Tuesday, December 09, 2008

It's always Christmas at thrift stores

Last year I pared our decorations beyond the original 2-box Christmas--goodbye, broken nativities, old lights and dangerous glass balls.

Time for some new (to me) additions!

These vintage-y candles glow in each front window as a compromise to outdoor lights. 25-cents each in original boxes

Even our tree came from a thrift store!

We're fresh tree people, cutting spindly cedars in the lean times. Last year's allergy attack made us vow to go fake. But did I really want to fight the crowds at Target's 75% off sale?

Thank goodness Goodwill set out several unopened trees at Thanksgiving! This tall spruce cost $55 (originally $399).

Fresh or fake: which is cheaper/better/prettier for your family?

72 comments:

Steph said...

We bought our first fake tree this year. I love fresh trees - but we have tall ceilings and always spend at least $150+ on a tree that will be okay scale-wise. Plus I love to put xmas decorations up before the Thanksgiving dishes are cleared - and leave them up until New Year's. And we're talking total fire hazard by New Years! ;-)

So this year we bit the bullet and bought a fake at Home Depot. It was $300 - *but* it will have paid for itself in 2 years. And we'll get more enjoyment out of it because I won't be sweeping needles from December 20th on - and I won't have the fear about the tree catching on fire b/c it's completely dead (I am a famous tree killer - no matter what I do it's a goner in 2 weeks)

Candace said...

Wow, that tree is fake, you could have fooled me. Congratulations on such a great find. I hope that when we get back to Texas I can resume my thrifty chic and garage saling ways. Here in Annapolis no one knows how to throw a proper sale and our Goodwill is expensive. Our consignment shops are great for finds but I still have a hard time affording them.

the voice of melody said...

We used to have a real tree in years past but I'd be vacuuming the many fallen needles at least a couple of times a day. A natural tree is beautiful and smells terrific but it does make a mess. Now, we have an artificial one which we all really enjoy. :)

TheNormalMiddle said...

My son is allergic to everything green that is or was once a living thing. Not even joking, that is dead serious.

So we got rid of the oh-so-smelly-good real tree and got a fake.

I do like not having to remember to water the thing.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing that can ever compare with a real tree....the beautiful, fresh smell being the best part. That said, we did go to fake a few years back, & I'm not sorry. There are many reasons why it works better for our family. And it's simply gorgeous when we get it all decorated. :o)

Brenda

Frugalchick said...

Wow, what a great deal on that tree!!

We don't even put up a tree anymore; after the cats repeatedly destroyed it during our first Christmas, we let the tradition go for awhile.

Lady of the Mote said...

your tree is beautiful,
I used to put up real ones when the kids were young,but now since its me a hubby,I use a fake one,this year I replaced my green one with a white one.

Anonymous said...

We used to visit a tree farm to cut our tree, but then got stationed in S. Korea where we ordered a tree from the Boy Scouts for $50. When it arrived, it resembled Charlie Brown's tree! So I headed over to the PX where I scored the last nice tree in stock. As we were assembling it on Sunday, we calculated that this is the 9th Christmas we've used it. My son is working at Target this Christmas season - I'm hoping we can score a pre-lit tree after Christmas at 75% off plus his employee discount! That said, I do miss the fresh tree aroma, but it wouldn't last long here in sunny, dry San Antonio.

I'm glad you have a few minutes to give us a glimpse into your Christmas decorating, Meredith.

Susan in San Antonio

My Boaz's Ruth said...

I prefer fake. My husband prefers real... We'll see how things progress as the year goes. Even cheap real trees are REALLY expensive!

SusieH said...

Nice candles! That's a fake tree? it is GORGEOUSly real-looking. Great find :)

Tubo Family said...

We used to go up to a tree farm in the Sierra foothills and cut our own each year. Bu we now have a pre-lit artificial purchased on Christmas Eve the year my husband has bronchitis twice and was sick for a solid 2 months and I was desperate to find ANY tree for my little one's second Christmas since his first we had skipped it as we were moving. It was about $150 on the 50% off sale, comparable to 3 or 4 years of the fresh 6' trees we used to get; more like 1.5 or 2 years worth of the 9.5' tall ones that it is. I miss the smell so much but love that I can leave it up until New Years without worrying about fire.

mama k said...

I love fresh trees. But lately I've been a bit of a Grinch and getting the motivation to do a tree at all has been enough effort. LOL So I pulled out my $5 clearance green "tinsel tree" and that'll do this year. It's 4' so I put it up on an end table to make it a little more impressive. :)

Jenny said...

