Price only part of Christmas tree value

Charlie BrownIt’s the cornerstone of your holiday decorations, symbol of gifts to come and a source of joy for all who enter your home: the Christmas tree.

A live tree can cost more than $200 or as little as $20. And artificial trees fall in the same range, starting from the “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree (right, $12.97 at Home Depot) to well beyond $300.

But what tree will provide the best value for your home? Industry experts give their advice on how to choose a tree that not only fits your budget, but also your family’s holiday traditions:

A live tree

Pick a smaller fir: “You really don’t need that big of a tree,” says Tommy Thompson of Thompson’s tree farm. “When you look at it in the field with all the other trees, it doesn’t look that big, but when you get it in your living room, it grows.”

Consider position: If you’re going to place the tree against a wall or in a corner, you’ll save money by buying one that doesn’t have a perfect 360-degree view. Thompson says his Lawrenceville farm has a few areas where too much shade causes trees to grow unevenly, and those trees are discounted.

“You’re not going to see the full tree anyway a lot of times. If you got a wall to put it up against, why not?”

Buy locally grown: Thompson says everything grown on his farm is from the Leyland cypress family, including Carolina Sapphires and Blue Ice. But the Fraser firs come from North Carolina, and shipping costs bump up their price. Also, some trees like Frasers take longer to grow (he’s got 10-footers that are 10 years old), making them even more expensive.

An artificial tree

Measure: As with live trees, a 9-footer will cost more than a smaller model. Measuring the space where the tree will go will give you an accurate idea of what you need, says Home Depot spokeswoman Eileen Claar.

Prioritize: Does your family enjoy putting the decorations up each year? If not, you can opt for a pre-decorated tree. “Pre-lit and pre-decorated is a larger initial investment, but over time you’re not having to pay for lights and decorations,” Claar says.

The beauty of pre-lighted trees is that if one bulb goes out, the rest stay lighted, Claar says. Additionally, LED-lit trees will stretch your dollar over an even longer period of time.

“An artificial tree is a great solution if you have allergies, small children or pets. You’ll have the beauty of real tree, but not the maintenance. It comes down to personal preference.”

East Cobb resident John Mulchie says his family had an artificial tree for about 14 years until his teen took over.

“My daughter decided that wasn’t the best way to celebrate,” Mulchie says. Although the dollar amount spent on Christmas trees wasn’t pivotal for his family, live trees proved a better value for their household.

“We enjoy the live tree more. The smell is good. It’s just better for the family.”

For those families who put a Christmas tree up, do you prefer live or artificial?

– By Lauren Davidson, Atlanta Bargain Hunter

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24 comments Add your comment


November 29th, 2011
5:52 am

Unless we are going to be out of town for Christmas, we buy live! We go to the Old Barn Christmas Tree Farm in Sunnyside the day after Thanksgiving. It’s a tradition. We love cutting our own tree and hauling it home. The prices are very reasonable and they always have free apple cider.

My husband also has a tradition of saving the tree in the backyard until about March or April and burning it. He invites a few friends over, has a few beers and lights it up! It’s a man’s paradise, beer and fire.


November 29th, 2011
7:31 am

Live trees are the only way to go. We drive 2+ hours to North Carolina to cut down our Fraser Fir every year. It is one of our family traditions. We also keep our tree up until New Years Day. I have neighbors who take their tree down by noon on Christmas Day!


November 29th, 2011
7:43 am

LIVE LIVE LIVE…there are so many benefits to buying a live tree. There has been a live tree in our home from the day I was born. My mother would have it no other way. My partner and I in the last 2 years, travel to NC to choose and cut our Fraser Fir…”the” Christmas Tree. The aroma of the evergreen evokes memories of childhood for me, and Christmas time. Besides the nostalgia, live trees return to the earth. Artificial trees are made of PVC, which is non-biodegradable and non-recyclable. Older artificial trees may also contain led. I understand the economics, and there are certainly people who are older and do not have the strength to put up a live tree. For me the price is inconsequential, when I know in my heart that the tree has contributed to providing oxygen to the environment for 7 to 8 years, and once cut, used and recycled, is mulched back into the ground. Live is the only way to go for my family.


November 29th, 2011
7:44 am

I spelled lead incorrectly…dang “a” slipped out of my fingers!


November 29th, 2011
7:58 am

Well since it’s just my Wife and I and our children are in their 30’s we prefer artifical. We have a 10ft. artifical tree. When the seasons done we pack it up and put it in the attic till next year. Havent bought a real tree in years, and with 20ft. ceilings in the family room I would think it would be pretty pricey to to buy a real tree at 10-12 ft. tall.


November 29th, 2011
8:38 am

I definitely prefer a real, all-natural tree, if for no other reason than the fact that particular quality alone distinguishes it from some of the women I’ve dated.


November 29th, 2011
8:46 am

Live. We get it from Sherry’s on Lawrenceville Hwy (along with all our fresh veggies and fruit). Our 8ft Fraser fur was 65 bucks, (had a bad side like described in the article). A day or so before Christmas they quit charging for them which I think is really nice, but then they are a nice bunch of people.

This year we got it the day after Thanksgiving, and it will stay up until 1Jan. or there abouts. Depends on when the wife goes back to work after the holidays. She and the daughter decorate and take down the decorations. I haul the tree. It’s nice that Home Depot recycles the trees for us, I take it there.


