Wrapping it Up

So, now you've managed to get all those presents at good prices and you're faced with the problem of presentation. We all want our gifts to look nice but have you seen the prices of wrapping paper? And bows? And tags? Yikes! You can add quite a bit to your holiday total if you don't watch out.

One way to get all that stuff cheaply is to go to the store the day after Christmas. It will be on sale for 50%-75% off. Buy it for next year and put it away in a plastic bag to keep it clean and dry. If you're like me (and lots of other people) you may forget that you bought it by the following holiday season so here's a trick to help you remember; on the November page of your calendar write "DO NOT BUY ANY PAPER...YOU HAVE A LOT!!!".

Heather Turner in Joplin, MO carries this idea one step further: Hello!I have an idea I use all year round...I look for sales on solid color wrapping paper,plaids or stripes that are good for all year round.buy a bunch and it's great for the holidays,birthdays,or aniversaries!

I can hear some of you saying "But I didn't do that last year and it's almost time to start wrapping...what can I do about it now?". Fortunately there are inexpensive ways to wrap gifts. Here are a few ideas:

BROWN PAPER BAGS: just the ordinary kind you get at the grocery store (yes, I know that a lot of stores give you those flimsy plastic ones nowadays but most will give you paper if you ask nicely). Cut the bottom off the bag and split the seam where it's glued together. Turn it to the side that's not printed with the name of the store. Now you can either wrap your gifts in plain brown paper and tie with yarn or raffia for a country look or you can decorate the paper with tempera paint or an inkpad and stamps. Kids get a kick out of decorating the paper so you benefit 2 ways...you get cheap wrappings for your gifts and you get the kids out of your hair for a while.

A related idea from Kirsty: "Just wanted to share this gift wrapping idea. You can go to you local newspaper and buy the newspaper roll ends ( just the unprinted newspaper rolls.) They are anywhere from 50 cents to 2 dollars, but they will provide enough wrapping paper for a year or two. If you want to be really creative you can stamp them or paint them but even just using a bright ribbon around the wrapped gift looks great. Plus the nice thing is that you do not need tags because it does not have the shine like store bought paper so what we do is get gold and silver paint pens and write the persons name right on the paper. Merry Christmas"

And more "brown paper" ideas From Cheryl Strawn, 10/04: Just found this web site & LOVE IT. I used this idea one year when money was tight, but loved it so much that I chose to do it several different years. Buy rolls of brown paper used to wrap packages to be mailed. (could use news print that you get at the newspaper--end rolls) Wrap the gift in the brown paper (could be bags too & could decorate the paper with stickers or rubber stamps) Once the gift is wrapped take raffia and wrap around the present and tie in the center or on one corner. Looks really "country". I have also used wire type garland with different things on it---like stars or trees and wrapped it around the gifts. The one year I wrapped all my gifts in the brown paper with raffia "ribbon" I ties lots of bows with long hanging down pieces out of the raffia and hung them all over my tree. It was really so beautiful. Lots of people wanted to know where I got that idea. I don't know but glad I did.

TRASH BAGS: these work well for large or oddly shaped gifts. The white ones look best can be decorated with stickers to look more festive.

BOXES: sometimes you don't have enough boxes to wrap your gifts in and you are forced into the situation of going out and buying them. Should this horrifying scenario happen to you at least be smart and buy the ones printed with cute Christmas designs. Then you don't need wrapping paper at all! It's also a good plan to save boxes that you receive gifts in, particularly the cute kind, for next year. They don't take up too much space if you flatten them out.

Here's a gift wrap idea from Betty Howatt: "This is an idea for an inexpensive gift wrap and the idea is to use it over from year to year. Take your 1 or 2 litre milk containers[not the plastic jugs]and open the tops right up. Rinse out well. Then with a glue gun and fabric cover the container [don't forget to do the bottom too]. On the top part where the container folded in put two holes opposite of each other and put the eyelet style rivet. Put your gift in and tie off with raffia or ribbon where you put the holes. Decorate to your hearts desire. Can be used for all kinds of gifts, small cream containers can be used for jewellery and larger ones for movies, shirts etc.. Put away after the holiday and use them on one of your next year gifts. They just go from person to person. Hope you enjoy making them, I know I did. They are great to use if you have to send gifts off to someone . They don't take up a lot of room in the box. Thanks Betty!

