Tuesday Tip: Gift Wrap on the Cheap

When you’re laser focused on a specific financial goal, you inevitably begin to look at all other purchases with a critical eye. The big ones. The little ones. Nothing is safe. Not even something as simple as gift wrap.


Gift wrap is one of those things that I rarely buy, for a few reasons. First and foremost, it often feels like a waste of money. I’d rather spend money on the gift itself than shell out for paper packaging that most people tend to tear up and throw away anyway.

My grandfather was one exception to this tendency. I’m sure some of you can relate. He would get out his pocket knife and slice the tape that held the paper together with the precision of a brain surgeon. Then he’d gingerly slide the gift out of its wrapping and fold the like-new paper to use on a future gift. Meanwhile, we’re over here like…


Although waiting for him to open a gift was often more than we children could handle, the adult me admires his attention to detail. He didn’t even pay for that wrapping paper! But his frugal mindset (as well as years of hard work and perhaps a little circumstance) allowed him to provide for a family of three boys, travel frequently, give generously, live comfortably into his old age, and support his wife (you guessed it: my sweet grandmother) even after his passing.

The American dream.

Do I think he would have been able to accomplish all of that had he been unconcerned with saving money on the little things? I honestly don’t. He, like so many of his generation, possessed that mentality that so many of mine (myself included) are often lacking.


But, with my financial goals back in focus, I am not messing around with any frivolous purchases. I am pursuing my own American dream! [Cue patriotic background music.] I’m going to ignore that aisle of beautiful gift bags, smooth, crisp sheets of colorful tissue paper, and perfectly puffed gift bows. [Stands tall with fists on hips and eyes raised to the sky, victorious.] In the name of my emergency fund, I will not waste money on disposable things. And I. Will. Conquer!

All dramatization aside, I will not be buying any gift wrap this Christmas, and hopefully not for the foreseeable future. Want to join me? This is how you can do it.

Designate a place to store your gift wrap. Without this step, my supplies would end up disorganized and all over the house in separate piles. One of the keys to saving money on the little things is to know what you already have.


I’ve designated two plastic bins to store all of my wrapping supplies: one for Christmas and one for everything else.

Save everything. When any of us (meaning me, my husband, or my daughter) receive a gift, I fold up the bag as well as any salvageable paper, tissue, or ribbon and place it in the bin to be used for a future gift. Even things that are slightly damaged (think torn bags and knotted ribbon) can be repurposed, or modified and used again. Easy peasy. And think of all the perfectly functional packaging that you’re saving from the landfill!


Re-purpose old greeting/holiday cards. I can’t remember the last time I bought those stick-on gift tags. When I’m giving gifts to many people all at once, I tag their gifts with old greeting cards to remember whose is whose.


Just cut off the front of the card (make sure there’s no writing on the reverse side), trim it down to whatever size you’d like, and sign the back. You could go the extra mile by using scalloped-edge scissors or by giving the tag a glitter border, but this step is really not necessary.

Pro tip: If you want to be frugal and creepy, you could even save holiday photo cards and tag your friends’ and family members’ gifts with their own faces the following year. Fair warning, you may get mixed reactions.


Make your own wrapping. Some of the most beautiful wrapping I’ve ever done myself has been with a brown, paper grocery bag, a metallic Sharpie, and a rubber stamp. Easy and fun. Bonus points if you use jute string instead of curl-able ribbon, which can only be used and reused so many times. Tie on a cinnamon stick, jingle bell ornament, or pine cone to up the gorgeous factor. And don’t stop at brown paper bags, either. Old maps, nautical charts, scrap fabric or craft paper, or even newspaper (good news only) can make beautiful wrapping.


Forgo the wrapping and use a simple, beautiful ribbon or bow. I’m thinking of those large, awkward items that are hard to wrap anyway. Like a bike. Or a horse. Or a gift that already comes in beautiful packaging (why cover it up?).


It’s gift wrap, not rocket science. And it doesn’t need to cost a dime.

I hope this Tuesday Tip was helpful! How do you save money on gift wrapping?


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