21 Wrapping Paper Alternatives

I admit to being one of the few people who likes wrapping gifts. I’m good at it and I enjoy presenting an attractively wrapped present to someone. Unfortunately, wrapping paper and gift bags are expensive, plus they generate a lot of waste. If you give a lot of gifts, the cost of paper and bows can really add up over a year. I also don’t like the thought of cluttering up the landfill with something that is so disposable. The good news is that there are many alternatives to commercial paper. You just have to be willing to get a little creative. Here are some ideas to get you started:


If you have old fabric lying around, you can use it to wrap a gift. You can either use tape to secure it, or you can tie knots at the corner or in the middle. You can also cut fabric into strips or designs to use as accents on a gift. If you can sew, you can create gift bags from your old fabric.

Reuse Old Wrapping Paper

If you’re careful when removing the paper from gifts you receive, you can save it and reuse it. You can do this with bows, boxes, and gift bags, too. Most bags and papers are still in great condition after one use so they can easily be reused.


For birthday/new baby gifts, it can be fun to wrap presents in the day’s paper. The paper can be carefully removed and kept as a remembrance of the day’s events. You might want to avoid the front page since it can be depressing, but instead use the sports section (for a sports fan) or the entertainment/arts section. The puzzle section can be a good choice for a crossword addict. If you’ve traveled recently, keep some of the papers to give your gifts a different flair.

Magazine Pages

If you subscribe to (or can find in a magazine exchange) photography or nature magazines, some of the photos are stunning enough to use to wrap small presents. Even fashion magazines can offer great pictures.

Old Calendars

The photos on many calendars are gorgeous and make great wrapping paper.


The color Sunday comics are a great choice for wrapping kids’ presents (or for adults who are still kids at heart).

Butcher/craft paper

Plain white or brown butcher/craft paper can be decorated or left plain. You can find large rolls in craft stores or warehouse clubs that will last you for quite a while. Let your kids draw on it when wrapping gifts for their friends or family members.

Wallpaper Samples / Leftover Wallpaper

Some stores will give you their old wallpaper sample books when new patterns come in. Or, if you have wallpaper left over from a household project, you can use it for colorful, durable wrapping paper.

Jars, Cans, Boxes

Not everything has to be wrapped with paper. If you have some attractive or plain boxes, you can use those without paper. You can also put small things into Mason jars, clean tubs, or storage boxes you no longer use.


Aluminum foil makes a shiny present. You can also use foil to create bows and accents for other presents.

Paper Bags

Plain brown or white grocery bags make sturdy wrapping paper. You can decorate with stamps, stickers, fabric accents, photos, your own drawings (if you’re artistic) or anything else that strikes your fancy. Small, plain bags can be decorated and used for gift bags.

Waxed Paper

You can place leaves, flowers, or other items between two sheets of waxed paper, iron them to fuse them together and, voila, you have wrapping paper.


You can pick up large maps for free at rest areas and tourist information stops. Their large size makes them great for wrapping.

Pamphlets / Brochures

Tourist brochures often include stunning photographs and maps that make for attractive wrapping.

Tea Towels

This can be a way to give two gifts in one. Buy a pretty tea towel and use it to wrap another present. The recipient gets the gift and a towel. You can also use this trick to wrap baby gifts in a blanket, or use cloth napkins to wrap a housewarming gift.

Reusable Shopping Bags

This is another “gift within a gift” idea, but you can place your gift inside a reusable bag and your recipient gets the main gift, plus a bag.

Tissue Paper

Much cheaper than wrapping paper and available in a variety of colors.

Take Out Menus

I’ve gotten some pretty interesting looking menus stuffed in my mailbox and doorframe over the years. These can make whimsical wrapping paper.

Product Packaging

Some of the packages that products come in are attractive or kitschy enough to use as wrapping, particularly if you dress them up with some accents.

You Kids’ Artwork

If your kids have drawn a masterpiece on easel-sized paper, you can use the artwork to wrap a gift for a parent or friend.

Bow Replacements

Bows can be replaced with almost anything. Some ideas: Pinecones dusted with glitter or painted, curling ribbon, yarn, fabric accents, pieces cut from old greeting cards, a drawing of a bow, a sprig of berries, flowers, hair ribbon, beads, photos, postcards, or almost any other material you have.

If you don’t like any of these alternatives, your best bet is to buy wrapping paper on clearance. After major holidays like Christmas and Easter, you can find paper and gift bags marked down. This is great for stocking up for the next holiday, but you can also find “neutral” papers that can be used all year. Often solid colors and non-holiday patterns are marked down along with the holiday specific papers.

Wrapping gifts doesn’t have to mean using expensive store bought paper. There are quite a few alternatives that will work just as well with a little creativity. Not only are some of these less expensive, they can be great in a pinch when you have to wrap something but don’t have regular wrapping paper on hand.

(Photos courtesy of mamamusings :: quinn.anya :: erika g. :: chatirygirl)

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4 Responses to 21 Wrapping Paper Alternatives

  1. Andrea says:

    lOVE THIS what a great idea, I always love to come across something new and innovative!! Well done I will be def using some of these tips for my next special occasion!!

  2. Karl B says:

    I LOVE the maps idea! We have a drawer full of old maps that we were thinking of throwing away. Now I will consider using them for wrapping paper!

  3. Ted says:

    I’m a big fan of newspaper! Sometimes you get the right newspaper and it looks pretty cool. I also thought if you tape magazine pages together that would work too?

    I really like the takeout menu idea. It could even fit with the gift depending on what you are giving…

  4. Cake says:

    Put up a cool picture so I can pin this fabulous article!

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