Deck the halls for lots less lolly

Giving your place a festive look doesn’t have to be expensive, despite what they’re selling in the shops. This year I’ll be making my place look as Christmassy as possible on a teensy weensy budget, and if I can do it, so can you.

First of all I’ll clear away a lot of the everyday clutter and give the place a bit of a clean. It costs nothing, makes the house look more inviting, and creates space to give the festive decorations more impact.

Then I’ll look through what I’ve already got. I have quite a few things carefully packed away from last year, including a crazy metal sculpture of a pine tree, and some kitschy ornaments that make me smile. There are a few bits of tinsel and some baubles up in the loft too, if I remember rightly.

What you already have to hand will vary – whether that’s ornaments, craft materials, ribbons etc – have a good look around before you think about buying lots of new things. I think it helps to have some kind of theme, whether that’s Victorian/Germanic and traditional, more rustic stuff, nature, a particular colour palette, kitsch fun/popular culture, or whatever else tickles your fancy. The madder the theme the better, so get inspired by store displays, magazines and design porn websites.

Trees can be pretty expensive, and if you can’t afford a fresh one this year then you could always improvise with evergreen branches, painted glittery twigs, twisted wire shapes, 2-D pictures or outlines pinned to a wall, or even by hanging baubles on a big pot plant.

The trusty pound shop will see you right with a range of inexpensive baubles (you can customise them when you get home if you like – I’m tempted to stick on pics of Z-list celebrities this year), tinsel, table decorations and tiny crackers to scatter around or put on the tree. One thing I’d suggest avoiding is cheap fairy lights – this advice comes from a very sensible person who’s a qualified and experienced electrician, and I’m inclined to believe them.

If you can’t afford nice lights but still want a twinkly effect, try putting tea lights in decorated jam jars. A little ribbon and some cinnamon sticks or sprigs of ivy make good decorations, or you can paint or add glitter. Plain candlesticks can be made fancier by adding ribbons or lace, and decorations such as leaves can easily be pinned to the lower parts of plain pillar candles too (the kind where the outside of the candle doesn’t burn down).

Home made decorations for tables, the mantelpiece, or the tree can be made out of salt dough or iced gingerbread, and you can also download and print off all kinds of foldable and glueable paper templates. Christmas stockings are easy to make out of felt or fabric scraps. I also really like edible decorations such as scattered sweets, candy canes, clementines with their leaves still attached, and bowls of nuts – cheap and tasty (like I like my men).

Garlands can finish the look, and don’t have to be too expensive. You can buy plain dark green tinsel and add your own bows or ornaments to it, or you can use ivy, paper chains, or even threaded popcorn. Then all you need to do is add a pile of gift-wrapped presents and crack out the gin mince pies.

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