When the medical bills hit, we talked about forgoing gifts this year for Chanukah and our anniversary, but we ultimately decided against it. We set a budget instead, and there’s no room in that budget for wrapping paper, let alone the premium kind with thick paper and swirls of shimmery colors. For me, part of the joy of giving a gift is handing someone an unidentifiable box and watching the anticipation change to happiness, a revelatory process that is rather lacking without the mysterious swathing around it.
When I was a kiddo and wrapping paper was likewise a luxury, we saved the Sunday comics and repurposed them. The packages were colorfully charming and entertaining, and it certainly never occurred to me that using comics was a money-saving strategy. Like many a millennial though, the Sunday comics are a thing of the past; I read my news online, not in print. So I asked my husband to bring home colored pencils, and I saved a few paper bags from the grocery store.
To make my wrapping paper, I cut down the creases of the bag and removed the bottom. The bottom doesn’t make for good wrapping because the inside isn’t smooth. I then wrapped my husband’s presents (with the printed side on the inside) just as I would have with a traditional wrapping paper (that is, with slightly uneven corners). I had, quite literally, brown paper packages like the days of yore. I then drew pictures on the wrapped presents to bring them a little more cheer and bust out my inner artist.
As I scoped out my priceless artwork, it occurred to me that this was fun and silly and thrifty, not merely cheap. In fact, it could be an enjoyable family activity to decorate the gifts each year, making patterns or sketching scenes that are more personal than the paper we agonize over in the store (shall I buy kittens chasing balls of yarn or glittery blue snowflakes?). Few people look twice at wrapping paper when it’s time to unwrap the gifts. Plus, paper bags are environmentally friendly—as is repurposing them.
Although I certainly hope that I do not start a tradition of medical bills before the holidays, I think that I could very well bring back the paper-bag wrapping paper next year.