The Simple Dollar Morning Roundup: Gift Bag Edition

It’s official – out of all of the consumer goods out there, I am most annoyed by the gift bag. Wow. $4 for a bag. That’s unbelievable. I’d far rather give and receive a present wrapped in newspaper or in a brown paper bag. I don’t get it, seriously – why not spend more on the actual gift and less on the wrapping that the person will forget in three minutes? Oh, yeah, because you were too lazy to wrap it and it’s easier to just buy a bag and toss the gift in it.

The Case for Caloric Labeling How about Mickey D’s slaps a big sticker on their double cheeseburger that says “410 calories and 42 grams of fat”? Think they’ll go for it? (@ wise bread)

Best Dates for Holiday Travel 2007 If you’re planning on flying this holiday season, this is some worthwhile information to know. (@ get rich slowly)

The Simple Dollar Retro: Financial Planning for a Life of Volunteerism and Social Work This is one of a very small number of posts that I researched and wrote targeting one specific person that I know personally. I’m not sure if she read it the first time around, so I figure I’ll mention it again.

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  1. Laura says:

    Since we’re going on vacation, I was curious to see JD’s advice. We’re driving down to Florida and got an early bird deal. Thanks for the post FYI.

  2. Erin says:

    Regarding the gift bag thing – when I get a gift in a gift bag, I save the bag and reuse it. That way I get them for free and they get recycled. Most people I know do the same thing with gift bags. That way they get recycled several times. I just feel sorry for the person who paid the price initially.

  3. vh says:

    Me, too — I never throw those things out. They’re perfect for giving to someone else.

    But on the ‘tother hand…I never buy ‘em myself. Ridiculously expensive! A roll of colorful wrapping paper is much cheaper and will decorate a bunch of gifts over time.

  4. lilacorchid says:

    I am also of the reusing gift bag mentality. And like the above posters, I never buy them either. Personally, I like opening up wrapped gifts, but if people keep on giving them to me, I’ll keep on giving them back! ;)

  5. Monica says:

    I make cloth drawstring gift bags which end up costing me more than $4 in time and labour. However, they are meant to be used again and again and again (and I have told my family this).

  6. Margaret says:

    I personally prefer wrapping paper, because I enjoy the process of wrapping presents. But I don’t think you can discount the fact that some people HATE it. I use gift bags when I am in a rush (like I have 10 seconds to get ready to go) or for presents that are just so awkwardly shaped or packaged that you virtually cannot wrap them. And I did, in fact, pay $4 for a gift bag once, but it was a huge one for a very large present (could have fit both of my kids in the bag with room to spare). Normally I just reuse gift bags, and as has been noted, that’s what most people do. I finally bought some gift bags for myself — a fairly large size — suitable for say a board game or photo album — at fifty cents each. With all the dollar and liquidation stores around, I don’t know anyone who pays $4 for a regular sized gift bag.

  7. George says:

    Reuse the gift bags! They’re sturdier than wrapping paper and are great for gifts that are awkward or fragile to wrap.

    If you want to be frugal, then make them yourself from cloth…

  8. KJC says:

    My Christmas gifts to my friends and family are Christmas cookies. I usually make enough so that each recipient gets 6-12 of each type of cookie.

    Now I could be cheap, lazy, etc. and just wrap them in plastic wrap, or put them in sandwich bags, and just give them that way. But I spend some money to make the gift look as good as it tastes. I buy cello “treat” bags, and put each type of cookie in it’s own bag. They are tied with nice curling ribbon, with a tag that says what kind of cookie is in the bag. I then put a sheet of pretty tissue paper in a gift bag, and put the individual cello bags in the gift bag.

    Now I’m sure the more frugal among you things this is crazy, but I don’t buy these things from the local card store, supercenter, or even dollar store. I found a great source on the Internet to purchase all kinds of great packaging products, at great prices, For example, the gift bags I give out are metallic kraft bag, approx. 8″x5″x11″, purchased in quantity of 25, cost $.52 ea. The printed cello bags are $8.00 for 100 bags. The tissue paper was $30, but I got 240 sheets, and I haven’t had to rebuy that in the 3 years of packaging cookies this way. I buy the gift bags in gold and silver, and the printed cello bags in gold and silver stars, and the tissue paper is white with gold stars, so everything looks nice together. I have been doing my Christmas cookies this way for 3 years, and it is actually cheaper, and much easier, than finding and buying cookie tins.

