Gift Bags - For Christmas time, I bought 3-4 yards of Christmas fabric for less than $1 a yard. I cut these into about 15 pieces in various gift bag sizes. I sewed them up, strung a ribbon through the tops, and now our family has a set of reusable gift bags. These bags will stay in our house for this year, but if I make a few more each year, we could be wrapping-paper-free in a few years. TIP: shop after Christmas fabric bargains for the very best deals...up to 90% off!
Wrapping Paper - My daughter loves to paint. One Christmas her big gift was an easel. The large paintings she makes are perfect for wrapping paper. When we do use wrapping paper, even for birthday gifts for her friends, we use her paintings. It's a fun way to reuse the sheets. TIP: using newspaper to paint on saves the cost of easel paper and reuses newspaper in a fun way.
Batteries - When my daughter was born, practically all of her "gadgets" required batteries. I thought we could buy stock in Energizer to offset years of disposable batteries. Or, we could spend $75 and buy a stash of rechargeable batteries. I bought them from Ebay, new in their packages, for a fraction of the cost in a store. Now 5 years later, I think I've bought disposable batteries once...at the zoo when we forgot fresh batteries. TIP: Look for chargers that hold 8 batteries and accept all sizes.
Gifts - this is both the hardest and the easiest, in my opinion. I like to try buying hand made and/or natural gifts...things made of wood, wool, fabric, etc. Things that don't require batteries and that will last for years. Investment toys, I call them. This is easier than ever since most stores now carry at least a small selection of such toys. I also prefer to buy local whenever possible, which is also relatively easy for me since I live in a good-sized town. But gifts like these are usually more expensive, sometimes making them the hardest gifts to buy. I can buy a rattle at Target (plastic, made in China) for about $3. Or I can go to my local boutique and buy a locally-made, locally-sourced, sustainably-harvested wood rattle for $14.
That's it for now, but I might write a follow-up post with more ideas!