As November closes in and the first of December beckons, it's time to get your house Christmas-ready. Buy the tree, get it decorated, hang a wreath, start making cute decorations with the kids.
December is a stress-inducing month for many people because it's expensive. Despite having celebrated countless festive seasons before, a lot of us still end up spending more than we need in The Warehouse's decoration section.
Need Christmas decorating tips on a budget? Keep reading.
Take a walk in the park
You'll find many of the traditional Northern Hemisphere Christmas items from nature like pine cones in most New Zealand parks. Every year I take a bag, grab two dozen that have fallen from the ground, and pop them in a vase for the table. They can also be strung up as festive bunting, and they look great when spray-painted gold or silver and placed randomly around the house.
What else can you find in Kiwi parks to decorate with? This might surprise you – chestnuts. They're grown throughout New Zealand but can be most easily found in Auckland, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty.
Bake your decorations
Back in the 1980s, we used to bake Christmas decorations at school. You mix flour, salt, and water to make a dough, create whatever shapes you want, and bake until hard. Use paint and glitter to decorate and use twine to hang them to your tree.
It sounds kitsch, but let's be honest, the Christmas decorations you can buy aren't exactly haute couture either. Make the eclectic homemade look work for you.
Use old Christmas cards
Another throwback from decades gone by is using old Christmas cards as decorations. The more vintage the better: simply cut out Christmassy shapes like trees and stars from the front covers, and string them up around the house after hole-punching the top.
Got some left over? Turn them into gift tags for your presents. They're so much more inviting than basic To/From stickers.
Turn off your Christmas lights
Power bills are expensive enough as it is. Do you really need your fairy lights going all day and all night?
Cheap lights don't always use energy-efficient bulbs and all those little sparkles add up.
Christmas lights add joy and atmosphere to a space but for the sake of your budget, consider turning them on for just an hour every night. Make it a treat for the whole family and let the kids flick the switch each for 25 consecutive evenings.
Reinvent what you already own
When you find a broken box of decorations that's been pushed away for a year (or more), the initial instinct is to throw it all out and start again with brand new stuff. There's no need to do this: everything can be reinvented, and the best use of broken bits is in creative wreaths and table centrepieces.
Got stars with points broken off? Short bits of tinsel? Broken baubles? Check out ways to up cycle them online.
Host an ornament swap
Here's a new take on the silly season. To mark the beginning on the month of Christmas, host a bunch of friends over and tell everybody to bring a box of previous years' ornaments with them.
Not only is it a fun and eco-friendly way to trade decorations and get your hands on pieces that are no longer available, but it's also a chance to hear stories and memories of others' past Christmases to get you in the mood for what's to come.