Let’s Talk Christmas Tree Costs: Real Vs. Fake

Real vs Fake Trees What Makes the Most Financial Sense This is a post by my husband, Aaron. – Anna

A Christmas tree is the centerpiece of your entire christmas celebration. Hours are spent decorating it and staring at it afterwards. It’s what people congregate around, it’s where the presents go. It’s no debate that a Christmas tree is an integral part of the holiday season, but what is debatable is the decision to go real or fake with the Christmas tree.

Here are a few things to consider when making your choice of Real Vs. Fake this yule tide season...

The Cost

When it comes to the cost of real vs fake, it’s basically a wash out. Both choices have such diverse cost ranges it’s easy to find either within your budget. Real trees have high cost associated with the initial set up. You have to buy the skirt, the tree stand, lights and ornaments. Fake trees usually come with pre-strung lights and tree stands and depending on what type of tree you get, you may not even need ornaments. An argument can be made that an artificial tree will last longer, but depending on the cost, it still could be a wash. Most quality fake trees start around $200 and have a life span of 5-7 years, which sounds appealing but if you budget shop you can find real trees for around 30 bucks. If you do the math, you are spending roughly the same amount on real trees as you are for the life span of the fake tree.

The Environment 

Real trees are more environmentally friendly than their artificial counterparts. Yes, that sounds weird since you are chopping down a tree, but real trees are biodegradable and renewable and can be turned into mulch when their job is done. Fresh trees are grown on farms (usually on land unsuitable for other crops) and throughout their life span are helping to remove carbon dioxide from the air. Locally grown and harvested trees reduce the environmental footprint even more. On the flip side fresh trees do need an astonishing amount of water throughout the season and unless they are grown organically, fresh trees require pesticides to remain healthy. It takes roughly 6-7 years for a tree to reach a harvestable age. That’s 6-7 years of pesticides getting put into the environment. Artificial trees on the other hand are usually manufactured overseas with petroleum-based products, shipped all over the world and cannot be recycled. While artificial trees do last longer, of course, they ultimately end up in the landfill. The most environmentally friendly choice is the “living tree”, which can be planted in the ground after the holiday season.

The “Hassle Factor”

Real trees require a certain amount of upkeep: watering, pruning, constantly picking up dead needles, not to mention keeping pets from drinking all the water. You also have to transport it from the tree lot and take it to the curb or to the recycling center after the season. Fake trees require none on this, but on the flip side, they must be set up each year, dusted off and fluffed up. At the end of the season fake trees have to be broken down and stored from year to year and in spatially challenged homes and apartments, this could be a real problem.

The Safety Consideration

Real trees can pose a safety risk, especially towards the end of the season when trees dry out and are placed too close to home heating  source. I actually fell victim to this when a neighbor’s tree caught fire (in an adjoining apartment). It didn’t burn down the entire building, but unfortunately my apartment was consumed in the blaze. That’s not to say artificial trees can’t catch fire but most are “fire resistant” which lessen the chances.

The Economy

One of the best things you can do this holiday season is to buy a locally grown and harvested tree. Not only will it help to reduce the carbon footprint of the tree, but you are helping to support your local economy. Nationally in the US, there are about 15,000 Christmas tree growers and over 100,000 people employed full, part-time and seasonally in the industry. Most artificial trees are manufactured overseas and sold in big box retailers. With the economy still struggling and the United States losing jobs to overseas competitors a fresh pine purchased right in your home state helps to sustain jobs and your local economy. In this case, a freshy is the best choice you can make.

The Tradition

All the above aside, perhaps the real choice to make is which type of tree will bring the most enjoyment and happiness. I’m partial to fresh trees. Growing up we always had The Real Deal. I like the smell of pine and the look of a real tree and heading out on a cold winter day to find the perfect specimen to set up in the house. Some people like the convenience and simplicity of an artificial tree and that’s okay too because in the end (other than the environmental impacts) it’s basically a wash when it comes to Real versus Fake.

Reader Sumer had this Christmas tree tip to add:

“Every year on December 26th, I  want the Christmas feeling to continue… but while I love the twinkling lights and decorations after a whole month of looking at the same thing I’m kind of ready to get rid of it too. A few days ago I was thinking about that, and all the sudden the idea of turning a Christmas tree in a New Year tree came to mind. Turns out, other countries put out trees specifically to celebrate the New Year (after some research I found that they pointed out that it wasn’t a redecorated Christmas tree but a tree specifically dedicated to the New Year).

So here’s my idea (which is great for couples and families): take off all of the Christmas decor except for the lights. Then, add new, sparkly New Year decor to your tree to give your Christmas tree a new look. You can add whatever you like and you don’t have to buy anything new to decorate.  For my New Year tree I’m going to start the tradition of writing out scriptures, wishes, encouragements and even New Year Resolutions and pinning them to the tree. This has the added benefit of making my New Year’s Resolutions feel like more of a commitment.”


