You've got guests en route, complete with luggage and ready with bear hugs. A splurge of a turkey awaits you in the freezer, and there are still sides to make marvelous, gifts to go shopping for, three or four more grocery trips to make. You might already be checking names off your to-gift list.
In the frenzy of the season, decorations for your holiday table and house might fall by the wayside—because time is of the essence and money is, too. But there's a way! Here are 17 budget-friendly but entirely lovely holiday decorating tips, from us to you.
1. Use herbs as table toppers.
Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, otherwise known as the Beekman Boys gave me this idea last year—not only do herbs look as good as traditional greenery, but they also smell fantastic when you set the hot food out atop them.
Wound with wire, they also make great napkin rings:
2. Try dried flowers.
Seasonal in the same way that dried-up leaves signal an autumnal wonderland, dried flowers will never wilt on you (really, they last forever). And this time of year, you might even be able to clip some from the yard.
3. Use cheesecloth as a tablecloth.
In all its layered, drapey glory, a few layers of cheesecloth will give your table a romantic effect (and we don't mind at all when it pools dramatically on the floor).
4. Spray paint everything.
Quick and totally transformative, spray paint is the easiest way to turn odds and ends into eye-catching decorative accents. Let tumble a few pine cones, spray painted rose gold, through your centerpiece, or do the same thing with a branch from the yard for a striking look that costs very little.
5. Make twinkle lights from large cans.
Once you've made a batch of Marcella Sauce, clean and strip the label off the 28-ounce can of tomatoes. Then, fill them with water, freeze, and use a hammer and nail to poke holes all over. Drop a few tea lights in it: Instant twinkle lights to set the mood.
6. Bring good-smellies to a simmer.
If buying a fancy, pricey candle isn't your idea of self-indulgence, get the same effect (sans flicker) by warming up some sprigs of eucalyptus or a ginger-spiked broth on the stovetop.
7. Break out all the blankets and pillows.
Embrace the Danish word hygge by putting out all your cuddly accents where guests can see them.
8. Use leaves for place settings.
Whether you choose to bundle them with a ribbon or sticker your guests names across the twig is all dependent on if there's a craft-supply store on the way home. (For the bundles, you won't have to!)
9. Use salt as snow.
Recently, I spied our Studio Manager Amanda Widis tucked away in a quiet corner of the office turning pine cones into snowy pine cones. She was doing so by rolling the bottom of each one in a little pan of crafting glue, and then rolling that in salt—the result, when the glue dried clear, was just enough wintry twinkle and no opalescent sparkle effect.
10. Look to your cleaning cabinet.
Last year, I bleached dozens of pine cones to use at our holiday pop-up—after a few days in the bleach bath they turned a lovely blonde. Alexis, our art director, also uses this method to transform those plastic little evergreens from the craft store into tan-and-white ones that feel a little bit more handmade.
11. Pick up a bag of clothespins.
They make the simplest ornament stars, coasters, trivets, and wreaths—and you can even dye them with tea for a slightly antiqued look.
12. Use baby's breath in your tree.
Yes, you've spent a lifetime learning to steer clear of it at the flower store, but once you try stuffing sprigs of it between branches of your Christmas tree you'll see baby's breath in a whole new way. It looks like snow and adds volume to patchy parts, too.
13. Make candles.
With a little hot glue and some pre-cut wooden rounds, you're halfway to DIY-ed candlesticks or even a chanukiah—or you can DIY the candles themselves, either by rolling up sheets of beeswax around a wick or melting down soy wax flakes into thrift-store containers.
14. Pantry-dive for garland ingredients.
Cranberries and popcorn are just the start—we also love orange peels, short whole wheat pasta shapes, bay leaves, pretzels, and more. Fishing line is a great thread to use, but baker's twine and jute make pretty garlands, too.
15. Trim the houseplants.
If a big, messy tree sounds like a nightmare, there's no rule against putting twinkly lights all over your houseplants instead.
16. Upcycle sweaters into stockings.
Yes, you'll have to do a little sewing—see the tutorial, above!—but that super-soft sweater that the moths got to, or the flannel shirt that doesn't quite fit anymore, will be very at home hung by the chimney with care.
17. Take to the yard.
So long as you hang them far from real wood-burning fireplaces (for safety!), foraged DIY wreaths and garlands are the last gift from your garden for the year. (And plain, freshly-clipped magnolia branches make instant centerpieces if you're lucky enough to have one growing in the yard.)
And if DIY isn't your preferred route, here are some of our favorite Shop decorations under $40.
Dew Drop Wired LED Lights (Set of 2)
How do you get your house and table in the spirit without spending too much? Tell us in the comments.