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      Consumer Confidential: Decorating on a Budget

      The experts say, this year more than ever, bits of"nature" -- like berries, greenery, and pine cones -- are being used in holiday decorations.

      ??Tis the season to be decorating. And everybody likes saving money. But where can you cut corners this year and still have a good-looking home?

      Part of the holiday fun is pulling out old decorations that may have been handed down through the generations or are keepsakes from friends and family. But we??ve all got that box of decorations that are just plain old. What if they??re just taking up storage space, and they haven??t seen the holiday lights for years, but you just can??t justify the expense of replacing them.

      Remember that what??s old to you is new to almost everyone else. Get together with your friends because you probably each have an old box of ornaments that you don??t really like anymore. You could simply swap and give your houses a completely different look.

      Judy Click of Judy??s Card Cottage in Amarillo agrees with that. And besides, she says, that old look is ??in??. ??Oh, retro is so big right now,?? Click says. ??So get out those old ornaments, get out that old, tattered garland that you think looks tacky. You can make it retro. You can just perk it up, and all of a sudden it becomes very, very beautiful.??

      Click says the associates in stores like hers can help you with ideas that will stay within your decorating budget. ??Stretching?? a product is one of those ideas. ??If you??re using a designer ribbon,?? she advises, ??instead of making a $50 bow, maybe we can use a little piece of inexpensive ribbon and come up with the same look for about one-tenth of the money.??

      Bringing in an interior designer, if only for a consultation, is a great way to get ideas on how you can get a fresh look for less. You??ll just have to do all the work yourself to create those pieces.

      Click also agrees that you don??t have to have every inch of your home decorated to make it look good. ??White space is very, very good ?? because if you have everything totally, totally decorated, nothing stands out.??

      Among the other bits of advice that can help you solve this problem:

      Use nature. That??s true ??more this year than ever??, says Click.

      Use sentimental objects. Centerpieces are perfect places for those.

      Pick a focal point. Make a table, an entryway, or a mantel your top priority.

      Repaint an old piece of furniture bright red or bright green.

      Shop thrift stores and consignment shops looking for elements you can use.

      Let the kids help. Their ??two cents?? could produce a lasting memory.