The gifts are purchased and you're feeling pretty good about holding the line on your holiday budget this year. But you still have one major Christmas chore to complete: the wrapping of the gifts.
It's a time-consuming venture, for certain. But it can also be expensive. And then there are the costs to the environment.
Last year, I wrote about how I used old maps, tattered sheet music and hand-sewn drawstring bags to wrap gifts. Click HERE to read about my frugal gift-wrapping ways and see photos of the finished projects. There's even a bow made out of expired coupons.
This year, I've got 10 more ideas for completely free gift wrap, which I found while browsing the virtual bulletin board Pinterest. (Click HERE if you'd like to access the links to these and other DIY gift-wrap projects.) All of these projects can be completed without spending a dime and they'll help you tread more lightly on the planet, a double play in my book.
You're on your own for the time involved.
1. Put a little tin under the tree. Dig through your recycling bin for an empty tin can and lid. Soak overnight to remove the paper label and glue residue. Be sure to wash and thoroughly dry the inside of the can. Place gift inside and seal lid with a little glue.
(Note: You'll need a can opener that leaves no sharp edges, cutting below the lip of the lid so the lid will sit atop the can.)
Decorate as simply or as elaborately as you wish. When it comes time to open gifts, you may need the can opener on hand, if the lid can't be easily pried open.
As a variation: Use a can with a pull-top lid. Use a can opener on the bottom of the can to remove contents, leaving the pull-top lid in place. After cleaning and decorating, place the gift inside and glue the bottom of the can in place. Your gift recipient will open the can using the pull-top. How fun is that?
2. Put your kids to work making paper snow flakes using recycled office paper. Place the snowflakes onto packages wrapped in brown paper bags or other plain recycled paper. Tie with twine. If you want to get really fancy, thread your twine with a couple of white shirt buttons you have lying around the house.
3. If you're making or buying candy or other holiday treats for gift-giving, why not package them in clear glass jars that need no further wrapping beyond a hand-made gift tag.
The color of the candy is festive enough and the lucky recipients get a second gift, which they can use for every-day food storage or refill to give to someone else.
Use mason jars or dip into your recycle bin and salvage jelly jars or pasta sauce jars. Paint the outsides of the lids or cover with decorative paper or fabric you have on hand.
4. Old-school idea. Folks have been wrapping gifts and their kids' middle-school text books in brown paper grocery bags for years, but the bags you get at Trader Joe's put a whole new twist on an old idea.
The retailer's festive white on brown paper bags make for perfect free giftwrap -- with almost no effort on your part, which is a really good thing thing this time of year.
Finish off the packages with scraps of twine or red ribbon you have lying around the house.
5. No knitting required. Get creative with yarn scraps you have around the house. Wind the yarn around and around a package already wrapped in brown or white recycled paper. If you only have short scraps to work with, tie strands individually.
Don't have any yarn scraps? Ask a neighbor, friend or family member. Someone you know is bound to have some they would be eager to declutter. Whatever you do, don't buy your yarn new.
Use multiple colors, the gift recipient's favorite colors or go monochromatic. Add a button or make fringe.
6. Borrow an idea from the Japanese and wrap your gifts in cloth, known as Furoshiki. This idea is especially great for odd shaped gifts that don't lend themselves to conventional paper wrap.
It's also a great idea for those among us who aren't very crafty. All you need is a piece of fabric large enough to encase your gift, with enough room left over to tie a bow on top.
Some suggestions: Go with a red or green bandana or one in the recipient's favorite color. You may have some on hand at home or purchase one super cheap at Michael's or A.C. Moore. Or use a kitchen towel, a scarf or a length of fabric from an abandoned project.
7. Turn your kitchen trash into wrapping treasure. Starting once again with a plain box or a gift wrapped in plain recycled paper, add your adornment using items that might otherwise end up in your trash.
A good example: the plastic mesh used to bundle produce. It's colorful, flexible and easily salvagable. Who says a bow has to be made of shiny paper?
8. Recycle your old memories into new ones. If you still have VCR tapes in your attic but no VCR, why not unravel a few and use them to make gift bows. (See top photo.)
This idea is especially good for large gifts or gifts that need to be bundled together because a single movie will yield yard upon yard of upcycled high-tech ribbon.
Word of caution: If these are home movies you're recycling, be sure you've copied them before you start unraveling and wrapping.
9. Show off your kids' artwork and declutter at the same time. Swipe the finger painting masterpieces and crayon drawings that come home in multiples and give them new life as gift wrap. Coordinate with scraps of yarn or ribbon.
10. Can't be bothered with shopping or gift wrap? Here's one last idea for those who are planning to slip their loved ones cash for Christmas.
Borrowing from the Japanese again, fold the paper money into an Origami figure. Gift and gift wrap all in one. Click HERE for photos and instructions for dozens of money Origami.