The economy is still sluggish, money is tight and budgets are stretched thin. Yet, the holidays are approaching and we still want our home to look festive, warm and vibrant. With a little imagination, creativity and some recycling magic, you can have a festive home and stay on budget. By using items you already have, adding some candles and lights, dressing up last year's ornaments and adding just a smidge of creativity, your home can come to life for the holidays. (For more, check out 8 Easy Ways To Slash Your Holiday Budget.)

TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics

Candles are one of the easiest and least expensive ways to warm a room. Ways to decorate with candles are only limited by your imagination. Candles range in price from 99 cents for tapers to $20 for the large, scented pillars and those in glass containers.

An inexpensive taper holder can be dressed up by placing it on a platter, and surrounding it with unused tree bulbs. Use greenery around the base, drop in a few small ornaments and viola, a lovely table centerpiece.

Floating candles come in a variety of colors and shapes. Fill a large glass bowl with water, drop in a few floating candles and you'll warm a corner of a living room. Or, put water in several wines glasses, add a drop or two of food coloring and place a floating candle in the water. If you add a bit of gold ribbon around the stem you have an instant holiday feel. Do this to several wine glasses and sit them on a simple white plate for an even brighter decoration.

Just by placing several scented candles around the living room, dining room and kitchen it will give a warm glow and lovely holiday scent. (Note: keep candles high enough to be out of the reach of children, and away from any flammable materials.) (For other ideas, read Host A Holiday Party For Less.)

Recycle Old Items
You'd be surprised how many things are sitting around your home that can be instantly turned into a holiday creation. Place candy canes around a pretty glass jar filled with decorative snow, or add a few sprigs of pine to a bowl filled with small Christmas ball ornaments to jazz it up.

A child's sleigh that is gathering dust in the garage can add cheer to a porch. Simply tie a few bright ribbons around it, and set a couple of loveable teddy bears on it. Add some ribbons or scarves to the bears, wrap a few empty boxes in holiday paper and sit them all on the sleigh.

Or, if you have a pair of old ice skates hanging around, perk them up with red laces, ($2.99) then tie them to the top of the sleigh, add a ribbon and some pinecones or ornaments and you have an instant fun porch decoration.

Do you have a few old vases that are gathering dust, or perhaps have a crack or a chip in them? Grab a can of gold or silver spray paint ($4.99 a can) and give them a coat of paint. You can even sprinkle them with some glitter for extra vibrancy. If you add a few real or silk poinsettias you will have a beautiful centerpiece for your holiday dinner table.

Sometimes you can get a holiday effect with just a simple piece of fabric. Look through your paper to find sales at craft stores on holiday fabric. For a few dollars you can purchase several yards, and using pinking shears (which give you a decorative edge without sewing) cut an edge on the fabric and drape it across your sofa to add color, or create a table runner. (For more tips on how you can be environmentally friendly, check out Dreaming Of A Green Christmas.)

Bring Nature Inside
If you live in the Northern climates, all the leaves are gone from the trees and shrubs. Cut a few long branches and spray paint them white, gold or silver. Add them to a tall glass vase with a package of decorative snow in the bottom and you have an instant dramatic centerpiece.

Pine cones make beautiful decorations at anytime, but are particularly lovely during the holidays. Fill them in a basket, tie a plaid ribbon around the basket and it creates a warm, holiday decoration. Or, you might want to spray paint the pine cones in various colors, add a sprinkle of glitter and then arrange them in a pretty bowl.

If you have a fireplace, consider dipping the pine cones in melted wax for easy fire-starters. You can purchase bars of wax for less than $10. You can also add color and scent to the wax for a few dollars more. These also make great, inexpensive gifts especially when added to a basket or holiday bag. Add a bow and you have a useful, beautiful handmade gift.

Go a Little Country
Sometimes the best holidays are the simplest. Leave the shiny ornaments packed away and let the family gather to string popcorn, cranberries and pines cones to adorn the tree. Add some simple small flannel bows, and you have a warm tree that costs only pennies to decorate. After the holiday, the popcorn and cranberries will feed the birds.

The Bottom Line
You don't need to spend a lot of money to create a warm and inviting home during the holidays. Sometimes the best decorations are the simplest. Gathering the family together to drink eggnog, playing sappy Christmas carols and laughing as you try to string cranberries without squishing them can be fun and create warm memories.

Decorating on a budget is limited only by your imagination. (For more on how you can save, see Be A Holiday Saver, Not A Scrooge.)

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