How to save with higher Christ­mas tree prices

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Palm Beach (Sunday) - - Money -

Per­haps the Grinch pinched lit­tle Cindy Lou Who’s Christ­mas tree be­cause of ris­ing prices.

Real tree prices are up this year, thanks to the Great Re­ces­sion. That’s be­cause it takes up to 10 years for a 7-foot tree to grow, and fewer farm­ers planted trees n 2008 when the econ­omy con­tracted, sellers and grow­ers say.

“This year, we are charg­ing $10 more for trees,” says Terry Jor­gensen, 43, of Happy Hol­i­day Christ­mas Trees in Fort Laud­erdale. He blames the tight sup­ply on the re­ces­sion com­bined with in­creased ship­ping costs. Last year, he in­creased prices by $10, too.

Jor­gensen has been sell­ing trees for six years on a va­cant lot at 1555 N. Fed­eral High­way. Six­foot trees are $70 and

7-foot trees, the most pop­u­lar size, are $80. Af­ter that, the price rises ex­po­nen­tially for each foot. A 9-footer is $140 and a mon­ster 13-footer is a whop­ping $550 be­cause it takes 18 years grow, he says.

Jor­gensen, of Pom­pano Beach, sells about 1,500 trees each season. He sug­gests not putting off your pur­chase this year. “If you buy too late, you’re not go­ing to get a nice look­ing tree.” This will be his busiest week­end, he says.

Like most tree lots, Happy Hol­i­day will be get­ting ship­ments un­til Dec. 24.

Bob Ea­ton, of Fort Laud­erdale, was tak­ing no chances on se­lec­tion as he walked the Happy Hol­i­day lot on Thurs­day look­ing for the per­fect spec­i­men. Then, he came upon a com­pact no­ble fir, known for its beau­ti­ful sym­me­try and cit­rusy fra­grance.

A 7-footer im­ported from Ore­gon costs $109, Jor­gensen says. Most Frasier firs on the lot are from North Carolina.

“I’ve been com­ing here for years,” says Ea­ton. “They cost a bit more, but it’s worth it be­cause the trees are so fresh.”

Tim O’Con­nor, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for the non­profit Na­tional Christ­mas Tree As­so­ci­a­tion, con­firmed there is a tighter sup­ply this year. “But it’s not a short­age. Ev­ery­one who wants a tree will be able

to get one, but they might be more ex­pen­sive.”

The NCTA rep­re­sents hun­dreds of farms, 29 state and re­gional as­so­ci­a­tions and nearly 4,000 af­fil­i­ated busi­nesses that grow and sell trees or pro­vide re­lated ser­vices.

Be­sides fewer trees be­ing planted 10 years ago, fuel prices and driver avail­abil­ity also con­trib­utes to higher costs, O’Con­nor says.

Last year, 27.4 mil­lion trees were sold and the as­so­ci­a­tion es­ti­mates the same num­ber will be sold this year.

My fam­ily has al­ways had real trees, but last year, I pur­chased a pre­lit tree at Tar­get be­cause we were trav­el­ing out of the coun­try soon af­ter Christ­mas and I wanted to make things easy.

This year, my hus­band is in­sist­ing we get a real tree again. But higher costs and the has­sle of bring­ing it home and haul­ing it out af­ter the hol­i­day may per­suade him to let me set up the fake one. I love the ease of pulling it out of the box and plug­ging it in, but I do miss the won­der­ful aroma of a fresh tree.

Those who don’t want to has­sle with trans­port­ing the tree home can get theirs de­liv­ered for $60, Jor­gensen says. Happy Hol­i­day also of­fers concierge ser­vice for $160, which in­cludes de­liv­ery, set-up and re­moval. His crew even vac­u­ums be­fore they leave. Ask about that at the lot you shop at.

O’Con­nor sug­gests that con­sumers on a tight bud­get shop around. “Many bud­get friendly trees can be pur­chased at home im­prove­ment cen­ters, su­per cen­ters and gro­cery stores.”

Publix is sell­ing 6- to 7-foot trees for $49.99 and 7- to 8-foot trees for $59.99. Home De­pot sells 6-foot trees for $39 and $10 per foot more for 7- and 8-foot trees.

Or, “buy a four-foot ta­ble-top tree for $40,” sug­gests Jor­gensen. “It comes with a stand, too.”

When se­lect­ing a tree, look for soft, sup­ple nee­dles, O’Con­nor says. “If the tree is dry and brit­tle, don’t buy it.

“Be sure to take a fresh cut of three-quar­ters to an inch off the bot­tom and put it in wa­ter right away, even if you’re not dec­o­rat­ing it, to keep the tree green and fresh.”

Don’t let it run out of wa­ter. Trees are like fresh- cut flow­ers. They will wilt with­out wa­ter, he said.

O’Con­nor says not to bother adding soda or as­pirin to pro­long the life of the tree.

“Those are myths. Just use plain wa­ter. Not let­ting it run dry will keep your tree look­ing fresh. It’s not rocket sci­ence.”

Fore more tips, or to find a seller, go to RealChrist­masTrees.org.

Con­nect with me: Like Doreen's Deals on Face­book; fol­low Doreen Chris­tensen on Twit­ter, Face­book and sign up for my Free­bie Fri­day News­let­ter.

CAR­LINE JEAN/SUN SEN­TINEL

Rod­ney Chris­ten­son puts prices on Christ­mas trees at Hart-T-Tree Farms in Plan­ta­tion.

Doreen Chris­tensen

CAR­LINE JEAN/SUN SEN­TINEL

Rod­ney Chris­ten­son, puts prices on Christ­mas trees at Hart-T-Tree Farms in Plan­ta­tion.

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