November 29th, 2011
8:50 am

For those of you who are in to Pine needles everywhere not to mention putting them too close to space heaters drying out, and burning the whole damn house down. Help yourself but No thanks! Artifical All the Way! Sure you get a natural pine smell… O. K.(Silence, do I hear Crickets?)

Not leaving out a tree of a decent size, that does NOT look like Charlie Brown’s tree(Even as a child when I first saw it back in 1965 when I was 9 I thought what an Ugly dried up tree! until the Fixed it UP!)
Real Trees can be quite Expensive as Artifical trees but Artifical you can use year after year after year.
IF you know how to decorate, You can do Wonders with and Artifical tree and buy Pine and Spray it.which you will still have a pine scent. Well different strokes for different folks but Artifical Trees thank god. And save a dollar too. Pack it up and pull it out Next christmas. Dress it up with New Trimmings and Presto you have a New Tree! Kind of like an old house or car..a lil fresh new paint and a lil touch up and PRESTO! Looking just as GOOD as your NEW LIVE TREE:-) Just USE a little Imagination.


November 29th, 2011
8:56 am

I’m very allergic to pine so I always have to go with artificial.


November 29th, 2011
9:06 am

blkshepherd and Belle, Pine trees are the pits. Try red cedar- you house will smell wonderful the entire season; leland cyprus is great if you have allergies; blue ice is a relatively new but gorgeous tree; the North Carolina firs are great for hanging ornaments. Of course, if you are just too lazy and/or want to do things the easiest way possible, you don’t need to give us your excuses. As for me and my family, live all the way!!!!


November 29th, 2011
9:08 am

It is a tradition in my household to go “Live” I think there is a new tax on Live Christmas trees this year.


November 29th, 2011
9:09 am

Artificial all the way!! You can buy that Christmas tree smell in a can or a candle. For one expense you get a tree to use for many years and today all those artificial trees come pre-lit so no more untangling of all those lights or stringing them on the tree. That cuts the time it takes to decorate the tree way down. And there are no more arguments on who has or has not watered the tree especially when it is obvious that someone has NOT since it has turned brown and we are raking the needles up off the floor. So save a tree, go artificial!!


November 29th, 2011
9:21 am

The Obama Admistration has decided not to ask for the “Christmas Tree Tax” this year. To tax Christmas is foolish. I really can’t understand this guy.


November 29th, 2011
9:22 am

We go artificial every year. So much easier to deal with. I don’t have to worry about pine needles getting in the carpet, the tree getting dried up and my husband doesn’t have to water it every time you turn around. We have a new 6 foot artificial tree that I bought last year on clearance that is pre-lit. It came with 250 lights on it, but I like a lot of lights so we put 200 more lights on it. It is very full looking all the way around. Best tree we’ve every had. We decorate ours to the max: lots of ornaments (on just about every branch), artificial popcorn (instead of glittery garland) and each year we put either an angel or a star on top. This year it is the angel, next year will be the star again. It all looks great.


November 29th, 2011
9:24 am

If you use the same ornaments every year and box them up carefully like we do so they don’t get broke, you won’t have to worry about the extra expense of buying new ornaments. I buy shatterproof ornaments because we have a cat & dog in the house.


November 29th, 2011
9:29 am

The best bargain out there right now is Half off Depot’s Warbington Farms Christmas Tree experience. It’s $35 at the halfoffdepot website, and you get an experience for a family of four…complete with a 6 foot tree (the one we got was more like 7 feet tall), with hayrides, hot chocolate, petting zoo and smores all included in the deal. Check it out!

We were pleasantly surprised!


November 29th, 2011
9:30 am

By the way…this is not an advertisement, just a happy customer! :)


November 29th, 2011
11:06 am

Thompson tree farm rocks. Been going there since my oldest son was born, who is now 8. Wouldn’t go anywhere else. Plenty of trees, the people are so nice. It is an experience. They remember ya when you come back and will take care of you.


November 29th, 2011
11:08 am

Lauren, what are ya doing posting at 4AM?


November 29th, 2011
2:09 pm

I’m 100% for live trees! I love the smell, and the process of choosing one and bringing it home. To save money, I pick up the trimmings from Lowe’s or another big box store (free!) and make my own wreaths.


November 29th, 2011
3:33 pm

I love live trees! As a child, I had both. The past 11 years I’ve had live trees. i don’t want to go back to the fake trees. We have animals, (6 cats and 1 dog) and they don’t bother the tree. They will drink the water, so we dont’ put any chemicals in the water. I just love live Christmas trees!


November 29th, 2011
6:00 pm

We get our Christmas tree every year from Riverwood High School’s baseball team. They are beautiful Fraser firs from North Carolina. The team has a retail lot that opens the day after Thanksgiving until the second weekend in December. I’m always impressed how hard these boys and their families work on this fundraiser — they do a great job!


November 29th, 2011
8:28 pm

Live because it enlivens the sense of smell!!! Also, you can use fallen pine needles for potpourri by adding them to a crockpot or regualr pot mixed with a little water and heat and voila – you have room freshner.

southern deb

November 30th, 2011
12:44 pm

My uncles were firefighters for years and after seeing many fires caused by dried out trees always recommended artificial for safety reasons. You still have to monitor heat caused by lights and space heaters but the artificial trees are less of a fire risk than a live tree can be.