30 Ways to Spend $0 on Gift Wrap

Photo (cc) by thebittenword.com

I don’t believe in gift wrap – at least not the kind that costs money.

I learned as a kid that gift wrap becomes trash the moment a present is opened, so paying for it is senseless.

So I’ve gathered all the tricks that my mother taught me and that I’ve picked up along the way. If you know of others, we’d love to hear them – and publish them this time next year. So leave a comment or share on Facebook.

Free wrapping paper

  • Maps: Outdated maps – which is pretty much all maps nowadays – make novel wrapping paper, as do the map inserts that often come in National Geographic magazines.
  • Magazines: Colorful magazine pages make unique wrapping paper for small gifts. Don’t subscribe to any magazines? Ask friends, family, or the local recycling center for their already-read issues. Just don’t steal from your neighbor’s recycling bin: Scavenging is illegal in some cities and counties.
  • Old calendars: The big images on hanging monthly calendars work just like magazine pages.
  • Comics: The funnies section of the Sunday newspaper makes great wrapping paper for kids’ gifts. Again, ask around for leftover newspapers.
  • Newsprint: Other sections of the paper – from sports to classifieds – work too. Weekend issues often offer especially colorful images and fancy designs.
  • Wallpaper: If you have leftover wallpaper lying around the house, it makes unique wrapping paper.
  • Book pages: Do you own books that just collect dust because you no longer read or need them? If it’s too much trouble to sell or donate them, reincarnate their pages as wrapping paper. This is an especially great option for textbooks, which often become useless and valueless once a new edition comes out. Plus textbook pages tend to be more colorful.
  • Phonebook pages: Online phonebooks like AnyWho.com have rendered their paper predecessors obsolete for anyone with Internet access, yet publishers still drop them on doorsteps for free each year.
  • Old sheet music: If your children (or anyone else you know) went through a musical instrument-playing phase that didn’t last, their old sheet music makes unusual wrapping paper.
  • Food wrappers: If you buy any foods that are individually wrapped and come in a bag (think Starburst candies, for example), save the bag, cut square or rectangular pieces out of it, and use them as wrapping paper. A bag that held foods like pasta or beans would also work – as long as the bag didn’t hold anything that would attract bugs (like brown sugar or potato chips).
  • Brown bags: Cut-up brown grocery bags make sturdy wrapping paper.
  • Shopping bags: Cut-up paper shopping bags (often used by mall-based stores) also work. If the outside of the bag is colorful, use it. If the outside has a logo or store name, use the inside.
  • Used wrapping paper: Unless it’s torn to pieces when a gift is opened, wrapping paper is often left intact and unwrinkled enough to reuse.
  • Homemade wrapping paper: Certain types of free wrapping paper materials, like brown bags, make drab gift wrap. But you can jazz it up with paint, crayons, stickers, stamps, or whatever arts and crafts supplies you have on hand. This is also a great way to involve the kids, especially if they aren’t yet coordinated enough to help wrap gifts.
  • Fabric: Spare fabric and fabric pieces cut from old clothes can work as gift wrap if you fold it right. Google furoshiki, a Japanese folding cloth, and you should find directions for how to wrap just about any shape of object with fabric.
  • Gift bags: If you don’t have any of the above wrapping paper materials lying around, use a gift bag.

Free gift bags

  • Used gift bags: Gift bags can generally be reused several times before they show any wear or tear.
  • Shopping bags: Certain paper shopping bags, especially holiday-themed ones, are nice enough to reuse as gift bags.
  • Used tissue paper: Tissue paper naturally wrinkles when stuffed in gift bags. So unless it gets torn, it’s reusable.
  • Tissue paper alternatives: Some of the free wrapping paper materials above also work as tissue paper.

Free boxes

  • Used boxes: When you get a box in the mail or purchase something that comes in a box, save it if it’s a good size for gifts.
  • Warehouse boxes: Wholesale warehouses like Costco and Sam’s Club give boxes away to customers. So, instead of picking boxes that fit your groceries, take boxes that would work best for gifts.
  • Household boxes: Check your closets or kitchen cupboards if you need a box in a pinch. Many people stick empty electronics boxes in a closet, and even a cracker or cereal box would work. If you don’t like the shape of those boxes, you can resize them: I recently discovered a great blog post that includes step-by-step directions for resizing cereal boxes into more useful shapes.

Free trimmings

homemade gift bow
Photo courtesy of Jessica Jones/How About Orange
  • Used bows: When you receive a gift that has a bow in decent condition, save and reuse it. If it has lost its stickiness, use a piece of double-stick tape.
  • Homemade bows: Make your own bows with free wrapping paper materials. How About Orange, the blog of a Chicago-based designer, has the best step-by-step tutorial I’ve seen for making bows.
  • Used ribbon: Ribbons are often cut when a gift is unwrapped, but if you open gifts carefully, you can sometimes salvage a long enough piece to reuse.
  • Ribbon alternatives: Save longer scraps of string or yarn that you happen across. Even make funky ribbons too.
  • Flora as accents: I recently stumbled across a blog post by someone who fashioned tiny evergreen branches into a mini wreath to decorate a gift wrapped in brown paper.
  • Used greeting cards as accents: Save the nicest holiday cards you receive every year. Ones with colorful images or creative designs on the front can be cut in half so you can tape (use double-stick) the front half to gifts wrapped in drab materials.
  • Used greeting cards as tags: The front half of fancy cards can also serve as gift tags. Write the “To:” and “From:” on the black backside, punch a hole in one corner, and attach it with a ribbon.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
This Chase Card Is Great for Groceries and Cash Back on Everything
This Chase Card Is Great for Groceries and Cash Back on Everything

You could earn more than $600 cash back in your first year just from grocery shopping.

8 Things You Can Buy for $1 or Less on Amazon
8 Things You Can Buy for $1 or Less on Amazon

They say you get what you pay for — but not always. Sometimes, you can uncover a good deal at a great price.

5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic
5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic

Generic products are a great way to save money, but sometimes the brand-name version is clearly superior.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing emergency food supply. Is your pantry well-prepared for emergencies? Knowing what to stock up on for emergencies can be a difficult task and we’re here to help.

15 Things You Should Always Buy at Yard Sales
15 Things You Should Always Buy at Yard Sales

You can save a ton of money — especially if you spot any of these items.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone
8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone

It’s never too early to start learning how to live well while living on less.

The Next 5 Groups Who Will Get the COVID-19 Vaccine
The Next 5 Groups Who Will Get the COVID-19 Vaccine

The CDC has unveiled a schedule that likely will determine who gets the next doses.

Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?
Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?

Can an adult daughter tap into her late mother’s benefit?

11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco
11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco

Not all generics are worthwhile, but these are among the best from Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

For the second straight year, a growing number of Americans believe they’ve fallen prey to this scam.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy
These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy

These vehicles boast reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have all of these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?
Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?

The rules are complicated when it comes to eligibility for survivors benefits.

9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry
9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry

Keep more of future paychecks by eliminating these budget-busting unnecessary expenses.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021

Follow these tips to save, so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked
11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked

Does your retirement budget account for all of these costs?

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.