In addition to my annual Christmas wreath (plus one for Hubs' office door!) and centerpiece, this year I thought I'd try making some decorations for our mailbox. This was my latest Pinterest adventure, not without difficulties.
Honestly, I wonder if using an arrangement to beautify our home-welded mailbox is like polishing a turd. What it really needs is a new paint job. Hubs thinks our mailbox is the best thing ever because it is totally baseball bat-proof. Nobody can smash it!! He points out that it is a frugal mailbox because we'll never have to replace it. This is true, but doesn't change the fact that it's kind of homely looking. Next Christmas I will probably do a big garland down the post in addition to a larger arrangement over the entire box, leaving some room for the flag. Oh yeah, and give it a new paint job.
Like last year, I made a nice wreath for our door. For this I picked fresh greenery around the property and found some pinecones in the yard. I also bought some faux berries at the Dollar Tree for $1, little bells at Walmart for $1.50 or so, and a roll of new green wire ($1.50). The bells will be re-usable for many years to come, the berries might last another 2-3 years if I'm careful. Technically you could reuse the wire as well, though I probably won't. The roll will last another 2-3 wreaths without being reused. The ribbon was from my garage sale crafting stash.
The Fight for Frugal Christmas Decorations
I'll admit, it's not easy to find cheap Christmas decorations in nice working condition.Hubs and I have found the used market (garage sales, thrift stores) for Christmas decorations to be really poor. Traditional decorations like lights and ornaments are hard to find for less than 75% of retail price. I don't think it's worth buying scratched up mismatching decorations for such a small discount. And it's not like people grow out of their Christmas decorations or give away hand-me-downs. We had a particularly bad experience this year with our used tree stand.
We found a thrift store tree stand for $1.50. However, it was missing parts and buying the special screws needed cost us $4.00. At home, we spent an hour adjusting and readjusting the tree in the stand. Finally we got it only-a-little crooked and decided that was good enough. We strung up the lights and did something else. About 30 minutes later, we were watching TV and all of a sudden the whole tree fell over. What a nightmare! Thankfully there were no ornaments on the tree yet. Once again, we tried to readjust the tree and I realized that the stand was made to use clamps, not single screws. Hubs went out to the shop and got some more screws to drill directly into the tree. It worked, and the tree has stayed up since.
I wonder if it was really worth it to buy a used tree stand. We only saved $5-$10 and it took us an hour or two and a falling tree to get it to work. A tree stand is something we will use for the next 20 or 30 years, and it might be worth it to buy one that works.
Realities of Being Frugal
Despite what Pinterest and frugal blogs may imply, it can be difficult to make something cheap look expensive.
One of my favorite bloggers has one of the most beautiful homes and backyard/garden I've ever seen. The photos she takes of her projects makes frugal living (making gifts, having an extremely small food budget, etc)- look absolutely glamorous. Some people would read this lady's blog and think that she has such a beautiful home because she is creative and frugal. The reality is that she and her husband paid dearly (and are still paying for) the home, and almost lost it in the years after 2008 when her husband was out of work.
Frugal people seem to have this idea that we can LOOK like a million dollars without paying for it. Because you know, we are so creative and have lots of skills to use. We think we can make something out of nothing. One time I was at a potluck and someone wanted me to try their soup. "Oh, you would like it- it's so frugal- there's like, nothing in it!" I tried the soup, and sure enough it tasted like nothing. If you put nothing in a soup, that's what you get... nothing. If you put a Christmas decoration on an unattractive mailbox, you still have an unattractive mailbox. Being creative and skillful can improve the situation, but it can't work magic.
That being said, I think Pinterest results will vary depending on how hardcore frugal you are. Personally I would not recommend doing a comparison photo... mine was just for the blog. :) I still think our mailbox looks more Christmas-y with the arrangement than without it, though.
Have you tried making Pinterest projects? Do they ever turn out as good as the photo?