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Buying Guide: How To Shop For An Artificial Christmas Tree

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When it comes to that delicious pine scent, a real Christmas tree can't be beat. But for ease of care and low hassle decor, an artificial Christmas tree wins. Not only is it becoming more acceptable to go faux, there are so many great options on the market that it can be hard to tell who's going fake and who went natural this year.

And it's not just trees that can be 'everlasting': There are also wreaths, swags and garlands that make the chore of cleaning up dropped needles a thing of the past. If you've decided to go for artificial greenery this holiday season, here are some things to keep in mind when shopping to get the best quality for your dollar.

Keep height in mind. Artificial Christmas trees come in every shape and size so it's easy to fit one into any living space, but it's important to decide on where the tree will go. Take measurements in advance and make sure there's enough room in the corner or surrounding area for the tree. Generally it's best to keep about 2 feet of space between the top of the tree and the ceiling, especially if you want to top the tree with a star. And be sure to pay close attention to the top of your artificial tree: We've noticed that some faux pines get a bit skimpy towards the top (as in, a single long "branch" that makes a 6' tree into a 7' tree.)

Pre-lit or not. Many Christmas trees and wreaths come pre-lit, which means that there are already lights attached to the faux branches and sprigs. These are great time-savers, but end up being a hassle in the long run. Why? Because of bulb burnout. For us, we'd rather just add on a new string of lights than hunt for a replacement bulb when the time comes. Also, pre-lit trees tend to not be as full-looking as their non-lit cousins.

Branches. The main quality that makes a difference with an artificial tree is its branches. Namely, the needles. Some have long needles (that unfortunately look like bottle brushes), others have short stubs (which is like having mascara wands for branches). If forced to choose, we'd veer towards a longer-needled option. But really, go for the medium-sized needle. Attachable branches mean that you can decide on how full you want the tree to be, and of course, also means easy set up and compact storage when the tree is not in use.

Go for PVC. Most artificial trees are made from PVC, which is the best material in this case -- although not ideal in general -- since it's flame-retardant (doesn't catch fire easily) and doesn't fade. That said, always keep artificial trees away from corners and spaces that are too close to electrical outlets or too cramped. Use an extension cord if need be. One plus? The tree won't shed, so you won't have needles lying all around the floor.

Consider the stand. Smaller trees might be okay with just a plastic stand, but for larger trees definitely opt for a metal stand, which are sturdier and will be able to hold up over time.

Looking for some great artificial Christmas greenery? Check out this slideshow for some great finds out there this season:

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