SAN ANTONIO, Texas — It's tree-trimming time. And maybe wallet-trimming time, too.
Live or artificial, tree prices will be 5% to 15% more this year.
“Shipping costs have gone up,” said Jami Warner, executive director of the American Christmas Tree Association. “Obviously, gasoline is an issue. Just like every other industry, every other person in the United States, we’re all facing inflationary challenges. But who is going to skimp on Christmas?”
Not you. You can have the full holiday experience and pay less. There is no tree shortage, but if you want something specific, buy early.
“If you see something you like, whether it’s real or artificial, buy it. Because we do believe the choices will be a bit more limited this year,” Warner said.
Larger trees of any variety are likely to sell out the fastest.
Here are some other things to remember.
SAVE ON ARTIFICIAL TREES
Avoid any extras.
“Skip the pre-lit ones,” said Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst with Dealnews.com. “They tend to be more expensive.”
You can also downsize a bit.
“A reasonable size for most people is 5- to 6-foot trees,” Ramhold said. “Some people can get away with smaller.”
Look for Black Friday deals on artificial trees or get the best price during after-Christmas sales.
Plus, get the most mileage out of your artificial tree by properly storing it after the holidays.
“Follow the instructions that the manufacturer gives you,” Warner said. “Make sure that you invest in a bag that zips up or put it back very, very carefully in its box and then store it away from water and heat.”
Artificial trees can last 10 to 20 years.
SAVE ON LIVE TREES YOU CUT YOURSELF
Does your home really called for a real tree this year? Buy local and save on shipping.
Devine Acres Farm, in Devine, sells two types of cypress trees for $15 to $20 a foot. Admission is $10 a person, but up to $50 of that cost will be applied to the price of your tree.
Tree prices are based on size and fullness, so the best way to get a good price is to find a shorter tree that is a bit thinner. Trees will be marked so you know the price before you cut. The farm sells out of trees after the first two weekends after Thanksgiving, so you will need to go early in the season.
Reservations are not required to cut a tree. The farm also provides all the tools you need to cut and haul your tree home.
Cutting your own tree can also be a memory that long outlives the holiday.
“It’s a full-day experience when you come out,” said Ken Capps, owner of Devine Acres Farm. “You're not just paying for a tree. You’re part of the whole experience on the farm that day of getting your tree. We have so many things you can do here.”
The farm also offers two reservation-only Christmas events: Pancakes with Santa and Merry on Main.
SAVE ON PRE-CUT LIVE TREES
It's also a good idea to cost-compare tree prices by looking at a retailer’s social media or website before you buy.
“It’s very common for them to share their pricing so they you’re not surprised when you show up,” said Marsha Gray, executive director of the Real Christmas Tree Board.
Prices will vary by species.
“Some are more expensive per foot than others,” Gray said. “So if you’re open-minded and say, 'What’s the price on this versus that?' Picking a different species might be a really good way to save some money. That really is probably the greatest impact on the price of an individual tree other than the height.”
Also, try this insider tip to save:
“Talk to the manager of three lot or where you’re going to buy that tree and say ‘Do you have a value bin?'” Gray said. “Don’t laugh. Sometimes trees get a little dinged up. They break a branch or something; if that branch is going to go against the wall, what do you care? They might actually have some value-price trees or some discounted trees. It’s not really common. They’re not going to have a huge selection, but sometimes you can find a deal just by asking.”
You will want a real tree to last no matter how much you spend. Look for a fresh tree by running your hand through the branches to see how many needles fall off.
“If any brown needles come off, that is natural,” Gray said. “They brown and they fall off, but a whole lot of green needles in hand after you’ve run it down the branch, that tree really is not going to make it. If you’re seeing a lot of green needles coming off, skip that tree. Move on to the next one.”
Then, cut half an inch off the trunk again on both fresh-cut and pre-cut trees as soon as you get home, and immediately put it in water.
“These trees drink a tremendous amount of water, so we tell people to check the stand at least morning and night every single day,” Capps said.
Plus, keep your live tree in a cool spot.
“Anything that can potentially dry your tree, fireplaces; hot, sunny windows, that’s all working against the tree,” Gray said.
CONSIDER A NONTRADITIONAL TREE
Or get creative and "grow" your own tree.
“I encourage people who are especially trying to stay within budget and are concerned that a new tree may eat into it, to try to think of something unique and different,” Ramhold said.
Need some inspiration? Try a book-themed tree.
Put a few cut tree branches in a vase with lights. The Christmas tree lot gave these away for free close to Christmas.
Or build your own bamboo tree.
Thankfully, Santa isn't picky. He'll drop gifts off under any tree.
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