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My Favorite 5 Affordable (and Fast) Holiday Party Decorating Hacks

While we were contemplating what holiday content we would like to put out this year, we came across this post published a few years ago and realized these are the hacks I still go back to year after year. So if you are looking for some easy decorating ideas you can do with things you likely already own, this post is for you.

As a general mantra, I like to come across like I’ve cared, but not that I’ve tried too hard. I think it’s actually the secret to life. So at this point, your tree is likely up and decorated and you might have a garland or two, but maybe you are of the “lets amp this up” type say for a party or just a general injection of more holiday cheer. After seeing my house, Jess’ apartment, and Arlyn’s apartment decorated, plus past projects, we realized that there are some easy and affordable things that we have done (with stuff you might already have) that make a big impact. Let’s get right to it.

1. Wrap any and all presents and style with them

Of course, the key to this is hoping that you don’t only have pokemon wrapping paper on hand, but honestly, even if it’s just solid colors, craft paper, or newspaper (with simple ribbons), it does the job.

We use them almost like we would books in styling, in fact, yes I’ve wrapped MANY a book. See how cute a couple stacked on top of each other adds just a little more holiday cheer?

2. Pepper large plastic cheap ball ornaments on surfaces

They are graphic and simple for your eye to understand, but say holiday immediately. So easy and so affordable as you typically have leftovers hanging out in your bins (if not, your tree likely won’t miss a dozen or so).

I like to mix sizes, colors and even textures to add an extra layer of interest. You can group just a few (2-3) or even add a few solo moments here and there.

3. Cedar branches are a styling dream

Short on garland? Cedar (or eucalyptus or any green branches) can be a very cheap substitute for amping up the styling. I promise it’s SO EASY.

Jess' Holiday Party Lores 34

You can put it on shelving, credenzas, coffee tables, mantels even hang it on art, like Jess did.

4. Fairy lights will light up your holiday decor and life

Emily Henderson Waverly 2018 Holiday 9

Just put them on those cedar branches (or even a houseplant if it’s appropriate) for instant holiday ambiance, which is all we really want, right?


Arlyn even put them in her non-working fireplace. Like why not??

5. Red…it may be obvious but totally undervalued

You don’t need a ton of it. Bring in big bursts of this color in large ornaments, ribbon, bows, or wrapping paper. Yes, you can buy a poinsettia, just consider taking it out of its plastic coat and putting it in a more modern vessel.

You can also throw that pop of red in a pillow, throw and/or small decorative figurines. And the best part is literally any style can handle red. Take the Portland house above. It’s a traditional space so we used a classic red. Then below in Jess’ modern apartment, she used a less traditional berry red. It’s festive but in a fresh different way.

Jess' Holiday Party Lores 29

Both have the perfect amount of punch for a little more holiday love.

Holiday decor doesn’t need to be expensive or a money suck. Look around at what you have and you most likely have all (or most) of what you need to add that extra layer of holiday cheer. I hope this was just the right amount of inspiration to make your holiday a little happier and cozier. Do you guys have any other easy, budget-friendly styling hacks to share? Let us know in the comments.

And if you are looking for even more holiday inspiration, here are some very helpful posts for you:

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Mariya Zafirova
4 years ago

The fairy lights are such a good touch!

Mariya |

4 years ago

Can you guys do a post on porches for curb appeal? We have a brick townhouse and I’m always stuck on what goes outside, especially in the winter. I want to do something different from the lantern and large wooden vertical sign I see everywhere.

4 years ago

Totally into amping it up for a party! I loved these ideas!

4 years ago

I am hosting a small NYE party and am stumped on what to do for decor! Can you do a similar post on that?? Do I keep up my Christmas decor? Take it all down and just do some tinsel and balloons? Keep some of the not-so-Christmas decor but take down the tree? HELP!

Charl Brown
4 years ago
Reply to  Grace
4 years ago

Fairy lights in the fireplace! I can’t believe I never thought of that. We have a wood burning fireplace, and while it’s so nice to have a real fire, keeping it stoked for 4+ hours at our Christmas Eve party is kind of a pain. I think we’ll try lights this year.

