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Holiday decorations on a budget

One of the best parts of the holiday season is celebrating with family and friends. Unfortunately, all the eggnog and stocking stuffers can wreak havoc on your budget -- a recent Gallup poll says consumers plan to spend a whopping $764 each on Christmas gifts this year. That doesn't leave much room for decorations, but what would the holidays be without bright lights and inflatable lawn ornaments?

Not to worry: I've put together a list of some great ideas for holiday decorations on a budget. They'll help you get your home holiday ready without breaking the bank.

Recycle used containers. Cookie tins from previous holidays make great decorations. Scatter them throughout your home on mantles or tables for an inexpensive pop of color. If you've already thrown away last year's tins, don't worry -- Reader's Digest has a great solution. Use old wine or beer bottles as vases or candle holders. Just spray paint in silver, blue, red or green and tie some ribbon around the middle. Insert some flowers and you have the perfect holiday vase at a bargain price -- a can of spray paint will cost you less than $10.

Best outdoor Christmas decorations

Take advantage of all those fruit baskets. Fruit baskets are a popular holiday gift, but most people end up throwing away more than they eat. Instead of tossing out the excess, use whatever you don't eat to decorate your home. Make a Christmas tree using an old pot, Styrofoam and some apples or pears.

Not the topiary type? Fill a bowl with fruit, put a holiday-scented pillar candle in the middle (be sure to use a candle holder to avoid disaster) and tie a ribbon around the bowl. You'll have a great holiday decoration and will avoid the guilt of throwing away good food.

Bring the outside indoors. Remember that can of spray paint? It's good for more than just vases. Combine it with some natural elements to create timeless holiday décor. Gather some twigs or pinecones from the yard, spray paint them silver or gold and tie them together with a red, green, or blue ribbon. If you're lucky enough to have access to spruce or pine trees, bring a few small branches indoors and use them to decorate mantles and railings.

Reuse old holiday cards. Have a box of old holiday cards you can't bear to throw out? Put them to good use by reusing them this year. Cover a large corkboard with some holiday wrapping paper. Tack the cards onto the board in any pattern you like and frame the whole thing with ribbon. If you don't have a corkboard, or would rather save your $20, string the old cards together and hang them from the mantle, railing or windows instead of garland.

Use existing artwork. The photos and artwork you already have on your walls can be dressed up to make great holiday decorations. Pull the photos down and wrap them as gifts, using festive holiday wrapping paper and ribbons or bows. Re-hang them on the walls for loads of holiday cheer. You can do all your pictures or just a few, but this is a quick and easy way to brighten up your home for the holidays.

The less money you spend on decorations, the more you have to spend on gifts for friends and family. Better, yet, save the money you don't spend on holiday decorations and put it toward things you really need, like home maintenance. Not a homeowner? Add it to your savings towards a down payment on your very own place.

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