Deck the Halls: How I Decorated My Apartment for Christmas for Under $25

December 15, 2016
by Kelly Smith
Junior Writer and Engagement Specialist
Dollar store christmas decorations

I used to love the holiday season.

Growing up, my mother always put red and green M&Ms in the bowl on the counter, hung our stockings on the wall and spread holiday cheer throughout our house with Charlie Brown Christmas decorations.

But now I’m an adult — and this year was my very first holiday season in my first apartment, which meant the decorations wouldn’t magically appear one day when I get home from school…

… and that I’d actually have to do them myself. *cue panic attack*

Considering this was my first time and I’m not exactly the most creative person on the planet, I was going to have to figure out a way to get into the holiday spirit this year without spending a fortune or turning my one-bedroom apartment into a huge Pinterest DIY fail.

My apartment is small, so adding just a few festive pieces could really make a difference — and keep me from turning into a Scrooge in the meantime.

A few caveats, though: My mom sent me a small light-up Christmas tree and stockings for me and my dog — she didn’t think I was actually going to try to decorate my apartment myself.

C’mon, Mom, I’m an adult now! I can do these things!

Deciding How to Decorate

Dollar store christmas decorations
Penny Hoarder writer Kelly Smith added ornaments and a bow to a $3.99 wreath she bought at Michael’s. Sharon Steinmann / The Penny Hoarder

I had no idea what I was doing, so I decided to go to Michael’s, the arts and crafts store, to see what it was selling this year.

I easily found the holiday section and nearly gagged when I looked at the price tag for a wreath: $69.99.

Nearly 70 bucks for a fake wreath that made a huge glitter mess whenever it moved?! No thanks.

The cool thing, though, was it was only Dec. 1 and all the holiday decor was already half off! I obviously wasn’t going to buy the wreath for $35, but there was a medium-sized plain one next to it for $6.99 before the discount. I figured it was a steal, and considering I didn’t have one, I bought it.

If you head into Michael’s and it isn’t having the same sale, be sure to check its coupon site before purchasing your items. I found one for 50% off any full-priced merchandise before I went in.

Other than that, I noticed that most of the decorations consisted of garlands and centerpieces. So, I decided to head back home and make these items myself — for way less.

My Dollar Store Christmas Decorations

Dollar store christmas decorations
Smith’s dog Wrigley is also decked out with Christmas spirit with his festive collar. Sharon Steinmann / The Penny Hoarder

Once I got home, I perused Pinterest for inspiration. I picked a few wall decorations and center pieces that looked easy to make and started there.

I don’t have a dining room table (when I say my apartment is small, I mean small), so I opted to decorate around my TV, since we mainly hang out on the couch.

To make these simple decorations come to life, I went to my local dollar store and bought the following:

Dollar Tree

  • 1 red poster board: 69 cents
  • 1 white poster board: 50 cents
  • Heather bush: $1
  • Glossy berries: $1
  • 4 bouquets: $4
  • Christmas bows, pack of 8: $1
  • 3 multi-color indoor light sets: $3
  • 12 gold ornaments: $1
  • Jingle bells, pack of 30: $1
  • Tinsel garland (to string on Santa’s sleigh): $1
  • Velvet bow: $1
  • 2 multi-colored ornament packs, 15 in each: $2
  • Scotch tape: $1
    • Tax: $1.20
    • Total: $18.39


  • 1 medium-sized plain wreath: $3.99
    • Tax: 28 cents
    • Total: $4.27

Total spent: $22.66

What I Already Had

As stated earlier, I didn’t have much, but I did have some stuff to make crafting easier.

Here’s what I already had (and didn’t need to spend money on!):

  • Scissors
  • Hot glue gun
  • Stockings
  • Mini light-up tree
  • Wine bottles
  • Stockings
  • Push pins

Here’s What I Made

Dollar store christmas decorations
Smith made light-up wine bottle centerpieces using strands of Christmas lights. Sharon Steinmann / The Penny Hoarder

I ended up making my own wreath, a garland and some light-up, wine bottle centerpieces. The rest of my apartment is furnished with art I’ve accumulated over the years, so I didn’t need (or want) to go too crazy.

For less than $25, I was able to add just a touch of holiday cheer in my living room (without feeling like Buddy the Elf came and vomited holiday cheer everywhere).

Here’s the end result:

Dollar store christmas decorations
Smith made her own garland with reindeer and Santa in his sleigh from a stencil she found online. Sharon Steinmann / The Penny Hoarder


My favorite part is the garland I made — it was super easy. I made the reindeer and Santa in his sleigh from a stencil that I found online. I don’t have a printer, so I taped notebook paper to my computer monitor and traced the stencils. So simple!

The wreath took 15 minutes to make. All I did was glue on the bows and tie the ornaments on with string that came in the packaging.

Overall, it may not look like much, but it actually has made all of the difference in my apartment. For the first time ever, I’ve gotten into the holiday spirit — all by myself!

And, if I decide to stick with my $25 or less budget in the years to come, I’m sure it’ll all start to accumulate and look even better.

Your turn: DId you decorate for the holidays on a budget this year? Let us know in the comments!

Kelly Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder and a senior at The University of Tampa. Does Santa pay off student loans?

by Kelly Smith
Contributor for The Penny Hoarder

Share Your Thoughts

Top Articles