I am baffled by wrapping paper.
Why do people fret over it, then literally throw it away? Talk about throwing away your money!
Why does it cost so much only to run out so fast?
How did our culture get to the point where we are praised for, and socially expected to buy these fancy paper shells to cover our gifts? Wouldn’t you rather the value of the present be put into the part you keep?
This is one cultural ritual that I’m just not into. If I buy wrapping paper, it will be to create a festive decoration, not to cover a present.
So what do I cover my gifts with?
Gifts at home
Well, for my kid’s birthday presents, I’ll sometimes just throw a blanket over it. I’m not super worried about appearances.
My husband grew up with the tradition of “Santa Sacks”. Instead of wrapping the presents, Santa just slides them in large drawstring sacks with the child’s name on them. This makes irregularly shaped gifts much easier, “wrapping” fast, and is reusable eliminating Santa’s wrapping paper year after year.
If you want, you could make up a bunch of little bags of various sizes and let everyone in the family use the reusable sacks.
A favorite blogger of mine, Sarah Titus, says that she will have her kids close their eyes and hand them the gift. They get to hold it and feel it to try and guess what it is. Not only is that cheap, but a fun tradition.
Unfortunately, none of these options work very well under a Christmas tree or for presents outside the house (with the exception of gifting the sack along with the present).
Here are some alternative present wrapping ideas that are free or nearly free, but won’t leave you feeling cheap.
Brown Paper Packages Tied up with String
Great news: vintage is classy.
Who wouldn’t want to open a present that looked like this one I gave out last year?
Elegant, classy, old fashioned, and so dang simple.
I bought the brown paper shipping on Amazon in 2013 on a 30 inch by 765 foot roll for $23.55 + tax. 765 feet was definitely over kill. Its 2018 and the roll is still very full and heavy.
I do recommend getting a 30” wide roll so you don’t end up having to put two pieces around a large box and have an unsightly seam or spend too much effort covering the seam with a ribbon in just the right spot. I just don’t think the 18” rolls will be versatile enough.
Don’t want to buy paper?
Often I don’t even have to use my brown paper because I get enough packing paper stuffed in Amazon boxes. It is wrinkled, but personally I think the wrinkles add a nice rustic touch. Sometimes, I even wrinkle my own paper to get the same effect.
You also might have some other type of traditional paper. If you live near a place that gives out newspapers or newsletters on similar paper, snatch up a stack of outdated ones (maybe ask if they could set some aside for you?).
As for the ribbon, I buy it at about $0.01/yard at thrift stores or yard sales, and save any ribbons I get elsewhere (such as last Christmas). Embroidery thread, twine, and lace all work well too.
If brown paper packages aren’t personal enough for you, you can touch it up with some artwork.
Usually this means I turn the toddlers loose with a bag of crayons, but I’ve also made some very classy presents with metallic poinsettias drawn in red and silver or snowflakes drawn in blue.
An alternate method is to cut up some junk mail or scrap decorative paper and add some texture to your present like the one above.
Probably the most time consuming, but receiver appreciated is when I get fancy with embroidery thread.
I lightly draw a word in cursive with an erasable pencil until I get the right shape. Then follow on top with a thin streak of school glue and lightly press the thread in working only a few letters at a time.
Always stop when you get to a hard angle change such as the 180 degree reversals at the top of the “d”. That way you can let it dry, then pull it snugly in a new direction getting crisp changes.
I’ve collected tons of embroidery thread over the years, mostly from other people’s unfinished cross-stitch projects or leftovers from my own projects. Even if you have to buy embroidery thread, it can be found for about $0.30 at Walmart and will cover quite a few presents.
Boxes and Bags
I also collect “wrapping paper” all year. I save gift bags from birthdays and cute boxes that some products come in.
Bottom line: my presents end up pretty for basically no money and you can do it too!