We buy a real tree, and it is small. It is usually between three and four feet. Our first two Christmasses, we had a very small fake tree that I had used in my dorm room in college. It was convenient to have a fake tree since we had to travel a lot in the month of December and weren't home to water.
Once we had children, I desired a real tree. I loved the light scent of pine wafting through the house. I loved the complete absence of plastic. I loved that we could because no on in our family has allergies, and that is a rarity that deserves to be celebrated. But real trees can be costly, especially considering that it is a recurrent cost.
Buying a small tree costs about 20% of what it costs to buy a big one, but it also has other financial benefits. We don't own a lot of ornaments. Our little tree is perfectly full, but a big tree would be quite bare. I am the type that is quite content with a full little tree, but a big, bare tree would make me itch to buy ornaments. And yet I like the idea of collecting ornaments over time so that they have sentimental value to our family.
Our little tree stands proudly atop a card table covered with a beautiful tree skirt that I bought on a super-clearance sale after Christmas one year. I think it cost around ten dollars, and yet it is a beautiful, richly embroidered skirt, definitely worth every dollar.
When one has toddlers around, one understands the benefit of a tree that is up on a table. Toddlers may be able to grasp an ornament or two while standing on the ground, but they need a chair or stool to splash in the water or topple the tree, which gives the parent more time to catch them in the act compared to a tree at ground level. I also find that they pay less attention to it because it isn't at eye level, beckoning to them throughout the day.
I look forward to a day when we buy a big, full tree and have enough ornaments to fill it. But for now, a little tree works just fine for us.
I think this is just another area of my life where I have been learning that a little can still mean a lot, and that the extravagances I see in the homes of others don't have to be in mine in order to be content.