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Decorating for the Holidays on a Budget

Niccole Schreck

The holidays are expensive, but getting into the Christmas spirit doesn't have to empty your wallet. If you'd like to decorate your home but forgot to leave room for the added expense this year, there are budget-friendly alternatives.

Follow these tips for a space packed with holiday cheer - without having to cut into your holiday shopping funds.

Decorate with LED lights. Wrapping small twinkling lights around the mirrors in your home will instantly create a warm, holiday atmosphere, but extra lights means extra charges on your energy bill. New LED holiday lights use at least 75 percent less energy and last 25 times longer than older, incandescent lighting - which means you save. Always remember to unplug your holiday lights before going to bed or leaving the house. As with all appliances and electronics, your holiday lights will continue to draw power even when not in use.

Make a big impact with a small tree. Save money and space by opting for a mini artificial Christmas tree. Not only are mini trees less expensive than their full-size counterparts, many come pre-lit, and you'll need fewer ornaments to decorate it. An artificial tree will last for several years, so you'll save more in the long run as well. To make a big statement with a small tree, choose an unexpected color rather than the traditional evergreen.

Make your own holiday decor. Making your own decorations will save you money, and there's really no better way to get into the holiday spirit. The possibilities are endless, but here are some easy ideas to get the wheels turning:

--Do-it-yourself ornaments are an easy way to add a personal touch, and they can be made out of just about anything. Use an assortment of green buttons strung on string or wire to create a mini wreath ornament; string red and white beads on pipe cleaners to make candy canes; or paint old light bulbs like penguins.

--If you have some old bows lying around from last year's presents, gather them together and turn them into a wreath.

--Have an old bed pillow you don't use anymore? Turn it into a snowman! Simply use some felt to create the face, tie a bow around the neck and add a hat.

Use pinecones. Whether you choose to paint them like mini Christmas trees, cover them in glitter or leave them in their natural state, pinecones are an excellent (and free!) holiday decoration. Don't forget to bake your pinecones at 200 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes to dry the sap and kill any bugs.

Dress up your candles. You may not be able to have chestnuts roasting on an open fire in your apartment, but you can still use them to decorate. Place candles in glass containers, and fill them halfway with chestnuts for an easy and elegant holiday decoration. For an even more affordable option, place cinnamon sticks around candles and secure them with twine.

Create an edible holiday centerpiece. To make a festive centerpiece for any room, all you need is a glass container, which you can find at any dollar store. Fill your glass container with red, green and silver holiday-themed Hershey's kisses, candy canes and other festive goodies. Produce can also provide the perfect holiday centerpiece for your table. Look for brightly colored seasonal fruits such as cranberries, apples or clementines.

Set out presents. Nothing says "the holidays" like gift-wrapped boxes. You don't have to actually put anything in the boxes - just cover them with decorative paper, and attach some colorful holly or a bow. Put them up in your front hall to set the tone for the rest of your space.

Niccole Schreck is the rental experience expert for Rent.com, a free rental site that helps you find an affordable apartment and provides tips on how to move.

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