Decorating for Christmas is a frugal affair around here. We just string a few bits of tinsel on Frugal Hound’s tail and call it a day. NOT! Mr. Frugalwoods and I are ardent devotees of Christmas and decking our frugal halls* is a momentous occasion every year. I’m always trying to sneak the decorating in earlier and earlier… I made an attempt at pre-Thanksgiving decor this year, but Mr. FW wasn’t swayed. And on the other side of things, I’d probably leave it up until February so, on the whole, it’s a good thing he reins me in. But would it be so wrong to have a Christmas tree at your Thanksgiving feast? I think not.

My attempt at an artistic shot of some stuff in the foreground and in the background...
My attempt at an artistic shot of some stuff in the foreground and some other stuff in the background

*I realized in the course of writing this post that our home contains nary a hall. It’s open concept and the rooms just flow into other rooms. This is only bizarre in the upstairs… it feels normal on the main floor, I swear.

Mr. FW and I usually celebrate Christmas at home with just the two of us (plus Frugal Hound, of course) and making our house festive and merry has always been an integral aspect of creating our own Christmas memories. We’ve lived in a number of different cities and abodes over the course of our 6 years of marriage and decorating for Christmas has been a comforting constant. Per last week’s Woot & Grumble, we prefer to visit my family out in California in mid-January when flight prices hit rock bottom.

Christmas excitement in the living room!
Christmas excitement in the living room!

As we unpacked our boxes of Christmas decorations a few weekends ago, I realized that the whole thing was going to cost us $0 this year, which is what exactly what it cost us the past several years. How could this be? Well, in a word, it’s all fake or used. Yep. I shared in 10 Shockingly Expensive Things We Own that our beloved Christmas tree is artificial, and, so’s everything else. Garlands, boughs, holly–you name it, it’s not perishable.

The upfront cost for a quality tree and boughs, which we bought 5 years ago, wasn’t insignificant. However, we haven’t purchased a single thing in the intervening years. And, thanks to my handy math skillz, I calculated that everything paid for itself (vs. the cost of buying fresh, live greens) after just a few years. So, we’re coasting on free decor at this point! These few purchases coupled with many hand-me-downs from our families comprise the (now) traditional Frugalwoods Christmas Spirit Of Peace And Light And Hounds Spectacular display.

I felt very crafty making my little Mason jar pinecones & repurposing our tree star (which doesn’t fit w/our ceilings) as a table light

Somewhat controversial is the fact that I don’t light most of my Christmas candles. As I am wont to say, “they’re not for lighting, they’re for looking (at)!” These are some fine green and red candles folks, and I don’t want to burn them and then have to buy new ones! I even decorated some with ribbons, which is one of the craftiest things I’ve ever done.

Who lights candles anyway?
Who lights candles anyway? P.S. I’ve been using those same candy canes for 5 years.
What's a little tape between friends?
What’s a little tape between friends?

Yes the ribbon is held on by tape in the back, but, uh, this is not Frugalcrafts for a reason. My idea of Pinterest (other than pinning photos of Frugal Hound) is staring incomprehensibly at all of the stuff I will never make. Candle tape situation aside, we’re pleased as egg nog that the ol’ Christmas greens have held up so well five years on. Hopefully we’ll employ these same decorations for years to come.

Another cost-saving measure in our festivity is that we don’t have lights on the exterior of our home. Outdoor lights use waaaaaaaay more electricity than we care to pay for. The cost of our indoor lights is much lower and more manageable. But throw in a huge outdoor display? Not on our frugal watch. Mr. Frugalwoods asked me to include the caveat that he plans to decorate a live, outdoor tree with gigantic multi-colored lights on the future homestead.

And now it’s time for a poll on Christmas lights. Do you prefer:

1) Multi-colored lights

2) White lights

As Mr. Frugalwoods and I learned as newlyweds, there’s quite a divisive debate betwixt the two. We established our preferences early on (me for white lights, he for multi-colored) and let the conversation simmer for a few years. But, when it came time to select our pre-lit fake tree, we had an extensive conversation on the merits of each type of light, its future potential for ugliness (ahem, multi-colored lights), its tackiness metric (looking at you, multi-colors), and general matching with the rest of one’s decor. I’ll omit the details of the discussion and instead let you gaze upon the result of our decision:

Santa Hounds typically not included w/fake tress

I know that decorating (for Christmas or any other purpose) isn’t for everyone, and I realize this all might seem like a waste of money, but, we love it. The spirit of peace, joy, and hope that comes with Christmas is inspiring, soothing, and to me, perfect. Mr. FW and I all about spending on what matters to us and creating a happy, cozy, fulfilling life while still saving towards our ultimate goal of financial independence in three years.

