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75 Gift Exchange Ideas
Gift Exchange Themes
What is a Gift Exchange?
Participants in a gift exchange, also called Secret Santa, agree to purchase one gift for the recipient they were given. Instead of buying a gift for everyone in their group. The giver can now narrow their search to focus on the perfect present. Gift exchanges can help reduce the stress of finding holiday gifts for all by saving money and time. Gifts are exchanged usually at a holiday party.
Setting a Budget
Setting a budget will ensure all gifts will be close to an agreeable amount and desired present. If a budget is not set, some gift givers might over spend while others spend very little. One consideration when setting a budget is to choose a budget everyone can afford.
How to do a Gift Exchange
Setting up a gift exchange is easy.
- Chose someone to be in charge.
- Write down all the names of everyone who agrees to be in the exchange on slips of paper or you can use an online gift exchange generator like Elfster.
- Pull names and inform each person whom they will buy for.
- Set a budget.
- Each person buys for their selected recipient.
- Each gift giver wraps their present in festive paper.
- The identity of the gift giver is kept secret until the exchange.
Alternatively, a theme can be selected for the gift exchange. Participants agree to buy presents based on the theme chosen. Below are 75 gift exchange themes to choose from.
White Elephant Theme Ideas
Gift exchange themes can bring a new twist to gift giving. It keeps the gifts within a certain parameter agreed upon by the participants.
The theme is to be interpreted as the giver wishes. Creative and fun gifts can come out of the chosen theme.
Remember to set a budget along with the theme and have fun.
Gift Exchange Themes
- ABC's: pick a random letter, items begin with this letter.
- Antiques: items that can be found at an antique store.
- Aprons: fun, functional, seasonal, personalized.
- Art: pictures, sculptures, craft fairs.
- As seen on TV: novelty items that have the 'As seen on TV' logo.
- Baked Goods: make yummy holiday bake goods.
- Batteries Included: all presents must include a battery.
- Books: fiction, non-fiction, history.
- Calenders: perfect for the end of the year.
- Chocolate: dark chocolate, milk chocolate, mix chocolate.
- Classic toys: timeless toys from the past.
- Class: gym membership, music class, art class, language class.
- Color: items include a chosen color; red, blue, green.
- Cookbooks: barbeque, desserts, 30 minute meals.
- Decades: items reflect a chosen decade, 1940's, 1960's, 1980's.
- Donation in their name: choose a charity that reflects the recipient and make a donation in their name.
- Electronic accessories: headphones, extra charging chords, cases, screen protectors.
- First Letter of Their Name: items starts with the same letter as their first name.
- Games: board, cards, video games.
- Go Green: organic, recycled or eco-friendly gifts.
- Handle with Care: to be interrupted by the giver.
- Holiday Greenery: wreaths, small trees, centerpieces.
- Homemade: items made at home, knitting, art, bake goods.
- Kitchenware: utensils, trivets, oven mitts.
- Let there be Light: candles, lamps, artistic night lights.
- Liqueur: brandy, rum, vodka.
- Movie: movie tickets, popcorn baskets, DVD.
- Mug: artistic, funny, functional.
- Nationality: items reflect a nationality, Italian, Irish, Canadian.
- Naughty and Nice: naughty or nice items to be interrupted by the gift giver.
- News: presents inspired by a news story from the past year.
- Numbers: pick a random number, items feature the number in some way.
- Ornaments: personalize, decorative, novelty ornaments.
- Outdoors: items that can be used outdoors.
- Perfume/Colgone: scents.
- Pet: purchase items for each other's pets.
- Religious: cross, menorah, rosary.
- Retro: presents reflect the past.
- Salt and Pepper Shakers: funny, retro, useful.
- Scarf and gloves: functional, wool, infinity scarf.
- Snow Globe: modern, antiques, big, small.
- Socks: crazy, holiday, warm socks.
- Soft: blankets, pillows, sweaters.
- Spa: lotions, sea salt scrubs, facial creams.
- Sports: favorite sports team gear.
- Store: items can only be bought at one store, Target, Best Buy, Walgreens.
