Here's an all too common scenario: You've just picked up your kid from soccer practice and find yourself running to the store to buy a birthday present for a party that takes place in an hour. If this sounds familiar, then you are probably spending too much on gift wrap. A gift bag, tissue paper, and a card can easily add $5 to the price of a gift, only to be thrown away as soon as the present is opened. Save yourself some time and deposit $5 in the trash now.The first step to correcting this expensive habit is to break away from last minute purchases. A little forward thinking and creativity can mean big savings on gift wrap. Involve your kids in the process, and you will be teaching them a big lesson on savings. Stretch out a piece of butcher paper on the kitchen table and let your little Picasso go to work designing wrapping paper for their friend's present. This will mean big savings for you and your child will be proud to bring his or her friend a present wrapped in paper that he or she made.
If you need something a little more sophisticated for your own friends, try some of these thrifty solutions. Snatch up rolls of wall paper at thrift stores and yard sales to be used in place of expensive wrapping paper. Wallpaper is just as pretty as wrapping paper and can be purchased secondhand at a fraction of the price. Wallpaper rolls also contain a lot more paper per roll, translating into even more savings for you. Try this solution and you will find that a 10-cent roll of wallpaper will go a long way towards cutting gift wrap costs.
Kraft paper is another great cost-saving solution. Rolls can be purchased at craft stores and shipping centers at fairly low prices. Left as is or decorated with stamps, you can create the same handmade looks seen in home decorating magazines. For the veteran thriftster, brown paper grocery bags can be used to create the same look at no cost to you. Get in the habit of asking for paper bags when you check-out, and you will always have gift wrap on hand.
Tissue paper is another costly and unnecessary purchase. To create an attractive substitute, simply gather leftover scraps of wrapping paper and run them through a paper shredder. The resulting strips are perfect filler in gift bags. Construction paper also works well for this purpose and makes it easy to coordinate with the wrapping paper you have created.
Next time you receive a card in the mail, think twice before throwing it away. Cut out pretty images on the card's front to make instant gift tags for your presents. Since cards are printed on a heavy stock of paper and in pretty colors, you can also cut out blank areas of the card to create a gift tag that can be personalized with stamps, stickers or a special message.
As you begin to craft more and more of your own gift wrap, consider designating a closet to organize your supplies. You will be more motivated to make wrapping paper and gift tags in advance if you have a convenient place to store everything.
Erin Huffstetler is a stay-at-home mom, freelance writer and artist.
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