Our dining room table centerpiece using a random assemblage of stuff I found
Our dining table centerpiece using a random assemblage of stuff I found (thank you to my mother-in-law for the beautiful mercury votives!)

(Sorta) Grumble

Even the main floor bathroom got in on the festive
Even the main floor bathroom got in on the festive!

Mr. Frugalwoods is out of town for business this weekend (grumble!), so Frugal Hound and I are having another of our infamous girls’ weekends. Actually they’re not so infamous, I can pretty much tell you what happens: she naps all day and wakes up occasionally to go on walks with me.

I, on the other hand, am going to a free hot yoga class on Saturday (free courtesy of my jobs at the yoga studio, which entail taking out the trash once a week and working the front desk for 30 minutes before my classes).

Then, I’m headed over to a frugal friend’s house–she is very kindly cooking us dinner and we’re going to nerd out about personal finance. Woo hoo! I’m very thankful that she’s cooking for me since my Mr. Frugalwoods leftovers may be running low by then. More importantly, I deeply appreciate frugal friends who are happy to stay in and just spend time (as opposed to money) together.

Festive stairs!
Festive stairs!

Also, frugal people are the BEST cooks (or so I’ve discovered). We had a frugal friends potluck at our house on Sunday evening and everyone brought amazingly delicious homemade dishes! Vastly tastier, healthier, and more interesting than some old store-bought thing.

Mr. Frugalwoods and I truly do prefer to spend most of our time together and so we’re not fans of business trips. Especially not those that cross weekends… but, on the bright side, Mr. FW is able to pay for everything with our credit cards and get reimbursed! Point and rewards FTW!

What’s your stance on decorating for the holidays? Did you choose the right or wrong answer in the Christmas lights poll? Do you think Frugal Hound should let me paint her claws for girls’ weekend?

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  1. Oh, white lights, please. I think you are establishing some wonderful customs which your future child(ren) will love and expect every year! Be prepared. We have some real wreaths every year and this year, a smaller real tree ( but with the same ornaments, even though our kids are in their 20’s); I have lots of winterberries on the property so I trim them this time of year and use them all over the house.

    1. Winterberries sound beautiful! How wonderful to be able to use things growing on your land! And, we really do enjoy creating these holiday traditions for ourselves :). Thanks so much for stopping by and saying hi.

  2. oh, I think you guys should do each other’s nails! Oh wait…

    I do not get Pinterest. Really. I created an account because of the blog but what’s the purpose in pinning crafts I’ll never attempt? How is this different than bookmarking in my browser? Where I also forgot about things?

    1. I bet there’s dog nailpolish ideas on Pinterest… we’ll add it to the list of things I’m never going to do! So glad I’m not the only one who feels this way :).

  3. We go full out decorating for the holidays! It almost looks like Christmas threw up on the main floor but it’s so cozy and really puts us in the holiday spirit. We also avoid outside lights due to the electricity cost. White lights all the way, I think multi-color looks tacky. I say if she will let you paint her claws then go for it!

  4. White lights! In college, my roommate and I bought colored lights for our little tree, except that we found that Halloween lights were on sale for much cheaper than the color Christmas lights, so we bought the Halloween ones instead. For three years, our Christmas tree had purple, lime green and bright orange lights.

  5. I like white lights… but sometimes it’s a little plain. Sometimes I like multi-colored lights but sometimes it does look a little tacky. So if there’s more than 1 thing to decorate, I like a strand of blue lights on one tree, a strand of green lights on another… It can work out really well if the lights match the colors the room is already decorated with.

    1. Alright, I can see where you’re going with the multi-colored lights. It could work out, I’ll give you that. Just don’t give Mr. FW any ideas!

