How Much Should You Really Spend on Wrapping Paper?

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There’s just something magical about a bunch of presents beautifully wrapped all together that really makes it feel like the holidays. However, if you’re shopping for a big family or buying the wrong kind of wrapping paper, you might end up spending significantly more money than you’d like on something that will most likely be discarded immediately after gift giving. In fact, Americans spend upwards of $2.6 billion collectively on wrapping paper. How much should you really spend, and what kinds should you buy? Here are the ins and outs of wrapping paper, including some creative alternatives.

Shopping Tips: Wrapping Paper, Greeting Cards and More Holiday Items to Only Buy at Dollar Stores
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Quality Over Quantity

Your budget will tell you how much money you have to spend on paper. One approach is to invest in higher quality paper, because you’re less likely to waste it due to tearing and ripping, says the blogger at Living Well, Spending Less. Quality wrapping paper tends to be thicker and glossier, but it might also come at a slightly higher price. However, you can purchase good quality paper online at places such as, which offers holiday sales.

Make Your Money Work for You

Measure Correctly

One way that people often waste wrapping paper is to use more than you need. Blogger Corinna Wraps has some great tips for how to measure out your wrapping paper to cut only as much paper as you need. Her simple technique is as follows:

  • Paper width should equal the width of your box, plus twice the height. “For example, for a 12-inch wide box that’s three inches high, the paper should be as wide as 12+3+3 — so 18 inches.”
  • Paper height needs to be tall enough to wrap around the box, plus one to three inches to allow for overlap. “For example, if the three-inch-high box is four inches deep, the paper should be 3+4+3+4+2 — so 16 inches tall. The easiest way to measure this is to roll your box along the paper.”

Buy at a Discount

Nobody wants to spend a lot of money on wrapping paper, so to make the most of your budget, and to get the best deals on wrapping paper, several good ways to purchase it are to shop at Dollar stores, like Dollar Tree, Dollar General or Family Dollar, or to buy in bulk, according to Places like Amazon and Target tend to sell multi-packs of wrapping paper for $10 to $15, rather than buying more pricey individual rolls.

Make Your Money Work for You

Alternately, if you want to plan for the following year, wrapping paper goes on sale after the holidays and is often available at steep discounts.

Alternatives to Traditional Wrapping Paper

If you’re creative, many, many things can replace traditional wrapping paper, and may be more eco-friendly, too, particularly if they are reused or recycled items. 

  • Brown paper bags

Those grocery bags you take home from the store can be flipped inside out and cut to make for a sweet, old-fashioned look. Perhaps add some colorful yarn or ribbon, some berries or you or your kids can draw upon them to spruce them up. There are tutorials on YouTube that can show you how to do so, like this one from the Chic Ethique.

  • Newspaper

Newspaper also has a fun, quirky aesthetic that can make for a standout wrapping paper, especially if you use the colorful comics or “funnies” section. And, if you don’t have a newspaper subscription, you can often find free versions at local newsstands and in recycling bins.

    • Fabric

    There are numerous ways to repurpose fabric into wrapping paper. If you’re someone who sews or quilts, you may have unaccounted for scraps of fabric that work well. Utilize string, ribbon, even Velcro. Old scarfs or blouses that no longer fit can also make an eco-friendly and lovely wrapping.

    • Old potato chip bags

    If you turn mylar potato chip bags inside out and wipe them down, what you have is a silvery foil that can turn any present into something shiny and elegant, according to Buzzfeed. Plus, you’re re-using an item that would just go into the trash. Throw on some ribbon or pretty stickers and your package will look like a million bucks.

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    About the Author

    Jordan Rosenfeld is a freelance writer and author of nine books. She holds a B.A. from Sonoma State University and an MFA from Bennington College. Her articles and essays about finances and other topics has appeared in a wide range of publications and clients, including The Atlantic, The Billfold, Good Magazine, GoBanking Rates, Daily Worth, Quartz, Medical Economics, The New York Times, Ozy, Paypal, The Washington Post and for numerous business clients. As someone who had to learn many of her lessons about money the hard way, she enjoys writing about personal finance to empower and educate people on how to make the most of what they have and live a better quality of life.


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