How can I decorate for Christmas cheaply? 12 expert tips for affordable yet chic festive styling

Discover how to create a winter wonderland without spending a fortune with these sage but stylish expert tips

Brightly colored Christmas living room decorations by Amara
(Image credit: Amara)

If you're tightening the purse strings this year, you may have found yourself wondering how to decorate for Christmas cheaply yet still have a high-end festive feel in your home.

Luckily, there are plenty of Christmas decorating ideas to help you put on a beautiful display without blowing the budget. 'Christmas decorating trends this year will see many people take a more sustainable approach, such as reusing decorations from past years as well as making their own at home,' says Connor Prestwood, interior designer at Dowsing & Reynolds.

'One of the main upcoming trends that we have seen grow in the last few years is the woodland theme. Since the pandemic, we have all strived to reconnect with the outdoors, and foraging is a great way to bring this look to life.

'This, along with more sustainable decorations made out of paper or recycled materials, could see this Christmas labeled the greenest - and most affordable - Christmas so far.'

How to decorate for Christmas on a budget

'This year, Pinterest searches for 'handmade Christmas' have increased 100% and searches for ‘cheap Christmas decorating ideas’ have increased 125% compared to this time last year,' says Leanne O’Malley, who works for online retailer Studio (opens in new tab). 'Fortunately, you don’t have to be an expert at arts and crafts to create charming Christmas decorations. For the amateur enthusiast, there are some super simple methods that are both low effort and low cost.'

From foraging to Christmas craft ideas, keep scrolling for ideas on how you can create a stunning festive display while keeping a keen eye on the budget.

1. Go foraging for a fabulous festive look

Kitchen with foraged Christmas decorations by Annie Sloan

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

Foraging will be your best friend for a frugal Christmas centerpiece on any hallway or table this season. 

You can create a beautiful Christmas scene by using foliage in vases, on garlands and wreaths, or on your tablescape. Look out for pine cones you can put into bowls on the kitchen side or on a console, or holly berries you can add to your Christmas displays - try creating a holly berry garland like the pretty kitchen idea above.

It's possible to make beautiful Christmas table decor ideas with foraged elements, including a string of ivy as a garland. Pair with red tapered candles for added ambiance and a fresh take on traditional festive colors.

Green and red Christmas tablescape by Neptune

(Image credit: Neptune)

'Foliage can be a great way to elevate the festive mood and create a statement piece in your home,' says Jess Martin, Christmas decoration expert at Ginger Ray (opens in new tab). 'Weave it into a wreath with pinecones and dried orange slices, or hang baubles and ornaments on it for a more minimalist look.

'Alternatively, place strands of foliage over your mantle or dinner tablescape, and intertwine it with fairy lights.

'Holly berries are a great way to make a colorful festive impact,' she continues. 'Build pops of red into your color scheme with berry-laden garlands and sprigs for tablescaping or even try arranging some seasonal branches in a vase to replace your usual florals. Red candy stripes, ribbons, and paper ornaments are great to tie the color in further and can be picked up in charity shops cheaply.'

Christmas tablescape by Neptune

(Image credit: Neptune)

Wayfair (opens in new tab)'s Resident Style Advisor, Nadia McCowan Hill, adds: 'Weave foraged finds with your favorite Christmas decorations or everyday household items for a reinvented Scandi take on festive decorations. 

'Start by placing the more significant pieces first; think of small faux or real pot fern plants on either side of the table to create a structure to work with.

'For central focus, place two large glass vases and scatter smaller plants in a line. You can go on to fill in the gaps with foraged moss, dried thistles, and small baubles. To add some freshness, spruce with a few flowers for a fruitful centerpiece.'

2. Decorate twigs for a cool Scandi vibe

Scandi style Christmas living room decor by Homesense

(Image credit: Homesense)

Pick up some large statement twigs on your foraging trip for an easy Scandinavian Christmas decor idea with a high impact on aesthetics and a low impact on your purse.

'Branches, especially those with interesting shapes or colorful lichen, make fantastic and dramatic arrangements when placed in a large confit jar or an earthenware jug,' says Simon Temprell, interior design manager at interior brand Neptune (opens in new tab). 'You could decorate the branches with stars cut from metallic card or pinecones sprayed gold or copper.'

