This past November, my mother bought my roommate Kimmy and I an artificial pine tree so that we might decorate it for Christmas. She also bought us a small box of shiny red balls. Those balls along with a cute owl and a handsome cat – ornaments that Kimmy and I bought each other – and a single too-short string of lights were the only things to decorate our tree for a few weeks. We ended up taking a trip to the dollar store to buy some simple garland, another string of lights, and a box of around six little shiny drums to add more decoration.
I also decided to take Trader Joe's up on its special holiday activity paper bag suggestion. Printed on both of the short sides of their grocery bags are decorated strips to cut up and make garland. Since I don't have a lot of money, but I love to decorate, I thought this would be a fun way of making the apartment more festive without spending a ton of money. It didn't make a ton of rings, but enough to string across the hallway ceiling.
Kimmy introduced me to a new concept with paper garland. She said that when she was little, they would rip off one ring for every day leading up to Christmas - essentially, and advent calendar! I think this is a neat idea, and maybe next year I will do it. When I was little, we made a grid for the month of December on a giant piece of poster board and put up a sticker for every day. I can see the paper chain task being very exciting for small children, though if work has taught me one thing, it is that small children love stickers.
Once that was done, I cut out all the gift tags that were printed on one side of the grocery bag. I used some of them as gift tags for my family's presents, but some of them didn't say "to" or "from" and just had stars or snowflakes stamped on them, so I got another idea.
I had two grocery bags, so two of each tag, and ended up gluing the matching ones back to back, then used a needle to pull a thread through one end to turn them into more tree ornaments! For some reason the glue seemed to darken the paper, making the designs a little hard to see, so Kimmy and I outlined them in ink, colored some in marker, and I think Kimmy even used some of her glittery puffy paint leftover from making her Halloween costume. (She was Tonks from Harry Potter.)
Thus our sad, empty tree gained another half dozen or so ornaments, making it less sad and empty. I also wrapped most of my presents and set them under the tree, which really made the apartment feel festive!
This proves once again that you don't have to have a lot of money to get into the holiday spirit. In addition to the paper ornaments, I ended up also crocheting ornaments for some friends of mine from bits of yarn I have lying around. I'm not Christian myself, but I'm pretty sure I remember hearing that Christmas isn't about spending money, anyway, so I think I got it right. And the tree looks marvelous!