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:
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.
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