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Keeping Christmas costs down without giving up substance

By: By Lucy Haines

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Dec 18, 2013 06:00 am

LOW-COST DECOR – Christmas decor needn’t cost much. A string of popcorn with cranberries creates a festive, colourful garland — for very little cost.
LOW-COST DECOR – Christmas decor needn’t cost much. A string of popcorn with cranberries creates a festive, colourful garland — for very little cost.
LUCY HAINES/St. Albert Gazette

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In spite of all the genuinely warm and fuzzy things about the season, Christmas can cost a lot. The feasting and gift giving can be a huge stress on the wallet, with a cash hangover felt well into the new year.

According to a recent Canadian Press report, household debt in Canada is at an all-time high, with Canadians owing $1.64 for every dollar in disposable income they earn in a year. And when it comes to Christmas spending, we Albertans lead the country. Personal financial advisors say people shouldn’t spend more than what they can comfortably afford to repay over the next few months and, if already in debt, don’t add to it.

There are ways to get frugal with the festive season, from creating homemade gifts to cutting down your own Christmas tree. For some, it isn’t Christmas without a real tree, but these can cost a pretty penny at lots around town. Grocery stores tend to sell trees for less than independent lots, but you can go even more cheaply by cutting your own.

Heading out to find the perfect Christmas tree is a cherished family tradition for many Alberta families. You can cut your own tree on provincial Crown land with a permit from Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. Permits are available online at, or at the Edmonton office at 9920 108 St. While it’s only $5.25 for the permit, which allows for up to three Christmas trees, the designated spots for Edmonton-area residents are a 1.5 hour drive southwest to Lodgepole and Drayton Valley.

So, while it’s a beloved adventure (don’t forget your saw or hatchet), the cost of gas for the drive may not make cutting your own tree the most cost-effective option. Consider this: a living plant or potted tree can survive for many years, and the smaller size needs fewer decorations.

Tree decor doesn’t have to break the bank. Sturgeon County native Cory Christopher is a master of bringing nature inside for Christmas, decorating the tree, home and mantle with branches, berries – even antlers and pine cones.

“Nature-inspired decor soothes the soul – we seek solace in simple things,” said Christopher.

At Seasons Gift Shop, owner Heather Wolsey has decorated one tree in country fashion, with strings of popcorn and cranberries and small bird ornaments.

“There’s no rules. Use what makes you happy,” she said. “Look online for unlimited ideas. Even thread spools and pine cones are good for painting.”

Know someone with a big to-do list? Give a handmade certificate to help with chores, offer gifts of home baking, or spend time with loved ones by planning an activity you can all do together – tobogganing, a winter walk and après hot chocolate – simple but grand. And don’t forget that a poem, song or heartfelt card or letter make a personal gift that friends and family will treasure.

Carolling, a walk in the snow, listening to a choir at a church service – the true beauty of Christmas needn’t cost much at all.


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