What’s your opinion? Real or fake and is cost something you consider when you make your decision?


13 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Christmas Tree Costs: Real Vs. Fake

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  1. barbara

    after years of threatening to buy a fake i settled it once and for all. I dont WANT a fake plastic tree that takes all that assembly and fluffing and still looks fake. and no more nagging hubbie to go get the tree.. I got to Home Depot when the delivery truck is unloading.. get a freshly unloaded noble fir in the 3-5′ range…actually it is always 5′ and for $20 i have a beauty! I do not WANT a talltall tree..that is too much work ! I place clear vinyl over the top of our antique leather trunk to protect it from water spills and put the tree on top of that. we have had great luck with the tree looking and smelling fresh the entire month and it is not an overwhelm project. Much cheaper than a fake and much nicer anyday.

  2. Kristina

    I just want to add that in Colorado, as well as in Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, West Virginia, Vermont, and New Hampshire, you can get a Christmas Tree Cutting Permit from the US Forest Service. For $10 you can cut down a tree of choice up to 25 feet (!) tall (and with a trunk circumference of less than 6 inches) in mapped out areas of Forest land. It is a phenomenal deal (although it does require a drive-think Road Trip!) but best of all-it helps out the environment by thinning out “fire ladders” of trees amd reduces the chance of forest fire in the area. It is a Win-Win financially as well as environmentally. Just a thought for those close to these areas. It makes a nice Holiday tradition too, bring some hot chocolate, snowshoes (not necessary), an inexpensive bow saw (you WILL need this), a picnic lunch and make a day of it!

  3. Pieliekamais

    Wow, Aaron, very well researched, as usual! I admire your patience!
    It’s the “Real Deal” for us, too. Also, it’s a family tradition to (sometimes) pick a weird looking tree that “no one else would want” :D

  4. Emily

    Okay, I’m slightly biased since I absolutely HATE fake Christmas trees, however, I read an article about them a few years ago and was shocked to discover all of the toxic VOCs that artificial trees put off in your house.
    Also, I know it is different depending on where you live, but in Oregon it’s not hard to find a real tree for $15… Or if you know someone with property, you can usually cut one down yourself for free (like my husband and I did).

  5. CeCee

    I am slightly biased because I am allergic to real trees, and only had one once in my life. I bought it before I realized I was allergic :(

    I have a 7.5 ft fake Christmas Tree that I have had for 5 years. I bought it after Christmas on clearance at Lowes. I think it probably has 3-5 more years on it and I only spent $75. It is a beautiful tree that does not look fake at all. So on that note, if you are willing to budget shop for a real tree you should be willing to budget shop for a fake tree.

    Also if I would be interested in a real tree Kristina made a great comment! I would definitely cut my own.

  6. Kristy Diebold

    I used to be a “Real or Don’t Bother” diehard fan of the fresh cut Christmas Tree. In fact, it was part of the fine print in our marriage vows! Not kidding!! LOL!
    BUT… a few years ago we were given a new fake tree. I used it mostly at church for the Children’s Ministry. Then one year we used it at home *gasp!!* in place of a real tree because the weather had been sooo rainy I didn’t want a wet, muddy tree in the house.
    This year our schedule has been so hectic (we barely got decorations up two days ago), I surrendered to and even initiated grabbing the fake tree from the garage so that we had SOMETHING in time for Christmas.
    Bottom line for me, GRACE. Of course I PREFER to get an inexpensive cut tree, but if the circumstances are too crazy– we have a back up. No stress or guilt.

  7. Coupon

    RE:”Most quality fake trees start around $200 and have a life span of 5-7 years”.
    I would prefer the real tree, however, I have the very small fake one for 13 years now just for my son’s bedroom. I bought it just for $1 in 99 cents only store. I’s look like it going to be in a goof shape 20 years more. Merry Christmas!

  8. Tonya

    This year was me and my boyfriends for year in our apartment and living together. We opted not get a tree. If we are here in NY next year I want a tree. I missed the smell. I didn’t realize how much I had equated that smell with Christmas. We will start small though. And around here the closeout discount stores actually have excellent ornaments and decorations.

  9. Emily

    This year we decided to go with a fake tree. We got it at our BX (we are stationed overseas) and it was $69. I had lights from the years before. I think it will last us at least 5 years. So far, I love it!!

  10. Debby Bogia

    Yankee Candle has a green jar candle with a wreath and red bow. It has the scent of a Christmas tree. It’s called Christmas Wreath.
    I am allergic to real trees, yes, it breaks my heart.


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