If the wreaths, menorahs and trees were jarring when they appeared before Halloween and you decided to wait to decorate _ or if you just plain procrastinated _ now's the time to get cracking.
With Hanukkah starting Friday, many stores are likely to start discounting related supplies soon, if they haven't already. And, if this year is anything like last _ as many retail industry observers are saying _ the biggest stores could begin cutting prices on Christmas decor late next week.
Meanwhile, here are four tips on filling your home with the spirit of friendship and celebration _ for less:
1. LIGHT EXCHANGES: Energy companies have been making a push to replace consumers' incandescent Christmas lights with energy-efficient LED lights. They use less than one-fifth as much energy and last much longer _ but also cost more. Many companies have been offering the new lights for free, or at a discount, in exchange for old strings of lights. Home Depot's exchange was limited to November, but Southern California Edison's, for example, extends to Dec. 20 (or as long as supplies last). Search online for "LED light exchange" to see whether more are planned near you.
2. GET CRAFTY: Nothing looks as domestic and inviting on a tree as garlands of popcorn and cranberries. Francine Jay, author of "Frugillionaire: 500 Fabulous Ways to Live Richly and Save a Fortune," recommends decorating with all kinds of natural items such as pine cones, poinsettias and evergreen branches.
"It's one of the more elegant ways to decorate and the least expensive," she said.
Making natural decorations can also be a great way to involve kids; they especially enjoy adding sparkle by spraying glue onto wreaths, cones and other decor and then sprinkling with glitter.
3. CHOOSE CAREFULLY. Jay recommends a restrained but personal touch. "Not feeling the need to cover every inch of your home in holiday decorations but concentrating on a few well placed items sets a festive mood," she said.
"Heirloom ornaments, family photographs, and even greeting cards have a lot more warmth, tradition and meaning than something you buy in a store," she said.
Outings also enhance the spirit in a way few decorations can. Try visiting Christmas light displays in your neighborhood, horticultural center or park to enjoy the season without buying anything.
"You can create a tradition of going to admire other people's decorations," she said.
4. SHOP OFF SEASON. Christmas and Hanukkah decorations can cost top dollar in season. But by Dec. 26, and sooner in some cases, you will see discounts of 50 percent and more _ especially on bulky items that stores can't afford to stow for next year, like artificial trees or large lawn ornaments. Check out Lowe's, Target and Home Depot stores for these larger items, and stop in at local hardware stores, department stores and drugstores for smaller things.