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Creative frugal gift wrap

By on November 3, 2007

frugal gift basket

Wrapping gifts can be as expensive as the gift itself. I reuse materials I have on hand, give gift wrap that can be reused or wrap as inexpensively as possible so I can spend more money on the actual gift.

An easy way to wrap inexpensively without resorting to using newspaper, brown-paper bags or reused gift bags is to purchase containers that become part of the gift. Think of it as a creative gift basket: Not only will you be saving money on gift wrap that would only be thrown away, you’re giving a practical container that can be reused. A personalized gift also shows your thoughtfulness.

One of my favorite gift baskets is a “pamper basket.” Fill a reusable lined basket with stress-reducing gifts such as votive candles, a book, bath gels, baby oil, a loofah, a bath pillow, washcloths, shampoo, lotions and assorted teas.

The following are more creative theme ideas:

GARDEN LOVERS: A watering can or flowerpot makes a great container for smaller gifts such as seeds, garden tools, an outdoor thermomoter, hand lotion and plants.

BOOKWORMS: Stock a tote bag with a book, bookmark, audio book, teas, candy and/or a lottery ticket.

COOKS: Use a dishtowel, basket or mixing bowl to contain smaller items such as cooking gadgets, a cookbook, recipe cards, cookie cutters, etc.

MOVIE BUFF: Tins can be filled with packaged popcorn, candy and a DVD.

KIDS: Sand pails are easy-to-fill containers for dollar-store toys, activity books, bubbles, chalk and jump ropes.

TEENS: Backpacks or purses can hold CDs, mp3 player accessories, hair accessories, T-shirts, cosmetics and gift cards.

HOUSEWARMING: Give an ice-cream-sundae basket. Fill it with an ice-cream scoop, maraschino cherries, whipped cream, sprinkles, ice-cream syrups, spoons, nuts and bowls. Another idea is to fill a trash can with cleaning supplies, paper supplies, trash bags, a broom, a dustpan and common hand tools.

GRADUATIONS: A laundry basket or bag filled with a roll of quarters, laundry soap, dryer sheets, nonperishable foods and phone cards.

BRIDAL SHOWER: Pillowcase filled with new sheets, bath towels, blankets or tablecloths.

FATHER’S DAY: A bucket full of car-wash supplies such as air fresheners, a glass cleaner, an ice scraper and car wax.

FISHING ENTHUSIAST: Fill a tackle box with lures, hooks, fishing magazines and snacks.

Baby bathtub filled with bath supplies, baby washcloths, diapers and sleepers.

Cooler filled with beverages, snacks, bug repellent, a disposable camera, sunscreen, sunglasses, a utility knife, a first-aid kit and a map.

BACK TO SCHOOL: An insulated lunch box with small school supplies, such as pencils, glue sticks, markers and scissors.

PET LOVERS: Fill a pet bowl with treats, toys, a collar, pet nail clippers and a brush.

Additional tips:
— Use colored cellophane instead of clear if you want the contents to be more of a surprise.
— Embellish with small, tuckable items such as silk flowers, loose candies, pinecones, mixed shelled nuts, bath beads or votive candles.
— Place heavier, taller items in the center of your container so it’s well-balanced.
— Use fillers such as tissue paper, Easter grass, shredded excelsior or cellophane and linens.

photo by Tammra McCauley


  1. Millie

    7/22/2009 at 12:21 pm

    I read your column in our local newspaper,Citrus County, Florida. I found it very interesting as I have been a “thrifty shopper” for year – thrift stores, flea markets,and recycle everything I find recycleable. I like your gift baskets ideas as I quite frequently do them myself. And, your idea of giving the “wrapping” as part of the gift. This year many of my recipients are getting their gifts in baskets I’ve collected along the way. One year, my gifts were packed in totes, small briefcases and small suitcases I had collected. My thinking – don’t throw anything away that can be used by someone; don’t buy anything that isn’t on sale or at least a good bargain, unless you really, really need or want it. Shop with coupons, rebates. And, don’t turn down anything anyone offers you for free. Someone can use it. Or, you can sell it at a yard sale. These methods save a lot of money on charitable giving as well as gift giving; and make shopping more fun and less bothersome.
    I’ll be looking forward to your next column.

  2. Catheryn Mocarski

    11/14/2010 at 4:42 am

    Thank you for this blog post.

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