Frugal Christmas; Wrapping it Up

Can you believe how fast this month is flying by?  It seems too soon for Christmas, yet it’s only a week away.  I hope you are done shopping and have all your handmade gifts finished.  Now it’s time to think about how to wrap your gifts with the intent to have a zero-waste holiday and save yourself some money at the same time.


Above is just one of the fabric bags I made two years ago with leftover fabric scraps, and cross stitch designs on scrap pieces of aida cloth.  In making my bags I scrounged through all the fabric I  had on hand, from curtain valances and tie backs, to pieces of velcro I removed from items.  You can do the same.  Take a look at your fabric stash, clothes you should have weeded out because you don’t like them or they no longer fit.

I showed you here how I “wrapped” a filing cabinet, making it look like it was intended to be a piece of furnishing rather than a gift, it is disguised enough my son will never realize it’s his gift.

It gets a bit trickier when you want to give a gift away from your home.  Nothing like asking for your bags back.  The Squawk Fox has eleven great ideas for wrapping your gifts without the use of paper, like this reusable shopping bag. Inexpensive and practical.


There are plenty of ways to avoid buying ribbon and bows as well.  The Happy Housewife has several ideas on gift wrapping which includes using maps, comics and replacing ribbon with a jump rope.  You can use yarn, scarves, twine, belts and many other things, just use your imagination


Of course you don’t have to avoid all paper, just keep in mind gift wrap is not recyclable.  So if you need to use paper consider what you might have around the house.  Do you  have a small paper bag you can decorate,like this.  Want to involve children in the wrapping process. A child’s finger print would make a cute light bulb on the bag below.


And what about gift boxes?  Boxes from food are a good idea. If you buy any prepackaged foods you will either have a cardboard box or maybe even a plastic container.  I know there was an empty cool whip container after Thanksgiving.  Ask at the office if you can have the empty box from the copy paper. These are sturdy enough for any large, heavy gift.  Your grocery store will hold boxes for you from their shipments if you call ahead.  If you have an Aldi store nearby they leave their boxes right out in the store for people to take. Want even more ideas click here, for some creative solutions with only a few days left.

Not sure what to use for gift tags? Try using cereal boxes or any other lightweight cardboard from food packaging.  Thee can be covered with fabric, other papers, and many other items you already have.

Besides cereal boxes you can use many other things like this paint chip


What else might you have around your house?  Popsicle sticks?  Bookmarks?  Pressed leaves? Seashells?  The ideas are endless.

You can find everything you need in your house.  Have a large gift? Use a blanket. Not that large what about a clean white towel?  Your extra pillowcase can be lovely gift wrap as well. Take a look at this child’s pillowcase repurposed as gift wrap.

November 2010 095

Instead of store bought bows, which can’t be recycled either.  Try something new.  Above you can see a candy cane was used instead.  Children love getting a candy cane more than a bow.  Do you have a stash of buttons? Here are a few ideas for using buttons.

You can even use a barrette or bobby pin to hold your button flower

You can even use a barrette or bobby pin to hold your button flower


button snowflake

Of course no one says you can’t have bows on your packages, A fabric bow is prettier than any store-bought version and no one would consider tossing this in the trash.

finished bows3


Can you think of anything I left out?  Will this be the year you wrap with zero-waste in mind?





20 thoughts on “Frugal Christmas; Wrapping it Up

  1. Hi Lois…your ideas are wonderful and as pretty as any wrapping I’ve seen anywhere…but my idea (at least for this year) is that the best way to do zero-waste on wrapping paper is not to do any gifts at all. Honestly. This year Thom and I decided that there was just no reason to go shopping and no reason to make anything either. We’ve more or less let all our friends and family know that we don’t exchange gifts and they’ve gotten used to it enough that none are expected nor received. Thom and i also talked to one another and confessed that there is nothing we need or want at this time so why do it? I suppose our age helps–we’ve done 36 Christmas’ together so we have tried LOTS of variations. And while I did some of my favorite baking treats and gave them to close friends and neighbors–that’s it….and we will be having dinner with close friends and later visiting with family…but no gifts. Of course I appreciate when there are children involved it changes things–but sometimes just remembering how blessed we are right where we are is all we need. ~Kathy


    • Kathy, I think it is fantastic that you found a way to celebrate Christmas without gifts. My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving because there are no gifts. No lists of what needs bought, just quality time with those I love, good food and of course for us football. It’s relaxing and a lot of fun. With little ones there is always plenty of laughter and play. If only all holidays could be like that.


    • I have plenty of Kraft paper this year. The business that gives me their boxes have plenty of it for packing rather than plastic. I give a lot of it to my son for the little ones, but saved a stack of it to make art books for gifts for his children.


    • You can do a lot of things with a paint chip. I have a small serving tray here that I painted black then with some help from my granddaughter we glued cut up paint chips on to it. It’s looks a bit like tiles.


    • Jodi, I think pillowcases are a great idea They don’t cost all that much and can be used throughout the year. You can even use them as shopping bags.

      I think there is something a bit more special about wrapping with fabric whether it’s a pillowcase or just a piece of fabric tied together. I hear my gifts look nicer than if they were wrapped with paper.


  2. Nicely done Lois :)

    If I have a gift to give, I reuse wrapping paper that was given to me on a previous gift…or I simply ask that the recipient close their eyes and open their hands. Kids seem to love this approahc the most.

    I do give out Christmas cards and if I have a gift dertificate to give, I simply insert it between the card. Saves on wrapping and gives the card a little heft.

    I’ve also used old newspapers in the past but the ink got onto everyones fingers, which wasn’t nice!

    Recycable store bags are also a great idea which I one day will try.

    Thanks Lois and take care. My best to all.



    • Yes, Lyle children do love any game and a game with a gift is the best. If I am given a gift with wrapping paper I try to save it, but the little ones usually find it and want to craft with it.

      Gift certificates are something I have a hard time with. it seems so impersonal to give them. Maybe I’m just too old. :-)

      Next time you try newsprint try the comics they don’t bleed as easily onto your hands.


  3. Lois, some great ideas here, I often use left over Christmas Cards from last year to cut out for Gift tags… I save the ribbons and rosettes too ( Can not abide to just throw them away, and often use to redecorate birthday gifts etc…) And often save the Christmas gift bags we get and reuse … Loved the many ideas here Lois… And that bag you made was lovely :-) xxx


    • Sue, I would have been surprised if you didn’t save everything and reuse it. One year I saved all the bows and returned them to the person who put them on gifts. She was shocked as she never thought to save them. I don’t receive cards, and don’t send any either, but use what I find. :-)


  4. This year several gifts are being given in tote bags we don’t need any more. Many of them are new and were given to us at conferences and are quite nice. We decorating with ribbon for a festive look. Also, last year our recycling started to take wrapping paper. Practices must vary from place to place.


    • You are fortunate in having recycling for gift wrap. Most of our gift wrap has information on the packaging stating it is not recyclable. What a great idea to use tote bags you don’t need instead of donating or simply storing them.


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