Wayfair's Nadia McCowan Hill says: 'On the family foraging adventure, pick up some long twigs and sticks. Try popping in a simple vase on a side table or floor for an effortless twig tree. 

'Recycle baubles from past years with tonal green spray paint. If you dare, let the little ones add a dusting of glitter for some sparkle. A nifty yet impactful little tree.'

Christmas sideboard with gold leaves and paper pinwheels by Neptune

(Image credit: Neptune)

As well as hanging baubles on your decorative twigs, you could also get creative and spray your twigs and leaves a metallic copper or gold. 

Paired with pretty paper pinwheels, like the scene created by Neptune above, this makes for a frugal yet fabulous festive display.

Christmas mantelpiece with foraged foliage by Farrow & Ball

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

You could also decorate twigs as part of a showstopping mantelscaping Christmas scene. Fill two large vases with foraged foliage, including snowberries or holly berries, and hang small paper honeycombs from the branches for a beautiful look that includes symmetry for visual appeal.

Then string a garland of foraged ivy over the mantel, pop some candle lanterns with different heights along the width of the mantelpiece, and add some more paper honeycombs to finish.

3. Create a branch chandelier

Christmas tablescape with branch chandeliers by Garden Trading

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

If you really want to impress your guests without breaking the bank, install a homemade festive branch chandelier to instantly elevate your Christmas dining room decor

Mary-Anne Da'marzo, founder of Soho-based preserved flower shop, The Last Bunch (opens in new tab), comments: 'Creating a festive-inspired branch chandelier really adds to the Christmas build-up, and is a lovely activity to get you in the mood for the season. 

'People can get wrapped up and venture to their local park or woods and forage the sticks or greenery for this.'

Christmas dining tablescape with foraged greenery by Neptune

(Image credit: Neptune)

'Evergreen foliage, such as eucalyptus, adds a different dimension to the branch chandelier, with leaves that you can then easily hang Christmas decorations from.

'To give your branch chandelier the perfect feel as well as longevity, add baby’s breath and single stems of Amaranthus or Chasmanthium.'

Mary-Anne adds: 'You can hang anything from your foliage, giving your branch chandelier a seasonal update.

'Then, on the table, keep it elegant and chic - I love using glass baubles with tea lights, mixing this with twine and simple linen can give a contemporary feel to the season.'

If creating a whole chandelier feels overwhelming, simply suspend a branch from a beam or the ceiling to create an impressive display, like Leoma Harper of @styletheclutter did in the stunning image below.

Christmas tablescape with hanging branch and baubles by @styletheclutter

(Image credit: @styletheclutter)

Leoma (styletheclutter.com (opens in new tab)) says: 'Our festive branch has been above the dining table for many a Christmas now and I love to theme it to tie in with the table setting. We decorate it all year round for different occasions, however, the main event is Christmas, where I love adorning it with statement decor, and creating a real feature of the dining area. 

'I like to go big and sparkly, hanging baubles and decor all at different lengths to give a cascading feel to it all, reflecting the colors beneath.'

You could also tie foliage to a suspended clamp to create a unique festive scene that won't obstruct your diner's view.

Christmas tablescape by Ginger Ray

(Image credit: Ginger Ray)

'When incorporating foliage and natural elements into your tablescape it can be tempting to overwhelm your table and create a cluttered space,' says Ginger Ray's Jess Martin. 'However, you’ll need to remember the all-important space for food. 

'Opt for one garland draped across the center of the table or try suspending foliage or a branch and baubles from above the table with a table clamp. This is a great option for creating an impressive centerpiece without obstructing any conversation.'

4. Paint your own baubles - and don't forget they're not just for the Christmas tree

Painted DIY baubles on Christmas tree by Annie Sloan

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

If you're about to splurge on a fancy new set of baubles, press pause because paint expert Annie Sloan (opens in new tab) says we could be making our own.

'Rather than investing in new decorations every year, consider giving perfectly functional baubles a color update with a lick of paint. Mix with Gilding Waxes and Gold Leaf to imitate much more expensive shop-bought alternatives.'

