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Illustration by Nicole Leddy

Decorating on a broke-ass budget

NO CASH? NO problem. The Fulcrum gives you a handful of tricks and tips to make your place sparkle and shine for the holidays without breaking the bank.

Christmas decorating

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
If you’re someone who can’t get enough of the snow, you’ll be happy to learn transforming your apartment to match the winter wonderland outside is a breeze! Gather up old essays, previously read issues of the Fulcrum, and pages torn from boring textbooks out of frustration. Fold them up into weird triangular cones, hack at them with a pair of scissors until they have oddly shaped edges, and unfold. Voila, you now have beautiful snowflakes! Hang them up all over your apartment with dollar store thread or your roommate’s shoelaces.

Chestnuts roasting 

Wow your guests with this stroke of decorating genius! In four simple steps, you can transform your home from a mangy Sandy Hill apartment to a toasty ski lodge resort.

1. Open your laptop.

2. Go to YouTube.

3. Search something along the lines of “burning wood fireplace.”

4. Press play, widen the shot to fill your entire screen, and enjoy the instant hearth!

Expect visitors to make comments such as, “Where did you find the time and money to build a real fireplace in your tiny apartment?” Smile in self-satisfaction. Just make sure not to let your laptop go into screensaver mode or run out of batteries, or the super-realistic illusion will be shattered.

Bring the outdoors in 

The Christmas trees sold in the ByWard Market are beautiful but expensive. Know what’s absolutely free? All the twigs, rocks, and fallen branches you find on the ground! Gather them up and place them creatively around your house. This works especially well if you can find some evergreen branches and duct tape them together into a makeshift tree.

For those committed to creating Christmas ambience, why not trap a live squirrel or chipmunk? Put a festive bow around its neck and let it run loose in your apartment to add some true dynamism to your decorations. Come on, folks, unexpected twists are really the key to decor that pops!


They’re obviously a critical part of the holidays. This tip requires you to purchase a couple of rolls of wrapping paper from Dollarama, but the expense is minor compared to the happiness it will bring to your dorm room. Collect as many empty Kleenex, pizza, and juice boxes as possible from your neighbours’ recycling bins. Wrap the boxes, and for purposes of realism, add gift tags with your roommates’ names. Quantity is important here, people—aim to artfully arrange at least 12 gifts per roommate around your home. The air will be filled with anticipation and excitement, and your roomies will be bowled over by your generous spirit. Just make sure to head back to your hometown before any of your friends attempt to open their faux gifts.

Light up the dark

A downside to December is it includes the shortest day of the year. No wonder lights and candles make up an important part of many holiday decorations. No cash to buy all the candles for your menorah? Can’t afford an entire string of twinkly lights to hang from your window? No problem!

This holiday season, why not buy a single candle or light bulb? The trick is to multiply the light, so head out to Pier 1 (or that fancy-ass furniture store in the ByWard Market) and get yourself a few dozen mirrors. Place them strategically around your fabulously inexpensive candle or light bulb and create as many reflections as possible for quality lighting on the cheap.

A few parting tips: Cohesive colour schemes are important, Dollarama’s got some great deals, and don’t forget to feed your squirrel and invest in a rabies shot come the new year!

—Ali Schwabe