'Charlie Brown' Christmas trees a stylish way to save money

Not every city can be as lucky as Washington, D.C., where on Thursday the "National Christmas Tree Lighting" begins at 5 p.m. Eastern.

There's enough hoopla around the tree near the White House to make you think the recession is over. The tree has its own Web site and Sheryl Crow will perform at the lighting ceremony. If your local TV station is broadcasting the event, you can catch the live Webcast.

In the city where I live, and probably in many cities throughout the country, budget cutbacks are forcing city governments to scale back their Christmas tree festivities. Where I live, for example, in Concord, CA, the city decided this year that instead of buying and installing a cut holiday tree, which one Web site that follows the city says would have cost $15,000, it's decorating one of the evergreen trees growing in the downtown plaza.

But many cities have tree lighting ceremonies this weekend and consider the cost of buying, decorating and lighting a tree a good way to bring the community together, along with bringing shoppers downtown with the tax dollars their holiday spending will add to the city coffers.

It looks like a large Charlie Brown Christmas tree, meaning the sparse one that Charlie Brown found before his friends spruced it up for him.