Trimming Tree Costs

The average Christmas tree costs $35, but it's easy to spend two or three times that. If you're not careful, it may not even last until Christmas. Kelli Grant, Senior Consumer Reporter for SmartMoney.com, shares how to get a good deal.

Compare pricing methods. Some tree vendors charge by the foot, while others charge a flat fee for any tree available. Either might be the better deal, depending on the size you're looking for. Some vendors also charge different prices for different types of trees. Call around to farms, garden centers and other sources to price a specific size.

Check for quality. Whether you buy from a lot or a farm, look for branches that bend rather than break, and needles that aren't easily crushed by hand. Breakage and flaky needles are signs that it's already dehydrated. Give the tree a shake to see how many needles drop; the fewer the better. Some species, like the Fraser Fir, are known for staying fresh the longest.

Watch for sales. With just a few weeks for vendors to attract customers, Christmas trees are a competitive market. Daily-deal sites including Groupon and Gilt City often offer half-price vouchers for purchases from local farms and lots. Purveyors may have coupons to print or use online. Experts also say the profit margins are significant enough that many vendors are willing to negotiate.

Cut down your own. The DIY route offers the lowest prices, if you're willing to do some manual labor. The U.S. Forest Service sells permits for consumers to cut down their own tree in a national forest. Fees vary, but the price can be as little as $10.

Follow care guidelines. If you don't get your tree into water within an hour or so after cutting it, you'll need to use a saw or serrated knife to scrape off the sap at the base. Otherwise, the tree will have a tough time drawing in water. Make sure it always has plenty of water, and keep it away from heat sources like fireplaces and radiators that can dry it out.

For more information on purchasing a Christmas tree and other consumer tips click here.

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