Everything You Need to Decorate for Christmas on the Cheap

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TIS THE SEASON TO DECORATE

The holiday season comes with lots of pressure to turn homes and yards into winter wonderlands. Whether the motivation is prepping for the big family gathering or keeping up with the neighbors' festive displays, sticking to a tight budget can be difficult. But don't let the holiday spirit flag just yet. Here are suggestions for inexpensive Christmas decorations that ring in the holiday season with style. (Note: Prices on these items change constantly as retailers adjust in response to demand.)

ARTIFICIAL TREES

The life cycle of an artificial Christmas tree makes it a far cheaper option than the real thing. The key to selecting the perfect specimen is to focus on the number of needle tips. The more tips, the fuller and more realistic the tree looks.

ALBERTA SPRUCE 6-FOOT TREE WITH CLEAR LIGHTS

This pre-lit artificial tree (on sale for $48 at Target) features 558 needle tips. And with 250 lights, it will (ahem) spruce up any room with bright cheer. One reviewer reports it's easy to assemble and the perfect size for an apartment.

VERDE SPRUCE 6.5-FOOT TREE WITH MULTI-COLOR LIGHTS

For multi-color lights and slightly more height, try this 6.5-foot tree ($50 at Home Depot). This specimen boasts 750 "realistic" needle tips, 400 lights, and a two-year warranty.

ORNAMENTS

Once the tree is set up, it's time to add the ornaments. A search through big-box retailers' sites shows pricing of $1 to $2 per ornament in high- quality box sets. More bang for the buck is available in larger quantities.

SHATTERPROOF ORNAMENT SET

At Walmart stores, shoppers can buy sets of 41 shatterproof ornaments for $8 and choose among a variety of colors, including a green, red, and gold mix and several monochrome sets.

LIGHTED BOW

Another way to add pizzazz indoors or out is with a lighted tinsel bow. Bronner's Christmas Wonderland charges $15 for a 24-inch red bow that's backlit with 20 tiny bulbs. Hang it in a window to brighten the front of the house.

DOLLAR STORE DECORATIONS

Don't forget to check out the selection at the local dollar store. It's a wonderland in its own right for hard-to-beat deals on Christmas décor, from ornaments to lights to garland. (Pick up some wrapping supplies while there.)

INFLATABLE DECORATIONS

Make the kids happy and impress the neighbors with inflatable Christmas characters from Walmart. Stick with the classics, including a 4-foot snowman, Santa, and reindeer, each for $15. Prices swell for brand-name characters: $29 for Minnie Mouse and $30 for Snoopy. All inflatables come with stakes and tethers, and consumers report that the characters fill with air in seconds for no-fuss setup.

LIGHTED DECORATIONS

Add an elegant twinkle to the yard with a couple of pre-lit deer decorations, available at Kmart for $16 each. The 26.5-inch, three-dimensional figures are made of white wire and embellished with 70 clear lights.

WREATHS

Nothing says "welcome" at holiday time better than a beautiful wreath on the front door. Instead of the usual green pine with a red bow, try a less traditional design: the 18-inch Holiday Natural Berry Wreath from Target ($15).