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

Dollar store christmas decorations
Penny Hoarder writer Kelly Smith decorated her Tampa, Fla., apartment for Christmas for under $25. Sharon Steinmann / The Penny Hoarder

I used to love the holiday season.

When I was 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 I’m responsible for in my own apartment, which means the decorations wouldn’t magically appear one day when I got home from school…

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

Considering I’m not exactly the most creative person on the planet, I have to figure out a way to get into the holiday spirit 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 make a difference — and keep me from turning into a Scrooge in the meantime.

A few caveats: 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

The first time I did this, 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.

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 still 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, 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 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 Cheap 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, because 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

  • one red poster board: 69 cents
  • one white poster board: 50 cents
  • Heather bush: $1
  • Glossy berries: $1
  • four bouquets: $4
  • Christmas bows, pack of eight: $1
  • three 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
  • two multi-colored ornament packs, 15 in each: $2
  • Scotch tape: $1

    • Tax: $1.20
    • Total: $18.39


  • one medium-sized plain wreath: $3.99

    • Tax: 28 cents
    • Total: $4.27

Total spent: $22.66

What I Already Had

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

Penny Hoarder writer Kelly Smith made light-up wine bottle centerpieces using a strands of multi-colored 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).

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 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. I’ve gotten into the holiday spirit — all by myself!

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.

Kelly Anne Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder. Catch her on Twitter at @keywordkelly.

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