Make Packages Pretty with These Frugal Gift Wrap Ideas

A gift is wrapped in brown paper and tied with a red ribbon bow. This story goes over frugal ways to save money when wrapping your gift this holiday season.
Photo courtesy of Kristin Berry/The Dashing Ginger
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Holiday gift wrapping doesn’t have to be expensive, exhausting or last minute. To save money and make presents look special, start thinking about inexpensive methods and collecting materials now.

Here are ways to create beautiful gifts in cheap gift wrap and other materials you can repurpose.

Use What You Have

Who says gift wrap has to come on a roll? It starts with taking a look at old stuff with fresh eyes. Here are 9 things to save and repurpose:

  1. Those red and white Chick-fil-A bags offer a festive theme. Carefully remove your food and stack them neatly in a file or drawer.
  2. Save birthday cards or other cards you and your family receive to cut into gift tags. A picture of a cupcake works fine on a child’s Christmas or Hanukkah gift, and an illustration of flowers makes a fine “To and From” tag on Nana’s holiday present. Plan ahead for next year and save all your holiday cards to cut into tags, too.
  3. Envelopes, especially in fun colors, can also be cut into tags
  4. Magazines are already full of holiday photos. Glossy pictures of decking the halls make great wrapping paper even with words on the page.
  5. If you receive flowers or notice some pretty ones on a walk, press them in a book now and in about three weeks they will be lovely, dried décor to top a criss-crossed ribbon on a gift. Proflowers offers tips on drying flowers with an iron and in the microwave as well.
  6. Keep a sharp eye for wrapping accessories such as remnants of shelf liner, the narrow ribbons for hanging clothes that are sewn into the shoulders, ribbons tied around new sheets, scraps of fabric and speckled or colored paper stuffed inside a new pocketbook.
  7. You can make your own confetti to make a clear gift bag with tissue paper more fun. Spend a few nights in front of Netflix in November cutting up construction paper or magazine pages.
  8. Hold on to your Sunday comics. A few gifts wrapped with these familiar hues and characters look fun and vintage under the tree.
  9. A brown grocery bag or roll of butcher paper from the craft store makes beautiful, special paper if your kids draw pictures on it with bright markers.

Use These Pros’ Presentation Tips

Ellen Bassett, owner of, puts a lot of thought into wrapping and packing her company’s gifts and stationery.

“When we started this business, we knew the presentation of the gifts was as important as the gifts themselves,” said Bassett, of Winston-Salem, N.C. “We want people to feel special when they get something from Maddie Merriwether.”

She ships merchandise directly to clients and also ships gifts to clients’ friends and family. The product as well as the extra care given in the wrapping helps create a connection and repeat business.

She recommends these special touches that don’t have to cost a lot.

  • Confetti: “You can make your own confetti. But it’s really cheap on Amazon,” Bassett said. “We get it from there and some of it is stuck together. So, we have it in a big fishbowl and swish it around and break up the pieces, then dump a handful in the bag or box.”

Amazon’s offerings include a bag of 4,800 confetti pieces shaped like Christmas trees, reindeer, snowflakes for $9.69. It also sells 600 blue snowflakes for $7. Or consider round confetti in white, pale pink and cinnamon color — not typical Christmas colors, but very elegant and special.

  • Satin ribbons: “If you have a big, fat double-faced satin bow on a package wrapped in a plain sheet of brown paper or glossy paper or around a cellophane bag, that gift is going to be fabulous,” she said, adding, “We buy ribbons in bulk because there’s so little ribbon on the rolls you buy at craft stores.”

Buy in Bulk

Speaking of ribbon, you can find luscious varieties on for $90 for 50 yards. That’s enough to wrap 100 to 300 presents. It’s also a lot to spend on ribbon. Get a few friends in on a group buy to split the cost of wrapping materials bought in bulk.

Other fancy touches available on include glossy wrapping paper, organza bags and tissue paper that make for easy and elegant packaging.

Make the Shipping Box Special, Too

“People are having to mail more gifts these days so your presentation in a shipped package is as important as if you are giving it in person,” Bassett said.

To enhance that brown box arriving at the door, she sticks a few pieces of confetti under the cellophane tape on the outside of the package. “It’s just a little cute and happy tease that says: ‘Something special is inside.’”

Stick It!

“I love stickers on presents and also on the backs of letters. A sticker just makes it more fun looking,” Bassett said.

A sticker and a curl of ribbon can suffice if you aren’t great at tying big, fat bows.

Add Greenery

For holidays, I like to use black craft paper or black wrapping paper and tie it with a ribbon, then stick a sprig of boxwood or holly berries,” said Laurie Elliott, co-owner of Marketplace Interiors in Nashville and Tampa.

Rosemary is lovely, seasonal and sturdy, too.You can just do a little bow and wedge rosemary or boxwood under that.”

A Touch of Whimsy

Elliott likes to tie a single Christmas ball ornament in with the bow on a wrapped gift. Target has numerous sets starting at 50 Christmas balls for $15. Some have a vintage matte finish while others are covered in sparkles.

Not All Gifts Require Paper

Unless it’s for a child, Elliott sometimes wraps a present, such as a striking coffee table book, without actually wrapping it. She skips the paper and ties a ribbon around it, letting the style and look of the gift itself make a statement under the tree.

Katherine Snow Smith is a freelance editor and reporter in St. Petersburg, Fla., and author of Rules for the Southern Rulebreaker: Missteps & Lessons Learned.