40-Day Challenge Day 18


Pull out your holiday decorations and use only what you have. Instead of trying to decorate your entire house, focus on three things: a tree, your mantelpiece, and a wreath. Decorate them similarly.




For more decorating ideas, enjoy the following excerpt from my book, Debt-Proof Your Christmas (the Kindle version has a different title, The Affordable Christmas.)

House Dressing

Have you ever noticed that our eyes become mercifully selective once our homes are dressed for the holidays? The slightly worn carpet and tired sofa seem to disappear when upstaged by even the simplest decorations.

Likely, you already have more than enough materials in your drawers, attic, and yard to turn your home into a warm and attractive setting for a holiday celebration. What you need are some great idea starters. And I’ve got some great ones for you.

  • Candles are a simple and natural way to decorate for Christmas. If all you have are pine-tree greenery and candles, you have all you need. Use candles lavishly and light them as often as possible. Nothing will turn your home into a softer, more beautiful place faster than candles.
  • Line your walkways, drive, or other areas on your property with luminarias made from paper bags filled with two inches of sand and a votive candle in the center.
  • Make punched-tin luminarias that can be kept from year to year: Rinse out an opened tin can and pinch all rough edges flat and smooth. Fill the can with water and freeze. When the ice is solid, remove from the freezer. Using a permanent marker, draw designs around the sides of the can, ensuring the design does not come within one inch of the bottom. Place the can on its side on a towel so it won’t slip. Punch holes along the design lines you’ve drawn with a nail and hammer. Leave about a half inch or so between each punch. Then allow the ice to melt and drain. Place a votive candle in each can and line your walkway.Light your luminarias every night during the holidays.
  • Decoupage a serving tray with last year’s Christmas cards and set it on your coffee table.
  • Make golden angels by gluing silk-leaf wings and a hazelnut head to a pinecone, then spraying with metallic paint. If you don’t have silk leaves, cut leaf shapes from cardboard.
  • For an instant table dress-up, heap shiny Christmas balls of all sizes in an elegant glass bowl. Place near candles and allow the light to bounce off all the shiny surfaces of the centerpiece.
  • Wrap a tinsel garland around the bedroom or bathroom mirror.
  • Arrange poinsettias in a bare corner and tie big, bright bows around the pots.
  • Instead of decorating the outside of your home to please your kids, decorate each child’s room to get them excited about the holidays. Help your children make red and green paper chains from construction paper to hang all over their rooms. Not only is this activity less time-consuming than attempting a big exterior display, it may also establish a special tradition your children will not forget. Plus you won’t have to say “time for bed!” twice when your child can nestle amongst the enchanting lights of his or her very own bedside boughs.
  • Wrap your child’s bedroom door with wrapping paper to transform it into a giant package.
  • Place white twinkle lights on your large houseplants.
  • Hang mistletoe in every single doorway of your house.
  • Frosted fruits are a delicious-looking centerpiece and are simple to make. Simmer apple jelly with a little water, let cool, then brush over fruit. Roll in granulated sugar to coat.
  • Put Christmas lights and a small wreath on the dog’s house.
  • Gold, one of the gifts the Wise Men carried to Bethlehem, is a symbol of generosity. For a truly glittering Christmas, recycle miniature pumpkins and squash left from Halloween and Thanksgiving and spray them with gold paint. Place them throughout the house or use in centerpieces, garlands, and topiaries. Gild walnuts, pinecones, bay leaves, dried flowers, apples, pomegranates, pineapples, lemons, and grapes. Wear gloves, a dust mask, and glasses or goggles when spraying.
  • For just the price of wrapping paper and ribbon you can decorate your entire home in a truly spectacular way. Gift wrap all of the framed pictures and paintings on your walls. The effect is stunning. Tip: Wrap only the fronts and sides, and you’ll use less paper.
  • Decorate the guest bath by wrapping a tissue box like a gift.
  • Sew small brass jingle bells along the hem of a tablecloth.
  • Increase the effectiveness of votive candles by placing them on squares of mirrored glass.
  • Make it a personal creative challenge to decorate with only those things you already have in the home.
