The holidays are a stressful and financially-challenging time to begin with, but decorating your home can be especially daunting if it’s your first year in a new apartment, or if you’re moving in with someone who doesn’t share your love of collectible Nutcracker figurines.
I’ve moved twice this year, the first time across the country, and now in with my gentleman friend. We have very minimal decor, and definitely don’t have a lot of cash to spare, but keeping our home festive and primed for entertaining over the holidays is important to us both (plus, it’s cheaper than going out). Here’s how I’m achieving my goals without going out of my mind this year.
1. Stick to the classics.
Like the Bing Crosby album or A Charlie Brown Christmas, some things really can stand the test of time. Creating a “base” of neutral decorations will help ensure you won’t be replacing expensive trendy pieces year after year. For me, that means resisting the call of a pink sequined throw pillow or yet another absurd cookie cutter, and setting some guidelines for all new purchases: string lights, snowflakes, and nature-inspired pieces are generally timeless and get a green light. We’re also sticking to a color scheme of white, silver and gold. By selecting a “theme,” we eliminate roughly 75% of the temptations at Michael’s while keeping our options open for future living situations.
2. Look for form with function.
Yes, decorations are meant to be decorative. However, owning pretty things that exist solely for the sake of being pretty can quickly become expensive clutter that you resent storing in a closet all year, just to take out and plunk onto an end table. My favorite holiday pieces are the ones that are immediately put into regular use, like my flannel pajama pants, hand towels and welcome mat. Scented candles and soaps are wonderful for creating a festive ambience, but scope the Bath & Bodyworks options online ahead of time and limit yourself to just. one. candle. and. just. one. soap. If you’re feeling especially crafty, you can save even more money by picking up a huge drugstore pine candle and covering the label with some tinsel or chalkboard paint.
Considering an item’s usefulness also goes for serving ware — while seasonal cheese knives and cupcake liners are technically functional and incredibly tempting, be realistic about whether you’re really going to host a five-course sit-down meal for eight this year, and what you’re actually going to bring to the office potluck (I’ve accepted my year-round role in society as the bringer of layer dip, and I’ve learned to just pipe sour cream on top in the shape of a snowflake during the winter months).
To go even further, look for things that can be multifunctional. Instead of getting another roll of holiday-specific gift wrap when you run out, opt in favor of gold gift bags and white tissue paper that will look great for birthdays, bridal and baby showers, bachelorette parties and wedding gifts throughout your calendar. As a bonus, neutral bags are much more likely to be reused by the recipient, eliminating a lot of waste!
3. Be mindful of space restrictions and storage requirements.
If you’re short on storage, sometimes it can be best to buy certain things new every year. I learned this the hard way by buying a fake wreath on sale a few years ago thinking it would save me money in the long run, but it’s slowly turning into the bane of my existence. Not only is it falling apart because it can’t handle being jostled every time I open the door, but it takes up a huge amount of storage space the rest of the year, and looks worse every time I take it out of the box. Next year, I’m buying a well-made wreath from a local florist, and I’m going to appreciate the hell out of it before enjoying the ultimate satisfaction of putting it out with the compost.
Luckily, fake trees disassemble pretty well these days, and the rough spots can be disguised with extra garland and ornaments. If you truly must fall in love with something shiny or sparkly, make it a beautiful Christmas tree ornament (or something to which you can add a ribbon to turn it into an ornament). Your tree is likely going to take up the same amount of square footage every year, so adding to a collection of small ornaments over time won’t affect the rest of your space in the same way as one of those tiny villages or a snow globe collection. Another way to add cheer without taking up any space is to hang holiday cards on a piece of fishing wire (or dental floss!) taped to the wall.
4. Don’t rush perfection.
It’s okay if your home doesn’t look like Martha Stewart Living this year! Find joy in the knowledge that you’ll be refining your style and fine-tuning your decor as you grow roots, whether on your own or with a family, in your current home or one that’s waiting for you down the road. With a longstanding vision in mind, you’ll be able to scope post-holiday clearance sales more effectively and immediately put new scores away with your current loves. You’re also not required to toss everything you don’t love right this second! Give it time, and trust the process.
Eventually, I want to replace literally all of our Christmas tree ornaments with a collection of mismatched snowflakes. However, it’s not realistic, financially savvy, or even fun to do it all at once. In design, as well as in personal finance, having long-term goals gives us something to look forward to.
Megan never thought she’d get paid to write. She thought that perhaps she could, and she knew others who did, and she assumed that if Snooki could write a New York Times Bestseller, maybe it wasn’t such a lofty dream. She has already tried selling homemade crystal jewelry so freelance writing is next on her #sidehustle checklist. Megan lives in Vancouver, BC and is moving to Victoria in 2017 to save on car insurance.
Image via Unsplash