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How to Wrap a Present (on a Budget!)

If you’re like me, you’re probably already wondering when you’ll have time to wrap all your presents for Christmas. I want my gifts to look cute, but I don’t want to spend a ton of time or money on it this year. I’ve fallen into that trap before!

Wrapping presents doesn’t need to be complicated, expensive or time consuming. And let’s be real: There’s a lot of pressure around the presentation of your present. We want it to look pretty when we show up to the party or post perfectly-framed pictures of our Christmas tree on social media. Sometimes it feels like the appearance of the package is more important than the gift inside. And it might even cost more—insane!

I’ve put together eight easy steps to gift wrapping that will save you money and help you wrap like a pro. So put on some Christmas music, make some hot chocolate, and get wrapping!

Step 1: Gather your wrapping supplies.

Before you can get started, you’ll need to get everything ready. Start by taking inventory of what you already have so you’ll know if you need to buy anything else. Some gift-wrapping supplies include:

  • Wrapping paper
  • Tape measure or ruler
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Ribbon
  • Gift tags
  • Gift boxes and gift bags
  • Tissue paper
  • Plant trimmings from your yard (more on that later)
  • Photos of your favorite people (again, I’ll tell you why later)
  • Craft materials and other supplies you have at home

Okay, that might sound like a lot—but you don’t need all of these things. If you have wrapping paper, scissors and tape, you’re good to go.

Step 2: Box the gift.

Square or rectangular boxes are always easier to wrap. So, the first step for any present that isn’t in a box already is it to put it in one.


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Don’t bust your holiday budget by buying a bunch of boxes at the store. You can use opened Amazon delivery boxes, empty cereal boxes or old shoe boxes. Any box will do.

All out of boxes at home? No problem. Ask your local grocery store, department store or liquor store if they have boxes you could reuse. It’s a win-win for everyone. You get boxes to use for your gifts, and the retailer gets rid of some boxes they were discarding anyway. Or you can find a dozen holiday-printed shirt boxes on Amazon for $12.99—that’s only $1.08 per box! No wrapping paper needed.

Pro tip: Make sure to remove or black out all the price tags before you box or wrap your gifts.

Step 3: Measure the present.

If you measure your gift, you can use exactly the right amount of wrapping paper and cut back on waste. A tape measure is the easiest way to do that.

Start by measuring the length of the top of the box plus the height of one of the ends. Then multiply that amount by two. For example, if the box is 12 inches long and 1 inch tall, that would be 13 inches. Multiplied by two, that’s 26 inches in length. Pro tip: I always like to add an additional 2 inches to give me room to overlap and tape the wrapping paper. So, for this example box, you would need a piece of wrapping paper that’s 28 inches in length. Now repeat the process to measure the width!

If you have a large or odd-shaped item that won’t fit in a box or regular-sized gift bag, I’ll give you some ideas in the last step.

Step 4: Select your wrapping paper.

I know you can easily spend over $100 on a gift-wrap set at a specialty boutique. But you’re smarter than that, right? In the flurry of gift-opening madness, is anyone really going to care that you spent that much for expensive wrapping paper? No, people, no!

Americans spend billions of dollars every year just to wrap their packages. Listen, I love Rifle Paper Co. as much as the next girl, but I don’t need to wrap my presents in it. And the more gifts you buy, the more wrapping paper you need. If you’re not careful, your budget will be busted in no time.

Here are a few budget-friendly ideas:

Buy a roll of butcher paper on Amazon. I found one that’s 18 inches wide and 100 feet long (yes, 100 feet!) for $10. That, my friends, will wrap a lot of gifts. If you want to make it even more personalized and unique, have your kids color, stamp and/or draw designs on the paper before you use it to wrap!

If you prefer colored wrapping paper, head to your local dollar store. A 20-foot-long roll of a solid color is $1 and will wrap about five gifts. The same roll of colored paper from a party store will only be 16 feet long, will cost $4, and will only wrap three gifts.

Another option is to buy tissue paper instead of wrapping paper. While it’s not as thick, you can buy a 20-count package for just 98 cents at Walmart. Add some fun ribbon and you’re all set.

And don’t worry if you’re only using one color of paper. It’s easy to jazz up your wrapped package with ribbon and other simple things you probably have around the house—and even outside the house in the yard. (More to come on that!)

Save Money on Wrapping Presents

Step 5: Wrap the box.

Place your box facedown on the wrapping paper. Pull one long side of the wrapping paper over the box and make sure it’s tight against the box. Secure the edge to the middle of the box with a piece of tape. Pro tip: If you use double-sided tape, you can hide all your tape below the edges of the paper.

