nothing but a hole punch, some thumbtacks and a few yards of yarn, you can fashion a meaningful wall or fireplace display from all the pretty cards you’ve gotten. If you don’t have enough cards, fill out your presentation by alternating cards with construction paper snowflakes.

Set a memorable table with kraft paper. Unfurling a roll of this basic brown paper over your dining room table is just the beginning. Kraft paper can be decorated with everything from Sharpies and stamps to glitter and glued-on pages from old books or sheet music. You can even set out piles of crayons for the party. And when you’re all done, just roll up and throw away.

Leave no ornament behind. If you’ve got basic tree decorations that didn’t make the cut this year, dress them up with a little metallic spray paint or glitter. Pile them on a cake stand or inside a glass vase, and voila! Instant centerpiece.

Don’t forget the pillows. You can wrap old Christmas sweaters around pillows and make them look like presents without sewing a stitch, or just tie decorative bows around solid bright throw pillows.

Break out the fancy glassware. Even if you don’t drink from your martini or wineglasses, you can dust the rims with sugar and fill them with colorful holiday candies, then stash them around the house for party wanderers.









Last-minute gifts don’t have to be lame. Unless that’s the idea.

Some people are just hard to buy for. So you wait and wait, until suddenly it’s crunch time. Here are some not-so-lame gift ideas if you find yourself stuck.

Buying for someone who lives to laugh? Raise the everyday humor ante with these titles.

  • You’ll Grow Out of It, by Jessi Klein. The memoir of a tomboy and a late bloomer, from one of Amy Schumer’s head writers.
  • American Housewife, by Helen Ellis. Twelve short stories of women under pressure range from the acerbic to the surreal.
  • I’m Just a Person, by Tig Notaro. The comedian’s personal tale of four months of tragedy has been known to cause laughter through tears.

Need something for that coworker who thinks they’re Wolfgang Puck?

  • Les Moulins Mahjoub Natural Preserved Lemons. Offer to be a taster for new recipes.
  • Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste. Made with Madagascar bourbon. For intense flavor and those telltale “real vanilla” specks.
  • An apron with a measuring cheat sheet on it. Because the metric system is for people with funny accents.

Know an old guy who needs nothing? Maybe you call him your boss. Or “Dad.”

  • A wilderness fire starter. He’s not outdoorsy, you say? Doesn’t matter. Males love fire.
  • A scratch-off map of the world. He’ll be able to tell young’uns all his travel stories with a visual aid for a change.
  • Night Vision Driving Glasses. He’ll feel like a Navy SEAL when he’s going out to get milk after dark.

Passive-aggressive gifts for that woman in your life who gives out backhanded compliments, as in: “That outfit really creates the illusion of a waistline.”

  • A cellulite massager. That is all.
  • An illuminated makeup mirror. Tell her, “I think better lighting will just make all the difference.” Practice saying it with a straight face.
  • A succulent garden containing cacti. Because it’s prickly.

For the children in your life, or just people who live their lives as such.

  • Hatchimals. New for 2016, these spotted “eggs” eventually reveal magical creatures inside.
  • Kinetic Sand. Hours of fun and less messy than it sounds, too.
  • A Buddha Board. It uses water as vanishing paint, like Snapchat for doodlers.

Oh, someone fancies themselves an artist, do they?

  • Twistables Slick Stix: Hard to find in stores, these Crayola twist-ups are a dream combo of crayons, pastels and markers.
  • Dylusions Ink Spray: You could spray them, but most people stencil, stamp and paint to create dynamic transparencies with these waterproof acrylics.
  • Washi Tape: It’s like beauty you can unroll. Washi is an obsession on Pinterest, where crafters use it to mark up calendars, wrap presents and take scrapbooking to the next level.

When you’re last-minute shopping, Amazon Prime and other free-shipping sites can be your best friends, but don’t count out locally owned brick-and-mortar stores for inspiration and unique finds. Just make sure you go in with a list and a plan.

You also might be tempted into grabbing a few things for yourself – just admit it now – but make sure that’s built into your holiday budget, too.



Smart Holiday Gift Giving

Who doesn’t love to be a bighearted Santa at this time of year? Giving nice gifts to your friends and family feels even better than getting gifts (well, most of the time). But equating big hearts with big spending is where we often go wrong.

So how much should you spend on gifts? We can’t give you a specific dollar amount because every budget is unique. However, the average amount spent last year on gifts was $800, and with an average household income of $50,000 you could adjust your spending to your income. But that doesn’t mean that is the correct amount for you. The best plan to is to understand your budget and what you can afford. And, most importantly, stick to your budget.

Here are some ideas to help you rein in your holiday spending.

Make a list and check it twice

Remembering at the last minute that you forgot a gift for Aunt Sue or your boss is a surefire way to bust your budget. Make a list of everyone you want to buy a present for and then make sure you include that gift in your budget.

Buy in advance

You know you won’t find the best deals the week before Christmas, so keep your eyes open for deals year-round. The earlier you start, the more money you’ll save because you won’t be in a rush and you’ll be able to take advantage of sales. And don’t forget wrapping paper. Buy after the holiday and sock it away. Plus, if you’ve done most of your shopping early, you’ll be able to enjoy the season more.

Make ordinary things “presents”

Save up some of the things you would buy for family anyway and put them under the tree. This might include items that are replaced frequently like batteries and shoes, or winter clothing that you might not need at the start of the season. Opening the gift is half the fun no matter what’s inside.

Wrap “family gifts” to add to kids’ presents

The annual family membership to the science museum or zoo, movie or restaurant gift cards, or even homemade coupons for a “Father/Daughter Evening” are expenses you incur throughout the year but are more fun to unwrap as a present Christmas morning.

Cut out the adults

You’re probably not the only one you know who is stressed about finding the perfect gift and, of course, being able to afford it. Sometimes if you’ve been giving presents to each other for years, a little gift-giving hiatus is the perfect gift.