Look beyond “premium” grade trees, which are perfectly proportioned, to lesser grades that may have flaws, like a bare spot or two, Ms. Sidebottom said. You can situate the tree so the defect faces a wall.
Different varieties of trees are priced differently. So if a noble or Fraser fir is too expensive, consider a Scotch pine, which may be less pricey.
Skip extras like “flocking,” or the application of fake snow to the tree. Some tree sellers offer it for an additional fee. (Do-it-yourself kits are available, but be prepared for some mess.)
While some shoppers enjoy visiting a farm to choose a tree, big-box chain stores also sell Christmas trees and may offer lower prices as a way to get customers in the door to make other purchases, Ms. Sidebottom said. About 29 percent of trees bought last year were purchased at chain stores, according to the association’s survey.
Some people prefer to skip the regular watering and stray pine needles and buy artificial trees, which look increasingly realistic. Prices range from a couple of hundred dollars to more than a thousand, but the tree can be used for years, and many come with built-in lights. Consumer Reports recently rated artificial trees.
Here are some questions and answers about Christmas trees:
Where can I cut my own Christmas tree?
Those who enjoy getting outdoors can save money by cutting down a tree on U.S. Forest Service land. You’ll need a permit, which costs $5 to $20 and is available online or at service offices. About 300,000 permits were sold in 2020, said Janelle Smith, a Forest Service spokeswoman. Some forests designate areas for cutting, while others offer more flexible guidelines. “The kids love it,” she said.
Many “choose and cut” tree farms, where shoppers select a tree that is cut down for them, allow customers to do the chopping, Ms. Sidebottom said. You can search for locations near you on the Real Christmas Tree Board website.