In the Battle of Real vs. Artificial Christmas Trees, Which is More Frugal?

I used to be a die-hard real Christmas tree fan. Growing up in California, my family would head to the Christmas tree lot every year and pick out a wonderful, pine-y smelling Christmas tree. It was a tradition we looked forward to each year.

When I grew up and got married, my husband, children, and I would either go to the Christmas tree farm or the woods and cut down our own Christmas tree. I couldn’t imagine Christmas any other way.

Christmas Tree

Then we had a chaotic year where my husband broke his finger right before Christmas and needed surgery. Between the medical appointments and the cast on his arm, cutting down our own tree wasn’t feasible. That’s when I did the unthinkable. I bought a fake Christmas tree.

I thought I’d hate it, but I’ve grown to love that big, fake tree. My daughter loves to decorate the house right after Thanksgiving, and I love not having to worry about a real tree drying out before Christmas! I also don’t miss pine needles all over my floor!

But which is the more frugal option? That’s a tough question to answer.

The Case for a Real Tree

If you live in the right place, you can find a real tree for very little money. In Oregon, a permit for cutting down a Christmas tree is only $5. That’s a pretty frugal option!

You also can’t really put a price on the whole tree hunting experience. If that’s been a part of your family tradition for years, it might not be worth it to buy a fake tree.

Finally, Christmas trees can be mulched down and are completely biodegradable. Real trees are more environmentally friendly than their artificial counterparts, which last for years in a landfill.

The Case for an Artificial Tree

For around $100 you can get a real-looking artificial tree. In some areas of the country, it’s almost that much for a real Christmas tree, making the fake tree the obvious frugal choice.

Artificial trees can last 10 years or more, so even though they cost more upfront, most of the time they’ll cost less in the long run.

There’s less of a fire hazard with an artificial tree, especially if you tend to put your Christmas tree up early.

In the end, there’s really no right or wrong choice. Real trees and artificial trees both have their advantages and disadvantages. It all comes down to personal preference. So which do you prefer?

Photo by CJeppson.


By , on Dec 6, 2010
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.


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  1. kate:

    Well around here a real tree costs about 70 bucks. We got a fake tree with little fiber optic lights that change color built in for 30 bucks. I miss the smell but i can replicate it with air fresheners. Also i have a very bad back so bending down to water a real tree is literally a pain. So yeah, we go with the artificial tree here

  2. my parents have an artificial tree that looks great. You really can’t tell that it’s fake unless you feel it. I’m sure it has saved them a few hundred dollars in the last 6 years that they’ve used it.
    Maintenance is also very easy with a fake tree.

  3. Kevin:

    You have to get a permit to cut down a tree, lol? Leave it to government. There’s no way in you know what that I would pay for a permit to cut down a tree.

  4. Adam Kamerer:

    Don’t forget that you have to store an artificial Christmas tree from year to year, and if you don’t have easy access to an attic space or a storage building, that can be a hassle. Of course, you can reuse an artificial tree from year to year, so it’s probably cheaper in the long run.

  5. Matthew Peters:

    We bought our artificial tree about two weeks after Christmas a couple years ago. 50% off with a store coupon too.

    Relatives of mine pay $25-$100 a year for a real tree. Our tree should last us at least ten years.

    I like the smell of a fresh tree, but we can get candles that can set the holiday mood just as well.

    No shedding, watering, no hauling the thing in my car, no throwing out a perfectly good tree in January. I always thought it a little strange to cut down millions of trees every year to put in our homes for a month only to “throw them away” shortly after.

  6. Hank:

    My wife bought a very nice, very expensive pre-lit Christmas tree one year 50% off the day after Christmas. We have had the same tree for over five years now. It has more than paid for itself twice over already, and we plan on having the same tree for many years to come. Another great thing I love is the convenience. I don’t have to go through the hassle of buying a real tree and dragging it home on the top of my little 4 door.

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