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75 Gift Exchange Ideas

Updated on November 14, 2016

Gift Exchange Themes

Gift exchange themes can bring a new twist to holiday gift giving while saving time and money. Wrap your gift exchange in festive holiday paper to raise anticipation and excitement.
Gift exchange themes can bring a new twist to holiday gift giving while saving time and money. Wrap your gift exchange in festive holiday paper to raise anticipation and excitement. | Source

Secret Santa

Secret Santa is a wonderful gift exchange idea for big families, offices and groups of friends.
Secret Santa is a wonderful gift exchange idea for big families, offices and groups of friends. | Source

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.

Opening Presents

Setting a budget is a good idea for gift exchanges, to ensure all gifts will be close to a desirable outcome.
Setting a budget is a good idea for gift exchanges, to ensure all gifts will be close to a desirable outcome. | Source

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.

Presents

Having a gift exchange party and putting all the presents together can be very festive.
Having a gift exchange party and putting all the presents together can be very festive. | Source

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

  1. ABC's: pick a random letter, items begin with this letter.
  2. Antiques: items that can be found at an antique store.
  3. Aprons: fun, functional, seasonal, personalized.
  4. Art: pictures, sculptures, craft fairs.
  5. As seen on TV: novelty items that have the 'As seen on TV' logo.
  6. Baked Goods: make yummy holiday bake goods.
  7. Batteries Included: all presents must include a battery.
  8. Books: fiction, non-fiction, history.
  9. Calenders: perfect for the end of the year.
  10. Chocolate: dark chocolate, milk chocolate, mix chocolate.
  11. Classic toys: timeless toys from the past.
  12. Class: gym membership, music class, art class, language class.
  13. Color: items include a chosen color; red, blue, green.
  14. Cookbooks: barbeque, desserts, 30 minute meals.
  15. Decades: items reflect a chosen decade, 1940's, 1960's, 1980's.
  16. Donation in their name: choose a charity that reflects the recipient and make a donation in their name.
  17. Electronic accessories: headphones, extra charging chords, cases, screen protectors.
  18. First Letter of Their Name: items starts with the same letter as their first name.
  19. Games: board, cards, video games.
  20. Go Green: organic, recycled or eco-friendly gifts.
  21. Handle with Care: to be interrupted by the giver.
  22. Holiday Greenery: wreaths, small trees, centerpieces.
  23. Homemade: items made at home, knitting, art, bake goods.
  24. Kitchenware: utensils, trivets, oven mitts.
  25. Let there be Light: candles, lamps, artistic night lights.
  26. Liqueur: brandy, rum, vodka.
  27. Movie: movie tickets, popcorn baskets, DVD.
  28. Mug: artistic, funny, functional.
  29. Nationality: items reflect a nationality, Italian, Irish, Canadian.
  30. Naughty and Nice: naughty or nice items to be interrupted by the gift giver.
  31. News: presents inspired by a news story from the past year.
  32. Numbers: pick a random number, items feature the number in some way.
  33. Ornaments: personalize, decorative, novelty ornaments.
  34. Outdoors: items that can be used outdoors.
  35. Perfume/Colgone: scents.
  36. Pet: purchase items for each other's pets.
  37. Religious: cross, menorah, rosary.
  38. Retro: presents reflect the past.
  39. Salt and Pepper Shakers: funny, retro, useful.
  40. Scarf and gloves: functional, wool, infinity scarf.
  41. Snow Globe: modern, antiques, big, small.
  42. Socks: crazy, holiday, warm socks.
  43. Soft: blankets, pillows, sweaters.
  44. Spa: lotions, sea salt scrubs, facial creams.
  45. Sports: favorite sports team gear.
  46. Store: items can only be bought at one store, Target, Best Buy, Walgreens.
  47. Survivor: pocket knife, flashlights, blankets.
  48. Sweaters: ugly sweater, holiday sweater, cozy sweater.
  49. Time: pocket watches, clocks, watches.
  50. Tiny: items must fit in a brown paper lunch bag.
  51. Travel: eye mask, passport holder, small luggage.
  52. T-shirt: funny, creative, sports team.
  53. Weather: umbrellas, gloves, sunglasses, scarf.
  54. Wine: red or white bottles of wine.
  55. Wine accessories: glasses, wine cork crafts, bottle opener.