Really beautiful ribbon can often be found at yard sales during the summer. People buy it for craft projects, don't use it all and sell it off for very little money. Not only can you use it for holiday gifts but also at other times during the year for birthdays, etc.

Curling ribbon is also a good buy. I bought a huge spool of red one for $1.99 about 4 years ago and there's still some left. Since then I have invested in green, gold and white. It looks nice if you combine two colors on one gift and you can also use it to make those curly clusters that cost so much in the card & gift shops.

Tags can be made by cutting up the holiday cards you received from people last year. Or you can make them on your computer pretty easily. Or you can have the kids make some up to match that brown paper they're decorating for you...it'll keep 'em busy a little longer.

More tag ideas from Whitney Dalton, Carmen in British Columbia and Helen Earnest in Hueytown, Alabama:

Whitney says: "Don't buy tags!! Just write the names on the bottoms of the packages once they are wrapped. Sometimes the tags can be lost in the shuffling of gifts anyway. One year my cousin opened underwear that was meant for my grandmother because of the tag shuffle!!"

Carmen says: "I use our previous year's Christmas cards from friends and relatives to make our gift tags. I cut out my desired shape from the picture on the front of the card using special scissors (available at craft stores - the ones with decorative cutting edges) then I punch a hole in a corner and tie it on with ribbon or raffia."

Helen says: "I have been doing this for several years. Our church has a "post office" made out of wood with several sections with the letters of the alphabet under each section. This is placed in the vestibule of the church around the 1st of December. This allows each member to address cards to anyone in the church and place it in the box under the person's last name initial and save the postage. This helps all of us, but especially the Seniors who are on fixed income. From this, I usually get 50 or 60 cards each Christmas. I save my cards and sometime after Christmas, I cut a portion of the picture part of the card, fold it appropriately and make my tags for my next year's presents with them. They usually are about two inches by two inches. Some cards are not suitable to do this because maybe the picture is too big, but most of them are."

One thing to watch out for when you are buying paper, ribbon, etc. (even if you're buying it for half price) is how much is on the roll. That cardboard spool in the middle can fool you! Read the square footage (or length) information on the package. There's a big difference between a 25 sq. foot roll and one that is 150 sq. feet. The foil type paper usually comes in smaller amounts although the roll looks exactly the same size. Also, if you can possibly avoid it, don't buy the paper that the neighborhood kids are selling for a fund raiser for their soccer team or whatever. It is ridiculously expensive, not any better than the stuff you can buy at Target or Walmart and to top it all off the kids don't really even make that much money from it. You (and the soccer team) will be better off if you just give the kid a cash donation...they get the money and you get a tax deduction!

Here's a patchwork gift wrapping idea from Alexandra Bernard that sounds like a great way to use up those bits and pieces of wrapping paper that are haunting you like ghosts of Christmas past: "Last year for Christmas, I wanted to wrap my mom's present really nice. I was looking in the wrapping paper box that we have and saw a whole bunch of wrapping paper scraps from the wrapping paper fundraiser that we have at school. I took some of the scraps and with help from my dad, cut them into squares, all the same size (you can make whatever shape you want though). Then we glued the squares onto a plain brown bag (like the Bloomingdale's Medium or Small Brown Bags). I put some colorful tissue paper in it along with my mom's present. On Christmas Day when she saw her gift, my mom absolutely adored it. She felt so special that someone would take such time to wrap her gift so nicely. I think she ended up liking the wrapping more than her actual present!"

Amy Agro sent this idea for getting your gifts wrapped for free: "I am a very frugal person, and enjoy getting those great bargains. While reading through the suggestions, I found myself already following many of the ideas. But, here's one you may want to add. Our local malls offer free gift wrap during the Christmas season. We take our packages, along with the receipt to show that these were mall purchases, and our packages are wrapped fairly quickly. It's free, if there's a line you take a number, leave your packages and come back to pick them up. The paper is normally one solid color, but they do a great job - you can't tell that someone else did it and the wrap job looks very nice. Typically during the week before Christmas, there is a line made up of mostly men, so I recommend getting this service done early."

