Get It for Less: Gift Wrapping

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Editor’s Note: This piece is part of an ongoing series called “Get It for Less” that will appear every Wednesday on MainStreet, so check back for more shopping tips on your favorite products.

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — As you finish up your holiday shopping, there may be one last item that you’ll need to buy: gift wrapping paper. It may not cost as much as that laptop you bought for your kids, but let’s be honest: By the time you’ve spent all that money on gifts, chances are you don’t want to spend much more just to wrap them. Unfortunately, consumers often have to do just that.

“Big department stores don’t wrap gifts as much anymore and they don’t give away boxes or tissue paper either,” says Mariangelo Petrone, a professional gift wrapper at Le Galleria in New York City who was named the Scotch Brand Most Gifted Wrapper in 2010. Perhaps the most notable example of this was when Macy’s began shuttering its gift wrapping service in stores in 2010 after more than 50 years. “It’s up to the consumer now to figure it all out.”

Fortunately, there are still plenty of ways to find gift wrap discounts and cheap alternatives, but it may require thinking a little bit outside the box. MainStreet asked Petrone for her essential tips on how to wrap on a budget.

Where to Shop

If you’re looking for a deal on gift wrap, you can do better than shopping at a department store. Instead, Petrone recommends searching for it in big-box retailers like Costco and local drug stores, which tend to have significant discounts to keep moving items off the floor.

Also, even though fewer retailers offer complimentary gift wrapping now than in the past, some stores do still provide the service for free or at a low cost. Upscale retailers like Tiffany’s and Estee Lauder continue to offer free wrapping with every purchase, while other stores like Barnes & Noble, Nordstrom and Macy’s now charge $3-$6 per item.

Don’t Always Use Wrapping Paper

For people who have used store-bought wrapping paper all their lives, this may sound like blasphemy, but you don’t always have to rely on traditional paper to wrap a present. In fact, when you think about it, there are countless other products that can be used to package a gift.

One option that Petrone suggests is to use fabrics like curtains or bed sheets instead, which work particularly well to wrap larger gifts. If you really want something cheap, she recommends trying newspapers or plain colored paper instead. It may sound chintzy, but if you tack on a nice handwritten card or take the time to decorate the package (perhaps by cutting out letters to spell out the person’s name), the gift could end up being that much more personal.

Ask Your Friends

Finally, Petrone urges everyone to reach out to their friends and relatives to see if they have any spare gift wrapping paper. Chances are someone has a stockpile of it lying around in a closet somewhere. Just tell them you would consider it an early Christmas present.

Seth Fiegerman is a staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach him by email at Seth.Fiegerman@thestreet.com, or follow him on Twitter @sfiegerman.

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