  9. Alyssa says:

    I’ve started giving gifts in cloth bags meant to be reused for carrying groceries and such. Just the other day, I found a very cute purse at Target for $2 on clearance. I plan to put my friend’s Christmas gift in it, as I know she will love the purse. So the bag will be part of the present.

  10. Seth says:

    When my wife and I got married we got TONS of gift bags and saved them all. Then when our son was born we got TONS more. Now we can reuse these gift bags for years.

  11. ChaepGirl says:

    Buy bags at a dollar store (Dollar Tree, 99cent Only, etc). They’re a dollar & look fine. Same for card and wrapping paper.

  12. Erin says:

    I’m another gift bag reuser. Everyone in my family does it and so do all our friends – just be sure not to use a sticky name label on the bag. Occasionally I give out more gift bags than I receive, so a couple years ago I went to Target and bought a set gift bags in various sizes and colors. Total cost for about 15 bags? $10. Just add colored paper and ribbon and they’re pretty and useful.

    And yes, when you have to wrap something oddly shaped, a gift bag is way easier than hunting down a box or wasting tons of paper trying to make it fit.

  13. Susan says:

    Another gift bag reuser here. When I have to buy them myself, I get them at a dollar store, so they are in fact, cheaper than most gift wrap. Plus I like the reduce/reuse aspect of it. Less paper in the landfill!

  14. Mrs. Micah says:

    I wrap, but when I get gift bags, I store them to reuse. So I’ll use one if I have it, but otherwise I wrap–often in comics pages if I can get away with it. Or the Onion.

  15. Marie says:

    A few years I ordered a big box of assorted sizes of nice gift boxes. I had a whole bunch of beautiful bows, ribbons, and other decorations salvaged from our wedding presents, and I use them to decorate these simple brown paper boxes whenever I give gifts. It’s very elegant, and this way the boxes and the decorations are all reusable. It also makes packing presents for travel very easy, as I don’t have to worry about packing them wrapped. The boxes are all collapsible to lie flat, and I know that when I get to my relatives’ house for Christmas, it will only take me a half hour or so to wrap everything up in their appropriate boxes and bows. This way, everyone gets a (somewhat) customized gift wrapping, but it’s easy for me and they (or I) can reuse it.

  16. silver says:

    I got married and then a year later had a baby. I got so many gift bags that I don’t think I’ll have to buy wrapping paper for the next five years.

  17. ClickerTrainer says:

    I second Erin’s comment. Who spends $4 for a gift bag. You need to learn to shop more effectively! I usually get them for about $1.

  18. DivaJean says:

    We have cloth Christmas gift bags we use in our extended family that are recycled for reuse every year. A yard of Christmas fabric bought after the holidays goes for nearly nothing! We haven’t had to make any in years.

    Santa wraps gifts in color codes for our four (red, green, yellow and blue) and puts the stocking of the kid on top of each pile.

    We re-use gift bags that come to us when we have folks outside of the family to give to (birthday party, Xmas exchanges, etc). But I have to admit- some othe bigger ones end up getting used for holding together the paper recycling.

  19. Celeste says:

    Re-Caloric Labeling:

    HUH? The McDonald’s by me DOES have all of the nutrition info on every item’s wrapper.

  20. chris says:

    yeah, last time i went to mcdonalds the fries had the same nutritional guidelines you’d see in the grocery store.

  21. SJean says:

    Yes, I third that — McDonalds already DOES put the nutrition information on the label. I think it is great. People can eat what they want, but they should be aware of what they are eating. They also should put a total meal count on your receipt! :)

  22. m says:

    I love gift wrapping (and I include gift bags in that category) and see nothing wrong with wanting the gift you present something with to be attractive and cheery looking. If it costs four dollars to do that then so be it. How many little pieces of crap do we waste a few dollars on here or ther ein life? I’d rather skip those purchases and make sure a gift I give looks pleasant and makes the reciever feel excited and happy to see what’s inside.

