Attractive packaging -- or as Hillary Feder calls it, "the presentation" -- is important. But Feder doesn't encourage spending a lot of time or money wrapping gifts. "You need to think about what can get you where you want to go with the least amount of investment that gives you the most wow factor," she said. "I want it to look nice, but I don't necessarily want to put a lot of money into wrapping that people are going to throw away." Some wrapping tips:

• Don't wait until Dec. 23 to shop for supplies; you'll be rushed and probably end up spending more just to get it done.

• When wrapping, fold the paper around the box, creasing firmly. Fold edges over for neat line.

• Trim the paper carefully; you can always cut more off later if necessary.

• Fold in the ends from both sides for the most polished look. Affix them with invisible or double-stick tape.

• Plan on one to two yards of ribbon per package. Feder recommends soft, flexible ribbon (she uses sheer nylon); fabric and craft stores have good selections. Wired ribbon, or ribbons with dots, plaid or other patterns are cute, but can be expensive. If you like them, save the fancy stuff for the bow and wrap cheaper ribbon around the box. Feder prefers making a simple double bow to time-consuming ribbon curling.


When giving a basket of related items -- foods, bath and body products, DVDs, baby toys, etc. -- Hillary Feder, of Hillary's Personalized Gifts in Hopkins, doesn't recommend tossing them willy-nilly into a colored bag with bunched-up tissue paper. Instead, she advises a more inviting arrangement, with items propped upright in an open-topped basket or other container. Some tips:

• Shredded paper holds items in place. It comes in various colors and is usually recycled.

• Sticking items together with glue dots helps keep them upright.

• If you want to wrap the basket, cellophane is festive, flexible and biodegradable. It comes in rolls. Cut a square, set the basket in the center, pull the cellophane up and tie it above the tallest item. If you prefer that the wrapping be opaque, consider Mylar; it's also flexible, though not biodegradable.