Clever creations lighten up holiday wallets

by Amy Devito


‘Tis the season for merriment, gifts galore and quality family time. With all that jubilance, it’s hard for the most stubborn scrooges not to succumb to the holiday happiness. Winter spirit sparks in the hearth, but decking the halls isn’t always a cinch. Empty wallets and long wish lists don’t bring a whole lot of joy. So, before dishing out the dough to impress guests, explore some less expensive ways to keep the holiday spirit alive.

First instincts may guide shoppers to the Christmas Tree Shops or Macy’s, but alternative decor can be found right in the backyard. With a little scavenging, unique ornaments may be created at no cost.

Flowers and fruits such as berries and hydrangea blossoms or herbs such as rosemary can be picked to accent a table. Even further, to make a handmade tabletop tree, spray paint pinecones, sprinkle them with evergreen leaves and weave them together with small branches.

“Growing up I can remember painting 50 pinecones gold and silver for my aunt’s house and then spending hours stringing up popcorn garland,” biology junior Stephanie Davison said. “It seems kind of redundant in retrospect, but it was a great way to spend time with my family while having fun decorating together.”

Seemingly random collections of dolls, holiday cookie cutters and forgotten ornaments can be revived when poured into a glass, plastic bowl or container filled with glitter. Mix and match sizes and shapes to exude a festive look comparable to what could be found at HomeGoods.

Sometimes, candles may seem too expensive for their true value, but simple, small tea lights can generate the same twinkling effect. Lighting several along a pathway or grouping them together near mirrors can double the apparent quantity and reflection of the display.

A bright bow here, a sparkling ribbon there and even Epsom salt sprinkled across a table can enhance a decorative atmosphere.

Hang leftover candy canes, other sugary goods, wooden spools and holiday cards by thick threads to adorn the living room.

Icicles and moving statues can be costly and tedious. Instead, opt for white lights around windows and mantels or bunched up in a vase.

With all that wrapping, there’s bound to be mounds of gift wrap left. Showcase pieces in picture frames or create colorful collages on the walls. Take down other picture frames and wrap them with gift wrap as well, completing the look with ribbons and bows.

Before buying expensive wreaths and sleighs, think about arts and crafts options. Imagination finds no limit with construction paper, paint and a pair of scissors. The Web offers hundreds of holiday home projects, with how-to kits to inspire ideas of ingenuity.

“I remember my hand hurting after hours upon hours of cutting out snowflakes of every shape and design,” psychology senior Lauren Lopez said. “The entire kitchen was covered in my little art projects, but it added a personal touch to the home and my family loved it.”

For the ultimate finish, be sure to make the arrangement of decorations well kempt, sticking to one color scheme or concept. This will help avoid impulse buys.

The season is still young and there is ample opportunity to shop at holiday craft fairs and bazaars, which are almost always significantly cheaper than department stores.