  6. I LOVE your holiday decor!!! And I hear you on the value of investing some money in holiday decor knowing that you will have years of usage down the road at some point. We have not purchased holiday decor in years and I love that we save that money. We do get a real tree every year for our main tree, because that is a must for hubby, but it’s part of our holiday budget every year. Eventually, when my son goes to college, we will move somewhere smaller and go the fake tree route.

    1. Thank you!! It’s really nice not to need to buy new stuff every year. I love reusing it and, it brings back so many memories :). Though I do miss the real tree smell…

  7. I am team white lights! We have these garish LED lights on our tree right now and this will be the last year, my eyes can’t take it! I will be looking at picking up some white lights during the after Christmas sales.

    We don’t have any decorations other than our tree but our goal is to frugally and slowly incorporate new items during the off season.

    Enjoy your girls weekend with the pup!

    1. Oh the LED white lights are horrible, I agree! I have a strand and I really wanted them to work out, but, the color is just awful. Hopefully they’ll be able to create a less harsh color at some point in the future (of course then I’d have to actually buy something 😉 ). Thanks so much for stopping by!

  8. How’s this for Christmas lights… My husband begged me to buy some outdoor lights last year. I said no no no no and next thing I know, husband comes home with bags of outdoor Christmas lights, none of which match. Yes, there are multi colored lights, white lights, and LED white lights. (Regular white lights and LED white lights do NOT match.) It’s a tacky extravaganza. I was not pleased and of course they are not hung up this year. Other than that hot mess, we haven’t bought decorations in years!

    1. Oh wow, sounds like you’ve got quite the light situation going on there :). Regular and LED white lights might as well be entirely different species!

  9. I was a white lights gal until the kid came along…and now we are colored lights all the way. He loves to point out the “boo” lights and the “gween” lights and the “red!” ones as well. At 22 months his vocabulary is questionable…but so stinkin’ cute I melted.

  10. I think we went with white for outside (we haven’t put them up for a couple years, they’re LED, so electricity isn’t too bad, but it’s just an annoying job). For the tree we’re multicoloured! it’s what we had growing up and it brings back more warm memories for us.

    The tree and all the decor is artificial or hand me downs too. After Bilbo the cat destroyed our fake tree we switched to live and he kept climbing those too. We tried a $40 brand new fake tree last year and he hasn’t destroyed it yet, so we’ve broken even! Not the prettiest tree, but it’s prelit and easy to put up early and leave up for too long and it makes me giddy inside that it’s Christmas Time when I look at it.

    Over the years we’ve been given so many decorations that we’ll actually be giving away quite a few decorations this year. Nice to share the free decor love around.

    Your crafty candles look awesome and no one can tell that there’s tape in the back. I think it’s a smart move myself. You could step up the Pinterest and change the ribbons out throughout the year, burlap maybe? That seems to be big on Pinterest, right?

    1. Oh no! Don’t make me do crafts ;)!!!! I wrapped those candles in ribbons 5 years ago and haven’t touched them since. No way am I taking them apart now! But that is a great idea for someone who can handle crafts without getting hives :).

      Glad to hear Bilbo is leaving your tree in peace. My parents’ cats were notorious tree climbers–every chance they got!

  11. COLORED LIGHTS all the way! They are festive!

    We have put up nary a decoration. Let’s say that’s because we have small children and don’t want to overwhelm them too far in advance. We might get a tabletop tree this weekend (no room for full-size) and get out our 3.5 holiday decorations. I would like to do more, but no one has given us hand-me-downs and it’s never been a spending priority, especially because we have often gone out of town for Christmas.

    1. Totally makes sense to me! Just think of the wonderful service you’re doing for your kiddos by not overwhelming them 🙂

  12. White lights!!! And luckily Mr PoP’s colorblindness means he sees about 80% of the lights on the multicolored strand as roughly the same color, so I win. =).
    I am usually the big advocate for decorating and having the tree up, but it’s not happening this year most likely. Too many other things going on and I don’t want Christmas decorating to ever feel like a chore instead of a treat. But I did get the icicle lights and our front door wreath up outside over thanksgiving weekend. So those are enough this year. =)

    1. Yeah, I agree–if it feels like a chore, then it’s a good year to skip it. And a wreath and lights sounds pretty festive to me. Colorblindness-as-marriage-peacekeeper, I like it :)!

