I love looking at elegant photos in magazines of the way that other people decorate their homes for the holidays. Although, I have to admit to myself that my abode has fallen short of Better Homes and Gardens status, I also believe that when it comes to decorating, there are a LOT of hacks for achieving an amazing look for just pennies on the dollar. Here are my tips.

1.  Incorporate vintage Items.  

I just love to own things with a story behind them!  People joke that it takes hours to see my house the first time you are invited over, because you have to hear the story behind each item as you make your way through every room. 

If you have some vintage holiday aprons from Aunt Ginny, display them on hooks in the kitchen.  How about embroidered Christmas doilies, quilts, or table runners from Grandma?   Think outside the box.  I had a friend who used a vintage red and green quilt as a tablecloth and it was stunning.  If you have something you LOVE, figure out how to use it! 

Here I put some black tinsel in the bottom of a cut glass compote dish (for contrast) and then added antique ornaments.  I picked ornaments within our chosen color palette.  I also tied a bow around the base and hung smaller ornaments at intervals around the perimeter of the bowl.  

2.  Look on-line for ideas.  

My teenage son was my partner in decorating for Christmas on a budget. Pintrest proved to be quite helpful in this process.  We looked at a ton of themes, colors, and patterns before narrowing down exactly what we wanted to do. You can even track your ideas on your own Pintrest board. 

We wanted something fun dangling from the chandelier in the dining room. These three dimensional snowflakes were the perfect accent. It took us about an hour to create them and they were very durable.

3.  Buy Used.  

We scored a set of 8 Currier and Ives desert plates and matching servers for just $5.00 at the Mission Mart Holiday Open House.

I’ve long been a proponent of “you don’t need to spend a million bucks to look like you do.”  Second-hand stores nearly always put Christmas items on sale for half price sometime during the Christmas season.  Christmas in July is also a popular sale for these stores. 

While you are doing the decorating (or putting everything back away after Christmas) it helps to make a written list of items that you really feel you’d like to add to next year’s decorating and keep it where you can find it.  That way you can shop with a purpose, instead of just browsing.  See this post for my top 10 tips for thrift store shopping. 

If you’d prefer, you can watch our video from YouTube with our Top Ten Thrift Store Shopping Tips.

 4.  Don’t be afraid to mix and match.  

Pick one or two items or arrangements as a focal point and then plan your theme around those things.  As long as the “theme” remains consistent, it’s all good.  Patterns, materials, and shapes can all be varied to add interest and dimension. I always pause about every 30 minutes while decorating and stand back.  I view the room from all sorts of angles.  Sometimes you see things that are sticking out at a weird angle or don’t look quite right when you do this. 

5.  Love what you have.  

I bought a small tree on clearance from Big Lots two years for  $3.40.  It may have been about 95% off of the original price, but if I am honest, I will say that it looked a little (well, actually a LOT) like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree before the ornaments and garland went on, but the finished product made a nice little accent piece. 

We couldn’t lean too hard on it or that baby would hit the floor with a thud!  We had to weight the bottom with heavy books to stabilize it! 

It did not make the “cut” for this year’s display. I’ll see if I can find a replacement at a thrift store that is a little more aesthetically pleasing and with better balance. 

If you keep what you like, you will use it again and again.  If you hate it, you will resent getting it out of storage every year.  Get rid of the items that don’t give you joy!    

 6. Embrace the season of life that you are in.  

When my children were small, I determined to enjoy every single season of life with them.  If you are in a season of raising babies or caring for aging relatives, you don’t have to go all out on decorating.  It’s okay.  I hereby absolve you of all guilt. 

Pick a couple of really important traditions and do your best to keep them. If you don’t have three days to do the decorating, don’t plan to recreate the entire nativity on your front lawn.  Plan something that looks elegant and yet takes little time.  You can always add more in consecutive years. 

I’d love to see photos or hear about your Holiday decorating.  Leave comments and pictures below.


  1. When I get a Christmas card I really like, I get a frame from the Dollar tree or thrift store and put the card in it to hang on my bathroom wall for holiday cheer. Sometimes it is a place we have been covered with snow or a copy of a painting that has been printed as a card.


Leave a Comment