Coastal living room decorated for Christmas
Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Budget Blues

Ba Humbug: There's just not any money in the budget to decorate our house this year. We'll just have to do without this Christmas.

Happy Holidays: You’re not alone, but don’t let dwindling funds get you down. After all, Christmas is a special time to spend with those you love, and you’ll regret having a home that looks like the Grinch swept through and stole your cheer.

There are easy, affordable ways to decorate the tree (and around the house) for next to nothing. Start by using what you already have to decorate (think silver collections, leftover ribbon, and even small children’s toys). Or, hit the backyard. You can jazz up a mantel with berry sprigs, pinecones, sweet gum balls, or any other gift from Mother Nature that catches your eye.


Family seated at dining room table for Christmas meal
Jim Franco

Merry Meltdown

Ba Humbug: I’m just going to have to call my guests and cancel dinner at our house. There’s too much to do and not enough time -- I haven’t bought the groceries, the house is a wreck, and the silver isn’t polished. They’ll understand.

Happy Holidays: At any other time of year, they might give you a pass. But this is Christmas! So before you put Dr. Phil on speed dial, take a deep breath, plan ahead, and ask your guests to chip in. For starters, think of three tasks that they could help with the day of the dinner, such as setting the table, bringing a side dish, and picking up last-minute items that would take you away from the house.

And for goodness sake, scale back a little. If the silver isn’t polished, leave it in its case this year. Christmas is a time to celebrate, not for a panic attack over forks and knives.


Coastal guest bedroom decorated for Christmas and ready for guests
Eric Roth

Curious Guests

Ba Humbug: I’m having a house full of guests this year, but they are family. They’ve been to my home before and know where everything is. If they need something, they’ll find it.

Happy Holidays: Unless you want your mother-in-law peeking through every closet and drawer in the house, a little preparation will go a long way toward a sane season of guests coming and going.

Before friends and family arrive in town, take cues from luxury hotels and stock the guest room (or wherever they may stay) with extra bedding accessories (pillows, blankets). Fill a basket with towels and toiletries.


Entryway decorated for Christmas and stocked with gifts for visitors
Laurey W. Glenn


Ba Humbug: I’m not sure if my friends and I are exchanging gifts this year. But if someone shows up with a present, I’ll just tell them, “Yours is on the way,” and drop off something when I have the time.

Happy Holidays: This is one of the easiest ways to create an awkward situation during the holidays. Because you never know who’s going to ring your doorbell bearing gifts, be prepared! Keep a few small presents, such as scented candles, hand towels, and stationary, at the ready so that no one is left empty-handed.


Everyone wants to feel special during the holidays
Becky Luigart-Stayner

Don’t Believe the Hype

Ba Humbug: My wife (or girlfriend, mother, friend) said she didn’t want anything for Christmas, so I didn’t get her anything (not even a card). That’s OK, right?

Happy Holidays: Um, wrong! Year after year, men (and women, in some cases) are deceived by this humble -- and untrue -- statement. Everyone wants to feel special during the holidays. So whether it’s a sentimental card, a framed picture of a fond memory, or a small token she’s had her eye on, you don’t have to spend January’s mortgage payment on an expensive gift. Just give something from the heart that you know she’ll appreciate.


Alternative Christmas tree for small space homes
Jean Allsopp

No Room at the Inn

Ba Humbug: My apartment is so small. There’s no room for a sofa, much less a Christmas tree. It makes my head hurt just thinking about decorating this place.

Happy Holidays: Oh, ye of little faith! There may not be room for a tree, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring on the Christmas decorations. Start with a charming wreath on the door, and then work your way in. Greenery -- either in the form of swags or small potted herbs -- also instantly brings a hint of the holidays to your pad.

Boy in tartan pajamas reading in front of a fireplace decorated for Christmas
Laurey W. Glenn

Family Matters

Ba Humbug: You might as well set up the mats and ring the bell, because my kids are home for the holidays and they’re at each other’s throats. Not to mention, what am I going to do with the grandparents when they get here?

Happy Holidays: Before you buy a first-class ticket to Anywhere But Here, there are easy, inexpensive ways to cure cabin fever and keep the folks busy. While you’re occupied with your holiday to-do list, let in-town relatives help the kids with fun activities that will keep them all busy, such as creating art, putting on a talent show, or going on a treasure hunt.

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