    Some gifts aren’t conducive to wrapping; their odd shape may be better suited to a bag. Others simply like gifts bags. I love the look of a bunch of bags tied with a cute bow and gift card waiting there for friends to find theirs and take their gift home after an event or party.

    And gift bags are available as low as 79 cents where I live, which is the SF Bay Area, which is really not very expensive, and can be cheaper than some wrapping paper.

    I feel like I’m some weird gift bag defender after writing this much on the topic, but it hit a nerve I guess. I love giving gifts and wrapping and bags are all part of the process. Brown bag and newspaper can work too; the key is just to make it looks nice and show your affection for the person through your efforts and to make the outside look just as good as what’s inside!

    Just my two cents.

  23. Katy Raymond says:

    There’s NEVER a reason to spend more than $1 on a gift bag, even an enormous one, if you have Dealz or Everything’s $1 stores. So, $1 is my high bid. Sometimes, though, I get lucky, like finding a great sidewalk sale with a cardboard box full of gift bags. The whole box for $5, and it had around 50 bags in it. These are ALWAYS recycled in our large family, and become part of the holiday fun in and of themselves. (“I remember that bag from 1999. Look, here’s Scotty’s name crossed out and mine in his place…”) Tacky, but entertaining and economical. :)

  24. Ann says:

    Ha! Like Katy Raymond, re-using gift bags at Christmas is part of the fun in our house. It’s gotten to the point where some of these bags have been around for years and have sentimental value. Sometimes we keep and re-use the gift tags too. My mom gets a kick out of using tags written by us “kids” when we were much younger.

  25. Christine says:

    Same here! Back home I have a stack of giftbags I have received, to be used again.

    A while ago I crashed at a friend’s house for fall break, and got his mom a thank you box of chocolates. I ended up not buying a bag, but instead pinched a piece of clean, used tin foil from the dinner table to wrap it in!

  26. paidtwice says:

    Gift bags – reusable. I have a big stash.

    just like every other commenter I guess :)

  27. ZenniHill says:

    I also enjoy re-using gift bags, and recently found a bag that I just had to buy. It was a re-useable paper gift bag with many lines on it (for lots of re-using) so that you can fill in who it is for, who it is from and the event of the gift. I thought it would be fun to use in the family for sentimental purposes.

  28. Kat says:

    The best part about gift bags and reusing them is the fact that you are reducing your footprint in the landfill.

    Occasionally I will wrap presents, but I use old prints of drawings from work. Makes my presents stand out under the tree.

  29. M. Smith says:

    I got a chuckle out of your gift bag rant. Around here, and apparently like everyone else who reads your blog, we buy ours at the dollar store and they’re recycled from party to party – especially the kid birthday parties (my kids also make & color birthday cards for their friends – heck if I’ll pay even a $1 for something a kid won’t even read!).

    You know which kind of bag I find truly annoying? The children’s birthday party bag – that little bag full of cheap, tiny, plastic c*ap that kids could care less about and parents have pick up off the floor and throw in the trash. I wish there was a law against those bags!

    KJC, thanks for mentioning – I also make many cookies and other baked items as xmas gifts. I’ll be checking them out!

  30. MVP says:

    I was shocked at my 3-year-old niece’s birthday party last summer when she didn’t receive a single wrapped gift (except from us). ALL of them came in gift bags – some were ridiculously huge. I mean, really people! Robbing a 3-year-old of the joy of ripping open a gift?! Not to mention, how lazy can you be that you can’t even take the time to wrap a gift?!

  31. Shevy says:

    Sorry Trent, but I think you’re way off base with this one! IMHO nothing says “I don’t care” like a gift in a brown paper bag, even if the gift itself is expensive.

    Newspaper gets people’s clothes and hands dirty and leaves toxic ink on the surface of whatever you wrap in it. I don’t use it to wrap dishes when I move, so I certainly don’t use it on gifts to people I love!

