Smart ways to affordably festoon your home and hearth for the holidays.

By Sarah Stebbins
Updated November 17, 2009
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Colorful string of lights
Credit: Mark Lund

Shop like a pro. Order supplies from and, which cater to event planners and decorators. You’ll find 25-yard spools of wired ribbon to dress up wreaths for about a third less than at craft stores. also offers a very merry selection of holiday decorations, such as lights, birch branches, and wreaths, at prices 20 to 50 percent below retail. Get more holiday decorating ideas here.

Time your purchases. Many large stores follow a similar discounting pattern―outdoor decorations are marked down in early November, indoor ones in the middle of that month, and tree trimmings after Thanksgiving. This year shoppers will still be hesitant to spend, so expect juicy deals on big-ticket items, such as prelit trees and outdoor displays, predicts Pam Danziger, owner of Unity Marketing, a retail-market research firm in Stevens, Pennsylvania.

Save on greens. Some tree sellers offer deals on weekdays, when traffic is slower, says Rick Dungey, a spokesperson for the National Christmas Tree Association. Decking your halls at the last minute? You may find similar markdowns during the week before Christmas. Also: Keep the boughs that get lopped off as your tree is shaped, says Anna Getty, author of I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas ($5,, and use those pieces to adorn the mantel.

Buy secondhand. Check out the gems for sale on (the auction site of Goodwill stores), which offers great deals. For example, a nine-piece Currier & Ives Christmas village set had a starting bid of $20. Individual pieces of the same set start at around $55 each from other resale vendors.