Should I Buy a Real or Artificial Christmas Tree?


Which is better, a real or artificial Christmas tree? The debate is ongoing, and in some circles (family and friends), the disagreement can get somewhat intense.


In this article, I am going to look at the positives and negatives for both real and artificial trees. Of course, I will include a financial perspective on the battle because, well, that’s what I do. In full disclosure, I converted to the artificial tree a few years ago but can still appreciate the real tree enthusiast’s perspective.


Let’s start by considering the positives of a real Christmas tree.


Tree hunting. One big reason people like real Christmas trees is the process of hunting for the tree. There is something about taking the family out to a farm or tree lot to pick out the tree that will stand in the home for the next few weeks. Admittedly, this was a reason I loved having a real Christmas tree. It was less about the result and more about the memories made in the tree hunting process.


That smell. Scent is an incredibly powerful sense. Scent has an amazing ability to conjure up nostalgic feeling and memories. And the association between the scent of pine and Christmas is strong. While candles are nice, you can’t truly replicate the natural smell of a real Christmas tree.


No storage needed. Once the Christmas season is over, the tree is thrown out. There is no need to find a space in the garage or attic for the tree.


They support the local economy. Trees purchased on lots or farms often benefits local farmers and families. Most of the time, those who grew the trees and those who sell the trees are from your community or a nearby community.


Now, let’s look at the negatives of real Christmas trees.


That mess. Christmas trees shed and can get sticky during set up and break down. The bigger issue most face is the shedding. Vacuuming pine needles must occur during set up, while the tree is up, and after break down. It is a constant. Another mess happens when water from the base somehow finds its way onto the floor. Parents and pet owners are very familiar with this particular mess.


The care. Though minor, real Christmas trees require some care. Specifically, it has to be watered. If a tree goes without water for a time, the needles dry out, making the tree lose its luster and create more shedding.


The fire hazard. We’ve all seen Christmas Vacation, right? Christmas trees can be fire hazards. A dry tree, covered with electrical wires, in a room filled with candles, is a nasty combination. If you have a real Christmas tree, keep the tree watered and distance the candles from the tree.


Those allergies. Some people are allergic to pine. While you might not have someone in your family who is allergic to pine, a guest may be.


So, we have looked at the positives and negatives of real Christmas trees. Now, let’s consider artificial trees.


Here are a few positives for artificial Christmas trees.


The convenience. With an artificial tree, the tree hunting process is simply going unpacking the box, connecting the trunk, and plugging in the lights (assuming the tree is prelit). For prelit trees, you don’t even need to untangle the lights. This frees up more time to watch A Christmas Story and build a gingerbread house. There is also no need to maintain the tree. You can set it up and forget about it until Christmas is over.


The cleanliness. There are no pine needles to vacuum, no water to mop, and no sap to avoid. You get to completely avoid the mess that comes along with real Christmas trees.


The consistency. With artificial trees, you know exactly what your tree will look like each Christmas. There is no guessing whether it will fit the room. There is no need to hide a bad side of the tree. Every dimension of the tree is predictable, just like the prior year.


The break down. Most artificial trees are relatively simple to break down and store. This is especially true for prelit trees, where there is no need to take down the lights.


Now, let’s look at a few negatives for artificial trees.


The missing memories. The memory of going to a big box retailer five years ago to acquire an artificial tree pales in comparison to the memories made while hunting for a real Christmas tree. Your kids probably won’t say that going to Walmart and getting a tree in a box was one of their favorite Christmas memories.


The missing scent. Artificial Christmas trees cannot compete with the same scent of a real Christmas tree. And no, I don’t recommend spraying your artificial tree with a pine scent. Just own that you have an artificial tree.


The fire hazard. Yes, artificial trees can be a fire hazard as well. This is especially true as they age. As your artificial tree ages, look for any significant signs of deterioration that could create a fire hazard.


Okay, now let’s look at the finances of the two.


The average cost of a seven-foot real tree usually hovers around $75 to $125. Prices may be more or less, depending on the area. Because artificial trees’ features and quality vary, the prices can range from $100 to $500 for a seven-foot tree.


If you were purchasing either a real Christmas tree or an artificial Christmas tree every year, the battle of costs is easily won by real trees. Of course, this is not why you buy an artificial tree. Artificial trees should last about six years, eliminating the need to purchase a tree every year. Because of this, the battle of costs usually favors artificial trees, often breaking even at the two- or three-year mark.


So, if you are basing your decision completely on costs, go with an artificial tree. However, most aren’t focusing solely on costs but are also considering the factors mentioned earlier. As mentioned earlier, I am an artificial tree convert, and I have no regrets. But I also understand why people purchase real trees. I have been there as well and enjoyed the tradition.


Whatever you purchase, just make sure it fits in your budget. If you decide to go with an artificial tree, consider quality and what features are worth paying for. Buy a tree that will last, and don’t pay for features that will mean little to you and your family. This will ensure that you will come out ahead financially.