6 Tips to Save on Buying a Christmas Tree This Holiday Season

A father holds up his son as he decorates the Christmas tree.
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The great Christmas tree shortage of 2021 taught us it’s never too soon to start thinking about where to find a Christmas tree. Last year’s holiday shoppers dug deeper into their pocketbooks to afford a sparse field of trees cut down by shortages.

This year’s crop of Christmas trees promises to be more abundant, but experts still advise shopping early. Supply chain chaos and shipping concerns complicated by a looming transportation snarl in California could affect supplies of real and artificial Christmas trees.

With those factors in mind, we’ll walk you through how much live Christmas trees cost, if you save money with an artificial tree and how to save money on a Christmas tree period, regardless of your pick.

How Much Do Real Christmas Trees Cost?

The price of Christmas trees has been steadily rising in recent years, driven mainly by the drought impacting large parts of the Western United States and a dwindling number of tree farms across the nation.

In the 2021 holiday season, the American Christmas Tree Association (ACTA) says a live Christmas tree averaged $78 in 2021. However, a recent CNN survey of 55 Christmas tree farms indicates Christmas tree wholesalers plan to charge retailers anywhere from 5-15% more this year due to rising transportation, operation and labor costs.

The Cost of Real vs. Artificial Christmas Trees

The rising cost of a classic Christmas tree might persuade you it’s finally time to ditch the fragrant boughs and go artificial. However, an artificial Christmas tree costs significantly more than a fresh Christmas tree.

For instance, at Home Depot, you might pay around $80 for a 5-foot fresh Christmas tree delivered to your doorstep. Taller unlit Christmas trees inch up toward $100 or more.

A cheaper artificial Christmas tree costs just over $100, but trendy ones like those featured in the West Elm catalog start at $350. Even small tabletop versions of fiber optic Christmas trees run upwards of $50.

Back of the napkin math estimates it would take three years to get the same value out of a high-end, full-size artificial tree as the cost of a real one. However, since most artificial Christmas trees last several years, this is an investment that’s better for your budget in the long term.

It really comes down to what you prefer and how you want to spend your Christmas tree money.

When Is the Best Time to Buy a Christmas Tree?

For artificial Christmas trees, buying early is imperative. Artificial Christmas trees are in limited stock and usually imported from overseas, so early sales are your best bet to find savings.

Most retailers shove their holiday stock out on the floor by October, but you might find a discounted artificial tree when holiday sale prices kick in at Thanksgiving.

If you want a bargain basement price on a real Christmas tree, you may see significant savings a few days before the holiday as farms try to clear their lots of unattractive stragglers. Unfortunately, this doesn’t give you much time to enjoy your fresh tree at home.

Instead, shop for real Christmas trees right before Thanksgiving. You’ll pay premium prices for real Christmas trees from Black Friday until the week before Christmas.

6 Ways to Save Money on a Christmas Tree

It’s early but figuring out your Christmas tree plans now means more money in your pocket later. Here are six ways to save money on a Christmas tree.

  1. Order your tree early
  2. Buy from a local Christmas tree farm
  3. Cut your own Christmas tree
  4. Wait until later in the season
  5. Choose a smaller or different variety of Christmas tree
  6. Make your own Christmas tree

1. Order Your Tree Early

Many online options have sprung up in recent years, allowing you to order a fresh Christmas tree and schedule delivery for the holidays.

This option can be slightly more expensive than the Christmas tree lot at your local grocery store, but it guarantees you the tree you want when you want it. If time is money, you’ll be saving a bundle when that Christmas cheer lands on your doorstep the day after Thanksgiving.

Pre-ordering for Christmas trees tends to open in early October. That means you can cross that purchase off your to-do list long before the bustle of the holiday season. Just remember to calculate shipping costs into the price.

Some options to buy a real, 5-foot Christmas tree online include:

2. Buy From a Local Christmas Tree Farm

Much of the recent inflation for real Christmas trees is due to operational and transportation costs. Buying from a local Christmas tree farm should ease those concerns and get you a slightly less expensive holiday tree.

Not sure where to find the local Christmas tree farm near you? Use this tree locator to find real Christmas tree farms across the country.

3. Cut Your Own Christmas Tree

A popular holiday tradition is to cut down your own Christmas tree. And certainly, a wild tree will be the best for your budget because it’s free.

However, it’s not as simple as rolling up on a national or state forest in your SUV and sawing down a 10-footer. You’ll need to secure a permit first from the US Forest Service or the appropriate state or local agency.

4. Wait Until Later in the Season

If you’re not the type to do much holiday planning or entertaining, waiting to buy a Christmas tree is your best bet. The week before Christmas, tree farm stock will have dwindled, but the pricing may be much easier on your pocketbook.

Just be sure that the tree you pick is still healthy, especially if it’s been hanging around the lot for a few weeks and is starting to drop needles.

5. Choose a Smaller or Different Variety of Christmas Tree

Charlie Brown Christmas trees deserve love, too. If the tree is spindly or oddly shaped, chances are you can score some savings compared to fuller trees.Find tree types that balance what you want with what costs less per foot.

And if you don’t need a towering behemoth for your vaulted ceilings, stick with a live Christmas tree on the shorter side or consider artificial, pre-lit tabletop trees. Taller isn’t always better when it comes to trees. Gotta leave room for the tree topper!

6. Make Your Own DIY Christmas Tree

If a real or artificial Christmas tree isn’t in your holiday budget this year, don’t stress. You can make beautiful holiday displays that double as trees from a plethora of cheap household goods like books, balloons and even cacti.

String your DIY tree with ornaments, a Christmas tree topper and more to create a festive look for any living space.

How Long Do Christmas Trees Last?

If your holiday spirit kicks in just after Halloween and keeps going strong until Christmas, there’s good news. A healthy, fresh Christmas tree should last anywhere from 5-6 weeks in your home if you take care of it properly.

Tree care experts advise the following to lengthen the life of your real Christmas tree.

  • Trim the trunk at the time of purchase
  • Trim it again so there’s a fresh cut before putting it in the stand
  • Use a tree stand that holds at least a gallon of water
  • Keep the tree away from heating vents and fireplaces
  • Lower the temperature in the room
  • Place a humidifier near the tree if you live in a dry climate
  • Water it daily

And last but not least, take your Christmas tree down before it starts to drop needles everywhere. Dry trees are a significant fire hazard. The last thing you want is to start the new year in hot water with your home insurance company.

Kaz Weida is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.