    I think gift bags are great! I generally buy a package of them each year as part of a local private school’s fundraiser. I pay maybe $10 for 4 to 6 bags with co-ordinated tissue. I reuse bags I’m given (like all the other posters) and buy them in dollar stores if I run out or need an unusual size or whatever.

    A beautifully wrapped gift is attractive and shows that you put a lot of thought into the present but the paper is shredded in seconds and just ends up in the garbage. With a gift bag you can have the same great look but without wasting the materials. A far more efficient use of money I think.

  32. Lynn says:

    KJC, thanks for the heads up on! Wow! Paperbags are the way to go for us as well. I hate wrapping with a passion lol. The exception is Christmas where I suck it up and wrap. Bags are cheap if not free when you recycle them.

    Btw, another site is where you can buy bags, etc CHEAP.

  33. Jasmine says:

    Gift bags are 2 for a dollar at my local dollar store.

    I get cards from there too or buy a pack of pretty blank cards with a design and use those for most of my cards. Those are 2-3 dollars for 10 cards, way cheaper than purchasing them individually. Cards are a huge ripoff these days.

  34. Becky says:

    I always get comments on the gift bags I buy at the Dollar Tree. They have some fabulous ones! I’m a terrible wrapper so gift bags are the only way to go for me. I also recycle bags I get so I don’t have to buy them too often.

  35. db says:

    Maybe we should just stop giving so many gifts.

    I’m only partly serious. I love getting a good gift. And I prefer it be wrapped, not in a bag, but I don’t get torqued up about it.

    At the same time, there is such insanity around gifts sometimes. Why is it expected that kids will be scarred for life if they don’t get lavish birthday parties with tons of gifts (wrapped or in a bag), most of which will be cheap, tacky crapola toys they really don’t need? Ditto for Christmas.

    It seems to me if gift giving was on a smaller scale, and saved for the people who really mean the most to us, it would be a better thing for all of us. Then maybe we’d wrap more thoughtfully too.

  36. kath says:

    Two words- Dollar Store. I buy them there and reuse the bags we get gifts in, so I really don’t need to buy them too often.

  37. Sara says:

    I actually like gift bags – particularly the fact that they’re reusable. (As the 30 or so people above me have already said.) Sure, ripping off wrapping paper is really fun, but it’s SUCH a waste.


    New rant: How about greeting cards? If you don’t buy them buy the box, it’s $3.50 for a card. I’ve decided to stop giving them to people (except my mom, and only twice a year – Mother’s Day and her birthday). In April of this year, I spent $15 on 4 birthday cards because I had friends with birthdays every week that month. I’ve read some people just don’t sign cards so they can be reused, but really, that just seems tacky to me. Or they make “postcards” out of ones with pretty pictures on the front, but what if whoever gave it to you was rather verbose in their greetings?

  38. Andre Kibbe says:

    Guess I don’t need to add to the comments about reusing gift bags, especially fabric ones like those sold by Lucky Crow. Seeing gift wrap torn open in a split second to become landfill is less tolerable, IMO — almost as wasteful as drinking straws.

  39. rhonda hubert says:

    Interesting comments about children eating McDonalds. We only ever allowed our children to eat takeaway when we were travelling and they would choose Maccas (as it is referred to in Aust)
    They are now in their late teens, early twenties and would not eat there out of choice. It was the hype of “oh, aren’t we lucky to eat at McDonalds just like you see on TV!” that they bought into. They came to realise that they didn’t like the food!!!

  40. It take me a half hour to wrap a gift despite years of practice… And it always looks terrible. I re-use gift bags and buy them cheaply after holidays. When done that way, I believe gift bags can be great. And yes, I’m too Lazy to wrap them myself. :-)

  41. Danielle says:

    If I had to buy a gift bag, I would buy it at the dollar store. Good variety of prices, okay selection of themes. If it’s for a baby gift, I’m probably set for the next decade… I keep every gift bag we get and we got tons for our wedding a few years back and for our baby shower.

    I also buy seasonal wrapping paper after the season is over… but only after it hits 90% off. I especially like to stock up on anything that isn’t too specific of a theme so that it can be used for anything.

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