5 military spouse picks for holiday decorating

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With Christmas just around the corner, many of us are already feeling the impending stress of the fast approaching holidays. As military families, the holidays can be an exciting time where we travel to visit with family we haven’t seen in a while, or we have family coming in to stay with us. For some, it’s just the opposite. Maybe you can’t make it home for the holidays this year, or you have a spouse that is deployed. Especially for those, it can be a challenge trying to make your house feel like Christmas, and even more challenging to stay on budget.

During my first year of marriage my husband and I were stationed in Arizona, what felt like millions of miles away from our families. As everyone else was busy shopping and decorating, I was feeling depressed. I just wanted to be home, not in a foreign place where we didn’t know anyone and where Christmas day would most likely be 80 degrees (It was, and I cried!) I decided to try and get myself out of this bah humbug mood and make myself feel better. This was, after all, our first Christmas together. So, I was on a mission. Trying to make our teeny tiny (crappy) apartment feel like Christmas without breaking the bank, while being limited on places to shop.

I have discovered over the past, almost 10 years of decorating for the holidays, that you don’t have to go broke to get your house to feel like Christmas (although, some years I’ve gotten pretty close because I tend to go overboard with everything!) You just need a few (or all if you’re feeling really festive!) key elements to get your home holiday ready! You can go as crazy as you want and decorate every surface of your house, or you can keep it simple and add just a few things to what you already have. I have good intentions every year of not going overboard, but every year around this time the Christmas music starts to play and I find myself at Michael’s with a loaded cart wondering how I got there. But this year, I am determined to stay within budget and keep it very simple! We travel home every year for Christmas, like many of you might, so just keep in mind the clean up that will be waiting for you when you come back from your nice (maybe relaxing) vacation. I dread it and I vow to make this year different!

So, let’s get to my list of top decorating items for this year!

Trees
First things first, you need a Christmas tree. I know, it sounds obvious! But, the tree is the most important part of your decor. Even if you don’t decorate anything else, the tree will be enough. There are so many different places you can get a great tree! Trees come in every size, shape, color, real and artificial. Pick something that speaks to you and reminds you of your Christmas as a child, or do something completely different and get the pink tree you’ve always wanted (even though your husband might not be too thrilled about it!) After 10 years of the same artificial tree, we have decided to try a real one this year (Say a prayer for my tree! I’m not the best at remembering to water things!) My favorite place to shop for an artificial tree is Walmart. They have a pretty large variety of trees and great prices!

Christmas trees in boxes Christmas trees in store Christmas tree for decorating military housing

Michael’s is another great option when tree shopping. And right now they’re 50% off!
Christmas trees on sale

Don’t forget about their military discount!
Michael's military discount

Other great places to keep in mind are Costco/Sam’s Club/BJ’s, Big Lots, Hobby Lobby and Kmart. If you’re looking to get a new tree you might want to wait until after Christmas when they go on sale and get one for next year for a steal!

If you’re looking for alternatives to traditional Christmas trees this year, check out these great ideas!
I think this is such a neat idea for someone who has an old ladder laying around! Talk about keeping it simple!

We did this a few years back and I was amazed at how easy it was to do! And the white tree only cost me $20 at Walmart!

This is probably my favorite unconventional idea for a Christmas tree! If you have a chalk wall like me, this would be a great idea! Especially those who are space-challenged and don’t have room for a tree. All you need is chalk, lights and command hooks! How creative!

Another cool idea for those of us who have a chalk wall but don’t have a mantle. This is what I did with our wall last Christmas!

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It didn’t have quite the same effect as a fireplace, but it gave us somewhere to hang our stockings!

This is one of my trees from last year. I was feeling really homesick so I decided to do a photo tree with pictures of my family. I just printed off pictures from our printer and glued them to craft paper gift tags and hung them with some twine!

small christmas tree Photo ornaments

Wreaths and Garland

There are millions of different styles of holiday wreaths. Wreath making is one of my favorite craft projects. I love them all! If I could have a different wreath for every day of the week I would! If you’re not the crafty type there are many stores that have great pre-made wreaths!

Walmart had a large assortment of pre-made wreaths, along with Hobby Lobby, Michaels and Home Goods.

frosty wreath ornament wreath
Wreath wall

If you’re feeling crafty, check out Hobby Lobby! They have all of your wreath making essentials! And all holiday decor is 50% off!!

grapevine wreath for DIY artifical wreaths

I love that they have pre-made bows! I am terrible at making bows! It doesn’t matter how many YouTube videos I watch, I just don’t have the hand coordination!

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Picks are a great and inexpensive way to decorate your wreath and there are many many options for you to choose from (this was just one side of the aisle!)

Holiday picks for decorating

I love these ready to buy wreath monograms c/o Walmart. It just makes life easier! Glitter letters for DIY wreaths

Here are a few DIY wreath ideas for you, too.

I made one like this for our front door a few years back. It was a very easy and cheap project. You just need 3 different sized wreaths. Then hook them together with some type of wire or twine then just add a scarf and a hat (that you might already have laying around the house.) I got so many compliments on him!

Burlap wreaths are very popular right now! I love the simplicity of this. You could also use this wreath year round by just removing the bow and adding something different for each season/holiday.

Coffee filter wreaths are also very popular and it doesn’t get any easier or more inexpensive. You can get everything from the Dollar Tree. Coffee filters, foam wreath and whatever else you want to decorate it with.

Wreaths are great for indoor decor as well. Here are a few great ideas.
Hanging mini wreaths on your cabinet doors with ribbon is a very inexpensive and a quick option for decorating your kitchen. You can find both the wreaths and ribbon at the Dollar Tree as well.

Another great option using the small wreaths and ribbon/burlap. I made these for my 3 mirrors in my living room last year. You can also hang them on the wall.

