Each year when the holidays roll around, our thoughts are preoccupied with all the decorations we need to buy to get the house ready for the season. Twinkle lights, icicle lights, inflatable snowmen, life-size plastic reindeer, wreaths, garlands, candles, nutcrackers, and yards of ribbons in every color may be on your list of “must-have” decorations.

At target.com, that eight-foot inflatable snowman you must have for your yard will set you back $34.99. The nutcrackers? $12.99 each. The cost of holiday decorations fluctuates depending on the time of year, but as your list of must-haves increases, so will the hit to your wallet. Why spend hundreds of dollars decorating for the holidays when all you need are some simple touches to bring joy to you and your guests this season?

A Little Ribbon Goes a Long Way…
One of the easiest ways to dress up your home is with ribbon—there are so many different kinds out there to choose from to incorporate your own unique style! Try a wide ribbon for an elegant mood. A patterned ribbon can spice up other simple decorations. Glittered ribbons will add a little sparkle.

It’s easy to use ribbons to enhance the decorations you already own. Take your favorite ornaments and hang them with ribbon from a light fixture above your dining room table. Tie ribbons around your vases to carry the theme throughout the house. Linda Gavin, horticulturist and garden designer with Green View Companies, says, “Whether tying up fresh greens outside, adding ribbons to garland hung on a banister, or hanging a wreath with ribbons, you will draw the eye to those special holiday pieces.” A little ribbon can transform your everyday items into dazzling decorations!

Garlands Galore
The scent of pine needles always evokes the holiday season. Decorating with greens both inside and out is an easy, inexpensive way to spruce up your home. Gavin suggests that you “swag the mantel with a combination of more than one type of fresh garland. Long-needled white pine entwined with a mixed garland, draping the mantel with long lengths reaching the floor, is dramatic.

“Dress up the garland with naturals like pinecones and twigs, or add glitz to your garland with glass balls, frosted twigs and ribbons,” she adds. If you don’t want to use a garland on your mantelpiece, you may choose to use one around your front door. Using swags is an easy way to enhance lamp posts, mailboxes or a front gate. You may even want to try your hand at dressing up your own fresh wreath.

If garlands are not for you, Michele Birkner of Michele’s Floral Events suggests you “try using a vase or two full of fresh greens, berries or magnolia. Your greens will last much longer if they have a water source, and vases of greens make much more of an impact than just laying them flat on the mantel.” Using fresh greens as a focal point in your home will give you that Christmas feel you’re looking for.

Tip-Top Tabletops
Creating a simple, elegant centerpiece or tablescape for your holiday meals will make dining together even more special. Inexpensive votive candles and rose petals can create a beautiful atmosphere while you eat. Birkner suggests, “Just place the petals in a group on the table and put the votive on top. A few petals can also be glued to the outside of the votive cup using florist glue for a pretty look.”

If you’re going for a more traditional centerpiece, start with some fresh greens in an elegant bowl. “Adding fresh-cut flowers, cones, twigs, berries, ribbons and glass bulbs into the arrangements lets you create your own style,” adds Gavin. Just be sure not to make the centerpiece too tall, or you won’t be able to see your guests on the other side of the table!

For something fun and different, use produce from your local grocery store. “A bowl of fruit is always beautiful,” explains Birkner, “but you can go one step further. Hollow some of the fruit out and insert just the wax part of a votive candle. Place your fruit in the bowl so that the fruits with the candles are level and can be lit. This can be done with oranges, limes, lemons and apples.” Your guests will never forget a centerpiece like that.

The Season for Giving
Visiting friends and family is the most important part of your holiday celebration, so why not treat them to something special? Simple gifts can make the season bright, especially when they’re from the heart.

Providing place settings for your guests to take home is a simple way to show how happy you are to spend the holidays with them. You can make name cards by writing each guest’s name with a metallic permanent marker on a glass ornament. Potting paperwhites that are just sprouting into individual pots and adding a note tied with a ribbon and placed at each table setting are other options. As Gavin notes, “Often, it’s the small things that we do that friends and family remember and love the most.” a&s