Sunday, 29 December 2013

Thrifty Christmas Decorating

Christmas is over!  Time to start thinking about how you'd like to decorate your home next year.  No, I'm not kidding!  The sales are the perfect time to grab some half price Christmas trees, decorations, giftwrap and cards, assuming you have somewhere to store them until next year.  And, now that you've got all your decorations up is the time to notice any areas that you think are under-decorated (e.g. you didn't have anything to put on your mantlepiece), and to make a note of things you definitely have enough of (e.g. if you have about 10 strings of fairy lights, that's probably enough...).  Make some lists in a little notebook and then throughout the year you can buy things as you see them, rather than do a last-minute panic.

Cards & Giftwrap
I've just been to Marks and Spencer and Next, and picked up some beautiful cards for £1.50 and £1 respectively for boxes of 20.  Their Christmas sales tend to be in-store only rather than online, so worth popping in if you're passing.  How many cards did you send this year?  I sent far more than I'd planned, once I took into account my workplace, so had a last-minute panic of buying more cards, which wasn't ideal.  I keep a spreadsheet (!) that tells me which cards I've sent to which people in what year, to avoid duplication.  Now that all my work colleagues are on the spreadsheet, I know more accurately how many cards I'll need for next year.

I also stocked up on gift wrap, £1.75 reduced from £4 a roll for 4 metre quality metallic wrap.  My top tip would be to buy plain metallic colours if you can, because then you can use them for birthdays, leaving presents, weddings, and pretty much every other occasion you can think of.  For example, a plain gold paper with some white ribbon looks quite 'weddingy', or use a plain red for a Valentine's gift and use some heart-print ribbon.  Ribbon is incidentally also half price in the sales, Next had some pretty patterns.

Trees and Ornaments
Being our first Christmas in our new home, we only had some tiny student size trees, and wanted to splash out on a big 7 foot one for our living room.  The one we chose was the artificial Meribel Sheen from B&Q for £45.  If you think that next year you'd like to upgrade then search the sales now - the one we bought is now just £22.50, with all of the B&Q trees being half price.  Sometimes you'll find them even cheaper, one year we saw trees orginally priced at over £100 for just £10.

I should confess that this year we actually had two trees!  On the Saturday before Christmas, B&Q slashed the price of all real trees to just £5.  It would have been rude not to!  So, we had a lovely real tree for our dining room.

With all this additional foliage, we were short of some baubles.  We'd managed to cobble enough together for the artificial tree, but did have to buy some additional baubles for the real tree.  Fortunately Morrisons had bumper packs of 55 assorted finish baubles at half price, for just £2.50, in either red or gold.  Great value, we're really pleased with them.  I also made a few decorations, I'll tell you more about that in another post.

Don't forget to look on Freecycle or car boot sales from January onwards for second-hand decorations - this year we passed up on a 6 foot artificial tree and a bin bag full of decorations for £5 at a local car boot sale, and I've seen so many Christmas trees going for cheap or free online.  People tend to buy new ones, even if they have a perfectly good old one, so take advantage of it.

The Christmas Table
I already had a tablecloth and lots of candles and candlesticks, so the table didn't need much dressing.  For the napkins, I had a rummage in my sewing box and found some black and red tartan fabric that matched the red of the tablecloth and black of the placements.  I tied this around each napkin and added a sprig of fresh rosemary, and a gift tag with name written on, to double up as a placecard setting.

Dressing the napkins in this way is a really quick and cheap way to smarten up the table a bit.  If you have a basic, plain set of placemats and other table items, then you can use them all year round, and add some 'festive' touches as required around Christmas.  Perfect if you don't have the space to store an entire lot of Christmas-themed table settings.

If you were short of plates, serving bowls and serving spoons, or a big platter this year, then start keeping a look out for these items in the sales.  These are also the kind of things you find for next to nothing at the car boot sale or in charity shops.  I bought two large silver-plated serving spoons just before Christmas at the local car boot sale for 50p, and a beautiful old cake knife also for 50p.  I'd already noted that I was missing these items, and just remembered to keep looking for them.  Seek and ye shall find!

Was your tree twinkly enough this year?  We have 3 sets of lights on our large tree but to be honest it could take more.  As soon as car boot sale season starts, keep an eye out for strings of fairy lights.  We must have at least a dozen sets of lights now, some of them outdoor lights.  None of them were more than £3, and they were collected over a whole year of charity shop rummaging and car boot sale lurking!

If you do have spare lights that don't need to go on the tree, consider using them elsewhere.  A glass vase or bowl filled with lights looks enchanting, as does hanging them over mantlepieces, above windows and along bookshelves.  Don't have any spare fairy lights?  Consider adding extra lamps to a room, but with low wattage bulbs, so that light is softer and more diffused - you'll be amazed at the difference in atmosphere it makes.  You can always use candelight too if you candles or tealights already, but it does require the utmost care if where they are placed (keep away from Christmas cards and decorations!), and you can't leave them unattended.  You can get battery operated tealights, but I don't know how good they are.

The Scent of Christmas
Next to lighting, smell is one of the quickest ways to evoke atmosphere.  I'm a huge fan of the highly scented candles from Yankee Candle and The White Company.  Both do Christmas themed scents, and they really do fill a room with the most wonderful aromas.  They're pretty pricey, but this is again something you can look for in the sales - I got a 'Apple and Pine Needles' Yankee Candle last year for around half price.  I tried a huge, and cheap, scented candle from Home Bargains but alas the scent doesn't fill the room, you have to be up close to get any fragrance.  Sometimes it's worth spending the money on something that really works.   Alternatives are to use an oil burner with scented oils in, or you can let the smell of your mulled wine waft through the house as you're heating it.

Christmas Food & Presents
This isn't about decorating, but I should add look out for nice presents and food in the sales!  Stash them away in a box or a drawer for next year.  Food items that are always on sale after Christmas include Christmas puddings (on sale now they should have a best before Spring 2015), and even things like bottles of mulled wine.  I always keep an eye out for items in the sales that would make nice gifts - angora socks (below from Next, £4 reduced from £10), boxes of chocolates (check the date on them), scarves, hats, bags and such like.  I tuck them away and use them for birthdays coming up in the next couple of months.

Are any of you preparing for next Christmas already by stashing things away?  I hope I'm not the only one stocking up on cards and giftwrap already!


  1. I always buy all my cards and gift wrap in the sales :)

  2. We usually use this time to add to our collection of lights for the exterior of our house. Post-Christmas sales are great and it's always exciting to put up a new string or two of lights fresh from the package the following year. This year I'm hoping to take advantage of flea market markdowns on vintage Christmas décor as well (I'd really like some little plastic reindeer).

    Love seeing your festive home! I am so incredibly fond of your holiday table and how you've dressed up the napkins with that sprig of rosemary. Also, LOVE your textured walls!

  3. Love this wise post - and that you're a fellow long term shopping stratigist. I too often turn to the post-Christmas sales to stock up for the coming year(s). We did so last year, especially with gift wrap (and ribbons, bows, tags, etc) and will be set for several years now (save for sticky tape), all for less than $50.00.

    ♥ Jessica


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