The Cost of Upgrading To A Full-Size Christmas Tree

by Kimberly Lew

While I am not particularly religious, my birthday happens to fall on Christmas Day, so the holidays have always been a time of celebration in my eyes. I love all things Christmas: the television specials, the music, the egg nog, the sweaters, and, perhaps most of all, the decorations. Since my boyfriend and I have moved into our own place, we finally have the space to get a full-sized Christmas tree, and because this will be my first year not working retail during the holidays, I will also finally get some time to enjoy it if we actually decorate and make our home more festive.

I realize, of course, that getting a Christmas tree can be an expensive and possibly labor-intensive endeavor. There is the purchasing of the actual tree, which can easily run between $40–80, but there’s also transporting the tree home, buying tree-related accessories, maintaining the tree while we have it, and then disposing of the tree once all is said and done.

Last year, my boyfriend bought me a baby potted tree from the corner bodega, which was about $30. I was living in a small studio at the time, so it was about all I could imagine fitting in the space. We named the tree Patrick Stump and one string of lights $3.99 from the corner CVS was more than enough to wrap around it. I had a collection of small ornaments from a small fake tree my parents gave me years ago, and we made a tree topper and some additional ornaments out of Shrinky Dinks. We also got very lazy and didn’t take the tree out to the trash until February, long after it had started shedding sharp, dry needles all over the floor.

All in all, it was an inexpensive endeavor for a little holiday cheer. But it really helped warm up the place and get us in the holiday mood.

I would like to upgrade to a full-sized (5–6 foot) tree this year. We finally have enough space to accommodate it, and I have dreams of comfy nights on the couch, me relaxing with a book as my boyfriend plays Star Wars Battlefront, with a sparkling tree in the background. I also will probably be staying in the city for Christmas this year, making celebrating Christmas in our home all the more special. In fact, the idea of having a tree has also planted the seed, so to speak, to have a holiday party this year, full of warm, boozy drinks and sweet things. In all my daydreams about this event, the tree is always the centerpiece, a symbol to our friends that we consider them family.

This is all, however, ignoring the fact that getting a tree is expensive, at least for something so temporal, during an already costly time of the year.

I was first inspired by the idea to get a tree when I saw a Gilt City Christmas tree delivery service offer. For $69, a company would deliver a 5–6 foot Christmas tree straight to your door, which seemed like a good deal. However, the more I thought about it, the more I started to see hidden costs. To help set up the tree was an additional $20, which would probably be helpful considering I have never set up a full size tree on my own before. Also, we’d have to buy a tree stand, which run between $15–40 on Amazon, and would honestly probably be just as good a deal to buy from the Christmas tree delivery service for another $20. This makes the bill already around $110, without even including some other helpful services they offer like tree disposal for another $20 or a tree bag for $5.

One of my biggest issues with going the Gilt City route was that the company wasn’t local and had very mixed reviews of their delivery service: sometimes the trees weren’t delivered on time and they often seemed to have big delivery windows. I even tried chatting with their online customer service department and, upon realizing that they didn’t seem to know the answer to any of my questions, promptly gave up. I decided to do a little more research and found some other options.

One local company is Christmas Tree Brooklyn, which has a few local lots where we can pick the tree out ourselves but then take advantage of their free delivery service. A 5 foot tree costs $60, while a 6 foot free costs $70. Still, there are the same add ons: tree set up is an additional $19.95 and a tree stand is $20. The advantage is that they seem to have excellent customer service. An email sent to them with an inquiry about tree disposal was answered within hours. There’s also a particularly heartwarming story on Yelp about how they once sold out of trees but still offered one customer that they would get a tree from someone else’s lot and sell it to them at cost plus a delivery fee, all so that he could get a last minute tree.

I also spoke to someone on the phone from AA Christmas Trees, which offers free delivery and installation if I pre-order soon. A 5–6 foot tree comes in at $75 and a tree stand at $20. They also offer post-Christmas pickup for $25 that includes needle clean-up, should we need it. Total, going the delivery service route will always end up costing around $100–120.

We could also buy a tree and try to transport it ourselves, but aside from the physical labor that entails, I’ve read enough complaints on Home Depot’s Yelp page from people who have had to pay cab fares as much as their trees cost to get them home.

Another option is that we can go the fake tree route. While it doesn’t offer the same fragrance or sense of tradition, a fake tree would be a $100 one-time purchase that will last for years to come. It does not require a stand or installation and will be delivered to our door in a convenient format for set up.

Besides the fact that I want a real tree, a major drawback is finding where to store it during the year, but it could be a more cost-effective move in the long run.

This is not even getting into the cost of decorating the tree. We will need at least one more $4 box of lights and probably some sort of decorations, which can easily add up. A part of me wonders if it might not be more worth it to just string up some lights, do some paper cut outs of snowflakes, make a wreath out of paper, set up my mini fake tree, and call it a day. After all, as nice as it would be to have a real tree, this could easily be money spent towards gifts for friends and family, or even put into the Christmas party budget.

The truth is that a tree won’t make or break my holiday season, but I suppose there is some sentimentality around what it could mean: that I am now in a position to make the holidays my own and to start new traditions. No matter what, I know this will happen — it would just be nice to have a tree in the window the whole time.

Kimberly Lew is the proud writer of plays, blogs, and the monthly check when the rent is due. Check her out at

This story is part of our Holidays 2015 series.

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