9 first-time Christmas decorating hacks to make the job easier

Get festive with some simple first-time Christmas decorating hacks

A small bedroom with Christmas decorations
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you've moved into a new place you're going to need some first-time Christmas decorating hacks to make the job easier. Whether you’re simply thinking of adding a Christmas tree to your space or you’re hoping to completely deck the halls, you’ll want to ensure that you know how best to approach the process of decorating for the first time. 

The truth is that knowing how to decorate for Christmas for the first time can feel a little overwhelming, especially when you’re not sure where to start. But the good news is that with the right approach, it’s far easier than you would think to get your decorations right. 

To give you a helping hand, we’ve spoken to a range of decor experts who have shared all of their Christmas decorating ideas for making sure that decorating your home for Christmas is as fun and stress-free as possible. 

First-time Christmas decorating hacks

When it comes to decorating for the holidays for the first time, from storing your Christmas decorations in a small space to selecting a theme, you’ll want to ensure that you know where to start. 

1. Consider buying used

Two candy striped glass Christmas trees in front of a Christmas tree

(Image credit: Pottery Barn)

Admittedly, decorating your home for Christmas for the first time can be costly, from the price of ornaments to the cost of lights (like these 20-foot Christmas lights from Amazon). So, instead of having to opt for cheaper decorations that won't last as long, consider picking up some pre-loved decorations. 

Financial Expert, Branson Knowles says: “Thrift stores and yard sales are your friends during the holiday season. You'd be surprised by the gorgeous treasures people part with each year.”

Another great resource for picking up used decorations is eBay or Facebook Marketplace. Both have a great supply of pre-loved Christmas decor to choose from. 

Branson Knowles
Branson Knowles

Branson Knowles is the head of U.S. digital banking at Top Mobile Banks, the largest site dedicated to digital banking. After passing the SIE exam, he spent several years as a banker at Chase Bank. 

2. Try making your own decor

Making your own DIY Christmas decorations can be a great way to cut costs while also getting into the festive spirit. 

Knowles says: “Making your own decor is so much fun and saves loads of money. Kids will love helping with crafts using items you already have. Pinterest is full of ideas without expensive gift store price tags.”

There are also some great DIY Christmas decoration tutorials on YouTube and TikTok that you can use to create stylish decorations. From making a DIY Christmas tree out of scrap wood to updating basic baubles (this ornament decorating kit from Amazon is ideal for this), there are plenty of easy DIY projects to pick from. 

If you need more DIY inspiration, this DIY Christmas craft book from Amazon could be a great starting point. 

3. Keep costs low by buying decor that’s on sale

Two metal Christmas tree decorations

(Image credit: Pottery Barn)

Another easy way to ensure that decorating for Christmas for the first time isn't going to break the bank is to keep costs low by opting to buy Christmas decorations that are on sale. 

Knowles says: “Check sales and clearance sections first. I found great deals on lights and ornaments there.”

The closer you get to Christmas, the more decorations will be on sale (like this flocked wreath from Walmart which is over $16 off). A handy tip for thinking ahead to next year is to look around the sales in January and February for Christmas decoration deals

4. Plan out what you’d like to do

The process of decorating your home for Christmas for the first time, whether it's putting up the Christmas decorations in your apartment or adding a little festive cheer to your dorm room, can feel overwhelming. That's why it's worth taking the time to plan out what you would like to do beforehand. 

Knowles says: “Plan out what you want to do. Decide on a style and how much you can spend. Having a plan helps stay focused.”

Whether you're decorating a small space for Christmas or have more room to work with, making an action plan to follow for your Christmas decorating is vital. 

5. Embrace a less is more approach

A wooden Christmas tree-shaped dish with gold bells inside it

(Image credit: Pottery Barn)

If there's one mistake you don't want to make when it comes to decorating your home for Christmas for the first time, it's creating a cluttered aesthetic. 

Jenny Dreizen, Co-Founder of Fresh Starts Registry, says: “Don't forget the power of simplicity. A few well-placed, thoughtfully chosen decorations can make a significant impact without creating a visual overload. Embrace a less-is-more approach, allowing each piece to shine and contributing to a sophisticated and elegant holiday aesthetic.” 

