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Monday, December 20, 2010

Save on Gift Wrapping, Ribbon, Tags, and Cards

Salvaged card and 13 reuses or re-purposes
 Long ago and for many years, I wrapped dozens of gifts. Now, maybe half a dozen. Through the years I have devised means to cut costs, conserve earth's resources.  The day after Christmas I stocked up on all my Christmas supplies.     NO MORE!

Christmas cards re-purposed
First of all, I now send so few cards that a box of 20 lasts me for several years! Now I buy all Christmas cards at yard sales or thrift stores after they pass the sniff test for mustiness. Often there are extra cards or extra envelopes. With my stash, neither situation bothers me. I will always have cards and envelopes. One drawer is dedicated to cards of all types. Oh, I sniff most things from thrift stores or yard sales.

Card above, top left is the original card. I used another card to cut apart for reuses: the front of the card for a new greeting card or enclosure or as a gift tag. Using a hole punch completes their usability.

Top left is all that is left of the card. Plus several name tags on top of the leftover. The stiff, white, glossy card could still be used to make white gift tags. See, I quit too soon. Okay, I was just in no mood to cut more since I could find only a child's pair of blunt-nose school scissors that could really have been more useful is sharper! If you have a pair of scissors that makes a scalloped edge, that would be nice, too.

Bottom right is the center of the card mentioned above, having several potential uses. Candy cane and greeting were both on the inside of the card. Green rectangles are the outer part of the card, each unique for gift tags. I think the random stars are really cool.

Reuse paper
I refold all that is salvageable or wrap it all around the same cardboard tube and secure it with a rubber band. Even wrinkled pieces might have a small area where enough paper can be reused, not wrinkled, just begging for a second chance, a chance to be used on a small gift.

Reuse boxes
Most gift boxes fold. I folded them and stuffrd them all into a bag or box where they remained flat enough to not take up more room. Every year, I rescued folding, white or decorated gift boxes that were destined for the trash. Now, I don't because I cannot use them all like I once did.

Use other boxes
Several years ago I wrapped a small gift stuffed into a toilet paper roll and another in a toothpaste box. The grandchildren receiving these were unaccustomed to frugality and were a little stunned. Oh, well! Besides, I had to mail those gifts and wanted them as compact as possible in the large box.

For my male friend's teen daughter I wrapped a piece of luggage in a fan box. She was mortified and exclaimed in horror. I told her I really thought she needed a fan. My tone of voice should have alerted her that I was teasing. But, no, ten minutes later she was sitting, pouting, teary-eyed, glaring at the fan box. She was old enough to know better--15. But, you might have to alert some people more pointedly, telling them there is no fan/vacuum/heater/toaster in their box, that you just found a box the right size.

Reuse ribbons
Some of the pre-made bows survived the holidays long ago and were put in a box and stored with Christmas ornaments and decorations to be reincarnated the next Christmas. If the ribbon was tied, I just rerolled it and used something to keep it in a roll. Tie it with string in several places or wrap around a toilet paper roll and secure with a bit of tape.

Skip the gift tags
So many times, several gifts lost their tags.  I had orphan gifts. We were at our destination and I had no idea whose presents they were. Finally, I taped the tags securely. Nope. Not right yet. Some people use a rectangle of the wrapping paper to fold and make their own tag. Too much trouble for me. At last, I just took a pen and wrote the name of recipient and the giver. No one complained. No name ever fell off the box or got wrinkled again. Use a red or green pen to make it seem more

Reuse gift bags
Okay, some people write names on these. A pretty Christmas sticker covers it right up. Or paste a picture from a Christmas card over the other names and make that your gift tag. I get gift bags all the time. If there is a ribbon and tag, I just cut the ribbon off and the names are gone.

Buy wrapping paper, ribbon, gift tags at yard sales or thrift stores
For some reason other than thrift, I began to think that curling ribbon is the prettiest ribbon for gifts any time of the year...could it be my age? When I was a teen, ugly old curling ribbon was used last. My sensibilities have changed. Nope, this is not a thrifty move. I just love the playful sweetness of the curled ribbon.

I have bought rolls of wrapping paper for all occasions and curling ribbon in all hues of the rainbow at yard sales. Most of the colors, about a dozen, could be used on Christmas paper. I looked at the paper and suddenly I could see all the colors in the curling ribbon box on various patterns on different rolls of paper--shades of reds and pinks, different shades of green, some lavenders and purples, even some turquoise...shocking, and all in Christmas gift wrap. Actually, I use very traditional wrap and would not have found these un-Christmasy colors in the gift wrap if I had not looked closely. Yellow and orange were the only colors not in my dozens of rolls of gift wrap. Multi-colored curling ribbon is best if using pink or lavender ribbon. Maybe not!

