Don’t Buy This: DIY Your Christmas Tree

You don’t have to buy a tree to get in on the holiday spirit. Here are 10 cute, inexpensive alternatives for anyone short on space, time or cash this year.
Xmas tree triptych
From left to right: a branch Christmas tree, a bar cart tree, and a Post-It tree. Photos by Forest and Feather, Joanna Howley, and Álvaro Meza.  

Whether you cut your own tree, buy it off a street corner or pick up an artificial one at the store, Christmas doesn’t feel complete without a Christmas tree for many people. Americans spent more than $3 billion on Christmas trees in 2017, with real ones costing about $75 each and artificial oneseven pricier at $107 on average, according to survey data from the National Christmas Tree Association. But there are less expensive ways to have your tree and save money too.


Instead of trying to figure out which kind is both cheaper and better for the environment, do your wallet a favor without cutting out holiday cheer by replacing your tree with an easy DIY Christmas tree. As an added bonus for all the procrastinators out there: many of these DIYs only take a few minutes to set up and require just two or three items that you might already have stored away from previous years (like a strand of garland or a pack of post-it notes).

Here are 10 of our favorite DIY Christmas tree projects:

Ladder Christmas tree

Wrap Christmas lights around a ladder the same way you would a living Christmas tree, and hang ornaments from the stringed lights. You can also lean the ladder against the wall and simply decorate one half for a space-saving alternative. If you’re looking for a bigger project, this step-by-step tutorial explains how to turn each step of your ladder into a shelf for gifts.

Washi tape Christmas tree

Washi tape is decorative Japanese tape that is popular for everything from gift wrapping to DIY twist ties. So why not use it to create a Christmas tree shape on a bare patch of the wall? The color combinations are endless: stick to traditional green and red or try the black and white version shown above. Find Washi tape at craft stores like Micheals ($5 for a 2 pack) online and in-stores at Walmart starting at $4 per roll, and at Target ($5 for a 3-pack).


Garland Christmas tree

Garland Xmas tree by Reddit user u/venusproxxy

This lovely tree saves space and still looks great. Photo by Reddit user u/venusproxxy

If you already have all the decorations, but just need a tree, a garland Christmas tree could be the perfect solution. For less than $8 you can buy 50 feet of green garland at Walmart, and pick up some utility hooks ($7 for a pack of 9 hooks) that won’t damage your walls. (Remember to pull down slowly when removing these hooks so you don’t damage the paint. This video shows you what to do if the strip breaks.)

Book Christmas tree

Pull out all your books and a string of lights or garland to construct this easy book tree. And have fun with the tree topper! You’ll have a flat surface to place an object, so a pine tree scented candle ($5), red poinsettia, or small wrapped gift would look festive. Don’t worry if you don’t have a ton of books to use. This tree can vary drastically in size and shape. A small version would look cute as a tabletop centerpiece or try this variation that works against a wall and takes up minimal floor space.

Geometric paint chip Christmas tree

Paint chips, also known as paint swatches, are the square-shaped cards you can take home for free from hardware stores like Home Depot and Lowes. You can also make a colorful, geometric Christmas tree with them for free, too, so long as you have some double-sided tape, a craft knife, and a metal ruler. Alternately, choose chips in a single color and hang ornaments with thumbtacks or colorful washi tape.


Christmas light tree

With just three items—a strand of lights, a star (starting at $5), and clear decorating hooks, you can make a festive Christmas light tree. An even cheaper alternative to the star tree topper is a foraged pine cone or repurposed ornament.

Birch branch Christmas tree

White birch tree branches make a shabby-chic Christmas tree alternative, and you can find bare wall hangings at Target and Amazon starting at $8 each. To hang the tree without any holes or damage to your walls, try these utility hooks. Then add your own ornaments and a tree topper. If you're crafty and have a hand drill, you could try making one from scratch yourself.

Post-It Christmas tree

With a few packs of multi-colored post-it notes (under $5 for a 4-pack), you can make this cheap and fun Christmas tree. On her blog A Pair & A Spare, Geneva Vanderzeil added glittery bauble style Christmas cards that she found in a dollar store for the ornaments. You could also alternate red-colored Post-its to represent ornaments. Party Tip: If you have a holiday party coming up, ask your guests to sign your tree or write funny “advice to my younger self” notes.

Felt fabric Christmas tree

This felt fabric Christmas tree is perfect for young kids and is something you can reuse for years. Head to your local craft store and pick up green felt fabric, fabric shears, plus two or three other colors to cut out decorations and gifts. For an easier tree shape, cut out a simple triangle.

Bar cart Christmas “tree”

Spruce up your bar cart with foraged garland and holiday decor like illuminated glass Christmas trees ($21 for a set of 3 at Walmart) that you can reuse for years to come. Don’t have a bar cart? No problem. You can decorate a side table or your coffee table instead.

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