Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Ornaments and Decorating for the Poor and Thrifty

Okay, I've decided to make as many posts as possible to really beef up my blog a bit so expect several posts at a time and don't worry, I'll slow down when I get some readers though I can guarantee I won't post twice a day on occasion. Now, I don't know about you guys but Christmas is always a tight budget for me. Very tight. It's taken a very long time and a lot of hand me downs with thrift store shopping to have what I have now so don't be discouraged. I believe I have made everything at one point that one would need for Christmas, decorations wise.

I have *always* had a Christmas tree (now I have three trees I can put up- I'll explain why later) but getting that tree wasn't always easy. My first tree burned up with most of my things in a storage building fire. The kids grandmother gave me one she had had put away but sadly, when I got it home the entire middle was gone, I had only the top and branches. So, not to be discouraged, I got to work. I looked and looked outside until I found a fallen branch that was long and semi straight. I then took my trusty cordless drill and drilled holes into the sides of it, all over. I also took my father's bolt cutters and snipped off the bent ends of each branch and stuck it into the stick. It was a little crooked, leaning to the left but it stood and was full and looked really really good for what it was. Several people commented that it looked better than a regular artificial tree except for the slight lean because it gave the appearance of real bark. I then decorated it with my four different types of lights (YAY for hand me downs!) and my hand me down antique ornaments (I foam at the mouth with excitement at the thought of mercury glass balls) I also added a red blanket I had as a skirt, and VOILA! Ghetto Christmas tree! The kids loved it and they got their presents under it all the same. Will they remember our poorest Christmas? No, but I will and it makes me feel good knowing I did every thing I could to make it a good one.

There are other options for a temporary Christmas tree. I've even seen them cut out of cardboard with the ornaments painted on. Thrift stores usually have them as does Craigslist dirt cheap. If you look right before and right after Christmas you'll find the artificial ones thrown on the curb as trash where someone got a new one (DONATE DONATE DONATE people!) In our immediate rural area cedar trees are common. Cut one down and decorate it, maybe there's a small pine somewhere someone would let you cut. Get a little one, they come in all sizes from a dollar to god knows how much - I don't check those price tags. Call the people you know, someone might have one they want to give away that would have ended up on the curb. Here's a link to some creative Christmas tree ideas at Someday Crafts, one of my favorite blogs! Go check it out!

Wreaths and garland, two of my favorite decorations. I was lucky enough to receive a large amount of hand me down garland from my mother when she decided she didn't like it anymore. It's lighted too :D. But, I wanted mantle pieces and shelf pieces that my garland just wouldn't work for. Remember the lonely branches I mentioned above from my hand made tree? Those are wreaths and garland  pieces now and all i did was attach them the way that I wanted by tightly twisting craft wire around the ends to connect. The top was donated to a friend as her children's first small Christmas tree (I put it in a small red bucket with Styrofoam left over from a package). So if you have a tree keep an eye out at thrift stores for Christmas trees missing branches or middles like mine and craft them into what you need, at a minuscule fraction of the price!! You can hot glue pine cones, ornaments, candy canes, fake berries, bows, or whatever you'd like to these to spruce (pun intended) them up even more.

Homemade ornaments. This list is endless. I'll list a few though. Salt dough first of all.  I listed the recipe in a previous post. The kids, a friend and I all got together one Christmas to make a bunch of these. We made candy canes, circle ornaments, a Christmas pickle, Christmas tree shapes, gingerbread shapes and so forth and so on. Salt dough is easily painted and we even added glitter. Just make sure you add the hole for hanging before letting it dry!!! Then there's the classic paper chain. I've done this for our tree before too. I like the traditional red and green paper chain (just strips of paper glued into intertwining circles) but you can do whatever colors you like. Construction paper is cheap and handy to keep around. I also like the popcorn chain.I haven't done this one yet but I'm hoping to soon as soon as I can trust one of the kids not to stab the other with a needle. All you do is use a needle and thread to string up popped popcorn (or the popcorn, berry, popcorn pattern) to hang on the tree. I like this idea as it forces us all to sit down together and swap Christmas stories.  You can hang virtually anything (please use good judgement) on a Christmas tree and make it pretty. Googling "homemade Christmas ornaments" and you'll have reading material for years, all different. also sells dirt cheap ornament making complete kits that are safe and fun for kids. Like this makes 12 mitten ornaments for 2.99. I have also taken some old C4 bulbs (the fire hazard kind) my mother had from the 80's and used glitter and glue to decorate and hang. I still use those every year.

Other decorations... there's a lot to be said for this topic really. Another post growing longer than I intended. A piece of string can be taped across a doorway for hanging pretty Christmas cards you've received. Do you have a lot of Christmas cookie and popcorn tins laying in a closet somewhere? Display those all together. Thrift stores have tons of Christmas decorations starting mid to late November for dirt cheap. Including Christmas town houses. Pinecones can be collected and decorated if you wish, and displayed in bowls. Dust them with cinnamon and they'll make your house smell YUMMY! Branches can also be cut from fir type trees (just pine and cedar around here) and draped together for a wonderful smell and lots of color. Even if you have an oak you can cut it's branches and decorate with those. All you have to do is spray paint them white, add a little glue and Epsom salts, and place in a vase with ornaments to make a pretty frozen icy wonderland type of centerpiece. A vase of colorful C4 bulbs also make a beautiful Charlie Brown-esque centerpiece. Don't forget any empty boxes you have lying around, wrap them in pretty paper and showcase them together, a wrapped up Quaker Oats box adds variety.

Not much on crafting? I've got one more cheap cheap tip for you. The week after Christmas all Christmas decorations will go on sale at all your local stores. You may not be able to use them now but you can always pack them away for next year. A word to the wise however, you and I are not the only ones doing this. Lots and lots of people do. The sooner in that week you go, the more you'll find; the later you go the cheaper and cheaper it will be but there will be less of a selection. I have gotten a lot of stuff for just a few dollars this way and most of my ridiculous collection came about this way.

One more reminder to go to the thrift stores! Thrifts like St. Vincent DePaul, Goodwill, and the Salvation Army Store all use their proceeds to help good causes. It may take a little more work to sift through the stuff you don't like but visit frequently and you'll love the things you find, not to mention the tons of money you'll save! I've also seen a craft (yes, I saw it on Pinterest) where they turn thrift store sweaters into stockings for the family. Am I going to do this? Most certainly, though not this year.

If you have any other ideas or comments please feel free to leave a comment on this post. I will respond! Remember, it's not about what everyone else around you has it's what you're capable of doing! It's about your conscience, not their opinion!

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