About fifteen years ago, in mid-February, I walked into a drug store and saw a surprisingly large display of Christmas wrapping paper. Everything was marked down to ten cents per package – regardless of how much wrap was included in the package. Some of the packages were multi-rolls of very nice wrapping paper. Others were single rolls or folded sheets. I bought just about all of it for less than ten dollars – and I still have at least ten years’ worth of Christmas wrap that I have not used yet.
Similarly, I used to work with a woman named Susan who had learned from her grandmother that gift wrap should never be wasted. Although Susan was an attorney, and she was married to an attorney as well, she gingerly opened every gift that she received and preserved all of the gift wrap for later use. She did this even though she certainly could afford to buy as much gift wrap as she ever might need.
By comparison, Susan and I had a boss who would think nothing of taking all of her holiday gifts to the “professional” gift wrap “artists” at the shopping mall, and would pay to have other people wrap her gifts, at a premium cost above the cost of the actual gift wrap itself.
Whether you are giving holiday gifts, birthday gifts, anniversary gifts, or almost any other gift in our Western culture, you are probably going to have to find a way to wrap it before you give it. Gift wrap can be hugely expensive, as I learned a few years ago when my son’s school asked the kids to sell gift wrap as a fundraiser. Indeed, I did buy one roll of gift wrap – for $9 – and it was beautiful, but it was only enough paper to wrap one gift, which had cost me $6 to purchase.
With the holidays coming, and our economy being as weak as it is, gift wrapping will be an added cost that we will have to find ways to incorporate into our budgets. Some of you may have stockpiled cheap gift wrap, as I have done. Others may have saved used gift wrap as my friend Susan used to do. I doubt very many of you will be using “paid” gift wrapping professionals to wrap your gifts (and if you are, you probably are missing the point of this website). But what other options are out there?
My wife sends gifts to her out-of-state niece and nephew every year. She never wants to absorb the cost of adding gift wrap to her on-line purchases because the cost of gift wrap and shipping would usually exceed the value of the gift. Accordingly, we have debated for several years whether it is appropriate to send gifts to her sister’s children and to ask her sister to wrap the presents. I do not feel that my wife should make such a request unless it is coupled with an offer to wrap the gifts that her sister sends to our kids. Of course, my wife never wants to get in to that kind of a discussion with her sister (who tends to argue against anything that is presented to her) so the conversation usually dies on the vine.
I have also known people who have wrapped presents in the Sunday comics. The comics are colorful but they are usually not all that festive. I have never really liked the look of gifts wrapped in old newspapers, even though I am a big fan of recycling. If the wrap does not match the holiday or event, it just never seems appropriate to me.
When I was very young, my parents managed to avoid wrapping Christmas presents by leaving in front of our fireplace all but one of the gifts that they gave to my brother and me. In my parents’ world, and thus my childhood view, Santa did not wrap presents.
However we wrap our presents, the cost of wrapping paper, ribbons, bows and tape can add up over a holiday season. How do you cut back on your packaging costs? Are there tricks to presenting attractively wrapped presents that do not cost a huge amount? Do you know of any stores that are offering free gift wrapping as a shopping incentive this season? Would you send an unwrapped gift and let someone in the recipient’s family do the wrapping for you?
How they wrap gifts in Japan: