Wrap Up Your Holiday For Free!

by Stephanie Stambaugh


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When the gift-giving season rolls around the first thing most of us write on our shopping list is wrapping paper. Unfortunately, wrapping presents can often cost as much as buying presents. I admit it is hard to resist all the elegant papers and fun character prints so we wait until the end of the holiday season to stock up on discounted rolls. But no matter how many rolls we buy there never seems to be enough paper or just the right wrapping for certain gifts. Determined to save our holiday funds for presents and special holiday outings, our family has devised a list of holiday wrapping ideas that won't let a penny of our holiday gift budget "roll" out the door. Most of all, family and friends know their presents were wrapped with love.

Towels and Blankets: When buying kitchen or bathroom items, budget into your present the price of a large dish towel or bath towel to wrap the present in. Simply set the gift in the middle of the towel, pull up the towel around the gift, and either tie with yarn or ribbon you have on hand or knot the towel at the top. If you're buying baby gifts, a receiving blanket or afghan is another alternative to include as part of the present and the wrapping.

Shirt Boxes: If you purchase clothes as a gift this year, remember that during the holidays many department stores offer at least one free box with your purchase. Decorate the box with existing pens, pencils, stencils, glitter, or paint you already have on hand. Use holiday pictures from magazines or newspapers and glue them in a collage around the box or feature just one on the top lid. You can also use duplicates or scanned copies of old family photos for decorating the box to give it a more personal touch.

Paper and Plastic Sacks: Gift bags are always popular, so why not decorate your own? On paper sacks use pens, paint or glitter you already have on hand and either staple or tape the bag closed to hide the contents. Plastic bags, if white, can be cut and used for wrapping paper for smaller boxes or scrunched into a ball and used for sponging designs onto paper sacks. Don't forget lunch bags for smaller gifts.

Foil, Parchment and Wax Paper: Chances are you already have one or two of these in your kitchen cupboard. In a pinch, all three will make elegant gift wrapping. Wax paper can even be enhanced for gift tags or adding additional package embellishments. Take two equal sheets of wax paper and on one of those sheets grate old crayons of your favorite holiday colors, enough to cover the surface lightly. Then lay the second sheet of wax paper on top and iron the two pieces together. Use a low heat setting ironing until the crayon pieces are melted. The melted crayons will give the wax paper a stained glass finish and you can cut the paper into various shapes such as stars or hearts. Use a paper towel or a cotton pastry cloth on top of the papers to protect your iron.

Newspapers: This is an old standby that works all year round. Use the comics for children, the sports section for Dad, the arts and entertainment section for teenagers, or maybe the homes for sale section for Mom if she's a real estate agent. The newspaper also makes great lettering for gift cards. Just cut letters and holiday pictures from the paper and arrange on solid colored paper you already have on hand or recycle envelopes from opened mail by cutting out squares to make "To" and "From" labels.

Coffee Filters: Either as they are or dyed with food coloring, watercolor paints or markers, coffee filters are the perfect size for small gifts like jewelry or gift cards. They can also be colored, layered and tied together at the bottom with yarn or string to create flower shaped bows to add to the top of larger presents. Insert into the middle an extra photo cut to size of the person the present belongs to for a more personal touch to the bow.

Yarn: Chances are you have a few skeins hidden in a closet somewhere that can be used for wrapping. Use it for tying up the other packaging ideas listed here or as a wrapping paper alternative. When using it as packaging, wrap the yarn all around the item until it is completely covered and then tie off. You can even embellish the yarn with beads or feathers if you have these items left over from previous craft projects.

Calendars: The year is almost over, so put that old calendar to good use and recycle the pictures from the calendar for wrapping paper. You can also cut the calendar pictures into squares and add a smaller square of white or solid colored paper on top to create unique gift tags or thank you notes.

Crepe Paper: Another excellent way to wrap a present is to use the left over decorations from previous celebrations. Crepe paper is another great wrapping material used like the yarn idea. Just wrap around the present until it is completely covered and then tape secure. You can also use crepe paper as an embellishment like ribbon or to tie on gift tags.

Let Some One Else Wrap It: If you still want to use traditional wrapping paper on some presents or you just don't have time to wrap presents yourself, be sure to watch for stores or Internet sites that offer free gift wrapping with your purchase. Or if you want your gift wrap purchase to count for more than just paper, many malls offer gift wrapping booths ran by local charity organizations that use the proceeds from wrapping your presents to support their cause. In the end, your present then becomes two gifts in one.

Remember, if using any of the wrapping ideas that include painting or gluing, plan ahead so the items can dry completely before wrapping your gift.


Stephanie Stambaugh home schools her two children and works as an independent antique dealer and writer in Denver, Colorado.

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