Small budget, big impact


9 cheap ideas and 3 for Oprah

By Ellen Margulies

We’ve had an actual reader request! I’m very excited about this. L.P. (not her real name) writes, “How can I decorate my small condo for Christmas on a very tight budget?” Glad you asked, L.P.

There’s been many a Christmas when I had next to nothing to scrape together, so I’ve learned a few things about decking halls with found objects and such. It helps if you’re a pack rat who never throws anything away, but even if you’re not, there’s hope.

Here are several ways to jolly up your house without breaking the bank:


$10 or less

  • Christmas brooches are often on sale this time of year. Pin one to a solid-color throw pillow (just remember not to nap on that one) or a curtain tie-back. You can use a big cocktail ring the same way.
Pillow fabulousness / by Ellen Margulies
  • Make your own greenery swag: A few errant branches off a pine tree (ask a neighbor or friend if you don’t have one in your yard), thin enough to cut with scissors. Pretend you’re gathering a bouquet of flowers to get a good guideline on lengths. Bundle together at the top with a festive bow in your favorite Christmas color and attach it to your door or hang it over a mirror or mantle.
  • Assorted bits of Christmas greenery arranged in a vase with a few holiday floral picks can cheer up any little corner.


$5 or less

My dream car, although I will really have to lose a lot of weight to drive this. / by Ellen Margulies
  • Being a big fan of using what you’ve got, I sometimes create little Christmas tableaux around the house. I got this 1967 Mustang as a joke one Christmas because I put it on my list. It lives on my bookcase year round, and at Christmas time, I tie a little Christmas tree on top with a piece of baker’s twine. A package of a half-dozen 3-inch trees is $1.99 at your local craft store.
  • Buy a plain white, red or green coffee mug at Target or similar, fill with King Leo peppermint sticks.
  • candy dish
    Mom gave me this dish, I SWEAR. / by Ellen Margulies

    Speaking of candy, they have these Santa hat Hershey’s kisses at Target, but even the green and red wrappers would be nice. Choose a pretty glass bowl or your favorite candy dish that you remember from childhood that you may or may not have wheedled your mother into giving you. Fill ‘er up, perch on a shelf.  




  • Take a walk in the yard, a nearby park or some woods on the side of the road. This time of year you can find some really beautiful things if you look hard enough. Dried winter grasses, peeling birch bark
  • Wrapping-paper scraps can be used to wrap wine bottles, picture frames or other objects you have on hand. Finish off with a bit of twine or cut out a Christmas tree shape from a paper bag and tape to the wrapped object. Voila, instant Christmas!
  • String fishing line, kitchen twine or similar across the top of a doorway or windowsill. Tie Christmas ornaments to varying lengths of ribbon or use hooks to  hand straight across. 

So you see, reader L.P., with just a little bit of imagination and ingenuity, you can brighten up your house and get it ready for Santa. Of course, I was assuming by “tight budget,” you meant $10 and under. Obviously, you can adjust your decorating scheme to fit whatever “tight budget” means to you.

So, if your budget is Oprah-tight, you might consider:

  • Blue fur pom pom ornament from Harrod’s, for about $75 U.S.
  • Balsam Hill 9-foot noble fir, for a mere $1,299
  • A gingerbread house custom-baked to look like your home, adorned with 150 mm South Sea pearls and a 5-carat Mozambique ruby from luxury online retailer Very First To. It will set you back nearly $78,000 but is surely worth it.

lux xmas

Happy decorating!


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