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Here are some fun and clever ways to save money on holiday gift wrap

Road maps, paper with fingerprints or footprints and newspaper comics pages can all make good wrapping paper.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Road maps, paper with fingerprints or footprints and newspaper comics pages can all make good wrapping paper.

Holiday time is here and whether you're an early buyer or a wait-to-the-last-minute shopper, you'll have packages to wrap. Sometimes the gift paper and ribbons dig into the budget as deeply as presents themselves, especially if a personal touch is important. But there are ways to economize on wrappings and still have a gift that's attractive, fun and specific to the receiver's interests.

When my son was a teenager, I reached for wrapping paper one day, came up dry and picked up the closest thing: maps. They worked like a charm, he being an avid map lover. Since then, maps are the gift wrap of choice for him, though they have one drawback. He loves maps so much he often gets sidetracked going over the roadways on the OUTSIDE of the package, taking a long time to open the gift.

Maps make wonderful wrapping paper. They're sturdy and large enough for many items and, with a variety of colors, easy to coordinate with ribbons or bows. Outdated maps are an excellent choice. Maps are usually free at travel services and some magazines, like National Geographic, often have map inserts that can be used. Back copies of National Geographic can sometimes be purchased at thrift shops for a few cents.

Another free source of gift wrapping are the Sunday comics. They work well for young children or anyone who has a favorite strip that can go on the package front. Saving the weekly comics ensures plenty of paper for holiday or birthday time. Comics, like maps, are colorful and easy for matching ribbons.

For those with young toddlers, especially babies just taking their first steps, wrapping paper sure to thrill grandparents, aunts and uncles is one with the baby's handprints or footprints. A memorable gift, years ago, came from a college friend whose son had just taken his first steps. She used plain white paper, the kind you can buy inexpensively at craft stores, some kid friendly tempera or finger paint and little Michael's bare feet. She brushed the paint gently on his feet and guided him across the paper. My package had baby blue footprints and a small note saying "Michael is walking!"

I remember the paper long after forgetting what the gift was.

A similar idea could be used for older children's handprints. One sure to please idea: Have older children use markers to transform their thumbprints into bugs, butterflies or other critters. With the child's tiny initials alongside each critter, the paper is personalized. Siblings and even parents could make a very special wrapping paper for holiday or birthdays. Do this project ahead of time, allowing time for ink and paint to dry completely.

For those who prefer gift bags to wrapping paper, plain bags cost much less than the highly decorative bags. It's easy to decorate basic bags with pictures and a glue stick. The bags can even have three dimensional designs with things like silk flowers purchased at low prices from a dollar store or craft shop.

Small pieces of fabric can be used for creative designs, and a coordinating ribbon of the same fabric completes a one-of-a-kind gift bag.

By economizing on wrappings for packages, it's easy to free up money that can go toward gifts, thereby stretching a budget to get more for less.

.Fats facts

It's a wrap

Consider these cost comparisons for alternatives to gift wrap:

Maps: Free at travel services; available in used National Geographic magazines that sell for a few cents at some thrift stores.

Comics: No extra cost if you buy the newspaper anyway.

Personalized wrapping paper with footprints, handprints or thumbprints: A roll of white banner paper, 2 feet by 65 feet (130 square feet), sells for $6.49 at Office Depot. A three-pack of washable, non-toxic Crayola Tempera paint in primary colors sells for $7.19 at Office Depot. Project cost: $13.68.

Compare that to $25-$30 for the same amount of traditional wrapping paper, which runs about $5 per roll (15 to 24 square feet).

Decorate your own gift bags: A pack of 13 brightly colored bags, about 8 inches by 15 inches, sells for $7.99 (or 62 cents per bag) at Walmart. Add fabric, floral or ribbon decorations averaging $1 per bag, and the cost is less than $2 per bag.

Compare that to $4 to $6 for a decorative bag at many specialty shops.

Here are some fun and clever ways to save money on holiday gift wrap 12/02/12 [Last modified: Sunday, December 2, 2012 11:05pm]
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