Few aspects of pop culture are more symbolic of the Christmas spirit than that tiny little tree that Charlie Brown championed in 1965′s A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Though it originally seemed like little more than a dying sapling, all it took was a little love (and the magical ability to grow hundreds of pine needles at will) to transform it into a gorgeous piece of holiday cheer.
Now, Charlie Brown was all about non-commercialism, but he still had to buy that tree.
Likewise, somebody had to buy all those lights and ornaments that adorned Snoopy’s doghouse, only to wind up beautifying the tree.
And it made us wonder: how much money went into this project?
Remember, this was in 1965, so it’s only fair we look at prices from back then, as well as what he might pay now. We converted all prices using the US Department of Labor’s Inflation Calculator.
Charlie Brown did not buy a fully-grown tree, but an unassuming little sapling.
Most likely though, the owner of the tree farm that Charlie Brown and Linus visited would charge our favorite blockhead full price.
After all, just because it was the ’60s, doesn’t mean businesspeople were any less capitalistic.
Back in 1965, you could buy yourself a tree for anywhere from $3-5, depending on the type. Charlie Brown never specifies what kind of tree he purchases, so let’s look at the entire range.
If he bought a $3 tree in 1965, he would be paying $22.25 in 2013. But if he splurged and paid $5 for that little tree, he would be forking over $37 in today’s money.
Of course, you can’t have a Christmas tree without shiny, colorful lights, and Charlie Brown has more than enough of them (or Snoopy does, anyway.)
When he went out to buy those multi-colored lights in 1965, he paid $3.49 on average. Fast-forward to 2013, and those same lights would run him a cool $25.88.
Sadly, lights and ornaments are typically sold separately, so good ‘ol Charlie Brown must fork over yet more dough.
We were unable to find a typical price for plain, multi-colored ball ornaments in 1965, but we found a 50-piece set for $10 in 2013 money, which would run him $1.42 in 1965.
That’s not bad at all, especially since he’ll have plenty of pieces left over to give his friends so they could decorate their trees.
While there are certainly more expensive ornament sets out there, we’re not going to bother with them.
Because knowing what we know about Charlie Brown, he would reject pricey ornaments out of principle, no matter how much Lucy mocked him for it.
He would opt for something simple, inexpensive, and yet still beautiful.
No tree is complete without a gorgeous gold star on top, and Charlie Brown’s is no exception.
Again, no prices from 1965 could be found, but we found a nice, basic, inexpensive star that he could use today.
We say inexpensive by star standard by the way, as they are typically the most expensive ornament of all.
This star in question, a decent deal by any measure, would run ol’ Chuck $14.95 today. Back in 1965, he would pay $2 for the same star.
So how much did Charlie Brown fork over in order to get his little tree up to snuff?
Well, adding everything up, he would have to fork over anywhere from $10-12, depending on which type of tree hat sapling actually was.
Translated to 2013 dollars, that same tree would run him anywhere from $73-88. As you can see, even anti-commercialism costs money.
Of course, he COULD just go and buy the Official Charlie Brown Christmas Tree for $6.99, but we have a feeling that bit of blatant commercialism would both repulse (for the product’s blatant hypocrisy and commercialism) and confuse him (who gave them permission to put his face on the box?).
If you’re anything like Charlie Brown, and want to spend as little on your Christmas decor as possible while still retaining the beauty and spirit of the holidays, here are a few helpful tips:
Use Your Own Tree
Obviously, no aluminum trees for your non-commercial self. But why bother buying anything at all?
As long as it’s on your property, you should be able to chop down a suitably sized pine tree and stick it in your living room.
Depending on local prices, you could save anywhere from $50-170 simply by using your own tree.
Buy Decorations Right After Christmas
We all love to buy candy right after Halloween, when it’s at least half off and therefore twice as delicious.
Well, you can do the same with Christmas decorations.
Buy your ornaments, lights, stars, tinsel, and whatever else you need right after the holidays, when stores need to get rid of them fast, and are willing to part with them for rock bottom prices.
Depending on how much you need for the coming years, you could save hundreds of dollars.
Make Your Own Ornaments
The more you do yourself, the more money you will save. This goes for Christmas decorations as well.
There are dozens of different ways you can create beautiful ornaments on the cheap, from paint-by-number kits to decorated ice cream cones.
It will light up your tree and the entire room, as well as give your holiday the personal touch it wouldn’t get from simple plastic balls from Wal-Mart.
Whether it’s Charlie Brown in 1965, or any of us in 2013, there is never a need to spend hundreds of dollars on making your Christmas beautiful.
The more you do on your own, and the more love you put into everything, the closer you’ll be to the true spirit of the holiday.
Mary Hiers is a personal finance writer who helps people earn more and spend less.