Family Gift Giving Ideas

Collecting old photos, or printing off digital photos and making a photo album are a wonderful keepsake gift exchange idea for any family member.
Collecting old photos, or printing off digital photos and making a photo album are a wonderful keepsake gift exchange idea for any family member. | Source

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.

  1. Heirlooms: family memorabilia, passing down family heirlooms, jewelry.
  2. Meals: make a favorite family recipe that can be frozen, reheated and eaten, everyone enjoys a meal already prepared around the holidays.
  3. Memories: gifts relate back to a positive memory the giver has about the recipient.
  4. Pajamas: everyone gives their sizes, and receives a new pair of pajamas in the designated budget.
  5. Personalize: personalize items such as a family doormat, cutting board, monograms.
  6. Photos: photo on mugs, photo calendar, photo album, photo blanket.
  7. Room: pick a room of the house- kitchen, family room, play room, garage, items reflects the theme of that room.
  8. Re-gift: find an item in your home, you are no longer using and would be perfect for your recipient.
  9. Second-hand finds: items found in thrift shops, garage sales, ebay.
  10. Words: write kind words about the recipient, a poem, a story of why you love this family member.

Homemade Presents

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Homemade baked goods can be a great inexpensive gift exchange idea.Knit wear can be treasured throughout out the year. One of a kind photo books and pictures in decorative frames are great keepsakes and treasured homemade presents.There are so many ways to be creative with homemade present ideas.
Homemade baked goods can be a great inexpensive gift exchange idea.
Homemade baked goods can be a great inexpensive gift exchange idea. | Source
Knit wear can be treasured throughout out the year.
Knit wear can be treasured throughout out the year. | Source
One of a kind photo books and pictures in decorative frames are great keepsakes and treasured homemade presents.
One of a kind photo books and pictures in decorative frames are great keepsakes and treasured homemade presents. | Source
There are so many ways to be creative with homemade present ideas.
There are so many ways to be creative with homemade present ideas. | Source

Gift Exchange Ideas on a Budget

Free
$10 - $20
$20 - $30
$30 - $50
$50 - $100
$100 or More
Mix- CD
Mug
Candles
Snow Globes
Tickets
Gift of the month club
Meal
Ornaments
Scarf and gloves
Sweaters
Jewelry
Watch
Re-gift
Books
Apron
Pajamas
Perfume/Cologne
Wine Basket
Poem
Chocolate
Pet
Holiday Greenery
Sports- fan gear
Donation in their name
Used Book
Socks
Games
Liqueur
Antiques
Spa
Recipe Swap
Salt and Pepper Shakers
Kitchenware
Personalize
Outdoors
Electronics
Plant sapling- seeds
T-shirt
Electronic accessories
Art
Gadgets
Luggage

Ugly Holiday Sweater

An ugly sweater gift exchange can bring a lot of laughter and fun to your holiday party.
An ugly sweater gift exchange can bring a lot of laughter and fun to your holiday party. | Source

Office Gift Exchange Ideas

In addition to the gift exchange theme ideas above, here are a few specifically for an office gift exchange party.

  1. Basket: each gift giver fills a basket with items for their recipient.
  2. Business card holder: artistic, personalized.
  3. Coffee: mugs, gourmet coffee beans, coffee gift cards.
  4. Cookies: exchange a dozen or more homemade holiday cookies.
  5. Desk: interesting items for the desk.
  6. Gender: men buy random gifts for men, women buy random gifts for women.
  7. Local Lunch Gift Cards: purchase gift certificates to local restaurants.
  8. Magazine: purchase a magazine subscription.
  9. Organize: items will help recipient organize their desk.
  10. Tumblers: insulated water bottles, mugs, Tervis.