Garland is another cheap and easy way to add to your holiday decorating. There are many places in your home you can decorate with garland. Above your kitchen cabinets, your staircase, on your front porch, on your fireplace mantle, above mirrors, the list goes on and on. You can stick with just the plain evergreen garland or you can opt for something more fancy, or you could make your own. Here are some of my favorite Pinterest finds.

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/9499849190152298/

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/218706125629861559/

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/488710997038705448/

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/32510428534855399/

I love how they used garland wrapped around tomato cages to create trees. These would be great for indoor or outdoor with a string of lights! (You can also skip the garland and just do lights!)

Centerpieces/Vignettes
Centerpieces and Vignettes are a great way to spruce up your dining room table, kitchen island or fireplace mantle. Centerpieces can also be bought pre-made or you can choose to create your own. The possibilities are endless. Home Goods had many pre-made centerpieces.

Christmas centerpiece Silver and white centerpiece Winter folliage centerpiece

Here are some ideas on making your own centerpieces that I found at Hobby Lobby (where else!?) They had tons of these centerpiece rings/candle rings. So many to choose from! These are fool proof for making centerpieces. They have small ones and larger ones.

Candle and centerpiece rings Red centerpiece ringsCenterpiece

Glass hurricanes make the perfect center for the centerpieces! This huge one from Home Goods was only $12.99! Such a great deal and it’s something you can use all year round with different filler!

Hurricane centerpiece

Michael’s also had the same hurricanes but a little smaller along with various other glassware that would be perfect for a centerpiece or vignette. You could add a candle to your hurricane or fill it with ornaments!

Hurricane choices

Charger plates

These chargers and mirrors are a great base for your centerpiece or vignette! You could place your hurricane on the top of either of these, along with your centerpiece/candle rings and you would have a beautiful centerpiece!

cenerpiece mirrors

Here is an example of one that I did last Christmas. I used my cake plate and a cloche (I got c/o Michael’s for 50% off!) and filled it with some pretty pine cones! Try using things you already have around the house first before spending the money on other things.

DIY pinecone centerpiece

Pine cones are a great decor essential. I love using them for Fall decorating as well as Christmas. This year I was lucky enough to be home during the Fall, so I went out in my parent’s yard and picked up hundreds of them because where we live there aren’t many pine trees around. If you choose to pick them yourself, make sure you bake them in a 250 degree oven on a foil lined baking sheet. This will help to kill any critters that might be living in there and will also help open them up, if they were closed. Or, you can skip all of that and go to Walmart and buy them! You can also spray paint them any color you want to go with your decor theme.

ready to go pinecones

When making a centerpiece/vignette don’t forget about lanterns! I love lanterns! These are from Michael’s and they’re already decorated and ready to use. You could also use a lantern you already have or buy one and add your own candle (battery operated) and whatever decoration you like! I just found the perfect one for my vignette from Tuesday Morning.

lanterns for decorating

This is a great example of a very simple vignette. In case you’re wondering what the heck a vignette is it’s basically a fancy term for a small grouping of objects that create a pleasing focal point. You might already have these around your house!

Trays are super versatile! If you don’t have one, get one! I have found so many different uses for them throughout the year!

Pillows and Throws
Pillows and throws are probably the easiest thing you can do to decorate for the holidays. I have seen so many cute Christmas pillows this year! And they really make your couch/chair look cozy and inviting, along with a throw to cuddle up with on cold winter days.

Holiday pillows can be a little pricey sometimes, so just stick to 1 or 2. You can also check out Amazon for pillow covers which are great and space saving when it’s time to store everything for the year. The best ones I came across this year came from Home Goods. I was amazed at their selection!

holiday pillows

Any throw you have will do but if you want to be festive here are a few ideas from Marshall’s and Walmart.

Christmas throw blanket Affordable Christmas blanket

Scent
Lastly is Scent. There’s something about burning a candle or turning on your scent warmers and filling your home with the smell of Christmas. Our sense of smell is directly linked with our memory. Have you ever been somewhere and you smelled something that made you think of a time in your life or a family member? I LOVE the smells of Christmas. That’s the first thing I do before I start decorating for the season. I change the scents in my warmers and crank up the Christmas music! It takes me back to being a little girl again and baking Christmas cookies with my mom and sisters. It’s such a comforting feeling!

These adorable scent warmers are c/o Walmart. Walmart, in my opinion, has the best candles! I love the Better Homes and Garden candles they carry! They’re so inexpensive and strong so you can smell them throughout the house.

candle warmer

I have personally never used the Scentsicles but I have heard good things about them. These are great for those of us who want that glorious smell of a real Christmas tree without having to actually have one!

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Here is a great stove top recipe to get your home smelling like the season!

There you have it! Trees, wreath/garland, centerpieces/vignettes, pillows/throws and scent are my top choices for decorating this holiday season. What are you favorites?

About the author:

Hi, I’m Kristin. Army wife, midwestern-er, hairstylist, lover of all things decor! I am currently residing in Maryland with my husband and loyal canine companion, Oscar. We have lived here for 8 years, which in Army time is basically forever. I have worked full time as a hairstylist for the past 10 years but spend any and all extra time trying to make our base housing feel like a home! For all the military wives out there, you know, the struggle is real. 

My love for decorating started when we were first stationed in Maryland. Our wedding gift from my parents was to furnish our first home together…Willow Leaf Lane. I was amazed how much a little paint and a million trips to Home Goods could make! (Oh, did I tell you we have 3 Home Goods just in the immediate area?! SCORE!) After a few years in that house we decided to try living in base housing. 6 years later we’re still here! I dream about the day we have our “forever home” and I can do all the modifications I want! But until then, I will work with the white walls I was given.

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