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Kristine Gill / RealSimple.com
Updated November 23, 2018

This holiday essential isn't cheap, but you can save money on your Christmas tree by following a few simple, smart strategies.

You buy a Christmas tree every year and look forward to decorating it. But paying for that fresh tree? Maybe not. Depending where you live, Christmas trees can cost up to $100 (or even more). However, with a little strategizing you can save big. Start by following these expert tips.

1. Be Strategic About When You Buy Your Christmas Tree

Black Friday is the one day of the year you can expect to find deals on just about everything—except your live Christmas tree. New data from transactions conducted through the Square app shows that trees are most expensive on Black Friday and the weekend following. However, Square data also shows that prices for live trees start to decrease after Cyber Monday. That’s the best time to buy a tree that’s still fresh and reasonably priced, says Tim O’Connor, executive director of the National Christmas Tree Association, which worked alongside Square.

Buying during the week instead of on a busy weekend, is also cheaper. Fewer people are out buying and sellers might be more willing to negotiate or mark down prices to draw a crowd.

If you can hold out until the week before Christmas, you can save about 22 percent, according to data from Square. Of course, wait too long and you’ll have less to choose from, plus the trees won’t be as fresh, which means they might look brown or dry and they won’t last as long. As always, big box stores usually price their trees much less than the pop-up yards that take up residence in empty fields and parking lots this time of year, says Andrea Woroch, a consumer money saving expert.

Another reason your tree might be pricier this year? The cost of trees rose about 17 percent between 2015 and 2017 as younger buyers have driven up demand for locally grown, natural trees, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.

2. Choose a Less Expensive Tree Variety

Firs typically cost more than spruces or pines, for example, and each has a different look. The price difference comes down to how long it takes to grow each variation. Firs take longer, but they also have stronger branches and a powerful scent. Spruce is less expensive, and pine are the cheapest per foot.

Want a strong pine with a robust scent? Try the Scotch Pine. This species is also known to resist drying and should stay fresh for the month of December. Another way to save is to skip the expensive preservative packets some sellers will tell you makes the trees last. Doug Hundley, a spokesman for the National Christmas Tree Association, said those don’t work and clean fresh water is all a tree needs. You can skip the fire retardant sprays too and opt for sufficient watering instead.

3. Negotiate the Price of It

Remember that scene in A Christmas Story where the Old Man haggles for a tree, threatening to get one of the fake ones before the seller offers to throw in some rope and tie it to the roof of the car? That works.

Woroch suggests buying more than one tree at a time with a friend or family member for a discount. Sellers are typically open to it both at the expensive pop-up tree yards and the big box stores.

And don’t shy away from trees with imperfections. Hundley says even the thin looking trees make great decorations.

“People will pick out trees based upon how even and dense they are, and very often there’s no room to hang ornaments,” he says. Instead, go for the ones with holes, whose branches are a bit loser. These are often priced less and once decorated, look as full as their more expensive peers. Plus, trees are priced by the foot and so something shorter can cost between $10 and $20 less per foot, depending on the species.

4. Consider Buying a Tree from a Less Expensive Area

If you live in an area where trees are especially expensive, say, New York City, Woroch suggests making a day trip to a smaller seller on the outskirts of town. If it makes sense for you to haul your own tree back that far, the savings could be worth it.

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