We used the extra time we had this weekend when our son was home from college to put up our Christmas tree. We go all out when it comes to our Christmas tree and have a big collection of colorful, mercury glass ornaments. Our ceilings are 12 foot high, so it takes a big tree to ‘fit’ the room and hold all the ornaments.
We cut our own fresh tree for the first 20 years that we were married. It was a fun field trip every year that we did as a family (often with my parents, too), but when we moved into this house we switched to an artificial tree, because the ceiling was too high to easily find and transport a natural tree of that size.
This year we needed a new artificial tree and I thought I would compare the economics of the new tree we bought with a similar natural tree:
ARTIFICIAL – Our new artificial tree (from Sam’s Club) cost $370. It is a 12-foot ‘Ellsworth Fir” – whatever that is – and came with almost 3,000 “Life Like” tips and 1,100 white LED lights. It’s slimmer than many trees – which works well for our room – but we leave out one of the vertical sections so that it tops out at about 10.5 feet.
NATURAL – Looking at the Lowe’s ad this week, I see that a “fresh-cut” Frasier Fir of a comparable height (10-12 feet) costs $125. I heard that Christmas Tree prices were up quite a bit this year, but you do pay a premium for a tree that tall.
PAYOUT – At a 3% discount rate for the cost of paying for our artificial tree upfront, it will break-even financially in about 3.5 years. You could call it an even 3 years given our artificial has 1,100 LED lights wound into it that we would otherwise have to buy.
SAVINGS – Our last artificial tree lasted 8 years, so assuming comparable financials, we saved the cost of a whopping 5 natural Christmas Trees on our last one. That’s an amazing $600 – which pays for a lot of ornaments!
As favorable as this payout is, it isn’t half as quick of a payout as the average trees bought by Americans. The National Christmas Tree Association (yes, there is such a thing!) reports that the average real tree costs $74 this year, while the average artificial tree is $99. Based on those numbers, an artificial tree would be paid out by it’s second visit by the fat, red-suited elf . There are other interesting statistics in THIS website that the Christmas Tree Association maintains.
While we really enjoyed the activity of cutting down our own tree, the smell of a fresh fir in the living room, and the natural beauty that comes with a real tree, there are a lot of non-financial reasons we like our artificial tree, too: We can put the tree up early now, don’t have to worry about keeping it watered, and aren’t sweeping up needles into next June.
Those reasons – and the financials – are a good reason to keep us enjoying our new “Ellsworth Fir”. While I am suspicious of the name, I’m not suspicious of the savings we will enjoy!
Natural or artificial tree? Is cost a factor at all for you?
Image Credit: (C) MrFireStation.com