Holiday Office Party

Lunch gift cards are a great gift exchange idea for an office party.
Lunch gift cards are a great gift exchange idea for an office party. | Source

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

Holiday Present

Remember to spend time wrapping your gift exchange present to make it look pretty and inviting.
Remember to spend time wrapping your gift exchange present to make it look pretty and inviting. | Source

What Gift Exchange Theme Do You Like the Best?

What is your favorite gift exchange idea?

See results

Best White Elephant Gifts for Gift Exchanges

© 2015 CarlySullens

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    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 20 months ago from USA

      The white elephant gift exchange is one of my favorite activities. You've gone to such great extents to give people ideas and options. I like so many of them. Great job!

    • CarlySullens profile image
      Author

      CarlySullens 20 months ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Thank you Flourish Anyway, it was a lot of fun thinking of the ideas. I also enjoy gift exchanges, they are a lot of fun to shop for and receive.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 20 months ago from Central Florida

      These are some great ideas, Carly. I love the decades theme. I never would have thought of that!

      White Elephant exchanges are a hoot. They can go on forever if you let them!

    • CarlySullens profile image
      Author

      CarlySullens 20 months ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Thank you Bravewarrior. It would be fun picking out presents from the 80's and 70's etc. Event the 40's would be a fund decade theme for gifts they would have a Downton Abbey feel to the presents.

    • Janellegems profile image

      Janellegems 19 months ago from United States

      These are some awesome gift exchange ideas and very unique, thoughtful themes. Wonderful Layout. Thanks for putting this together. Merry Christmas.

    • CarlySullens profile image
      Author

      CarlySullens 19 months ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Thank you Janellegems, it was fun to put together. I am excited to do more gift exchanges of this list. Merry Christmas to you.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 19 months ago from Home Sweet Home

      This is an awesome idea,i wish friends would meet up and exchange gifts. I want a cook Book

    • CarlySullens profile image
      Author

      CarlySullens 19 months ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      A cook book gift exchange is a great idea. Especially, a used cook book, everyone can regift a cookbook they no longer use. Thank you Peachpurple.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 19 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Odd that I wasn't following you....well, I'm glad we reconnected. I have thought of you from time to time and hoped all was well with you.

    • CarlySullens profile image
      Author

      CarlySullens 19 months ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Me too, Bill!!!!! I think of you often as well. Hugs.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 19 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It just dawned on me that it says you live in St. Louis. I thought Florida, or was I hallucinating? Well, glad we found each other again.

    • CarlySullens profile image
      Author

      CarlySullens 19 months ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      You are not hallucinating, Bill. I was in Florida for 8 years. I moved to St. Louis about a year ago. (Just recently changed my location, status on Hubpages. I've been slacking). This past year, I tucked in to take care of myself and family and help the kids with the transition moving to a new state. I'm back in the Midwest and love it. Go Cardinals!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 19 months ago from Olympia, WA

      My dad was born in St. Louis. As a kid I naturally loved the Cardinals....Bob Gibson is a sports' god to me. :) Well I'm glad you enjoy the midwest, and I hope your life is settled and you are happy. You are a good person, my friend. I want you happy. :0

    • Aryan Arora profile image

      Aryan Arora 8 months ago

      Well great ideas ... I need your cooperation .. I am a little poet and want that you also read my hub ... Since I am new in hubpages .. I need your cooperation .....

    • Natalie Frank profile image

      Natalie Frank 4 months ago from Chicago, IL

      What great ideas. This Hub is so full of suggestions and ideas - You have included so many different options it's impossible not to be able to come up with gift exchange themes no matter what time or year or what occasion. Thanks for writing this Hub!

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