Holiday Home at 25 — the good, the bad, the sparkly.

You caught me. I’m secretly a 35+ year old homemaker/interior designer wanna-be living in a 25 year old struggling young adult body. If you know me at all, you’ll know that I’ve encapsulated my epic dreams of a beautiful life in countless Pinterest boards (side note: I am planning to devote a whole day to curating and updating my boards because that’s how Martha Steward I am), and I do my best to make those visions of usually unattainable perfection come true.

But, when the reality of being a broke, just-recently-got-her-first-big-girl apartment and corporate job is looming overhead but you still want to decorate your apartment with the most stunning holiday cheer, you have to get a little creative, but more importantly, you have to be willing to accept that your apartment will not come close to Pinterest perfect, and that’s okay.

Overall, I think my shabby-chic starter apartment has been decked for the season quite nicely, even if it’s not ready for the Magnolia Journal spotlight yet. This year, I really wanted to decorate, and I’m not talking about setting up two-feet tinsel tree and calling it a day (although those are still mighty cute!!). It may seem silly and like a waste of money for a paycheck-to-paycheck city-living gal, but the idea of fully decorating my home for the holidays makes me feel more adult than I probably am, so, I partook in trimming the tree and decking the halls, and here’s what I discovered:

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Christmas decorations are expensive.

Okay, this is actually not news to me, but when you’re using your own money and not just supporting your mother in buying yet another white Santa Clause for her ever growing collection, you start to realize just how much money is hanging on your tree and mantel. Needless to say, I spent a small fortune this year in beginning to curate my own collection of Christmas decorations, but, I figured this stuff is worth a lifetime, right?

I did, however, save money where I could. Here are some tips for not breaking the bank on your first Christmas decor extravaganza:

1. Never buy anything full price.

Did your mother ever teach you to be a sale shopper? Well, if she didn’t, you can take a page out of my mom’s playbook, because for as long as I can remember, there were very few things that she ever bought at full-price, and she has still managed to create a beautiful home. So whip out your sales flyers, your coupons, laptops for you online shoppers, and a cup of coffee and make a plan! Think of everything you may need to make your Winter Wonderland dreams come true, and get organized. Check out my Christmas Decor Starter Kit at the end of this post!

This year, I sat down with my family on Thanksgiving after we stuffed our faces and scoured the sales ads as we usually do, but this year I was looking for the best decoration deals. Luckily, I found some MAJOR scores. Between Black-Friday deals and shopping at my beloved TJMaxx/Homegoods, I came home with a $30 pre-lit tree, $30 worth of ornaments, a $10 tree topper, $25 tree skirt and $10 in random items to add Christmas cheer. All in all, I clocked in at just about $100 for these starter items, which spread across the next few years, is a stellar deal!

Missed Black Friday deals? Here’s a hint: go shopping the day after Christmas. Not to return those socks you got from grandma for store credit like all those other crazies out there, but to stock up on holiday all decorations, wrapping, and fixings. Pretty much everything is half-off or more, and trust me, this is the time to stock up so you don’t have to rush out the next holiday season! Some of my favorite places to after-Christmas day shop are Target, Hobby Lobby/Michaels, local nurseries that sell holiday items, and of course, TJMaxx/Homegoods.

2. Take stock of what you already have and SHOP AT HOME 🙂

So while I spent $100 to get me started, this didn’t quite cover everything I needed, but my mom’s backstock sure did! If you can’t tell by now, my mother and I share the same love of household decorations, and she has quite the compilation (it rivals museum status) of holiday decor. So much so, that she doesn’t use all of it anymore, which means I was able to go shopping in our basement and claim some of her gently loved left-overs! I came home with mini decorative trees, gold garland for the tree, green garland, silver tinsel garland, floral and sparkly picks, lights, and a few old family ornaments. This helped subsidize cost, and more importantly, allowed me to bring a little piece of my childhood home into my apartment. Next time you’re at your parents house, go exploring!

3. Suck it up and know that you’ll have to shell out some cash, but know where to draw the line.

Okay, yes, this stuff costs money. Is it a necessity to live? Probably not. And is this one of the most first world posts ever of all time? One hundred percent. But, if you’re gonna do it, then do the dang thing and spend some money on this stuff. Like I said, if you buy right, these will be items that sit snuggly in the back of your closet and make their debut during the most magical time of the year for years to come. So, be okay with spending some mula knowing that your dollar will be stretched over decades.