  13. I like both, prefer multi-colored. I have to say that the past two years I purchased kits on sale to update our holiday decorations since we have been using the same for probably ten years. We like our outdoor decorations, but have kept it simple. Then we walk around the neighborhood to admire the “over the top” decorations. It all evens out.

    1. Always fun to look at the light display extravaganzas! Our neighbor has an entire scene going on in their front yard–it’s really something. Nicely done on using the same decor for 10 years!

  14. I prefer white lights and I think they make everything look pretty all year. I live in a small places so I just have one string of (white) lights over my main window (inside) and a very small few knick knacks. I do, however, love the Glade Christmas candles and they make my tiny place feel very festive. $7 for two at Ralphs!

    1. White lights are good year-round, you’re right! I should’ve included that in the list of why they’re obviously the best ;). Scented candles are pretty fabulous. We have an evergreen one from my mother-in-law that smells amazing! I’m trying to make it last for as many years as I can, but we’re on year 2 and I’m not sure it’ll see year 3…

  15. First, white lights all the way! But I do think that alternating white with red on the outside is very pretty. I’ve seen that in several different places and enjoy it. We definitely appreciate a well decorated house. If I didn’t mind paying for it, I’d even change out the linens on the beds, but that hasn’t happened yet. We bought a 9-ft fake tree five years ago and have loved it since. No spending this year. With a new house, we were going to need to do new outside lights to custom-fit the new dimensions (remember, Mr. Maroon is an engineer). We were definitely planning on LED to cut down on the electricity expense. But so far we’ve been distracted by umpteen different other things and it hasn’t happened. We shall see…

    1. Oh you’re right–the red and white combo is pretty, it looks like a candy cane! LED is a great idea on the exterior and, sounds like it’ll be gorgeous! I wouldn’t say no to Christmas bedsheets either 🙂

    2. UPDATE! We put up our incandescent lights on the house today. After delving deep down into that electrical engineering class we took so many years ago, Mr. Maroon calculated the electricity cost for our exterior illuminations. After running the numbers, we went full force with more lights. Being proud of Mr. Maroon for coming up with it, I just shared how much we think it will cost us over at Mixing Maroons…

  16. It is too funny about the Christmas light debate as my husband and I had the same debate when we were first married! I came from a family that used the big old-fashioned colored lights and he preferred white. We compromised–white on the tree and colored lights outside. Hope you enjoy your “girls weekend” with frugal hound!

    1. That’s a good compromise! I think that’s what Mr. FW is angling for with his future outdoor tree colored lights plan :). Thanks and hope you have a great weekend too!

  17. I am 100% clear lights, but am slowly getting overruled by the child and the husband. We do have outdoor lights and chose to buy LED ones 70% off after Christmas last year. The kicker was that we had to do multiple colors because, of course, all the clear ones were sold out. So we have multi outdoor and clear inside. The kiddo loves them, so I’ve learned to adapt. We bought most of our decorations in the year 2000, so they do last for decades if you store them properly. My daughter and I go and buy a new ornament every year, but other than that, we should be set on décor until she goes to college! I would also add that Christmas decorations are one of the easiest things to buy used or even free. Many people dispose of perfectly good fake trees and wreaths when they get a little warped, but they are usually easy to repair. I am not crafty, but have made many a wreath out of garland, old decorations, and some thread.

    1. Nicely done on the wreath! Agreed on the free or cheap angle too–people do seem to get rid of perfectly good stuff every year. I remember loving colored lights as a kid too 🙂

  18. We chose the right answer on the tree lights;0) Fake is the name of the game around here and we love it! It’s so easy and we aren’t spending a lot to decorate each year. The kids each get a new Hallmark ornament and we’re done! There are red and green lights on the house though … the electricity bill will show a difference but we are good with that. It’s just so festive! Oh … I think it’s weird to paint a dog’s nails but I don’t paint mine either;0)

    1. SO glad you’re in the right light camp ;). Red and green on the house sounds very pretty! Don’t worry, I’m not actually going to paint her nails (can’t be bothered to paint my own either!).

  19. Beautiful decorations!! I love your use of pine cones and how you re purposed the tree star! I’m all about the white lights, but my son (almost 4) REALLY wanted colored lights (we had both already), so since Christmas is more about the kiddos than the type As in the family, we have colored lights galore going on!

