It's the time of year when Christmas tree stalls pop up on street corners all over NYC. Kids love stopping to ooh and aah at the gorgeous, giant trees, and walking past them smells fabulous. Even for a Grinch like me, it's hard to resist the lure of those beautiful trees come December, despite the fact that I can feel my wallet having a seizure.
I hate to deprive my kid this special rite of the holiday season. So how can I score the biggest, most beautiful Christmas tree possible, but at a reasonable cost? Read on for tips on how to find a bargain tree (or at least a convenient one) for your family.
With recent reports of some trees selling in Manhattan for $1,000, you might think it's a Christmas miracle to find an affordable one, but there are a few tips this longtime New Yorker has picked up along the way.
Buy on Christmas Eve
Growing up, this was my family's favorite strategy for getting an inexpensive tree: On Christmas Eve, visit the guy on the corner and offer him $20 or $25 (or less) for whatever is left over. Sometimes you hit the jackpot; sometimes, not so much. One year I met a salesman who refused to come down on his prices!
Cut Your Own at a Tree Farm
Was it Norman Rockwell or A Christmas Story that romanticized driving to the country with your family to cut your own tree? Either way, cutting your own tree is a fun family outing that can save you some bucks.
Prices vary at tree farms. Some charge a flat price for any tree, others charge by the foot. Some charge a premium for a weekend visit. You'll probably pay between $25 and $80, but you should find a nice tree at the lower end of the price spectrum.
There are some fantastic places to cut your own Christmas tree within an hour of NYC, and others farther afield in Westchester, Long Island, and New Jersey. You can even make a fun day of it—some farms offer activities such as carriage rides, Santa photos, roasting marshmallows over an open fire and even holiday shopping. Of course, if you need to rent a car, this is not the budget option for you.
Mail-Order Christmas Trees
Going to the farm is fun, but not convenient. For the ultimate in convenience, order your tree online. I did this last year and was pleased. The tree was cut on a farm in New Hampshire and arrived two days later, fresh at my door.
The great thing about mail-order Christmas trees is they come in a box, which can remain on until the tree is up in the stand by just opening the bottom at setup. This reduces the mess from needles and sap.
A mail-order tree is best if you want one, say, 7 feet tall. Larger trees can't be shipped without enormous oversize charges and smaller trees don't seem worth it. It costs about $85, including shipping, for a 7-foot tree, which is inexpensive if you consider the convenience. It's best to order early because farms sell out and you want to avoid rush charges. I found good prices at The Rock Estate and have friends who swear by Five Star Christmas Tree Co. for an 8-footer. Five Star's prices start at about $10 per foot and my friend claims it offers some of the freshest trees ever.
Christmas Tree Delivery Service in NYC
There are plenty of services in NYC that set up and often take away your tree at the end of the season. We covered some of the top ones last year, and found budget-friendly prices at Tree Riders NYC in the East Village (if you didn't live too far away), and Christmas Tree Brooklyn, which offers free delivery. Some services even decorate it for you. Of course, luxury like this comes with a price tag. Here are a couple more options:
At Greenpoint Trees, you can get a premium 6-foot tree, delivered with stand and then set up for $149; for an additional $150 it will string it with white or colored lights. If you want just a tree, it will deliver a 5-foot balsam or Fraser fir for $100. It services the entire city; you also can stop by its original stand on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Soho Trees, with locations throughout Manhattan and one or two in Brooklyn, offers five varieties of trees, with 6-foot trees including stand, delivery and setup starting at $129 when ordered online. Prices at its tree stands vary.
Urban Garden Center in East Harlem sells trees for $30 and up. A 7 ft tree is about $75. This is a great place to go if you want a live tree. They deliver to some locations.
If you have a car or aren't afraid to haul your tree home on the subway, you can score deals at these small, family-owned shops in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. In Broad Channel, Queens Lisena Garden Center's fresh-cut Christmas trees start at $38. At A.A. Christmas Trees in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn—an annual, seasonal popup—6-footers start at $65. It takes credit cards, too. The recently opened High Point Wine & Spirits shop in Sunset Park sells trees for $10 per foot with free delivery (and offers free tastings on Friday nights between 6 and 9pm.) Green Side Up garden center on Hylan Boulevard in Staten Island sells trees starting at $18.99. Another tip I got was for the Brooklyn Terminal Market, which is apparently where many of the street-side tree vendors buy their trees and then mark them up.
Big-Box Stores for the Win
The best prices are found at big-box stores across the city.
Whole Foods Market has trees outside its stores for $50 and up, but they often put them on sale for $29.99 Thanksgiving weekend (note for next year).
Home Depots sells Christmas trees starting at $30 for small trees, outside of Manhattan.
The Mythical $20 Christmas Tree
Does this still exist or has it gone the way of the Dodo? According to this 2015 DNA Info post, it seems the least expensive 6-foot trees in town are $30 and found on the Upper West Side. I have heard reports of trees selling in parts of Staten Island for $31.99, and one friend said she had seen trees for around $20 at National Wholesale Liquidators, which has locations in the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn.
If you find a great deal, please share it with us in the comments section on our Facebook page.
This article was first published in December 2009 but has since been updated.
Photo of a NYC Christmas tree stand by Shira Kronzon.