Although we love fresh. We learned from a time when my hubby was out of work the joys of having a fake tree. Thanks to my parents who gave us one for Christams in our lean times. Since they decided a big tree was to much for them. They wanted to down size. Like you I got ride of alot of our broken Christmas decorations last year.

Mary Ellen ~ Carolina Momma said...

As someone who can't keep houseplants alive, trees are way beyond me! So it's fake in our house. We have 9 fake trees of various sizes and colors spread throughout the house. Our 5yo daughter even put up some of the trees all by herself this year. We just love decorating trees!

Janya said...

We live on a tree farm (not a Christmas tree farm) so we could never consider a fake! We love the tradition of going out and chopping down our own tree and supporting the local Christmas tree farmers. It's become a part of our seasonal tradition as our young family slowly build its own traditions.

It's great that everyone does what is truly best for them, making the season more enjoyable and stress-free (hopefully!).

Janya

Janya said...

We live on a tree farm (not a Christmas tree farm) so we could never consider a fake! We love the tradition of going out and chopping down our own tree and supporting the local Christmas tree farmers. It's become a part of our seasonal tradition as our young family slowly build its own traditions.

It's great that everyone does what is truly best for them, making the season more enjoyable and stress-free (hopefully!).

Janya

Anonymous said...

I'm from the Pacific Northwest and grew up with my dad chopping his own tree every year so I have to have real. Fake has done in a pinch (like when we lived overseas), but barring family health problems I will always choose real when possible.

-Michelle

Jenny's Vegcafe said...

I love fresh trees but I can't part with my .50 cent garage sale special tree which was originally $50 at Wal-Mart a decade ago.

Jenny's Vegcafe said...

I'm really impressed with your 2 box system and wish I could bear to part with more stuff. We have acquired so much after Christmas stuff, Grandma stuff and my Mom's old stuff. And I seem to have bought oodles of unbreakable (cheap) ornaments for the kids to hang on the bottom of the tree. Our Christmas stuff takes up half the basement storage area and stresses me out!

Anonymous said...

I'm a fake tree girl. I love the frugality of it (my tree is probably close to 20 years old), and the convenience. You just pull the tree out of the basement whenever you are ready.

Brandy said...

We're fresh tree folks, but there's always the fake one down in the basement if we can't make it to the tree farm. :-)

Brandy ~ Where the Lilies Bloom

Sandy said...

My tree was a $400 tree too, purchased from a garage sale. I miss the fresh scent for sure, but love how we've saved money over last 4 yrs. And, it's beautiful!

Great finds, Meredith!

Moxie said...

Even though I like fresh better, we do fake each year. Ours was bought one year AFTER Christmas for $25!!

Moxie said...

Oh and last year I even hid a plug in near the tree that was pine scented!! LOL!

Layla said...

For most of my childhood, we went out to the tree farm and chopped our own. My family has used a pre-lit fake one for years, though. I miss the real ones. DH's family has to use fake, due to his mom's allergies.

Since this is our first Christmas out on our own, we've had to pick. We're going real, since we don't have anywhere to store a fake one in our little apartment. Now we're just trying to figure out how to keep it alive while we're gone for a week and a half.

Anonymous said...

Fresh trees are beautiful and smell so good but ack... the mess they leave! It's fake for me!

Kris

Laura said...

We've done both. For the last two years, we even put up both a live and a fake tree - one in the front room, and one in the family room.

This year we just put up the fake tree. Money-wise, it makes sense, and because we're using the fireplace more for heat this year it won't dry out and be a fire hazard like the live one could be.

Jane said...

I would love a fake tree. Living in LA where it is warm and *dry* -live trees die soo fast. However, living in an apartment makes a fake tree hard to store. So, I have a tiny 1 foot fake tree from the dollar store. It was an adjustment to realize that certain traditions just do not work with this lifestyle. However, I have now embraced the challenges of city apartment living as an opportunity to be more creative in my decorating. Also the time/cost/storage space of a tree is now spent on other things!

Mo said...

We use a fake tree. Not only because of environmental issues (I can't bear to buy a tree that was chopped down for Christmas, instead of being allowed to grow and contribute to its ecosystem) but also because of cost. Seven years ago, I got our tree on sale & employee discounted for $25 (6' Noble Fir). Average fresh tree price in my area is $40, so I saved $15 the first year, and $40 each year after...for a total savings of $255 so far. It's worth it to me.

Carrie J said...

We had fresh trees for years but one year, when I was really sick over the holidays, the tree stayed up way too long and dried needles worked their way into the carpet. I decided that year that with small children I would rather have a fake tree. I realized not only was it easy to clean up after, it was cheaper in the long run.
I grew up on a farm and one of our traditions was to scout our tree out early in the fall. I will admit to missing that. It would be nice to do that again someday with my grandchildren, just the way I did it with my grandfather.

