Becoming Clark Griswold: How to Decorate Your House without Blowing Your Budget and Circuits

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We should all aspire to be Clark Griswold.

Naive, competitive, and deliriously committed to having the best Christmas display in the neighborhood. Unfortunately our wallets do not always allow us to execute this level of awesomeness.

I’ve taken the liberty of coming up with a list of six tips and suggestions to become Clark Griswold on a budget.

A Guide for Dads: How to “Clark Griswold” Your House for the Holidays

Get in touch with Nature

It’s likely that you’ll find plenty of natural decor right in your backyard, or anywhere in your neighborhood. Take a short walk and see what you can find. Better yet, take your munchkins along and have them search for pine cones and tree branches that can be repurposed into natural decor.

This is better than having your neighbors question why a grown man is bent over underneath their evergreen tree stealing their yard waste.

Hunt for Bargains

As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Inexpensive Christmas decorations can be found at almost every garage or estate sale. In my experience, the condition of items tend to be a bit better at estate sales. At estate sales, you are sure to find Santas to decorate your mantle, ornaments, wreaths and Christmas lights.

If the decor you find happens to have another family’s name embroidered on it, even better. You can sit around drinking egg nog and pretend that you’re really the “Smith” family as your stockings suggest. (This is apparently a thing with our family. Read about how we were the Fazlani Family at the pool every summer for years.)


When you’re trolling garage sales, look for 8.5″ by 11″ picture frames. You can find printable holiday signage online (like this one for only $6) to print on regular paper or photo paper. With so many options available, you will find something that fits your masterpiece.

NOTE: According to my wife, these things are called “printables.” Also she says this idea isn’t all that unique, but whatever. 

Hit the after-season sales

This may not be helpful right now, but it will be in a couple months. The days leading up to Christmas, and after Christmas, decor goes on sale. The longer you wait, the better the deals. That means lights, garland, wreaths, and ornaments for pennies on the dollar. It’s super exciting when you do this, box it all up with your Christmas decorations and then completely surprise yourself the following year.

Future you is going to be so exciting to find 20 boxes of icicle lights.

Get strategic

Because we know that lights and inflatables can eat up your monthly budget, consider spending a little extra on timers to light your house in the hours just after bedtime. (This is the one we use. I also love that it has a remote, so I can turn them off if I need to without going outside.)

You do not need to light up your house in the middle of the night when everyone is asleep. Timers will take care of this for you, especially if you forget to turn the lights off before bed.

Amateurs can do it, too

If you want to decorate a large evergreen tree on your property, but can’t afford to have professionals do it, hire within.

Simply watch a few videos on YouTube and you’ll see several ways to decorate your large trees without ever having to step foot on a ladder. Here’s one of my favorite methods:

I hope you have found these helpful and inspired you to embrace your child-like enthusiasm for all things Christmas. As always, if you use any of these suggestions (or have any of your own), please share!

If you’re in need of inspiration and live near Cincinnati, Ohio – here are the best light displays in town to get you in the holiday spirit.

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