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15 Unique & Creative Gift Wrapping Ideas That Are Frugal and Fun

It’s hard to believe Christmas is now less than a week away. At this point, many of us are starting to think about wrapping gifts for family and friends.

The problem with wrapping paper is that it’s pretty bad for the environment. According to Earth911, we go through 4 million tons of wrapping paper each year. And that’s just here in the United States. Plus, due to the additives and coloring in most commercial wrapping paper, it can’t be recycled after use. If every American family wrapped just three presents in reusable material, we would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. That’s pretty amazing.

If you can avoid wrapping paper, not only will you help the environment, but you will also help your wallet. After all, those glossy, brightly-colored tubes can get really expensive. I haven’t bought wrapping paper in years. Instead, I put my creativity to work. Here’s my list of the top 15 frugal and fun ways to wrap presents.

Frugal, Eco-Friendly Ways to Wrap Presents

1. Comics
This technique is an oldie, but a goodie. If you get a weekly paper, or can share with someone else, save the comic section for gift wrap.

I often just use plain newspaper. It looks a bit drab until I put a classy ribbon on it, which really transforms the way it looks. A black ribbon looks especially elegant on the black and white newspaper.

2. Dish Towels
Wrap kitchen-related presents in dish towels and use kitchen twine or jute to hold everything together. This is a fun way to give a gift, especially to newlyweds who need dish towels anyway. You can also decorate and label wooden spoons in order to make a name tag out of something other than paper.

3. Reusable Shopping Bags
I give a lot of gifts in reusable shopping bags because they’re so handy. There are also some very cute reusable bags available and they make for good looking gifts. Every reusable shopping bag has the potential to prevent the use of thousands of plastic bags. As a result, this is one wrapping method that can make a dramatic difference for the environment!

4. Scarves
Do you have a lovely scarf you never wear, but know your friend would love? Wrap their present in the scarf, and give them both as gifts.

5. Old Maps
Remember when we used to use maps to get around, instead of our GPS? Although this seems like a distant memory, many of us still have stacks of old maps languishing in the attic or garage. Why not use them for wrapping paper? I’ve done this, and it looked so cool that my friend didn’t even want to open her gift!

If you have an AAA Membership, then you probably have a ton of travel books and travel brochures lying around. These can easily be turned into gift wrap as well.

6. T-Shirts
Old t-shirts, especially cool ones, are a fun way to wrap oddly shaped gifts. To do this, simply wrap the gift and tie the top with string and a bow. This gift wrapping might be considered a cool vintage gift. If not, it can be used as rags for cleaning – another great way to save paper.

7. Magazine Pages
Interesting pages from a glossy magazine make a beautiful wrapping paper when they’re taped together. Have fun with your choices of celebrity photos, images of travel locations, or other interesting graphic art.

8. Berry Boxes
You can creatively use colored berry boxes to wrap gifts. As you can see below, using berry boxes makes turns your gift into a tiny little work of art. You can find out how to do this at

Colored Berry BoxesYou might also want to check out for more artistic, creative wrapping ideas. The site focuses on reusing paper (even small scraps) and other materials to make beautifully wrapped presents. There were some brilliant ideas on the site, and they take gift wrapping to a whole new level.

9. Vintage Glass Jars
If you’ve made edible holiday gifts this year, then why not put them in vintage jars instead of buying new ones? This is a great way to reuse materials, and save money at the same time.

10. Children’s Art Work
If you have kids, then you probably have stacks of crayon and finger paint drawings around the house. Children’s artwork makes wonderfully unique and special gift wrap, especially for grandparents.

11. Netting Bags from Oranges
You know that pretty plastic netting that holds those 5 lb. bags of oranges? You can use this to wrap presents. If you use two bags (one inside the other) and weave a few ribbons through the holes, you can make it less see-through and very artistic.

12. Brown Paper
If you get packages wrapped in brown paper, or have a ton of paper bags, use the brown paper to wrap presents. You can spice up the outside by drawing on them with crayons, using stamps, or letting your kids finger paint on them. You can brighten it up by adding a brightly colored ribbon.

You can also personalize a brown paper gift by writing poetry or a letter on the front in black pen. Use cursive script to give it a really classy, vintage look.

13. Old Blouses
You know that deep purple blouse you’ve had in the closet since 1987? Yeah, that one with the pleats and shoulder pads. Cut off the sleeves and stitch up the bottom of each one. This will make two really pretty gift bags, ideal for gifting bottles of wine or other tall presents.

14. Bubble Wrap
I love wrapping paper in just plain bubble wrap. Every time I order something online, I save the bubble wrap for wrapping presents. It gives the gift a very cool Mod look that always gets a reaction from friends.

15. Bread Pans
If you’re giving a kitchen-related gift, tie two vintage, 9-inch bread pans to each other to make a box. The pans become part of the gift, and it looks really cool with brown jute twine.

Final Word

If you do need to buy wrapping paper, then you should buy it at the dollar store. This is one of the best places to score cheap wrapping paper.

Do you have any frugal and fun ways to wrap presents? I’d love to hear them!

Heather Levin
Heather Levin is a writer with over 15 years experience covering personal finance, natural health, parenting, and green living. She lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina with her husband and two young sons, where they're often wandering on frequent picnics to find feathers and wildflowers.

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