Renee said...

I guess fresh trees are jsut a memory from my childhood now. We have the ugliest tree on the planet. It's a fake tree my hubby's family had when he was young. He took it for his first tiny apartment and he cut the bottom off to make it smaller. It's horrible. You can see rusty meatal sticking out from it. But my dh loves it. Now under it, we have a beautiful Lionel train! It was a gift from my father in-law two years ago! I also forage some pine cuttings to decorate with to add some fresh pine smell to the house.

Anonymous said...

It's always a real tree at our house. Besides the wonderful smell we love the fact that we can support farmers in this way. I also have major issues with the fact that the fake ones cannot be recycled the way the real ones can. Our local brush pick-up service chips up discarded Christmas trees and uses them as mulch in our city parks, etc. Fake trees take hundreds of years to decompose if ever.

Beth said...

After two many Decembers spent with several of us battling allergies, we decided this year to go to fake. We happened to go to Lowes the day they cut the price on all Christmas decorations by 50%.

The tree we got had already been marked down as a special deal, but they took another 50% off that. Ours was not *quite* the bargain yours was, but really close...and it's one of the super-realistic ones like yours. We've got it set up but no ornaments on it yet...I'm loving it already. :)

Renee said...

This might be a strange question but for the window candles you got how do they light up? There is no cord to plug them in.

Another question that I would love to hear input from is what are buying or making for your children for Christmas? Or are you not giving gifts to the children.

It seems to be a yearly question that really gets are minds going and makes one think about things.

I for one have yet to purchase anything for the children other then I bought a set of American Girl paper dolls for $.49 at the local thrift store for my daughter.

Happy Holidays To All!

Renee~ Married mama to four
rbrown7997@yahoo.com

Jordana said...

For the first time in several years, we bought a real tree. It is nice, but I am not positive it is really worth the price or effort. Our fake tree, which is sitting unused in the attic at the moment was purchased at 90% off on Christmas Eve one year -- $19.99 for a 9' pre-lit tree.

Margo said...

My area has the most tree farms in the country, according to the radio news the other day! So we buy a fresh tree to support local growers, have a fun time together, and for the smell. We always buy a "Charlie Brown" tree because we put the bad side against the wall. And I always snip off a few branches on the wall side or near the floor and then use them for decorations around the house. This year our cut tree cost $22 total (wrapped, cut, tax). When we take it down January 6, we take it the park where they mulch it. Great cycle!

Margo said...

I just went back and skimmed over the comments: What allergies are people referring to? My husband is allergic to dust mites and I think a fake tree would gather and keep a lot more dust than a real one. Are people allergic to pine, in this case??

Sher's Creative Expressions said...

We love real trees too, but with my husband's and oldest daughter's allergies/asthma. . . not possible. I guess the tree spores open up in a warm house and cause all kinds of problems. That's what the allergist told me anyways. So, real is best, fake is must be for my family though.

Blessings,

Sher

Meredith@MerchantShips said...

I think the allergy is to some sort of pollen or sap on evergreens. We've never had a big problem with it, but last year's tree was fresher than usual (from a local tree grower) and my husband's sinuses exploded after bringing it in the house that night.

He continued having problems until we took it to the chipper the day after Christmas!

I am not convinced that fake trees save you so much money or are better for the environment. To me, a $25 tree (price at Kroger) that you can chip/compost afterward is a good deal in terms of space and style.

Maybe it's just living in small spaces, but I place a high value on not having to store things that are used only once a year!

that said, I was happy to buy a nice-looking tree at a great price that won't upset my husband's allergies!

Meredith@MerchantShips said...

The candles are battery operated. You simply twist the bulb to turn them on and off.

Lillian the Ponderer said...

THAT'S FAKE???? WOW, you even fooled me - I come from (half) scandinavian tree-harvesting stock and until today I have never seen a fake that I couldn't immediately tell was fake. Good find!

Christi said...

We'd always done a fresh/live tree until last year, when we finally bought an artificial tree. I still get live greens from Lowe's from where they cut the trees. They're more than happy to give them to me, and I still get that great smell!

Ewokgirl said...

While I love a real tree, we do fake for several reasons:

1. No allergy problems.

2. Not a temptation for our kitty who feels the need to mark any plants, trees, and bushes.

3. One-time buy for something that's used year after year.

4. No mess of dropped needles or sap or spilled water.

Anonymous said...

Both kinds have their advantages.