Whether you're thinking about how you can decorate for Christmas in a renter-friendly way, or you're hoping to include lots of rustic Christmas decor, you can't go wrong with more minimalist Christmas decor ideas

Jenny Dreizen
Jenny Dreizen

Jenny Dreizen is a modern-day etiquette expert and COO of Fresh Starts Registry. She has written over 200 scripts to help people support their loved ones in trying times. She believes in meeting people where they are to honor and celebrate them. 

6. Opt for versatile decorations

Wherever possible, opt to invest in versatile, hardy, and neutral Christmas decorations that can be used again and again. Instead of picking decorations that will need to be replaced in a year or two. 

Dreizen says: “Consider investing in versatile, multi-purpose decorations that can be repurposed for future holidays. For instance, a neutral-colored wreath or decorations (like these neutral baubles from Amazon) can transition seamlessly from Christmas to other celebrations, maximizing their value. 

“We love to use felt balls on a string (like these strings of felt balls from Amazon) in our family. This not only promotes sustainability but also allows you to build a collection of timeless decorations that can be used year after year. If you have kids, have them paint wooden or ceramic ornaments and remember to write the year on the bottom.”

7. Get the lighting right

A selection of Christmas decorations on a table

(Image credit: Pottery Barn)

When it comes to your Christmas lighting ideas, it's important to take the time to think about the visual aesthetic you wish to create. 

Dreizen says: “When it comes to lighting, choose warm and inviting hues (like this string of warm-hued lights from Amazon) to create a cozy atmosphere. Place strategically positioned candles or fairy lights throughout the space, ensuring they enhance the overall ambiance without overwhelming it. Soft lighting contributes to a warm and welcoming environment, making your home feel festive and inviting to both residents and guests.”

Don't forget to think about your outdoor Christmas lighting, as well as your indoor lighting setup. 

8. Be mindful with your decorating (particularly in shared spaces)

When you live in a shared space, it's important to take the time to be mindful of how others within your home may feel about your Christmas decorating style. 

Dreizen says: “Embrace the concept of mindful decorating by being considerate of shared spaces and the preferences of those you live with. If decorating a shared living area, discuss and incorporate elements that resonate with everyone, fostering a sense of inclusivity and joy. Respect personal space and preferences when adding festive touches to communal areas, ensuring that the holiday spirit is a source of joy for all.” 

A great hack for decorating shared spaces is to create a shared Pinterest board where you and your roommates can share Christmas decorating ideas and themes, such as all your favorite white Christmas decor ideas

9. Prep for next year

Two gold sphere decorations and a mini Christmas tree decoration

(Image credit: Pottery Barn)

A smart step to take when it comes to decorating your home for the first time for Christmas is to think ahead to next year. Ideally, you want to make putting up your decorations next year as easy for yourself as possible. 

Knowles says: “Take photos of arrangements before packing up. Label bins so nothing gets forgotten!”

It's also worth taking the time to think about how to store your Christmas decorations properly, including how to store Christmas decorations in a small space and how to store Christmas lights


How can I decorate for my first Christmas without being overwhelmed?

A good starting point when decorating for Christmas for the first time is to make a step-by-step list that you can follow. This should help to make sure that when it comes to the process of putting up your traditional Christmas decorations, you don't end up not knowing what to do first. 

How can I make decorating for Christmas for the first time easier?

A handy hack for making decorating for your first Christmas easier is to choose a color palette and a theme before you start. This will help you to pick out a cohesive decor style that you can combine seamlessly around your home. 

The process of decorating your apartment for Christmas for the first time can feel a little overwhelming. However, with the right approach you can ensure that decorating is fun and free of stress. 

Dreizen says: “Decorating for Christmas for the first time can be both exciting and challenging. The best way to get started is to begin by establishing a cohesive theme or color scheme that aligns with your personal style and complements your existing decor. 

"This thoughtful approach ensures an aesthetically pleasing overall look, preventing the space from feeling cluttered or disjointed.” 

Beth Mahoney
Freelance journalist

Hi! I’m Beth Mahoney and I’m a former staff writer at Real Homes. I’ve been a journalist for the national press for the past six years, specializing in commerce and trends-related lifestyle articles, from product reviews and listicles to guides and features. With an eye for pretty things (think: quirky wall prints, scalloped edge furniture, and decadent-looking tableware) but a limited budget, I love nothing more than a bargain buy.