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How to Use Gift Buckets Instead of Gift Bags

I've used over two dozen buckets as alternatives to gift bags—to great success!

It seems crazy, but consider giving your gift in a bucket.

It seems crazy, but consider giving your gift in a bucket.

Try Gift Buckets Instead of Gift Bags!

Several years ago, I started a tradition that, at first, caused a little bit of eye-rolling. But it only took one time, and after that, it became an expected thing that would cause hurt feelings if I missed anybody. And it was quite simple and economical. I gave 5-gallon buckets as Christmas "gift bags" instead of the traditional gift bags that I used to do. There is, however, a little more to it than that.

How I Use 5-Gallon Buckets

Originally, I started with just six 5-gallon buckets. Over several years, that number quickly grew. Last year, it grew to 27, and now I have come up with some new approaches because I'm expecting that number to grow even more. I have now been using them not only for Christmas, but also for Fathers Day, Grandparents Day, Halloween, and even once for a baby boy baby shower. It was a "hit" because I had filled it with plastic hammers and other baby-safe carpentry and mechanic toys. The last I checked, the baby, now a toddler, is using it for the tools and a collection of other toys. His parents purchased more of the buckets, are using them for other toys and said it works well because when it comes time for "clean-up," it makes the clean-up process quick and easy. (They removed the handles for safety reasons),

Buckets can be fun colors!

Buckets can be fun colors!

They're Cost-Effective and Reusable

Think about it, the cost of a large gift bag made of paper can cost anywhere between 3 and 5 dollars. And what happens to it? It may be used or reused yes, but it won't take the beating a bucket will and it certainly won't get used the way the bucket will throughout the year (or years).

It Makes "Cents"

The cost of a bucket is about $3.00. When you buy them in quantity, the price gets even better. At Home Depot, the price for a lot of 50 drops the price down to $2.75. That's even cheaper than most gift bags.

Other sizes of buckets can also be used, although I have, so far, kept with the 5-gallon sizes.

Normally, most buckets don't come with lids, although some do. You usually pay extra for them and, just like the buckets, prices can vary slightly. The unique thing about lids, however, is that nowadays, they have become an accessory in themselves with many innovative variations.

Below is a chart of some prices I have found from several of the sources I use:

Price of a 5-Gallon Plastic Bucket

It pays to shop around. All prices are based on a quantity of 20.


Home Depot







Black, White, Blue


Tractor Supply






Note: Color from different sources change from time to time. Also, some suppliers may have additional colors not listed. Either way, read below for other options.

Optional Lid Accessories

Part of the fun of giving gift buckets is the optional lid accessories. You can buy or create hydroponic planters, cooler/misters, and even portable storage/seats. Portable coolers/misters and storage seats are great for camping and fishing.

Making seats or hassocks requires a bit more work. I've made two different kinds: foam and cloth covered, and wood slats screwed on from the bottom of the lid.

Bucket lids

Bucket lids

10 Ideas for Gift Buckets

One of the really fun parts is deciding what to put in the gift buckets. Below is a list of some of what I have tried. I'm sure you will come up with many more. Look at what's already on your Christmas or other event shopping list and go from there. (And don't forget about Father's Day--Dad will like the bucket more than the contents, lol)

  • Fill with automobile emergency supplies
  • Fill with new paint brushes, rollers, etc.
  • Fill with building blocks for kids
  • Fill with baseballs-perfect for practice
  • Fill with craft supplies, yarn, tools
  • Fill with camping goodies, rope, matches, etc.
  • Fill with books for the avid reader
  • Fill with home emergency supplies
  • Fill with garden hand tools
  • Fill with snacks or comfort foods

Use Paint, Coverings, and Cloth for a Creative Transformation

And now, for the the beginning, I use to just fill the buckets and that was that. Later, I got a little more creative. I have painted them using plastic-specific paint, covered them with contact paper*, and my latest was covering them with burlap and adding picture clips that I added some personal pics. (in this case, I added lots of pics and memorabilia inside).

This year I am going to try some chalkboard paint and then chalk a Christmas design using different colors of neon chalk. Inside I am filling it with art supplies for my teenage artist granddaughter.

Still on my idea list is to cover the buckets with bumper stickers and decals. I'm not sure yet what will go inside.

*Note: When covering with a contact-type paper, consider that you will have to make an arch-type pattern to properly create an even wrap.

Get creative! I would love to hear some of your ideas in the comment section below.

Wrapped bucket transformation

Wrapped bucket transformation

It's Addictive

Whatever design you choose to create, and no matter what you decide to fill it with, your gift approach will end up being a gift that keeps on giving. Never mind the naysayers, the questioning initial reaction will quickly disappear and be certainly welcomed next year.


Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on November 15, 2016:

Interesting ideas.