We received a free fake tree this summer from a friend, downsizing. So, will decide if we like it.

But I decorate the mantle, windows, even potted herbs with fresh (free) balsam trimmings from our neighborhood tree seller, and cedar from our yard.

Discovered a ziploc bag full of dried balsam needles saved from last year's tree. STILL smells pungent and sweet!

deb meyers

Elizabeth G. said...

I have really enjoyed looking at all of your thrift finds! You are doing great, girl! Love everything!1

Hey, if you enjoy inspiring Christmas stories I am sharing them on my blog all month long. Stop by and enjoy!

God bless you this Season!
Elizabeth

Christy said...

We bought a live Norfolk pine this year and went easy on decorations since it's delicate. It'll stay as a house plant the rest of the year. Next year, maybe a small live spruce to plant outside later.

Janette said...

We love fresh. We travel too often to put a fresh one up anymore:<0 Fake is better than none

Meredith@MerchantShips said...

Great idea on the Norfolk pine!

Our Sams Club had them this weekend in big, beautiful pots for only $4.81.

Empty Nest Full Life said...

We have a fake tree too due to allergies and frugality. I love fresh trees, but one year we were infested with spiders and bugs that decided to depart the tree as soon as we brought it inside. My tree I will be decorating came from my sister.

Anonymous said...

I love the fish ornament!
Lisa

Ann Kroeker said...

You do *show* so well, taking beautiful photos to highlight your beautiful life.

Our hormonal tweens got into a huge argument three years ago, and I urged us to consider a fake. We all picked one out (we got it on sale at Target, but it's not as realistic looking as yours), and that's that. Now we just drag it down and put it up.

I also like that we don't have to worry about it drying out and becoming a fire hazard.

I don't miss the emotional arguments, but I miss the smell of pine.

*j-u-l-e-s* said...

It does look real tree Meredith!! YOu are so great at spotting bargains.

We went "live" this year for the first time in a long time. I donated our old tree last year to goodwill. Maybe someone will get a deal of their own.

I like having the fresh fir tree smell and it was kind of an "event" going out and buying it and putting it up.

They were relatively inexpensive at Home Depot - an 8 ft tree for under $35.

WhiteStone said...

Last year in a fit of Scrooginess I tossed out our tree. Bought a small one this past summer on a yard sale and it looks pretty cool. Since it is small the decos are small, too. Beads. And more beads.

rainbowmummy said...

We have a five year old fake which cost around £70,uk money :0). I am pretty confident that we will get a lot more years out it, that's if my son would just stop shaking it. I love your boxes as well, from the post that you linked! I have enjoyed having the same tree year after year, it's a tradition! I bought some deorations this year but compaired to last year I am saving so much!

Catz said...

Although I love the smell of a real tree, this year we have got our 6ft fake tree out of the loft again! It only cost £14 5 years ago here in the after Christmas sales in the uk so has paid for itself many times over.

I love the fact that we are not just saving money but keeping stuff out of the landfill for as long as we can.

Frugalicious said...

Good for you not fighting the Target crowds. I foolishly did two years ago only to open the box a year later and find the tree missing the top piece. Too late for returns, and to the goodwill it went.

You are lucky to find such good prices. In Austin, those candle lights would have been $1+!

I purchased a rag rug from Target after Christmas for 50% off, marked from $4 to $2. I found the same rag rug at the goodwill marked $3 with the original tag ($4) still on it. In this area, one must be careful what they pay at the local thrift stores.

Daiquiri said...

Hi Meredith - thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment for me this morning. I think of your family often - what a joyful Christmas for you with all your little ones :)

We're fresh tree folks. Hubby and my brother in law even ventured into the mountains one year to cut one down himself. After getting the truck stuck in the boonies, hiking for about 10 miles in the frigid mountain snow, breaking in to someones mountain cottage to use the phone to call police, and having the sherrif come to rescue him (and having to apologize profusely to the homeowner who "helped")...well, we're now forever "tree lot" type of tree people!

We travel every other holiday to be with family, so on the years that we're away from home we have a small fake tree in a pretty pot that we put on our side table and that has just enough room to put our favorite decorations on. We got it for $10 (normally $108!!).

Thanks again for stopping by. Blessings to you and yours this season :)

Daiquiri @ Call Her Blessed

Melissa Lester said...

We do artificial trees. My husband grew up with real trees, so he was eager to share that tradition with us a few years ago. We are always scrambling to get decorations up between Thanksgiving and our son's December 5th birthday, so we bought the tree and decorated it days before the party. I was woefully behind in my party preparations, still needing to clean house and make Christian's cake, when the tree fell while we slept the night before the party. Picking up shards of broken ornaments and pine needles from all over our family room was definitely too much on top of everything else on my to-do list! So that was our one experience with the real tree. And if we ever try it again, it will have to be bolted to the wall!