Next, pull the other long side of the paper until it overlaps the first paper edge. Make sure the paper is tight on the box and secure that edge with a piece of tape. Pro tip: Before you bring this long edge up, fold it over about one-half inch to create a nice, finished edge.

Now it’s time to close the ends. Push the sides of the wrapping paper in to create small triangle shapes (at about 45-degree angles) and longer flaps. Fold over one edge, creating a crisp edge along the box, and secure with a piece of tape. Repeat the process for the other edge. Before folding it down and taping, it’s helpful to fold over a small portion of the edge to create a finished edge on the paper.

Repeat the same process on the other end of the box.

Step 6: Add a ribbon.

Now that you’ve wrapped the gift, you can add fun ribbon to create a variety of looks. The easiest way is just to measure a length of ribbon to go all the way around the middle of the box. Pro tip: If you’re crafty, you can use strips of leftover fabric to create bows and ribbon, or just buy the cheap stick-on kind sold on Amazon.

Be creative and experiment with different size ribbons and different placements on the box. You can also use ribbon to create your own bows by watching simple how-to videos online. Pro tip: You can use ribbon to hide your tape seams on the box.

Step 7: Add some decorations.

If you wrapped your box with butcher paper, you can jazz it up a bit in a variety of ways:

  • Let your kids color on it.
  • Add stickers (the colored dot stickers are great!).
  • Create patterns with colored pens or markers.
  • Use a stamp pad and stamps.
  • Cut images from used calendars or magazines.
  • Flatten out different sizes of cupcake liners and stack them.

And here’s my favorite pro tip: Go into your yard and cut a few clippings from a plant or tree. If you have holly, evergreen or any other decorative shrubs, that’s perfect. If you have a live Christmas tree, you can even find some parts to clip from the back or inside the branches. You can also pick up fresh thyme from your grocery store for the same effect. Secure the greenery under some ribbon on the box to add a fresh touch of something natural.

Step 8: Don’t forget the gift tag.

Finally, add a gift tag to show who it’s to and from. You can use pre-made ones or create your own. This is another great way to use small scraps of wrapping paper.

For a personalized touch, print photos for about 9 cents each at Walgreens or Walmart. Cut the photos into circles, write who it’s from on the back and attach the photo to the box with ribbon. This is guaranteed to make the recipient smile!

Wrapping a Cylinder Shape

If you don’t have a box that works for a cylinder-shaped item (perfume, candle, etc.), wrap it with tissue paper. Why tissue paper? Because it’s more forgiving than wrapping paper and won’t tear as easily around the edges. Make sure to use two or three sheets of tissue paper to give you solid coverage.

Just put the item in the middle of an edge of the tissue paper and secure it with tape. Then, roll the item in the tissue paper and place a piece of tape on the seam. Then, twist the ends and tie each end with a ribbon. And here’s your final pro tip: You can make almost any ribbon end curly by dragging it across the edge of your scissors. It’s super easy to do (check out YouTube), and it makes your present look extremely festive.

Wrapping Large Presents

For large gifts like bikes, TVs, sports equipment, doll houses and so on, you’ll have to get a little creative. You could wrap the item in a holiday-themed plastic tablecloth (or two or three) from the dollar store. Or you could even use a couple giant garbage bags and stick a large, cheap bow on top and call it a day. (I know, that doesn’t sound too glamorous. But this is a case where they’re definitely going to care way more about the giant present than what it’s wrapped in.)

Giving Great Gifts Doesn’t Have to Break the Bank

I say it all the time: Giving is the most fun you can have with money. Wrapping a present—any present—can elevate the experience for everyone and show extra thought toward the person you’re giving it to. But it’s what’s inside the box that really matters! So don’t get crazy and expensive with wrapping the present.

If sticking to your budget, especially at this time of the year, is a struggle for you, I’ve got a great tool for you. I’ve been using EveryDollar to plan and track my budget for years. When it’s time for Christmas, I even plan out how much I’m going to spend on presents and how much I want to spend for all the gift-wrapping supplies. With this kind of plan in place, anyone can wrap a beautiful present on a budget. Give EveryDollar a try for yourself—it’s free!

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Rachel Cruze

About the author

Rachel Cruze

Rachel Cruze is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, financial expert, and host of The Rachel Cruze Show. Rachel writes and speaks on personal finances, budgeting, investing and money trends. As a co-host of The Ramsey Show, America’s second-largest talk radio show, Rachel reaches 18 million weekly listeners with her personal finance advice. She has appeared on Good Morning America and Fox News and has been featured in publications such as Time, Real Simple and Women’s Health magazines. Through her shows, books, syndicated columns and speaking events, Rachel shares fun, practical ways to take control of your money and create a life you love. Learn More.

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