- Survivor: pocket knife, flashlights, blankets.
- Sweaters: ugly sweater, holiday sweater, cozy sweater.
- Time: pocket watches, clocks, watches.
- Tiny: items must fit in a brown paper lunch bag.
- Travel: eye mask, passport holder, small luggage.
- T-shirt: funny, creative, sports team.
- Weather: umbrellas, gloves, sunglasses, scarf.
- Wine: red or white bottles of wine.
- Wine accessories: glasses, wine cork crafts, bottle opener.
Family Gift Giving Ideas
Family Gift Exchange Ideas
A family gift exchange can be more personal. Remember, to set a budget and let each family member interrupt the theme as the giver wishes.
- Heirlooms: family memorabilia, passing down family heirlooms, jewelry.
- Meals: make a favorite family recipe that can be frozen, reheated and eaten, everyone enjoys a meal already prepared around the holidays.
- Memories: gifts relate back to a positive memory the giver has about the recipient.
- Pajamas: everyone gives their sizes, and receives a new pair of pajamas in the designated budget.
- Personalize: personalize items such as a family doormat, cutting board, monograms.
- Photos: photo on mugs, photo calendar, photo album, photo blanket.
- Room: pick a room of the house- kitchen, family room, play room, garage, items reflects the theme of that room.
- Re-gift: find an item in your home, you are no longer using and would be perfect for your recipient.
- Second-hand finds: items found in thrift shops, garage sales, ebay.
- Words: write kind words about the recipient, a poem, a story of why you love this family member.
Homemade PresentsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Gift Exchange Ideas on a Budget
$10 - $20
$20 - $30
$30 - $50
$50 - $100
$100 or More
Gift of the month club
Scarf and gloves
Sports- fan gear
Donation in their name
Salt and Pepper Shakers
Plant sapling- seeds
Ugly Holiday Sweater
Office Gift Exchange Ideas
In addition to the gift exchange theme ideas above, here are a few specifically for an office gift exchange party.
- Basket: each gift giver fills a basket with items for their recipient.
- Business card holder: artistic, personalized.
- Coffee: mugs, gourmet coffee beans, coffee gift cards.
- Cookies: exchange a dozen or more homemade holiday cookies.
- Desk: interesting items for the desk.
- Gender: men buy random gifts for men, women buy random gifts for women.
- Local Lunch Gift Cards: purchase gift certificates to local restaurants.
- Magazine: purchase a magazine subscription.
- Organize: items will help recipient organize their desk.
- Tumblers: insulated water bottles, mugs, Tervis.
Holiday Office Party
Gift Exchange Game Ideas
When you do not have a designated recipient for the gift exchange you can play a fun game. These games can be enjoyed at a holiday party.
Number the Gifts
As each wrapped presents arrive, place a number on the gift. You can use a sticker or tape the number on the present. Write the same numbers on a folded scrap piece of paper and put them in a bowl. Decide who will go first and have that person draw a number. The person gets the package with the corresponding same number.
How to play White Elephant- Yankee- Gift Exchange Game
Here are the simple rules to a White Elephant or Yankee gift exchange game. Feel free to add your own variation to the game.
1. Everyone brings a wrapped gift.
2. Pile the presents together so everyone can see.
3. Players determine what order they will go in, example:
- Draw numbers.
- How the players are seated.
- The order the players arrived to the party.
- By age.
4. The first player selects a present from the from the pile and opens it. They make sure everyone can see the present.
5. The next person in line can choose to steal the first person's item or pick a new present from the pile.
6. Anyone who gets their present stolen in this way can do the same. They can choose a new gift or steal from someone else.
7. There are some rules on swapping:
- A present can only be stolen once per turn.
- After three swaps in a turn, the round comes to an end and the next person in line continues on with the game.
8. At the end the game the person who went first has an oppertunity to swap their gift for any other opened gift.
Source: Official White Elephant Gift Exchange Rules
What Gift Exchange Theme Do You Like the Best?
What is your favorite gift exchange idea?
Best White Elephant Gifts for Gift Exchanges
© 2015 CarlySullens