Prop Stylist Elizabeth Press traces her gift-wrapping prowess to her mother, whose creative, budget-conscious ideas—like wrapping boxes with painted newspaper comics, pasting gift certificates inside hollowed-out books, and making decorative stamps out of eraser carvings—proved that a little thoughtfulness goes a long way. "She really understood presentation,"Press says. "Her creativity could turn even inexpensive gifts into something fabulous."

Now Press has her own cost-saving tricks. To achieve a chic, monochromatic effect, she says, "let leftovers be your guide."If you have lime-colored ribbon from Easter, use green paper. And forget traditional holiday color combinations: Pair pink with red, yellow with gold.

1. Keep it Monochromatic

Combining any two shades of the same color "is a straightforward scheme that looks really modern,"says Press. FYI: Matte, solid-color papers tend to cost less.

2. Add Nontraditional Accents

Unexpected finishing touches are likely sitting idle in your drawers and closets. Instead of tying a bow, use cord to attach an ornament or dreidel; pin a brooch or faux flower onto ribbon; top children's gifts with chocolate coins or a glued-on toy. Press particularly loves to decorate with alphabet stamps, spelling out the recipient's name or initials, because "they instantly make a present feel personalized."

How to Make Your Own Stamps
What you'll need:
1. A rubber eraser (at least two inches wide) or a large potato sliced in half widthwise.
2. A marker to draw a simple shape on the eraser or sliced potato.
3. An X-Acto knife to carve away the eraser (or a kitchen knife for the potato), leaving the raised shape.
4. Water-based paint—or a leftover can of acrylic wall paint, diluted in a bowl.

Brush the paint onto your carving, test it on scrap paper, and stamp up your ribbon, paper, etc., in random patterns. "The idea is for it to look fun and homemade, not perfect,"stresses Press.

Tip #3: Think outside the cardboard box

3. Think outside the white cardboard box

Pick up colorful, inexpensive containers from stores like Pier 1, or use Chinese-takeout cartons from a party store (perfect for cookies and candy), tea towels or scarves (ideal for wine bottles and other odd-shaped offerings), and ID-badge sleeves (fun holders for gift cards). "You don't need wrapping paper if you have pretty fabric or containers,"Press says.

4. Focus on the Bows

For about $50 at stores like Staples, you can buy hundreds of feet (years' worth!) of kraft paper. Use it for all your presents, then dress them up with colorful ribbons. Classic hangtags give an old-fashioned "special delivery!" effect.

5. Personalize Your Paper

Use a printer to make unique backdrops: a color photo of you with the gift recipient, a googled image of an Impressionist painting, a vintage map. "It takes relatively little effort,"says Press, "but it's the icing on the cake."

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