    1. Awww, I bet he loves all those lights! So cute! Thanks for noticing my repurposed tree star–I was so proud of myself. I’m just not good at craft-things, so I felt pretty darn smart when I figured that one out… it’s a low bar around here :).

  20. My husband and I have both always preferred white lights. But this year, we have a 3 year old and he LOVES multi-colored lights, preferably twinkling. Our white lights had died last Christmas, so we bought the tackiest possible flashing multicolored lights at the dollar store this year. Our 3 year old is in seventh heaven. He spends ages every day standing next to the tree, talking to all of the ornaments. Christmas is so much fun this year! His little kid joy in inflatable Santas and fiber optic reindeer is just infectious.

    1. Oh that is precious! Talking to the ornaments! Love it. That’s definitely worth multi-colored lights 🙂

  21. I love your Christmas decorating. It’s classic and looks so cozy. I feel like such a scrooge this year. Since we will be celebrating the holidays with my in-laws who live 8 hours away, we decided to not dig out all the Christmas decorations this year. Saved us a lot of work digging out the boxes and cleaning but I do miss the coziness of it all!

    1. Why thank you! I did try to go for a pretty classic look hoping it’d stand the test of time. I totally get not decorating when you’re not going to be home. It is a lot of work (and Frugal Hound didn’t help)!

  22. Love your decorations. We have some white lights above the fireplace that we light up every night. It’s quite cozy sitting in the family without any other lights other than these white lights.

  23. It’s got to be multi-colored lights, and I would hazard to say that white lights are now the tacky ones! Bright multi-colored lights harken back to my childhood, and isn’t tradition what Christmas is all about? We had the huge bulbs in primary colors decorating my house as a kid, with a lit-up hard plastic Santa in the yard. The white lights seem to have come to ascendance in the 90’s, and became ubiquitous, and ubiquity + time = tacky. The multi-coloreds almost disappeared, and disappearance + time = retro coolness.

    We have only multi-colored lights on our tree, and every time I see one of those minimalist white light reindeer on someone’s lawn, I want to punch its face in. Bright, fun, cartoony Christmas forever! Bring back the plastic Santas!

    1. Haha! I think you’re right about the retro-ness of colored lights. But I’m OK being tacky, as long as it’s with my white lights! I know that Mr. FW will sneak a multi-colored strand in here at some point though… 🙂

  24. I appreciate that other people decorate their homes, but we don’t. Not for holidays and not for normal days. Seriously, I am looking at blank walls right now. I don’t at all know how people do it! I think I will have to hire an interior designer when we have Made It. 😉 Anyway, we are always traveling over the holidays so it doesn’t matter much. We aren’t not-decorating for any financial reason, but I guess it’s a bonus that we don’t spend money in that area.

    Multi-colored lights for sure. White lights look sophisticated to me, but that’s doesn’t really jive with my idea of Christmas, which is messy and noisy.

    1. I love to decorate! Can’t help myself. I would totally come decorate your house! Maybe I should start a frugal interior decorating side hustle… although no frugal person would spend the money to hire me. I’d do your house for free ;).

  25. white lights, all the way! No debate, whatsoever! Is it a gender divide? My female friends are all about white lights, but their guys are for the multi-colored lights. Growing up they were multi-colours, but they were also the huge bulbs a la the late 80’s/early 90’s.

    Your place is decorated so nicely – I love it. I jokingly tell my mom her place looks like Christmas threw up in it, but I do appreciate the festive ness.

    1. Woo hoo! Glad you’re on the correct side of this debate :). I wonder if it is a gender divide, hmm. I kind of loved those huge ’80s multi-colored bulbs–they still sell them but I think they use a lot of electricity.

      You’re so sweet about my decor–thanks!!

    2. I don’t know about the gender thing. I’ve never really thought to care much about white versus colored, but we had colored (inside and out) when I was growing up. Our first Christmas decorating together, my husband was shocked and scandalized when I suggested colored lights for the tree. So we have white, on green strands for the tree and on white strands for the living room window (we live in an apartment, so instead of outdoor lighting we put a strand of lights around the edge of the inside of the window).

