Making a list and buying holiday presents is only two-thirds of the gift-giving process. That mountain of material good will still has to be wrapped.
But it could be that right about now you feel wrapped too tight to spend hours swaddling boxes in paper and bows. So here are some suggestions from the Time Saver notebook for festive gift presentations that don't require a heavy time -- and in some cases budget -- commitment.
* When paying for purchases, ask if the store provides some sort of gift wrap. Many do -- even if it's only beribboned boxes -- but you have to ask for it.
* Because so many stores no longer offer gift-wrap services, even if you're willing to pay for it, several malls have taken up the slack. (Even Nordstrom, the department store noted for its solicitous service, has no gift-wrap department. The store does offer to tie boxes up in comely ribbon.) It's pretty basic stuff, but serves the purpose when time is more important than elegant presentation.
* Be sure to ask for tissue paper when requesting boxes. Most stores have it, but clerks don't always automatically include or offer it when they provide boxes.
* Don't feel compelled to box everything, especially if gifts are odd-sized or didn't come with a box. Just gather paper around the object and tie it off at the top with ribbon, making it look like a pouchy bag.
* And don't feel obligated to wrap everything in paper. A clean white box with a beautiful, wide ribbon tied around it into a simple bow with long streamers is lovely. Concerned about the store's name showing? Buy a gob of wreath "picks" from a craft store and place them strategically in the bow arrangement.
* An inexpensive, one-stop-shopping source for wide and elegant holiday ribbon, trimming gewgaws and even paper is the chain fabric stores. Most of them now have craft sections in addition to the bolts of fabric. They tend to be considerably less expensive than department or even discount stores' seasonal merchandise.
* Use only one or two patterns or colors of paper and ribbon that mix and match. The more decisions you have to make about how to wrap packages attractively, the longer it takes. For example, packages wrapped in brown mailing paper tied up with wide metallic gold ribbon or red or green velvet ribbon look quite smart and are appropriate for any age or gender. Use a red or green felt-tip marker to write "to" and "from" right on the package.
* If the budget allows, go ahead: Use those gorgeous gift bags. Most of the more expensive ones come with a matching gift tag. And getting something in one of those recyclable bags is like getting two presents.
* Some businesses that mail packages will wrap presents in seasonal paper as well as wrap and ship out-of-town gifts. Again, it's not cheap -- one store quoted $3.50 for the box and labor in addition to the cost of shipping via UPS for a package of four shirt boxes -- but don't forget to factor in the value of your time. (Look for coupons in the mail for these services.)
* Pay a talented neighborhood child, senior or stay-at-home mom to do the wrapping. Give him or her a try-out first, though.
* Assemble a portable wrapping station. Use any old box that will accommodate supplies or buy one of those flat, under-the-bed-storage boxes. Stock it with scissors, tape, colored pens and markers, tags, ribbon, paper, stickers, whatever. At the end of the season, store the seasonal items and put in year-round wrapping supplies.
* Wrap packages as you get them. You'll spend as much time overall doing it -- maybe even a bit more taking out and putting away materials each time -- but it won't feel like such a daunting task.
What do you do to save time, to make life easier? What have you cut down on or cut out to make more time for yourself and your family? Have you found a way to simplify your lifestyle? Call the Sundial number that follows to tell us your tips and thoughts. Future Time Saver columns will feature your ideas. Be sure to leave your name, city of residence and daytime phone number when you call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call (410) 268-7736; in Harford County, (410) 836-5028; in Carroll County, (410) 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6220 after you hear the greeting.