Some wrapping ideas from Madge Steeneck: "If you are in a pinch for a box use cereal boxes. Bulky scrap yarn makes good ribbon. Strips of cloth starch sprayed makes good ties. Strips of large plastic bags makes good ribbon. Funny paper or plain news print makes neat wrapping paper. Wallpaper... you can get cheap roll ends. Roll ends from newspaper office or telephone books press makes great all season wrap. Make old fashioned milk paint food color or left over easter egg dye and decorate the paper."

From Tamara Smith-Bernard in McGregor, Texas: "Here's a tip I've done several years that works well for gift wrapping, at Christmas, or any other time for that matter. I save magazines throughout the year -- just rip out the color pages (from Glamour, Better Homes & Gardens, Sears catalog etc..) -- usually you can find cool looking color ads - Rip out a lot of sheets and make a "collage" - tape the magazine pages onto a plain cardboard box, cereal box, or whatever. This works well at Christmas (save your holiday magazines!) as well as birthdays etc. If you know the recipent likes flowers or whatever, you can do a "theme" idea as well... I've done this and always received positive responses."

From Melaine Brown in Magnolia Texas: "I was checking out your site , which I just love! I was looking at your tips for wrapping presents. I had an idea given to me by my grandmother. Back in the old days money was tight so they would use the cartoon's out of the Newspapers to wrap presents. My kids absolutely love this. They get to look at the pretty presents but also recyle our planet and make it go a little futher! Keep up the good work!"

From Tara Reynolds: "We have been downscaling Christmas (and life in general) for the past few years. Every year I am amazed at the amount of money is spent on wrapping paper that is ultimately destined for the landfill. Here are some wrapping alternatives. My mom is from Germany and they never wrapped gifts there. Santa always just laid them nicely under the tree. The last few years we have "set-up" large gifts like Lincoln logs or Legos by building a little castle or town under the tree. Looks cool, takes up space, is a great way to give a "previously loved" (read: yardsale) gift, and is fun for mom and dad to do the night before. Plus kids and jump right in and play without the frustration of having to unpack everything. The other thing I'm doing is sewing fabric drawsting pull bags that we can use over and over. I bought several yards of old-fashioned holiday fabric off the $1/yard table at Wal-Mart over the summer. I'm making several different sizes in coordinating patterns. Not a lot of time involved, just use pinking shears on the edges and sew a casing."

From Darlene Bane: "I found a roll of baling rope in my late father-in-law's barn. I used it to tie packages wrapped in green & khaki checked paper. Made a full loop bow and then hot-glued a sprig of artificial holly to the package. Fresh holly or cedar could also be used. Co-workers were amazed that I had wrapped their gifts myself. Unfortunately, I ran out of my farmer's hay twine. Dropped by the local co-op to inquire about more.......It was only $.88 cents per roll. My packages looked much better this year than when I used the wired ribbon for $3.00 that only makes about 2 per spool!!!!!!! That $.88 roll made several bows! I've already scouted for discounted Christmas paper that matches my twine bows for next year."

This idea from Edie Ferrara is not strictly for Christmas wrapping but it's close enough! Great idea for a sports fan: "For my son John's 40th birthday I bought him a show case for his very special signed football. He is a jet fan so I wrapped the entire box with newspaper clippings of Jet players and games. Topped it off with a great big green ribbon. The wrap was a great success. Everyone loved the idea."

From Monica Riojas,San Antonio, TX, 12/7/04: Instead of buying fancy wrapping paper, I usually save the comics section of the Sunday paper (which is in color) and use it to wrap all my gifts, including birthdays and other celebrations. I found that most people think its really unique and creative, while at the same time it doesnt look cheap or distasteful. It saves us from buying so much paper that will end up in the trash anyway the day after Christmas and its just easier to recycle newspaper.