BUT, don’t go crazy. If anyone recorded me while shopping in any decoration or craft section of a store, I think I might literally look like the heart eye emoji, and my receipts could be proof of temporary insanity. However, I was actually pretty good this year, and avoided purchasing every sparkly thing in sight. So, when you go in with your plan as discussed, make sure you put your blinders on and don’t be duped by the glitter and frills that can quickly add up to extra dollars at the register (remember, wait for those after Christmas sales!)

Choosing a Christmas theme is hard (so don’t).

Walk into any Christmas section of any store, and you will realize that there is Christmas decor for just about any taste and style. Traditional, modern, pastel, red, green, silver and gold, Dr. Suess, etc. And the thing is, IT’S ALL CUTE. How can a girl ever choose?! I have a hard enough time looking at a menu and deciding what will satisfy my tummy for lunch! Pro tip? Choose a theme for your main tree and dec out a mini tree in another.

Decorating is messy, and takes much longer than you think.

Prepare for literally AT LEAST a full day of decking the halls. Why? First you have to brainstorm where you want to display all your fun new decor. Then comes the task of actually setting up the tree, hanging all the garland, trimming, hanging ornaments, taking coffee breaks, changing the Christmas music ten times, taking snapchats.. I mean… oh, don’t pretend you’re not going to do it. Your garland will probably fall five times before it sticks because Command Strips are like Sour Patch kids and only want to cooperate on their terms. And then of course the worst part, the clean up. Whether it’s pieces of tinsel, pine needles, or glitter (good luck), you’re gonna need to whip out that vacuum before your place looks like you beautified it.

Your Christmas cheer will skyrocket exponentially.

When all is said and done, and even if your place looks more like a third grader tried her hand at decorating than Joanna Gaines, you will feel proud and your heart will grow 10 sizes. Something about coming home to rooms filled with holiday lights is so warm, it even melts my usually black soul. So, if you have yet to trim your tree, spark up your holiday cheer and deck those halls!

My Wrigleyville Holiday Home; a tour.

The centerpiece and most integral part of any Christmas decoration set: THE TREE!

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I got my most perfect starter tree at Target! Doesn’t it look cozy with that fur tree skirt? Homegoods, of course. And that sparkly pillow? $4 find at Menards of all places!

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Every tree deserves the most beautiful topper, and this $10 find was scouted at Homegoods!

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Think you can only decorate your tree with ornaments? Liven up your branches with fun add-ons like bows and picks! Pictured ornaments are mix of sets from Menards and Homegoods, the bows were hand-tied by yours truly, and the floral picks are from Michaels!

Mini-tree for cuteness!

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Here’s where I pulled in a second theme of classic red, as opposed to the main tree of champagne, gold and blush! I kept the bow theme though, because bows are adorable.

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While I purchased a slew of new ornaments for my big tree, I stole some vintage family ornaments to tie in a sense of childhood magic for my mini-tree. Also, peep that $3 Target holiday frame in the background!

Garland and other holiday touches!

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Don’t forget to add a little holiday cheer to your entry way!

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This silver garland was stolen from my mom’s attic, and those little snowflake lights? $3 from Target.

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I also snagged these adorable trees from Mom!

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This sign? Crafted. If you want to up your decorating game, try making your own decorations! It’s often times cheaper, and more fun to say you made it yourself!

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Back to the bows and picks! Spice up any garland with these add-ins.

Don’t forget the bedroom!

You don’t have to go overboard for this, but bring a little holiday something-something into your room to really feel the holiday cheer!

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Christmas Decor Starter Kit

  • Tree (update, you can still get my tree for $41.99 here!)
  • Tree Skirt
  • Tree Topper
  • Tree Trimmings
  • Tree Picks
  • Full set of classic ornaments
  • Mini ornaments for the tippy top of the tree
  • Strands of garland for window and door frames
  • A mini tree for cuteness
  • Family ornaments
  • Strands of lights
  • Sparkly/floral picks of garland
  • Ribbon (unless you don’t like bows, and if so you are wrong)
  • Command hooks
  • Nails
  • Hammer
  • Extension cords
  • Batteries
  • Misc. cute decor items (but remember, don’t go crazy)

I’d LOVE to see your festive decor! Share in the comments or post on insta and tag me @haleighhayy!


thrive & be bold.




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