You can also pick up plain ready-to-decorate baubles at craft shops for a chic but cheap option. Metallics, stripes and polka dots are always a pretty option.

Hang your new baubles on the Christmas tree for a fresh new update, but don't forget you can also use them to decorate other areas of the house. 

branch chandelier with metallic baubles by Annie Sloan

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

Pop them in bowls with your foraged pine cones, hang them in your stair bannister garland or put them in your dining table branch chandelier.

Pink dressing table and Christmas baubles by Annie Sloan

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

For something a little different, buy oversized baubles to decorate in your own style and pepper around the home for simple yet big impact.

5. Play with paper

pink and gold Christmas decorations and tablescape by Rockett St George

(Image credit: Rockett St George)

Paper decorations such as honeycomb balls, stars and pinwheels are a great way to add instant impact to the home without spending a fortune. 

'As a much cheaper option than other festive decorations such as garlands, you can invest in more paper decorations and create a showstopping display with real party atmosphere,' says Jane Rockett, Co-founder of Rockett St George (opens in new tab)

Hang them over your dining table for impressive Christmas table decor.

paper decorations on Christmas tablescape by Wayfair

(Image credit: Wayfair)

You can also add them to a garland display, place them loosely on benches or sideboards, scatter them on the floor, or hang them from the ceiling to create a pretty festive scene.

Hallway with Christmas decorations by Layered Lounge

(Image credit: Layered Lounge)

'As an added bonus, these decorations can also be reused throughout the year for birthdays and special occasions to help your money go further,' says Jane Rockett.

kitchen drape ideas

(Image credit: James Merrell)

Leoma Harper mixes foraged foliage and paper stars into her staircase garland for an affordable yet fabulous Christmas stair decor idea that can be built over the same faux garland every year.

Christmas hallway with stair garland by @styletheclutter

(Image credit: @styletheclutter)

Leoma says: 'I love layering, adding different textures, heights, and using festive accents like paper stars and foliage on the bannisters. To do this, I also have a little trick when it comes to the foliage and always start with a faux garland as a base followed by real foliage to pad it out, this creates a really nice full effect with a lot less mess.'

6. Hang a wreath inside

Kitchen with Christmas decorations by Layered Lounge

(Image credit: Layered Lounge)

A wreath is a quintessential part of Christmas decorating, but it doesn't have to be confined to the front door.

Dowsing & Reynolds (opens in new tab)' Connor Prestwood says: 'You can spice up your walls this Christmas by placing decorative frame corners or wreaths on your mirrors and large framed pictures that are hanging on the walls.

'Wreaths are a great way of bringing festive decor pretty much anywhere around your home to add a little more Christmas cheer. These don’t always have to be hung either; simply lay them against the wall or baseboard next to other Christmassy trinkets. Or place one on the dining table with a candle in the middle to create a pretty yet simple table centerpiece.'

Finding the perfect wreath to match your festive vision can be difficult, not to mention expensive. 

Luckily, there are basic wreaths available that allow you to add your own customizations. This also means you can use the wreath time and time again, by switching up the additions each year depending on what theme or colors you want to incorporate, saving on the cost of a brand new wreath every December.

7. Get creative with your advent calendar

Handmade advent calendar Christmas decoration by Neptune

(Image credit: Neptune)

Make your own advent calendar and it can double up as a statement piece of Christmas decoration in the house, too.

'Create an advent calendar by wrapping twenty-four small gifts and numbering each one or wrap empty boxes and suspend them from a curtain pole or a bed rail using ribbon,' says Neptune's Simon Temprell.

Christmas scene advent calendar by Wayfair

(Image credit: Wayfair)

You could also craft your advent calendar by making small fabric bags with any leftover material in the house.

'Rather than purchasing new advent calendars every year, make your own advent calendar bunting using pockets of fabric and fill with thoughtful gifts from independent stores, homemade treats and maybe a bit of chocolate, too,' says Annie Sloan.

Advent calendar by Annie Sloan

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

You can choose to mix and match materials for a fun and eclectic look, or opt for chic ticking stripe for an elegant aesthetic.

