A terrific Ask Design Mom question from Lindsay:

What cool Christmas decorations can you recommend for a family like mine? We live in a very small apartment with a 2-year-old and an infant and have a tight budget. We don’t have room for a tree this year, so we’re a little disappointed. Any suggestions?

Um. Don’t have room for a tree? Total bummer. I’m tempted to be obnoxious and ask where are you priorities? Can you really not live without your kitchen table/couch/bed for a month while you make room for a Christmas tree? (Joking, of course.)

Luckily, even without a tree, it doesn’t take much to make your house feel really Christmasy. Here’s a little direction — keeping your tight budget in mind:

1) Think about the 5 senses. Put a little something Christmas in each room so you can see Christmas wherever you are in the apartment. Have some holiday spices simmering on the stove. Bake your Christmas favorites. Play Christmas music while you work through your day. Put on a cozy sweater.

2) Take advantage of votives. So inexpensive. You can get a bag of 100 for like $5 at Michaels or Ikea or Amazing Savings/Odd Jobs. Put them in votive holders (basic glass ones are also inexpensive, usually around 50 cents) and put them on bookshelves and counters and windowsills and anywhere your 2 year old can’t reach. Light them in the evenings and on gray/cold days. They go a long way toward making things feel festive. And one bag should get you through the month. Aim for a few groups of 3 and 5 throughout the apartment.

3) Put a wreath on your door. You’ll feel more holiday-like everytime you arrive home. You can buy a classic fresh fir wreath at any grocery store for around $10 or less. Replace the cheesy red velveteen bow with a pretty ribbon scrap you’ve saved from a gift. If you don’t keep ribbon around, ask one of your crafty neighbors.

4) Use ornaments to decorate — even without a tree. Ornaments are cheap. (Not all ornaments, but lots of ornaments.) Again, make use of Amazing Savings/Ikea/Target. They all offer containers of simple-good-looking-inexpensive ornaments. Fill empty glass vases or pretty bowls or trifle dishes you have on hand with the ornaments. I love seeing glass containers full of shiny glass balls or glittery snowflakes. Set a container on the nightstand, by the tv, on the kitchen counter, or near the votives. If you have ornaments you love from past years, display them in a basket or bowl or tray.

Even if you just followed these suggestions: wreath, containers of ornaments and votives — and did nothing else, your house would feel pretty darn festive. And I bet you could manage the whole thing for about $25 or less. If you want to go for more than these basics, here are a few more ideas:

5) Stockings. Lots of choices out there. Some cheaper than others. Pretty easy to sew if you do any sewing at all. If you don’t have a mantle, hang them on a bed post, or in a window — we hang ours on the banister.

6) Get a small artificial tree — maybe about 18″. Expect to pay about $10. Add a small string of twinkle lights, $5 or less, and put it in the Nursery on the dresser. It will function as a nightlight and your 2 year old will think she’s died and gone to heaven. You don’t even need to put on ornaments, the twinkle lights can be enough on a small tree. And don’t pretend it’s supposed to be your real Christmas tree — that would just be depressing. Let it be an accent in a bedroom. Think less is more. Keep the twinkle lights one color.

7) Don’t wait to wrap your presents. Find wrapping paper you like, maybe 2 or 3 coordinating rolls of something really holiday. Wrap the presents as you buy them and — since you don’t have a tree — start stacking them around the apartment in small groups. They’ll function as decorations until Christmas morning.

8) Devise a way to display the Christmas cards you’ll receive. And not just Christmas cards. Invitations, cute notes, 2 year old artwork, anything that looks like December. Hang several floor to ceiling ribbons on a bare wall or door and attach cards with pins/staples/tape.

9) Keep any Christmas books or December magazines you own on the coffee table or in some conspicuous spot. Don’t own any? Go to the library.

10) In a small apartment, you may get the most bang for your buck by designating one spot as the Christmas decoration spot and creating a small good-looking display. Maybe clear off one shelf of a bookshelf at eye level and put every Christmas thing you own together for a really holiday focal point.

Okay. There’s a start. Good luck. And as usual, I’m sure Design Mom readers will chime in with brilliant comments.

pic from Martha.