This is the first year I’m going to be celebrating Christmas. When I say that, I mean this is the first year I’m going to be doing the traditional tree and trimmings. In years past, I did a tiny 3-ft, pre-lit artificial tree. You know, the bare minimum. I’m approaching this as a multi-year project, building up a little each year. Maybe next year will be exterior decorations.
The point I’m making is that I’m starting with nothing. I don’t even think I have a single tree ornament of my own. So, if you are considering doing your first Christmas, consider this list for the things that you will need. But, keep in mind, most all of these will be reusable next year, so you can spend a little more and get quality stuff that will last year after year. Normally, I would factor in whether I wanted to have something new each year and budget for disposable items. But I think Christmas stuff should have a sense of stability and memories each time they are used. And if your approach is also a multi-year vision, decide what you want for next year and hit the after Christmas sales.
So, this is what I started with:
This was the first advance purchase. The GF and I were evaluating our options at Old Time Pottery and we found one with the fabric we liked, but not the right colors. Later, we were at Lowes and saw one we both immediately liked. We noticed that Lowes’ Christmas supplies were really selling out (impressive), so I grabbed it right then to avoid any remorse over missing something we both agreed on. Price: $30.
Wow, so many options. When I was growing up, we had one option for bulbs. I think they are classified as C7. But now, you have the LED lights and all these different shapes and colors. This is where I had to start thinking. I could do a themed tree, like all gold or silver or blue, in which case, I’d probably get a single-colored set. Or, I could go traditional and get the multi-colored sets.
I like the look of themed trees, but they seem so boring to me. I wanted a more interesting tree, with ornaments of all different types, to encourage exploration and to capture different moments. So, the lights I choose will either be multicolored or dual colored.
I started at Lowes. What the hell. They’re down to less than a full isle of Christmas stuff. Less than a full isle! They didn’t have the lights I wanted. Ok, let’s try Sears. Sears usually surprises me with prices and selection. Nope, Sears is down to thin pickings as well. Ok then, I know Target has them because I saw them the day before when I bought my tree stand.
I bought a 200-bulb string and two 50-bulb strings, for a total of $63. All LED, all sphere shaped. The 200-bulb is shiny and faceted and the two small strings are solid pearl lights. That’s about 100 ft of lights, at $.63/ft Not cheap, but much better than I budgeted.
Consistent with my choice to have a non-themed tree, the ornaments will be a collection of many different shapes, colors, and styles. One thing I am against, though, is “shatter-resistant” ornaments. These plastic bulbs with the visible molding seams are cheap and tacky. I understand their place in families with dumb children, but for the record, I never broke a glass ornament when I was growing up. And since my household is not and will not be child-friendly, I’m having nice high-quality glass ornaments. Although, after discussing with the girlfriend, we’re going to have to put shatterproof ornaments of some sort at the bottom to account for curious cat and clumsy dog – their first Christmas with a real tree.
There’s no shortage of variety when it comes to ornaments. And the prices are all over the place, too. You’ll probably start with some multi-sets, then in future years, buy unique individual pieces to create memories.
I hit two places at first, Old Time Pottery and Michaels, and got some basic red/green/clear balls and a spire tree topper (which I’ve learned is called a Finial). Total running cost: $47. Then I did another run at Big Lots, Sears and JCPenney. The quality is getting better and plenty of diversity. Total now: $104. At this point the cat thinks this is going to be the best Christmas ever.
Then I hit Pier 1, Hobby Lobby, Bealls, Target (again), and Michaels (again). And I think we’re done. Total: $195. We did decide to go with the fancy ornament hooks instead of the simple wire hooks. I have to say, they’re worth the investment, both in looks and usability.
As far as what we ended up with, there’s probably close to 200 ornaments on the tree, between glass balls, icicles, bells, diamond and ruby gems, a few birds, a bird nest, individual personal items, and some novelty items.
The tree is going to be a live tree. The initial reason for this is to have the more traditional experience. If I find I don’t like it, I can always go artificial next year. But I think I owe it to myself to try the real tree first.
We went to a tree stand that’s always been coming to town since I can remember: “Booger Mountain”. We picked out a tree. A big tree. 8 feet high and dense and wide. They only took cash, and it was a chunk of cash. $90.
Since I’m going natural, I’ll need a tree stand. I might as well get a nice one. I had a couple of gift cards from Target, so I figured I’d use them there. I ended up with a nice plastic stand with an easy watering opening for $20, $10 after gift cards. I thought that was a good deal until I stopped at Walgreens and saw a stand on clearance for $7. But what’s done is done. My stand is good for an 8’ tree. It did the job just fine.
The Complete Damage
Adding up everything, I’ve spend $390 on this project. All but $90 will be reusable in future years. The girlfriend spend $300 on her own exterior home decorating (first year for that, too) and all of that will be reusable in future years. So, it looks like we’re even.