8. Decorate with 'presents' made from empty boxes

Colorful Christmas living room by Amara

(Image credit: Amara)

Don't throw that empty shoe box away - it's got the potential to become part of your Christmas decorations by adding some beautiful wrapping and ribbon.

Empty boxes wrapped as presents are really effective and easy way to create a pretty Christmas scene. Simply pile them around the Christmas tree for a lovely Christmas living room decor idea or scatter them in cozy corners around your home.

purple Christmas decorations by Annie Sloann

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

You can use pretty stripes and colorful ribbons, or even paint your boxes to match your baubles, as seen in the Annie Sloan image above.

Neutral Christmas scene with paper honeycombs by Layered Lounge

(Image credit: Layered Lounge)

You can keep your present wrapping as minimalist or maximalist as you like, depending on your color scheme. Pop them on benches, in the hallway, on sideboards, or even in bowls for a magical scene.

You can even get crafty with the wrapping paper, using potato printing to create a colorful, unique look.

Wrapped presents with handmade paper by Annie Sloan

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

Wrapped Christmas presents in handmade paper by Annie Sloan

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

'Potato printing is eco-friendly and cost-effective, and a great way of using leftover paint,' says Annie Sloan. 'You could print using a whole variety of found or household items - try creating circles with paint lids, old thread spools or sticky tape roll.

'It’s a fun winter activity and young hands will love to help.'

You can also do this to wrap your actual gifts for friends and family. Annie adds:  'Homemade gift wrap is a wonderful way to show how much you care.'

9. Handcraft Christmas stockings

Christmas living room with striped stockings by Annie Sloan

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

Christmas stockings can add a magical festive touch to any room, whether hung above the fireplace or in a bedroom. But you don't have to splash out on store-bought Christmas stockings to create a visually pleasing finish.

'Save leftover fabric from projects throughout the year to make DIY stockings and sacks for Christmas,' says Annie Sloan. 'They're great to hang as decorations in the lead up to the big day.'

A bit of greenery and a pretty stocking is all you need for a little Christmas flair in the bedroom, says Annie, commenting: 'Hints of greenery and a handmade stocking are the perfect touches for a restful bedroom that nods to the excitement of Christmas.'

Pink bedroom with yellow wardrobe and Christmas stocking by Annie Sloan

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

She adds: 'They can also make great little gifts on their own but, of course, they work best filled with lots of lovely treats.'

10. Dress what you already have

Small Christmas tree in green bedroom by Little Greene

(Image credit: Little Greene)

'There are lots of ways you can work with what you already so you don't have to spend a fortune on new decorations,' says Jane Rockett. 

'For example, you could fill lanterns with fairy lights, wrap light chains around table legs, use leftover Christmas decorations as place settings on the dinner table or decorate plants with quirky decorations in place of a Christmas tree.'

Decorating plants that you already have is a great idea to save money yet still create a Christmas theme.

Connor Prestwood comments: 'Another way to keep costs down is to think alternatively to your usual go-tos. If you don't have a Christmas tree, or you usually buy a real one every year, why not save yourself the extra money and use what you already have around the house? 

'Have a large indoor plant or a cluster of them? Why not decorate those and use them as your Christmas tree alternative? Fun and eco-friendly, too.'

11. Light up 

Christmas dining scene in barn by Neptune

(Image credit: Neptune)

Nothing quite adds to the festive cheer like fairy lights and candles. You can use any lights you already have in the cupboard to give anything that Christmassy touch.

If you have a beamed ceiling, they look wonderful wrapped in lights, but you can wrap them anywhere, including along your bedhead, around stair bannisters, across the edges of mirrors or on the window frame for a lovely Christmas window lighting idea.

'One of the main wonders of the festive season are the Christmas lighting ideas, and getting yours perfect can really add the finishing touches to any Christmas-inspired decor,' says Connor Prestwood.

'To keep it from being overpowering, stick to low-emitting lights that have a warm glow, such as LEDs. Candles are also perfect for this, adding that extra little bit of warmth and nostalgic scent to your space.'

