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In search of the pefectly priced Christmas tree

Finding the perfect Christmas tree can be a challenge. But finding a tree with the perfect looks and the perfect price tag -- now that's a trick.

This time of year, it's nearly impossible to drive more than a mile or two without seeing trees for sale -- out of the backs of pick-up trucks, at road-side tree lots, in hardware stores, and direct from North Carolina farmers at the state Farmers Market in Raleigh.

The hardware stores, as you might expect, have the lowest prices on standard-size Fraser Firs, the most popular among Christmas trees. At Home Depot, a 6- to 7-footer, for example, sells for $31.97, which was the cheapest I came across other than those being sold out of pick-up trucks for $20 a pop.

But what you save in price, you might give up in selection and freshness.

At the farmers market, you can find everything from a $10 table-top model to a $200 mammoth 12-footer. If you're timing is right, you just might choose a tree coming straight off flatbed trucks from the mountains, some with snow still on them.

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