4 years ago
Reply to  Erin

Yes! Mine are on a timer, so they come on at the same time every day and I don’t even have to think about it. It’s SO much fun!

4 years ago

Loved every single one of these!

4 years ago

Would you please share the source for that gray wingback chair in the Portland House photos? (please be Target, please be Target, please be Target…)

4 years ago
Reply to  Kate

It IS Target, but I don’t think it’s available anymore. I know they had a houndstooth print one back in fall ( but also might no longer be available. SORRY!!

4 years ago

Emily HOW do you keep your kids from unwrapping the fake presents?! 😀

4 years ago

Loved these ideas and am looking for a few small ways to really make it feel special for this final week leading up to Christmas!

One of my issues… sigh… is when friends or family members give me Christmas decor that doesn’t go with my desired look. For example, this year, a family member bought me an item and said “I thought this was so beautiful and would look really good on your green credenza!” and… I went ahead and put it there. It makes me a bit sad every time I see it.

kat randall
1 year ago
Reply to  Liz

(cough) only put out when they come over…MIL trick, i have def done before,

4 years ago

In the very first photo of Emily Henderson’s home, there is a peek a boo shot of dining chairs and table. Where can I find those chairs please?

1 year ago
Reply to  Wendy

They look like vintage Paul McCobb for Planner Group by Winchedon Spindle Back Chairs. Here’s a sample chair but lots of sites have them: Modish carries a cheap knock-off:

1 year ago

Perhaps you can do a new post with a question or poll to find out what people want and who they shop for this year. I wouldnt mind to see a post on gifts for kids by age group, and another with suggestions for others, but fewer posts and from everyone together rather than seeing what each team member will get/ want etc

1 year ago

Fairy lights and evergreen garlands are a godsend for cheer . Those ‘PLASTIC CHEAP BALL ORNAMENTS’ offgas toxic fumes like crazy. Seriously I bought a bunch to fill in my tree last year and I had to return them, they stink so badly. DIY construction paper scissored garlands and snowflakes and threaded cranberry and popcorn strands are old school, biodegradable, wholesome to do on a snow day sipping cider and making cookies , and fun to do with kids. Its 60-degrees in the Northeast right now, all of that is 5 weeks away at the earliest.

1 year ago

UHM – now i need/want some silver shoes!
I personally detest any light that uses batteries, otherwise good tips

1 year ago
Reply to  Amanda

The silver sandals were the Juliette from Who What Wear’s line at Target:

1 year ago

Hi! Where is the piano bench from in the first photo, and have you found it comfy? I see it was in your 2019 post too but I don’t think the source was identified there either. We have a digital piano and the bench it came with is just not the aesthetic I want in my dining room at all. Given that you want a specific height, have a maximum width, and need certain level of durability and comfort for a bench to serve as a piano stool, I’d love to hear if yours has held up and/or some tips on how to find a stylish one!

1 year ago
Reply to  Kathy

It’s the Safari Bench from Katy Skelton (available in different lengths and colors):

1 year ago
Reply to  Kj

Kj, I’ve noticed over the years that you are excellent at identifying sources for things that people admire.
Any chance you know where the blue and white coverlet that is in the second picture of the bedroom in Emily’s friend Scott’s house (also in Emily’s book) is from? I asked in the comments there but sadly got no answer.

1 year ago
Reply to  Sally

Seriously. KJ is a wizard of interiors knowledge and sourcing. I always make sure to read her(?) comments.

1 year ago
Reply to  DeniseGK

Thanks, DeniseGK. It really only takes Google and a few seconds of time. It’s fun finding things.

1 year ago
Reply to  Sally

Sally, sorry but I couldn’t find it. I think it was also used in a prior home of his. Isn’t that the same blanket on the back of one of the chairs? The post was from 5+ years ago:

1 year ago

I remember you saying your kids kept unwrapping your prop presents cause kids and gifts.. when they were little.

1 year ago

I love this post! thx

1 year ago

Totally into amping it up for a party! I loved these ideas!
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