Christmas just isn’t the same without a Christmas tree. When I think about celebrating Christmas while I was growing up, I inevitably remember sitting under the glow of the tree, surrounded by my brothers and sisters and piles of wrapping paper. Now I have the joy of watching my four children in a similar pile of tissue paper and bows in our family home.
The hectic, crazy, hair-pulling stress of the Christmas season always seems worth it when the house is quiet and I’m sipping espresso in front of the lit Christmas tree. But for all it’s peace and glory, the Christmas tree doesn’t always come cheap. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, Americans purchased a total of $1.32 billion of real trees and $854 million of fake trees in 2015, at an average price of $50.82 and $69.38 respectively. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to look for a great deal.
If the idea of using an artificial tree ruins Christmas for you, skip reading the next couple of paragraphs. Some people can’t get over the smell and look of a real tree trimmed for the holidays. Personally, I don’t have the time or energy to deal with pine needles and sap on my hardwood floor and my family uses an artificial tree.
Buying an artificial tree can save you a lot of money. A good artificial tree that is taken care of well and stored properly can last for five years or more. You could spend up to $250 on an artificial tree and you might still save money in the long run because you can use it year after year. But since the NCTA reported that artificial trees cost an average of $70, even being able to use the tree two years in a row will save you money.
For those of you who can’t picture Christmas without the real thing, growing your own Christmas tree is another plan for saving money. My family was fortunate enough to have a small piece of land where Christmas trees grew abundantly. We only had to take a short walk to find a tree the right size. Even if you don’t have property, maybe you have a family member or friend who has the right kind of trees. Ask them if you could cut one down in exchange for planting two new ones in the springtime. Not only will you save money, but you have the opportunity to teach your kids about sustainability and why trees are so important for our environment.
If you have the space for it, consider putting some saplings in your own yard. It can take seven to ten years for the tree to be the right size for a Christmas tree. You could even start a tradition with your kids where you plant new trees every year. One day, they might bring your grandchildren over to pick out one of those trees for Christmas.
Buying an artificial tree saves money down the road but might cost more upfront this year. Growing a tree is very inexpensive, but takes the better part of a decade. If you don’t have friends or family willing to let you cut one of their trees, the next best solution might be to buy directly from a farmer. This cuts out the middleman tree seller, who purchases the trees from the farmers, marks them up for profit, and sells them at a convenient location like the parking lot of a mall. Travelling directly to the farmer is a little less convenient, but can be well worth the money you save.
The closer it gets to Christmas, the less expensive Christmas trees are going to be. Trees that have already been cut down will not last keep until next year, so selling trees at drastically reduced prices is better than not selling them at all. By waiting and getting a tree on Christmas Eve or Christmas day, you can often pay a fraction of the normal price.
My last piece of advice isn’t going to work for everybody, but one year we waited to celebrate Christmas with our kids until New Years. We have a blended family and share custody with our exes, and we decided to postpone our celebration until everyone could be together. We ended up saving money on everything, from wrapping paper to sugar cookie mix to scented candles. If your family is flexible to the idea, postponing Christmas by a week can slash the amount of money you spend on it. The best part is that kids are still on winter break from school.