The Frugal Café | Photo credit: Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup"</a> | Creative Commons License,
Photo credit: Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup" | Creative Commons License,

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The Rap on Wrap: Get Creative, Get Thrifty with DIY Wrapping Paper from Recycled Materials

By Vicki McClure Davidson

When I was a kid, I don't think my mom EVER bought wrapping paper. Times were tough for our family and she thought buying wrapping paper was ridiculous. Instead, she'd use whatever we had on hand, or something she could make cheaply, with which to wrap a present. The recycling ideas she conjured up were boundless and, sometimes, just plain weird—these are just the ones I remember:

The newspaper you read today could be, with a bit of creativity, your free recycled wrapping paper tomorrow. | Photo credit: MS Clips

The newspaper you read today could be, with a bit of creativity, your free recycled wrapping paper tomorrow. | Photo credit: MS Clips
Back then, Mom's thrift-driven recycling efforts were viewed more as eccentric or harmlessly kooky by my friends. And, for us (we were kids struggling to appear cool in the 1970s, after all), it could be embarrassing. If one of us received a beautifully wrapped gift from Aunt Ethel or Cousin Hazel, well, we KNEW we couldn't simply RIP into it like all those kids on television did when they were faced with a present with ornate wrapping paper and ribbons. No, we, instead, had to carefully lift the tape from each and every region so as to preserve the paper so that it could "be used again." Mom also saved all bows and ribbons, and had no problem asking parents after birthday parties if they were planning on saving any of the wrap from their child's gifts. Often, the response was 'no,' and she'd come home with a bounty of gaily colored bows and paper and gift bags.

With multitudinous gift bags of all sizes from which to choose, that's all Mom uses for gifts these days, even at Christmas. It's much easier for her than wrapping individual gifts since she has so many grandchildren. But, she doesn't buy the large, expensive gift bags. No, of course not. Other people do that. She won't spend the money, but she saves them after receiving them.

My mom was one of the original recyclers from waaay back, but it had little to do with saving the planet or "going green." It had to do with financial survival for our family and saving money whenever possible because she had five growing kids.

But, everything comes full circle, and it is now über-chic to NOT buy wrapping paper (my dear Mom was chic for decades... who knew?). With this topsy-turvy economy, people are cutting corners wherever and whenever possible. Upscale magazines and talk shows extol the virtues of not buying wrapping paper because of the obvious cost and the impact on filling up landfills. Plus, you can better express your individuality and creativity when you do it yourself.

Making your own recycled wrapping paper can be a fun project for children to participate in, and it will reinforce the importance of re-purposing and cutting back on waste. Go through your craft bins, old junk draws, sewing kits, the drawers of your home office desk, the boxes in your garage, basement, or attic... anywhere small things accumulate and are then forgotten. You likely have many items that can be recycled into some kind of creative gift wrap. Buttons, sequins, origami figures, glitter, dried leaves, small pine cones, candies, yarn, shells, feathers, pieces of fabric, textured paper—there is no limit to what you can cook up.

One of my favorite, funky DIY sites on YouTube is that of Threadbanger. Below is their video of creative ideas on using recycled materials for wrapping presents. Many of their ideas pretty much echo what I grew up on with dear Mom, but the presentation is fast-paced and charmingly goofy, perfect for revving up your frugal imagination. The video was originally uploaded around Christmas time in 2007, but many of the ideas, with a bit of modification, could work for year-long gift-giving. Running time of the video is 2 minutes, 24 seconds.

Be wise... be frugal.

Creative Gift Wrapping Ideas from Threadbanger


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Video embed (YouTube) provided here for review purposes only. All copyrights honored and attributed to producers.