  • Lay sprays of evergreens on the mantlepiece, thread a string of white lights (on green wire) through them, and nestle some of your collectibles or Christmas balls amidst the greens. If you have no evergreen in your yard, find a friend or neighbor who will allow you to clip some of theirs.
  • Cover the mantel or a wide windowsill with a bed of Spanish moss. Tuck in ivy, holly, pinecones, and a few gilded nuts and fruits.
  • Pile red apples on a bed of evergreens and tuck in some tiny Christmas balls.
  • Drape a long rope of greens (tied together with narrow-gauge wire) over the front door. Attach a red velvet or satin bow in the middle and weave matching ribbon through the garland like a streamer. Place a poinsettia plant on each side of the doorway as a finishing touch.
  • Hang your holiday wreath on a four-inch-wide silk ribbon right on a mirror in your entryway or over the mantelpiece.
  • Fill a basket with large pinecones interspersed with clusters of delicate baby’s breath, then thread tiny white lights throughout, hiding the wires under the pinecones.
  • Hang extra mirrors around the house during the holidays to add to the glow and to multiply the special effects of your decorations.
  • Wind strands of tiny white Christmas lights and greens around and up the banister. Add large plaid bows.
    Place a poinsettia or flowering plant on every step of a staircase to peek through the banister.
  • Tape, tie, or staple Christmas cards to ribbon streamers to hang for display.
  • Put several different sizes of poinsettia plants in cache pots or baskets and add trailing ivy.
  • If the kids’ rooms, basement, or spare rooms are always a mess, just close the doors and hang wreaths on them.
  • Fill a glass container with holiday candy and top with a lid or a circle of gift wrap or foil. Tie with ribbon and set on a table.
  • Decorate doors with Christmas trees cut from white foam board. Pin, tape, or glue on bright ornaments and garlands of beads.
  • Paint a bright red “bow” on a doormat. Add a painted tag with the family’s name.
  • Make a gumdrop wreath. Either buy a Styrofoam wreath or cut one out. Use toothpicks or stiff wire to attach red, white, and green gumdrops to the wreath or use multicolored ones to resemble Christmas tree lights. Top the wreath off with a big bow.
  • Fill a large glass bowl three-quarters full of water. Place small, flat-bottomed candles such as tea lights in aluminum foil muffin tin liners and gently set them afloat in the water. Light them carefully and enjoy.
  • Use crystal or cut-glass bowls of different sizes to make a holiday arrangement: Fill one bowl with Christmas balls—either place them upside down to hide the hangers, or tie a small bow on each. (This is a great way to use ornaments that are damaged.) In another bowl combine fresh fruit with evergreens. In a third bowl add holiday-scented handmade or purchased potpourri. Place votive candles in small bowls.
  • Try a wreath centerpiece. Core five apples, making a two-inch-deep hole at each center to hold a candle. Lay a wire wreath frame on a flat surface and attach the evenly spaced cored apples with a glue gun. Arrange cedar, spruce, and holly sprigs in one direction along the wreath and wrap in place with fine wire. Attach small pinecones with a glue gun and insert tall, tapered candles in apples.
  • Create a fruit centerpiece. Tie individual oranges (lemons, limes, or apples will also work) with ribbon, and then stack them into a tree shape on a pedestal plate.
  • Set out pretty containers of pine, evergreen, or cinnamon potpourri in every room.
  • Keep plenty of throws and afghans around the living room. They look great and invite people to curl up and get cozy.
  • Display all your holiday cards so they add to your home’s decor. Find a piece of string that is just a bit longer than your front window and attach the ends to either side at the top of the window. “Hang” the cards from the string by folding them over the string so the front of the cards face out. Once full, the string will drape ever so slightly to give a beautiful valance effect across the top of the window.
  • Hang wreaths on the inside, as well as the outside, of your doors.
  • Make pomander balls; it’s an easy kids’ project. Buy a supply of whole cloves (they’re expensive at the supermarket; try a health food store that sells spices in bulk) and some oranges. Insert cloves into oranges. (Even little fingers can insert the cloves if you poke holes in the rind first, using a small knitting needle.) Wrap the pomanders with red ribbon and hang them around the house.
  • Rather than buying new decorations, enlist your kids’ help to refurbish old ones. Give life to a wreath by adding fresh ribbon. Glue glitter on faded ornaments.
  • Go back to old standards like popcorn-and-cranberry garlands and construction paper chains.


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