Use squares of fabric to wrap gifts. If you hem them for napkins, they will be useful all year long. I often take a lone napkin with me when I take a lunch. Others might appreciate a napkin or two that was not part of a set to take with them with no fear of losing it and spoiling their set of napkins. Christmas colors or prints will just appear before your eyes. Even a pink square tied with a green or red ribbon will look Christmasy under the tree, but not this summer.

Make reusable tote bags to present the gift. Then, the person actually has two gifts! Consider using fabric napkins instead of tissue paper to make the pretty pouf that hides the gift.

Wrap many gifts in the same box
I know my daughter wraps Christmas packages to look very pretty. Last year, I suggested she use the PO boxes that I used for shipping to wrap all gifts from me. I suggested she put the boy's gifts in one mailer box and the girl's in the other box. That made two boxes, three, counting her gift, instead of fifteen or so to wrap. She seemed greatly relieved, asking me if I was sure it was okay. Really, I could not see her using her time, energy, and cash for all that wrapping. Plus, she would not have to buy gift boxes or scrounge for them at her house. She didn't even have to think about which box to use. And, she did not have to buy boxes. Yes, there were some toys they wanted and hair doo-dads for the girl. Most of the items were clothing I bought on sale, so I could give them more and sort of make up for postage by buying cheaply. Yes, I made some things and some were free-to-me or thrifted. This year, I told my daughter to do the same thing--put all gifts for a person in the same box. She is a single mother, working full time and has a part-time job. Time is one of the things she does not have in abundance.

Reuse Christmas cards
Cut off the front to make postcards. (Check with the PO about sizes you can mail.) Trim the card to meet the PO rules. Or, use the front of the card only to put in a gift or send to teachers at school. They won't even notice or won't care if they do notice. Cut a portion of the card, like a tree on the front of the card, to use as a gift tag if you really want gift tags. Use old cards for a collage. The inside greeting can be cut out to use on a gift or for the collage. A little glitter and glue or colored pens can bring new life to even a dull card. If you cut and must include someone else's writing, use a colored or sparkly pen to make more swirls and camouflage the writing.

Odd sized gifts
Large pieces of fabric can be wrapped successfully around a bike. Large bags can be made to contain something too difficult to wrap. Then, fabric or bags can be reused next year.

Consumption of paper
Many of these ideas reduce consumption of paper=trees. They all save your wallet. If everyone reduced their consumption of paper products, tree-huggers like me would be happy, trees could be left untouched, and a polluting, water-consuming industry would do less harm to our earth, our only home.

Christmas Spirit
I am not talking about a religious holiday. I am talking about joyfulness, religious or not. These methods I have listed do not lessen the Christmas Spirit at all. Joy is what we make. Buying paper to throw away does not make me at all joyful.

Next year
I already have my eye on some velvet things I have. Some are scraps. Others are garments of velvet I bought for reuse as yardage at a garage sale. Hold me to this! Gift bags of velvet with either drawstring or ties will be used for all gifts next year.

Strings of beads, fake pearls (uncovered just today), will be used for some of the handles...we will see. But, in my vast store of sewing notions, surely I can find enough to avoid buying fabric or handles/ties/drawstrings.

My daughter reuses gift bags, but she will go buy them if she wants a gift bag and has none. For all occasions except for Santa's gifts to her children, she uses gift bags. I am going to ask her if she will use cloth bags if I make a dozen or so and send to her for occasions all year long. Velvet will be saved for Christmas! Okay, just the reds and greens.

Most of these ideas take a bit of time. How much time does it take you to earn the money to buy these items. Add that time to the time to drive, walk, shop, stand in line, bring it home and figure out where to store it for a few days until you need it all. You could spend your time sitting in front of TV, cutting up cards. You could spend the time to show grandchildren or children how to reuse instead of buying new. You could have a stiff drink while you work. Not me! I would cut off my fingernails, cut holes in my clothing and could cut nothing that remotely resemble a straight line if I had a drink.

You have more time than money, you say? Then, this method of not consuming at Christmas might appeal to you.

Your turn
I know many of you can either use these tips or share your ideas. Let's hear what you have been doing or what you will begin doing next year. What do you do to cut down on wrapping, ribbon, tags, and card costs?


  1. You have some great ideas there!

    I reuse gift bags year after year. They always seem to multiply. I use plain printer labels for tags. The tag always goes in the same spot, so it covers last year's tag. I reuse tissue paper, if I have it, or I tuck the present in in a plastic shopping bag instead of tissue paper. We don't send many cards, and the ones we do are hand made by the kids.

  2. I am too cheap to spring for printer But, when I worked or volunteered, offices would throw in the trash the partially used pages of labels. I still have a few of those. Printer labels are a good idea for covering the old tag/label. I send few cards, also. However, the cards I have left from 20 years ago and since plus yard sale cards will last me forever, I am sure. When I only spend an average of a nickle or less, sometimes less, for cards and their envelopes, I am tickled pink. I forgot to mention I buy tissue paper at yard sales!

    I feel a great freedom from those little stringed gift tags!


Okay, hoping the annoyances have gone away.