Meredith@MerchantShips said...

Y'all have some funny tree stories!

Frugalicious, great point about the prices. I RARELY if ever buy the Target salvage that goes to our Goodwills. It is frequently marked higher than the clearance price!

But since I needed a tree, and Goodwill has an exchange policy, I thought it was worth the dare...

As for the candles, I knew that basic candles are sold at Dollar Tree for $1 each. Most of the thrift store candles I've seen have been $1 each.

I watched for a year or so before happening upon these. They were marked 50-cents each, but it was half-price day. That made it a good enough deal for me.

I try not to buy items used unless they are 75-90% off the original price.

Amy said...

I love the smell of fresh, but we are a fake family for convenience and allergies sake :) I think fresh are beautiful, but more work than I can put forth right now :)

Tricia said...

In Shasta County, CA, it's only $10 to cut your own tree so we can't rationalize anything else! Tree hunting is an outing including trapsing thru the snow, camp fire, hotdogs and marshmallows. It's our offical start to the Christmas season.
I enjoy each of your posts! Keep up the inspiration!

nea said...

that is the most impressive fake tree i have ever seen.
personally, i love a fresh tree because of the smell. we compost at the end of the season. this year, we opted small due to a crawling baby, upgraded in quality to a noble fir, and it doesn't smell at all! so back to the doug firs next year!

3boysmama said...

We pay $10 for a permit to cut down a tree in the national forest. We've done it for 2 years now and its been a fun tradition so far.

Anonymous said...

girl - we go with fake FIVE 6 and 7 foot trees - awesome and prelit - each of them!

I don't have to sweep needles at all! and the trick is is that they LOOK real - my friends love the great themes on each of them -
With scented candles, music and something baking in the oven - IT's ALL THE RAGE AT MY HOUSE!
MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Plus, my mama will be here from arkansas this year! Gotta clean out the closets before she comes --
ha ha ha
love,
Latrice!

Elizabeth said...

We always do fresh, though we shouldn't because of allergies. We just love having fresh trees. I'm not sure what I'm going to do this year, as we will visit our grown children out of state. We had our big family celebration here at Thanksgiving. So, I'm wondering if I'd like to do just a little tree - not as big as one we ordinarily would do. We'll see.

Elizabeth said...

P.S. I do have a little fake one that I used for an extra decoration one year. I got it at a low price because I worked a part time job at the store that sold it. But, I haven't used it in a few years.

Hmm.

hsgbdmama said...

We have had our fake tree for 13 years(obtained at Sam's for $80) and I don't think we'll ever go back to real. While I love the smell and look of a real tree, the hassle is just not worth it.

badhuman said...

I go for real, it probably isn't cheaper but I think it's better for the environment and I love the experience of picking it out every year and then the smell throughout the house through the holidays.

Anonymous said...

We like fresh, but there were years we used a borrowed fake tree, and that really didn't make any difference. We burned pine candles instead. It is more expensive to buy a real tree. Then you have to get it home, but the fun is in choosing one and enjoying the clippings. You could still go to a tree farm and enjoy the outdoors and probably get some free clippings. The detractor for us is that a fake tree must be stored. They also break down and leach metals like lead. If you have storage, it is definitely cheaper to buy a tree, especially if you can get it for the cost of one live one!

Anonymous said...

Meredith,

Do you think you could do a post about thrift stores, or maybe you have already done one. Like how to find a good one, what makes a good one, etc.

The area where I live does not seem like it has much for good thrift stores but maybe I am just not looking hard enough.

Anonymous said...

Madame Meredith -Let the record reflect that Latrice knocked over a goodwill today and scored lots of 4t pants for the son and wicker nesting basket sets for organizing the closets - crazy crazy - off the chain finds!

It was a cyclone hit I tell ya!

thanks for your support and inspiration!
winter has hit us - like a snowball in the face - SURPRISE!

latrice - working mama in the 'freezing' northwest

Erika said...

I much prefer real trees, though if we experienced such allergies that would change quickly! A couple of years when things were really tight we cut one down in our own woods. Both times they looked so good in the woods but so sadly spindly once inside. My husband went and cut branches from a similar tree, drilled holes in the trunk and hot-glued the "extra" branches right in! Didn't last long, but helped appearances in the short term. We live very close to a tree farm and go there now. Haven't managed to get there yet though this year...will probably go just a few days before Christmas.