Green and Frugal Gift Wrapping

These are some of my wrapped holiday gifts. A lot of them are for kids, so they’re not as elegant as they sometimes turn out. But it shows my three basic methods: recycled, and two different kinds of gift bags. I didn’t buy any wrapping paper, ribbons, bags, or even tags this year. In fact, I haven’t bought wrapping paper for several years. The main thing I do is keep all the wrapping I receive and recycle it.

I started doing this several years ago because I liked the way a certain gift shop in our neighborhood did their wrapping and I started copying it. I especially like these vaguely Japanese-looking ones, and that is the way I try to wrap as much as possible. These are children’s versions of the style, and the ones in the back are just random pieces patched together.

These are a more “adult” version of that style. All you need to do is save old wrapping paper, cards, and tags, cut them up, and you’re ready to go. Anyone can do it, you don’t have to be an artist. They always come out looking good.

The other thing I like to do is use bags. These felt bags are great for kids and the velvet bag is nice for jewelry or other smaller gifts for adults. If I had children, I would use a lot of these types of bags and reuse them every year. I bought these kids’ bags, and the velvet bag came with a cosmetic purchase, but you can also make your own bags. Kristen at The Frugal Girl lays it out for you with this cloth bag tutorial.

Finally, these paper type of bags are always great for last-minute wrapping and odd-sized gifts. And there’s no reason to ever throw them away. They can be reused indefinitely.
As I said, I started my recycled wrapping habits because I liked the aesthetic, but over the years I came to appreciate how the method was also green and frugal. Because I’d rather spend my money on other things, and I hate to think of all the wrapping paper being manufactured and then thrown away.
I hope some of these photos inspire you to give it a try. I wish they were clearer, but my camera really is on its last leg. There’s no end to what you can create with this simple and beautiful, green and frugal wrapping style.

What do you use for wrapping gifts? What are some of your best green and frugal tips? Please share them in the Comments section.

On Monday I’ll take a break from Meatless Monday to post photos of our unusual holiday tree, and Tuesday or Wednesday I’ll bring you some last minute non-consumer holiday gift ideas, for those of you who are super-procrastinators.


  1. Donna Freedman says

    The Sunday funnies, of course! :-)
    If you happen to drop by a visitors' center and they're giving away maps, these can be used for wrapping. So can holiday-themed guest or tea towels that you pick up for a dime after the holidays or at thrift stores.
    Pillowcases, I'm told, are good for concealing larger gifts. You can get these at thrift shops, rummage sales, et al.
    Ditto beach towels, shawls and scarves.
    Sheet music, if you can find it at yard sales.

  2. Betsy Talbot says

    Angela, these gifts are beautiful! I think it looks so much better than the usual cookie-cutter packages you see under the tree. And I love Donna's idea of using maps to wrap gifts – that is a perfect year-round solution, especially for someone like me who loves to travel! Thanks for the great idea.

    Another one I have used in the past is brown paper bags. You can draw on them, use a stamp, stickers, or just about anything, and pairing it with a glittery ribbon makes a nice contrast.

  3. Non-Consumer Girl says

    Thanks for sharing your ideas. The presents look divine!

    I save ribbon from gifts and reuse it as I like to have ribbon on my gifts.

    I am going to make some gift bags from fabric scraps.

    Also, this has just given me the idea to make bows and ribbon-like ties from fabric remnants to put on presents.

  4. MaddyG says

    Angela, your packages are lovely.
    This year, I'm really enjoying the present wrapping process. I'm using my 3 yr old son's finger paintings, colorings, and scribblings. And then fancy fabric and paper flowers and bows made from my craft scrap box.

  5. This Thrifted Life says

    Great ideas! I have always been a die-hard bag and gow saver, but I love the idea of using old holiday cards to jazz up Christmas gifts.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. Kristen@TheFrugalGirl says

    Oooh, does this mean you get to buy a new camera soon?? I'll be really excited for you if you do! There are tons of used cameras out there too, so you should be able to do it without breaking the Compact.

  7. sage says

    Loved your ideas, they are beautiful. I've always saved paper, ribbons, bows and bags and endured the snarky comments about being cheap etc. Now I'm not cheap… I'm green!!

  8. Castal says

    While I do use some gift wrap (we have TONS left over from a friend), many of the gifts are in recycled bags like you suggested. Others are wrapped in the Sunday comics that I scrounged out of my pile of newspapers that I collect for fire starter. Still others are in various fabrics, scarves, and leftover packaging (those clamshell jewelry boxes make great small item holders). While some o the bows are new or handmade, most of them have been scrounged from past years and stowed away for reuse.

    Merry Christmas!

  9. Alea says

    Your presents are beautiful! You have put a lot of care into making them and it shows.

    I like wrapping items in usable items, when possible. I wrapped Tiffin boxes in napkins this year and wrapped one present in a scarf. I also used Whole Foods lunch bags (which are Christmas green) as gift bags. I have wrapped baby shower gifts in a baby blanket and wedding presents in towels. Once I put a violin bow on a package as the "bow"; that was the most expensive package I have ever wrapped! :-)

  10. Angela says

    Thanks for all your comments and ideas.

    Donna- I love using the funnies or sometimes other parts of the paper. And I love your idea of using maps- I'll never throw one away again! They could also be used to make envelopes.

    Non Consumer Girl- Fabric scraps will be great.

    This Thrifted Life- yes, I love using a holiday card one more time on a package – it really makes it beautiful.

    Kristen- yes, I will definitely be getting a camera and trying to find used so I'll ask your advice about that.

    SAge- Yes, one person's cheap is another person's green. Good for you!

    Castal- Scarves and fabric would be lovely. I have always saved those clamshell boxes- have never thrown one away in my life. So maybe I really have been frugal since I was a child.

    Alea- Thanks- these are pretty quick, actually. And I didn't have as many this year since a lot of my gifts were homemade baked goods. Those are going in baskets or bags. I'm such a perfectionist that I was sorry I didn't have as many pretty ones as usual. I love using silver or gold pieces of paper, or anything shiny. Your idea of wrapping a gift in a baby blanket is great.

    Leasmom- Thanks- I hope you get some ideas!

    Thanks for all your comments and sharing your ideas with everyone.

    MaddyG- That's a great idea to use your son's artwork and your craft box for wrapping. I really started getting into this method when I was in one place and actually started saving in a big shopping bag. I'd love to have an entire big drawer or box for all the supplies. It's so fun to find odd pieces that look great together.

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