Wrapping Paper Alternatives

One common theme in the emails I get this time of year is the cost of wrapping paper. Many people find it difficult to swallow that they’re investing $15 to $20 into paper that’s simply there to cover a box and will be torn to shreds on Christmas morning – and, frankly, I don’t blame them. For us, that means supplies for multiple homemade gifts or even a moderately priced store-purchased gift for someone. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather give a gift than give some shredded paper.

So, what can we do about it? Here are some options to consider. I have used all of these at various points.

Plain brown paper This is an old standby, of course. It creates a classic look for packages (“little brown packages tied up with string…”). You can easily jazz it up a bit with a stamp and some ink, covering the paper with little red candy canes or other festive shapes.

How can I get this inexpensively? The easiest way is to just request paper bags at the grocery store. Most grocery stores will bag your groceries in brown paper bags upon request. Then, when you’re home, save the bags. When you’re ready to wrap, just cut off the bottom of the bag, cut a single slice through the side of the bag, then flip it over so that the bag labeling is on the inside of the package.

Newspaper When I was growing up, many of my relatives would give gifts wrapped in the comic pages from the Sunday newspaper. They’d just save them throughout the year and use them as their gift wrapping for all gifts. I actually thought it was incredibly cool at the time, especially since the relatives that did it usually gave interesting gifts. When I was in college, one friend of mine would wrap all of his gifts in old issues of The Onion that he’d get from his parents.

How can I get this inexpensively? There are lots of ways to get free or discounted newspapers. For instance, one local gas station will give away old newspapers if someone is willing to take them, so I would often get the Sunday paper for free there early on Monday morning (for the coupon flyers, if nothing else). You can also keep an eye on recycling bins or else pick up copies of the local free newspaper.

Themed magazines A few years back, I started saving old magazine covers for a project. I simply asked some friends if I could have their old unwanted magazines and saved the covers from them.

When it came time to wrap gifts, I took covers from magazines associated with the gift itself and used it for the wrapping paper. For books, I used things like The New Yorker or The Atlantic. For CDs, I used covers of Rolling Stone. For an article of clothing that I gave to a female, I used a fashion magazine (I think it was W). For a piece of sporting equipment, I used Sports Illustrated.

How can I get this inexpensively? Tell your friends that you’re working on a project and you’d love to have any old magazines they have laying around. You’ll be surprised how many magazines come out of the woodwork if you ask. Then, just save the covers from them throughout the year and try to associate them with some of the gifts you’re giving.

Children’s drawings If you happen to have an excess of children’s art, this can make a perfect wrapping paper for gifts for the child’s grandparents or doting aunts or uncles. I can certainly say that we have an excess of children’s art around our home.

How can I get this inexpensively? If you have a child in preschool or elementary school, chances are you’re going to wind up with more art than you know what to do with. Just save some of the more charming pieces (that you’re willing to part with) and use them to wrap gifts.

Plan ahead If none of these really appeal to you, the best way to inexpensively wrap gifts is to simply plan ahead – way ahead. Just after Christmas, wrapping paper is usually on deep discount at department stores, so that’s the best time to buy yourself an abundance of the stuff.

How can I get this inexpensively? Take a bit of time to buy some paper between Christmas and New Years and stow it away in a closet for next year. Problem solved.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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