Christmas Already? Ways To Save (Installment 3)

I hope that you’ve found the Christmas posts helpful so far.  Today, I’m going to hit on cards and decorating.  For me, decorating is the little expense that slowly eats into my holiday budget.  A few candles here, a new wreath for the front door, maybe that cute ornament I saw at the craft fair on base.  Next thing I know, I’ve spent all the decorating money and I’m not even done yet!

So, here are my ideas:


  1. Don’t buy cards, just print a Christmas letter on festive paper (which can be found very cheaply sometimes.)  Put in regular envelopes.
  2. As mentioned in the first post, send postcards instead of cards in an envelope.  You’ll save 15 cents postage on each card.  That can really add up, especially if you’ve been a military nomad for years and have over a hundred cards to send.
  3. Send ecards to your tech savvy friends.  Probably not a good choice for some of the older generation, but you can save a bundle this way.  (I know many people won’t like this, including me, but it is a good way to save.)
  4. Pick through the discount cards carefully.  Even at the dollar store, there are beautiful cards and there are cheap looking (and feeling) cards.  If you are going to all this energy, might as well choose the nice ones.
  5. Consider paring down your list.  My family doesn’t give cards to people that we see regularly.  I don’t know why, that is just a line that we’ve drawn. 


  1. Think simple.  You don’t need a three foot waving Santa to make your house feel like it is the holidays.  Also, remember that you don’t have to holiday-ize every room in your house.  The front door area and the living room are probably the areas that will have the biggest impact.
  2. See what you already have, and be creative.  Too many ornaments for the small tree in this house?  Put the extras in a bowl for a snazzy centerpiece.  Tuck in holly leaves or greens for extra pizzazz.  Andi at SpouseBUZZ does a beautiful version – check it out here.
  3. Scour your cupboards for linens that can be put into service.
  4. Wrap your pictures.  Take down a picture, wrap the front in gift wrap, and tie a bow.  Rehang.  Very festive and elegant.  Pictures of a sample can be seen here.  I prefer a more subdued print, but that’s just me.
  5. Bring in the great outdoors.  Trim a nearby holly to decorate a mantle, snip evergreens to wind around your banister.  Bare twigs can make a dramatic display.  Pinecones are perfect – plain, beglittered, or spray painted to fit your decor.  Put them in a basket, a bowl, or a box covered with wrapping paper.
  6. Think produce:  a bowl of apples, or orange, or lemons make a pretty decoration.  Include some cinnamon sticks of you’re feeling crafty.
  7. String popcorn for garland.  This can be very time consuming, so you might want to start now.  After several years of beginning popcorn strands, then giving up, I learned a secret:  you can keep them from year to year.  Just make sure that they are stored very securely to keep unwanted pests out.  Cranberries, or red wood beads, make a nice accent interspersed in the popcorn.
  8. Gather up the random craft supplies that have been cluttering up your closet, and let your kids do the decorating for you.  It might not be your style, but it will be festive, and your children will absolutely love it.
  9. Take a selection of your children’s teddy bears and wrap holiday ribbon around their necks.  If you really want to make them special, gift wrap little boxes to put in the paws.  Group together on a rarely used chair or table.
  10. Purchase a can of gold or silver spray paint and glitz up ordinary objects.  Dried flowers,
  11. Use your lights when you’ll enjoy them.  Electricity is getting expensive.  Turn off the lights at bedtime and don’t turn them back on again until sunset the next day.
  12. Use fragrance to decorate.  A pumpkin scented candle will make the whole house smell like the holidays.  Or, put an apple peel and some cinnamon on the stove and let simmer.
  13. Candles, candles, candles.  This can be a bother to supervise, but candles will really impart a holiday atmosphere.  The children love it, and they think it is very special when you light the candles.

Tomorrow:  The Tree, and Entertaining

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.