12. Keep it simple

Christmas table decor dining room tablescape by The White Company

(Image credit: The White Company)

You don't have to go mad with tinsel and Christmas decorations to create a magical ambiance at home. 

All it takes to create a beautiful festive feeling is some foraged greenery, some strategically placed fairy lights and candles for atmosphere, and perhaps some paper honeycombs strewn around the home, placed loosely on sideboards,  hung from the ceiling or peppered across the floor.

Channel Scandi Christmas to achieve a sleek and pared-back scheme that won't cost the Earth.

'If maximalism isn’t quite your cup of tea, placing a few ornaments here and there with a garland and some candles, is quite festive enough for some,' says Connor Prestwood.

Creating a feast for the senses is also a lovely, minimalistic and affordable way to conjure up the seasonal spirit.

Neptune's Simon Temprell says: 'Dried orange slices, cinnamon sticks, dried hydrangea heads and seed pods all make fabulous seasonal decorations, and they also scent your home at the same time.  

'Bowls of fresh pomegranates or mandarin oranges (with leaves still attached) make simple but effective seasonal décor and, of course, candles everywhere.'

And, when it comes to your table decor, you can keep it simple too. Chrissie Rucker, founder of The White Company (opens in new tab), says: 'My table for Christmas Day starts with a white tablecloth and napkins, lovely white china and glassware.  

'Next, I run a mixture of both tall and low candle holders and some storm lanterns down the center of the table, together with lots of very simply arranged white flowers and greenery often from the garden: eucalyptus, snowberries and fresh rosemary are all favorites.'

How can I decorate without spending money?

Handmade Christmas stockings by Annie Sloan

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

'Some of the most charming and meaningful Christmas decorations are those that are handmade,' says Neptune's Simon Temprell. 

'Put yourself back in the days before tinsel and pre-lit Christmas trees and there are many ways to embrace the season while spending little to no money.'

Christmas crafts are a brilliant way to create a festive ambiance by using what you already have at home.

Annie Sloan says: 'Every scrap of fabric and leftover tin of paint is an opportunity for decoration. 

'Whether you’re breathing new life into tired accessories or developing your sewing skills with handmade napkins, placemats or stockings, now is the time to let your creativity flow.'

Paper stars and garlands are a lovely way to bring Christmas to the house, too. 

Christmas paper stars by Ginger Ray

(Image credit: Ginger Ray)

You can try making your own paper garland, or even one with festive shapes crafted with card.

'To create stylish Christmas decor sticking to a tonal colour palette helps. Try weaving in tonal green accents,' says Wayfair's Nadia McCowan Hill.

'On a cold winter's day, lay out several tonal green and white cards, cut out star shapes, snowflakes and any other festive shapes. Next step (if accessible), use a sewing machine to string the paper shapes together for a simple and thrifty Christmas garland.

'A kid-friendly craft that keeps to a stylish theme to hang on the tree or to tie a ribbon on and hang Christmas cards.'

Another lovely way to add a touch of magic to the house is to upcycle jam jars as tealight votives, and pop fairy lights into lanterns or glass vases.

Dried Christmas bouquet on pink door by Annie Sloan

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

And foraging is the ultimate way to decorate your home for free at Christmas.

'Foraged items are, of course, free and abundant at all times', says Simon Temprell. Use foraged pieces to create a beautiful table centerpiece, to decorate your mantelpiece (try draping ivy in place of a garland), or to weave into faux garlands to bring them to life.

You can add pinecones to a bowl with a selection of baubles that match your color scheme for a winter coffee table decoration; you could even spray the pinecones with a little glitter to add some extra sparkle to the display.

Or why not hang a hand-tied dried bouquet of flowers on a door for authentic, rustic appeal? Foraged Christmas decorating opportunities are endless.

Ruth Doherty is a lifestyle journalist based in London. An experienced freelance digital writer and editor, she is known for covering everything from travel and interiors to fashion and beauty. She regularly contributes to Livingetc, Ideal Home and Homes & Gardens, as well as titles like Prima and Red. Outside of work, her biggest loves are endless cups of tea, almond croissants, shopping for clothes she doesn’t need, and booking holidays she does.