Thrifty Wrapping

December 4, 2012

by Ann Waterman

‘Tis the season for giving gifts, and that means you’ll probably spend a good portion of the holiday season wrapping them. My grandfather saw wrapping paper as a waste of both paper and money; if it weren’t for grandma, we’d probably have been handed gifts outright, or they would have be wrapped in last week’s newspaper.

On some level, my frugal self now respects his sentiments — but still, nothing quite heightens the giving experience more than a beautifully wrapped present. Thriftiness and the magic of gift-opening don’t have to be mutually exclusive, though, and I’ve got some inexpensive gift-wrapping ideas that even my grandpa would be proud of…


Receive a gift wrapped in a great bag, decorative box, or stunning ribbon? Snatch them up before they get tossed in the trash, and use them to make another gift beautiful. I’ve even been known to rescue pretty ribbons from other people’s gifts that were destined for the garbage.

Establish a Signature Look

Tired of buying different wrapping paper for Christmas, birthdays, baby showers, and weddings? Find a neutral, all-purpose wrapping paper that you can buy inexpensively and use for all occasions. My signature look is a kraft-paper wrapping paper, printed with pale gold stars, that I pick up from the dollar store. It’s cheap (but not cheap-looking), and I can easily change the look of it to suit a variety of occasions with different ribbons and decorations. The possibilities are really endless. Other good choices are plain gold or silver paper that can be had for cheap around the holidays, or paper with a very simple pattern. (If you prefer a more casual look, try plain kraft paper; it’s a favorite of Mags’, and she’s got some great ideas for dressing it up here.)

Move Beyond Curling Ribbon

There are many more ways to adorn a gift than with curling ribbon. Twine is inexpensive and makes for a nice rustic look. Gorgeous grosgrain and satin ribbon can be picked up for a song in the bargain bins at your craft store, though you may have to dig a bit to find colors that aren’t completely off the wall. Yarn can be used in unique and creative ways to tie up a gift, too, as Agnes Blum of KnockKnocking demonstrates here.

You can also turn to nature for inspiration. How about tucking in a sprig of rosemary or spruce, a dried flower, or a colorful fall leaf to pretty up your packages? They won’t cost a penny.

Think Outside the Box

Wrap a gift in something other than paper — something that can be used later for another purpose, like a beautiful tea towel (great tutorial on how to do it here), a decorative tin, a pretty shawl, or a reusable shopping bag with a pretty print. The wrapping can become a gift itself!

One of my favorite gift wrappings was the one I used on a child’s gift: I wrapped it in colorful tissue paper with a clear bubble-wrap overlay that I found among my packing supplies. The color and texture of the gift delighted the child so much that she was more interested in the wrapping than the gift. Walk around the house and get creative with what you have lying around.

What’s your favorite thrifty gift-wrapping tip?

Images: Ann Waterman, Benign Objects, things for boys

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