Thanksgiving has been and gone and Christmas lights now festoon countless homes across Minnesota.
I was among those hanging lights inside and out this past weekend, and started it off thinking we had more than enough decorations to achieve the desired effect.
Subsequent trips to Menards and a Christmas craft store proved how foolish I was – and suddenly I'm the owner of five more strings of lights, four more tree ornaments and a pine garland.
The Tip Jar: Why thrift stores are an untapped goldmine.
Needless to say I was kicking myself for not planning ahead, so use the following tips for keeping your decorating costs low to avoid making the same mistakes I did.
1. Wait till after Christmas to buy lights, decorations
The most obvious tip, but one that often seems unpalatable if, like me, you feel pretty bummed when the next Christmas is 364 days away.
Nonetheless, 'tis the time retailers will heavily discount their remaining Christmas stock – you'll also find them cheaper the closer it gets to Dec. 25.
2. Use LED lights
All our Christmas lights are LED and while it isn't going to save you megabucks now, if you're buying lights to last then you'll save money in the long run.
Clark.com studied how long it takes to save money buying LED instead of incandescent lights. It found that if you use a lot of lights at your home, after nine years you'll be saving $5 per string of lights every year with LED.
3. Make your own
Making your own from materials you have at home (or bought for less at craft stores) can save you a bundle over the years.
4. Be sensible with your energy usage
There's no need to have your outdoor Christmas lights on overnight – who's there to see them? Turn them on when it starts to get dark, then off before you go to bed.
Same goes for inside – don't have them on when you're not home. And if you are home, turn them on instead of your regular house lights. It's prettier that way anyhow.
If you're worried about burglars, invest in a cheap timer – like this one from Target – and lock those windows ...
5. Check out thrift stores
I previously wrote about the bargain-hunting treasure troves you can find at Minnesota thrift stores, and Christmas decorations are among the items many have in abundance.
Check out the Facebook pages and websites of your local shops, and keep an eye out for neighborhood garage sales for good deals too.
6. Build year on year
This isn't necessarily about saving money as it is spreading the cost.
One of the joys of Christmas decorating is finding new things to do every year, so rather than spending a ton now, take a piecemeal approach to your festive decorations.
Last year for example, we bought lights for our mantelpiece and bookcase, this year we decorated a bush in our yard – maybe next December will have a bash at wrapping our gigantic maple tree.
The Tip Jar is consumer writer Adam Uren's advice column on how to spend, save, and live with confidence. Read past columns here.