3 Tips to Save on Holiday Gift Wrapping

A woman smiles while wrapping a small holiday present at a table


The holidays can really drain your wallet when you have a long shopping list of gifts. Add to that the cost of gift wrapping, gift tags, and holiday cards, and the season just got even more expensive.

In some years, people in the U.S. have spent a total of over $12 billion on gift wrap alone. Yet you don’t have to spend money on store-bought Christmas wrapping paper and bags to have beautifully wrapped gifts. With so many creative free options available there’s no reason to overspend for pretty presents.

While wrapping paper and gift bags can be expensive, they usually end up in the trash. If you’re concerned about the environment, you probably know that most wrapping paper can’t be recycled and will likely end up in a landfill.

If you’re up for a little do-it-yourself-ing, we’ve compiled a few gift-wrapping ideas to make your holiday gift presentations beautiful without harming your bank account—or the environment.

Use brown paper bags as wrapping paper

The next time your grocer asks, “Paper or plastic?” choose paper and start stocking up. You can collect plenty of these recyclable bags and help keep your wrapping paper costs to a minimum. Spice up the paper with stamps and stickers, or decorate and add your own flair if you’re artistic or crafty. Skip the ribbon and go for twine for a rustic natural look to packages.

If you need some inspiration to get started, here are some ideas:

  • Snowflake bag: reuse a brown paper lunch or shopping bag. Get a white inkpad and snowflake stamps from Amazon or a craft store. Or create your own free stencils by cutting snowflakes from paper and dabbing white ink or paint around the edges with a cotton ball.
  • Tree stamped bag: this is the same idea as the snowflake decorated bag but with evergreen tree homemade stencils, stamps, or doodles.
  • Candy striped bag: add colored washi or duct tape strips to a plain brown paper bag or use markers to create a candy cane effect.
  • Reindeer bag: this is a great option for a smaller gift. Grab a brown lunch bag. Use paper to cut antler shapes and tape them to the top of the bag. Glue on a red pom pom nose and googly eyes and you’ll have a Rudolph anyone would love. If you don’t want to buy supplies, get creative and use what you have, like markers, paper, or yarn.

Reuse and Recycle Gift Wrapping

Purchased decorative bags are gifts that keep on giving! Since you don’t rip and tear them to get them open, you can reuse them year after year. If you have a stash from birthday parties or other gift-giving holidays, use your creativity and update them with ribbons, stickers, or bows.

Who doesn’t like the convenience of a gift bag? It’s quick and easy—especially if you’re in a time crunch this holiday season. 

If you know someone who gets a newspaper, ask if they’ll save the comics for you. These make funny, colorful gift wrapping and are a great way to recycle.

Got a Mason-style glass jar? Wrap small items in colored tissue paper then insert them in the jar. Use ribbon, string on a paper tag, or add found objects like buttons to decorate the jar or lid.

If you have out-of-date paper maps lying around, these can also make excellent gift wrapping. They’re particularly excellent for travel- or location-related gifts. Giving a state university sweatshirt? Use a state map to wrap the package.

If you’re willing to get creative, all kinds of items can be reused for wrapping paper. Pages from old unwanted books. Sheet music. Even fabric is an option – just take a large piece, put the gift in the middle, then gather the edges and tie it with a cord, string, yarn, or ribbon.

Use last year’s Christmas cards

Don’t know what to do with last year’s card collection? Cut off the fronts, punch holes, and you have instant gift tags. When you’re ready to get started with this DIY, here’s an Instructables guide with step-by-step instructions to help.

If you’re lucky enough to get some beautifully wrapped presents this year, remember you can also re-use and upcycle gift wrap that isn’t recyclable. If you open your presents carefully, you can use gift wrap to help store fragile holiday décor, make book covers, or even shred it into New Year’s Eve confetti!

Shop the post-holiday sales

If you choose traditional wrapping paper and supplies, you can still save money by shopping soon after the holidays when prices begin to drop dramatically. Timing is key; you’ll save more money as days go by, but you could also miss out entirely on certain items if you wait too long. Watch for what you want as the prices drop. Also, buy only what you’re willing to store all year.

This year avoid the added expense of gift wrapping, get your creative juices flowing, and use what you already have at home to wrap gifts this holiday season. A little effort can save you a lot of money, and you’ll feel good knowing you kept your gift wrapping eco-friendly!


What can I use instead of gift boxes?

Try Amazon boxes, shoe boxes, or other reusable boxes and containers. Stuff Mason-style jars or make a gift basket in a bucket, colorful mixing bowl, or pretty pot.

How do you pack a gift in a unique way?

You’re limited only by your creativity. Consider theming the wrapping to the type of gift, perhaps gluing washers to brown paper in a polka-dot pattern to wrap a new drill. Sentimental items, like childhood hair ribbons, can also make excellent gift-wrapping supplies. If wrapping an oversized item, try a clean trash bag covered in bows.

What is the best ribbon for gift wrapping?

Most holiday gift-wrapping ribbon is not biodegradable or reusable. Consider paper ribbons like raffia, twine, cotton baker’s twine, or even traditional ribbons that can be reused. You can also save and reuse ribbons from gifts or packages. If saving money is your focus, one inexpensive skein of yarn will wrap your gifts for years.