You better watch out, you better look twice; this year’s trees have an inflated price.

Christmas Tree Surrounded with Gifts
Tom Merton/Getty Images

Inflation is on everyone’s mind this holiday season, but a Christmas tree will cost about the same as it did last year, right? Wrong. According to a survey by the Real Christmas Tree Board, which interviewed 55 wholesale Christmas tree growers this past fall, a whopping 71 percent said they’ll be raising their prices by 5 to 20 percent. This means if you’re going to buy a Christmas tree, you want to make sure you pick the right one for the right price.  

To help you achieve your ultimate tree goals, here are our essential tips for picking out the freshest, most cost-effective tree. Because with prices higher than ever, nobody wants to fly by the seat of Santa’s pants.  

1. You Better Shop Around 

Prices between local lots and big-box stores can vary. In fact, one of our editors found a tree he liked on a local lot for $100, while a similar tree at another location was priced at a jaw-dropping $300. Keep in mind that local lots offer you the chance to support a local business. On the other hand, the Real Christmas Tree Board says that a big-box chain like Home Depot may be able to defer some of this year’s cost increase.  

Palm springs holiday-decorated home

Thomas J. Story

2. Different Tree Types Have Different Prices 

Depending on where you are in the West, the price of different species varies, depending on what grows best in your area. In California, for example, a Douglas fir tree is often more affordable, while a Nordmann fir can be pricier because it’s rare. If you don’t know what grows locally in your area, just ask them at the lot.  

3. Have Yourself a Smaller Little Christmas 

Do you really need a seven-foot Christmas tree? Since trees are priced by the foot, shaving off inches will save money. It can also save watering time—the smaller the tree, the less water it will need.  

4. Is the Tree Lot Naughty or Nice? 

Sunshine and high temperatures damage Christmas trees, so unless you’re in the Northwest, where temperatures are cooler, make sure you’re buying from a lot that stores them in the shade as opposed to in a pile in the sun, says Jill Sidebottom of the National Christmas Tree Association. “If they’re displaying trees in water, that’s a plus, too,” she says. “Look for damp sawdust on the ground—that’s a clue they’re watering the trees.”  

Close-up of Christmas Tree Branch with Ornaments
Pay close attention to the needles before you purchase—they tell you a lot about the health of the tree.

Tim Macpherson/Getty Images

5. Assure You Get What You Paid For 

To make sure your tree is fresh, take a branch and run your hand over it—if the branch and needles are pliable, it’s fresh. Also, look for trees that are lush without any brown branch tips. Another trick: Pick a needle and bend it in half. Fir tree needles should snap cleanly; the fir is too dry if the needles arch without breaking. For pines, it’s the opposite—the needles should bend without snapping.  

Guest Taking a Photo of a Christmas Tree

Thomas J. Story

6. Keep It in Shape 

Many farms will shake your tree to remove loose needles and insects and then wrap it in twine for the ride home. When placing the tree on the top of your car, face the cut end toward the front so branches aren’t bent the wrong way during the drive. 

7. Get That Baby Home ASAP, or Consider Recutting the Bottom 

Within a few hours of a fresh Christmas tree being chopped down, the trunk seals itself off, preventing water from passing through. If necessary, use a small handsaw to remove an additional two inches off the base, then place the tree in water.  

Personalized Tree

Sara Ligorria-Tramp

8. Water Your Baby Daily 

Your tree could be thirstier than you might think: In Sunset tests, a Douglas fir with a 4 1⁄2-inch trunk took up a gallon of water in its first 24 hours at home.  

9. Don’t Forget to Have Fun 

In the end, it’s the holidays, and a Christmas tree is meant to bring you joy. So no matter what, take it easy. As Sidebottom says, “You can make yourself crazy looking for the perfect Christmas tree.” 

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