  26. Thanks the Frugalwoods for having a fake tree. Others – PLEASE join them! My mom bought a fake tree about 28 years ago (when I was a kid). I cried. It seemed so lame compared to a real tree. I got over it in about a day, and once the tree was decorated, it looked the same as a real tree. And now I am so grateful EVERY TIME I SEE THAT TREE. My mom’s purchase 28 years ago has saved 28 other trees from being butchered and killed only to be on display for a few short weeks. Real Christmas trees now make me sad. How terrible that a gorgeous, big tree had to lose its life just to decorate a person’s house with a made-up tradition for a few weeks? Please go fake and keep it for life.

    1. That’s wonderful that your mom is still using the same tree! Like you said, good for the memories and great for all the live trees it has saved :). A true win-win for fake trees!

  27. Last year we did no tree (takes up way too much space in our tiny house) but did put out a manger scene and a few other knick-knacky decorations. The goblins’ favorite is a “countdown to Christmas”. They also like the Elf on the Shelf, but I think next year I might be devilish and teach them about Krampus.

    I’m very comfortable in my ex-Christianity, so I’d be just fine celebrating the winter solstice and then New Years, but I’m alone on that front for now 🙂

    1. Trees do take up a lot of space! We have to rearrange furniture for ours, I’ll admit. It’s also at the very crest of the ceiling. One inch higher and we’d have a bent tree.

      Elf on the Shelf seems to be the latest thing! I didn’t have it as a kid and I’m pretty sure Mr. FW would know it was me moving it around, so, we don’t have one 🙂

  28. White lights please. Had this debate with my ex and maybe that’s part of the reason he’s my ex. Lol! We also used to do a real tree but I’ve got a fakie that I picked up for $25 lights and all from Target. So much easier with fake stuff. I don’t own a home so not outdoor lights but I know my dad would murder me if I put up lights. He’s an energy miser.

    1. Hah! The lights debate is a fierce one, for sure :). That sounds like a great deal for a tree with lights–nicely done!

    1. We have a “fir tree” candle that Mr. FW’s mom gave us last year. It smells pretty good, but, it’s certainly not the same as the real deal 🙂

  29. I thought I did a pretty awesome job decorating our house for Christmas, but your place looks WAY better. My vote is for multi-colored lights because our kids love them. That being said, I think white lights look more elegant.

    1. Thanks so much–we have a good time decorating, for sure. I think that’s a great reason to vote for multi-colored lights :). Thanks for stopping by!

  30. When I was a kid we had an aluminum Christmas tree with a color wheel. I’m guessing no one would remember those. It was so magical. Most people decorated with the giant multi-colored bulbs back then around their windows and doors and bushes. Great, now I”m all nostalgic. I really should decorate this year. Your decor looks magazine-worthy! 😀

    1. You are too kind! Maybe for the “I overdecorate for Christmas” magazine ;).

      Your color wheel sounds like quite the sight! Fun!

  31. FWs,

    Multi-colored lights here, but with the caveat that it’s a white tree we’re talking about. And that’s what we have. I bought our first Christmas tree this year for $39 from Walmart. Not too shabby! Looked for used, but nada. If it’s a green tree, however, then white lights all the way.

    Keep up the frugal decorations!

    Best regards.

    1. You definitely need the multi-colored lights on a white tree! I bet it looks so pretty. $39 is a great deal–nicely done!

  32. Beautiful decorations! You did a great job making your home look festive for the holidays. And yoga is always great, especially when it’s free 🙂

    1. Why thank you! I just do the same decorations every year (in the same places) so it’s pretty easy! I literally looked at my photos from last year and put everything in the same place. I’m always super thrown off when we move–I have to actually figure out where to put everything 🙂

  33. I am really impressed with your decorations. Mine is not as good as yours, but it seems enough. That being said, I’d like to have yours. It’s well decorated and looks lovely. Yay! I agree that your Frugal Hound get her claws painted and done. For the occasion, why not? Right?

  34. My boyfriend and I moved in together 2 years ago (to the day!) and we have spent almost zilch on Christmas decor. We’ve been mooching off our parents but it’s been a hodge podge of dated items that even they don’t want to use. Maybe next year will be the year we start investing in Christmas 🙂

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