I love this time of year – Advent, all it represents, and the lead-up to Christmas. All the fun of it – decking my halls, selecting the perfect gifts for everyone on my list, wrapping them in pretty paper, writing out and mailing Christmas greetings to far-flung family and friends, baking cookies and treats to share with local family and friends… all of it. It’s all so twinkly and sparkly and joyous. It’s all so expensive. Dolla dolla bills, y’all. So expensive.
This isn’t a post about how to save money on your Christmas shopping (goodness knows I have trouble sticking to my budget when I come across that perfect item that someone would just LOVE) or on your cards (man alive, those picture cards cost bank!) – but I do have some ideas to share about decking your halls. Now, of course, you can save money by re-using your decorations every year. I do – my tree skirt, pillows and holiday tableware all make repeat appearances year in and year out. And I like that – it’s like seeing old friends every December when I pull out the decorations.
Still, it’s also fun to change it up a bit. And there are ways to do that without breaking the bank or tapping into money otherwise earmarked for gifts. I’ve got four ideas to share with you, and all of them were accomplished with items found either at the grocery store or lying around my house. And none of them cost more than $15.00.
Homemade Advent Wreath
Starting with my favorite – a homemade Advent wreath! So, let me tell you a little story: I’ve always wanted an Advent wreath, and I’ve been holding out for the perfect one. I saw one I loved, years ago, at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria. It was a simple ceramic vessel – a moat of sorts, which could be filled with greenery, with four wells for taper candles. I wanted it, but for some reason I didn’t buy it. And then, of course, I regretted it, and I looked for it every time we visited the Torpedo Factory since, and I never saw anything similar. So I’ve been holding out for literally years.
This fall I started listening to podcasts during my commute, and one of my favorites is “Sorta Awesome.” Most of the podcasts I like, I don’t feel comfortable listening to in front of my kids – they’re not bad, and I’m not embarrassed by any of the content (probably 90% of my podcast listening is about books or running) but they occasionally use words like “sucks,” or “crap” – words I don’t want Peanut repeating at school. (I’m less bothered by Nugget hearing those words right now, because he can’t talk.) But it’s very rare indeed that a word I’m concerned about pops up on “Sorta Awesome,” and I love the variety of subjects, the tips for living and mothering, and the “Awesome of the Week.” So we’ve been working our way through the backlist as the kids and I drive home from work and preschool at the end of the day. Recently, Megan hosted Jerusalem Greer, who talked about Advent. Jerusalem’s top tip – her place to start, so to speak – was an Advent wreath. And – this is going to sound ridiculous – it wasn’t until I heard Jerusalem talking about Advent wreaths that I realized, Eureka!, I could make my own and it would actually be really easy.
So, according to Jerusalem, an Advent wreath requires just a few components: something circular, like a plate, to represent eternity; something “living” (can be water, river rocks, greenery, anything natural); and four candles, one for each Sunday of Advent. They don’t even necessarily have to be the three purple and one pink that I grew up with. (If you want extra credit, you can have a fifth candle, the Christ candle, to light on Christmas.)
I grabbed the following materials from around my house:
- Luna Garcia oblong platter (oblong can represent eternity, too, right?)
- Four unscented dinner candles
- Pink and purple yarn
- Rosemary clipped from my garden (oh, yeah, I should probably bring that inside)
Putting the “wreath” together was simple. I just lined the four candles up on the platter, clipped four equal-length strands of yarn (three purple and one pink), wrapped one strand around each candle and tied them in little bows. Then Peanut and I tucked sprigs of rosemary around the candles and voila, our very first Advent wreath! Couldn’t have been easier, and…
Total Cost: $0.00, because I used all materials I already had on hand.
This Thanksgiving, I mentioned to my sister-in-law that I’ve always wanted a rosemary tree for my kitchen, and she said that she loves those too. I don’t know why I’ve never bought one before, but with that thought in the back of my mind I kept my eyes open when I did my weekly shopping at Wegmans. No surprise, they had them – so I grabbed one for $6.99. It came in a pretty red burlap sack. I decked it with my snowman chef ornaments from Williams-Sonoma (although it would be really pretty with a string of fresh cranberries, too – maybe next year) and it’s making my kitchen smell divine.
Total Cost: $6.99.
I’m craft-challenged, but this year I got it into my head that even I couldn’t mess up pomander balls. I’m not even sure what put me on to the idea of doing some this year, but I grabbed a bag of oranges and a bottle of whole cloves from the supermarket and went to town while watching Supergirl. Six pomanders, in six different patterns, and they smell incredible.
- Bag of oranges
- Bottle of whole cloves
- Knitting needle, stylus, or other sharp object (I used an inexpensive double-sided bamboo knitting needle)
Using the needle, poke holes in an orange in whatever pattern you like. Stick one clove into each hole. Dry in a 200 degree oven for a looooooong time – I did six hours. Keep in a dry location and enjoy all season, then pitch after Christmas (or whenever they get weird).
Total Cost: $15.00, but only because I didn’t have any whole cloves at home.
Fun Seasonal Soap
This one feels almost like cheating, but it’s something that never occurred to me before last year. Steve and I really like the Wegmans foaming hand soaps and we keep them around in the kitchen and the downstairs bathroom, in different scents. Last year they had a harvest scent for fall, and that was the first time I ever picked one up – and the first time it occurred to me to use something other than very basic Softsoap in the kitchen. We’ve been enjoying the different scents all year and I grabbed a “sugar cookie” flavor to make our December hand-washing more festive. It’s such a silly thing, but it’s fun. (If you don’t have a Wegmans nearby, I’ll bet you can find something similar at your grocery store, or there’s always Bath and Body Works.)
Total Cost: $2.69 – a steal!
How do you add festive flair to your house without breaking the budget?