75+ Gift Exchange Ideas

Updated on September 14, 2018
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

What Is a Gift Exchange?

Participants in a gift exchange, also called Secret Santa, agree to purchase one gift for the recipient they were assigned. Instead of buying a gift for everyone in their group, the giver can narrow their search to focus on the perfect present. Gift exchanges can help reduce the stress of finding holiday gifts by saving money and time. These gifts are usually exchanged at a holiday party.

First, Set a Budget

Setting a budget will ensure that all gifts cost an agreed-upon amount. If a budget is not set some gift givers might overspend, while others spend very little. One consideration when setting a budget is to choose a budget everyone can afford.

Source

How to Do a Gift Exchange

Setting up a gift exchange is easy.

  1. Chose someone to be in charge.
  2. Write down 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).
  3. Pull the names and inform each person whom they will buy for.
  4. Set a budget.
  5. Each person buys a gift for their selected recipient.
  6. Each gift giver wraps their present in festive paper.
  7. 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 chosen theme. Below are 75 gift exchange themes to choose from.

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

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.

White Elephant Gift Exchange Theme Ideas

  1. ABCs: Pick a random letter; gifts must begin with this letter.
  2. Antiques: Gift items that can be found at an antique store.
  3. Aprons: Design personalized aprons for fun, functional, and seasonal gifts.
  4. Art: Gift pictures or sculptures, or host a craft fair.
  5. As seen on TV: Gift novelty items that have the 'As seen on TV' logo.
  6. Baked goods: Make yummy holiday baked goods.
  7. Batteries included: All presents must include a battery.
  8. Books: They can be fiction, non-fiction, history books, etc.
  9. Calendars: These gifts are perfect for the end of the year.
  10. Chocolate: Gift dark chocolate, milk chocolate, or mixed chocolate.
  11. Classic toys: Exchange timeless toys from the past.
  12. Class: Gift a gym membership, music class, art class, or language class.
  13. Color: All gifts must be a chosen color.
  14. Cookbooks: Gift books on how to barbecue or make desserts or 30-minute meals.
  15. Decades: Gifts should reflect a chosen decade such as the 1940s, 1960s, or 1980s.
  16. Donation in their name: Choose a charity that reflects the recipient's personality and make a donation in their name.
  17. Electronic accessories: Purchase headphones, extra charging chords, cases, or screen protectors.
  18. First letter of their name: Gift items that start with the same letter as the recipient's first name.
  19. Games: Gift board games, card games, or video games.
  20. Go green: Purchase or create organic, recycled, or eco-friendly gifts.
  21. Handle with care: Gift delicate items (interpreted by the giver).
  22. Holiday greenery: Create wreaths, or decorate small trees or centerpieces.
  23. Homemade: Gift items made at home such as knitted crafts, art, or baked goods.
  24. Kitchenware: Gift kitchenware such as utensils, trivets, or oven mitts.
  25. Let there be light: Purchase candles, lamps, or artistic night lights.
  26. Liquor: Buy a bottle of brandy, rum, or vodka for the recipient.
  27. Movie: Gift movie tickets, popcorn baskets, or a DVD.
  28. Mug: A personalized artistic or funny mug is a great gift idea.
  29. Nationality: Items must reflect a certain nationality such as Italian, Irish, or Canadian.
  30. Naughty and nice: Naughty or nice items (to be interpreted by the gift giver).
  31. News: Buy gifts inspired by a news story from the past year.
  32. Numbers: Pick a random number and have all gifts feature the number in some way.
  33. Ornaments: Design personalized, decorative novelty ornaments.
  34. Outdoors: Gift items that can be used outdoors.
  35. Perfume/cologne: Exchange scents.
  36. Pet: Purchase items for each other's pets.
  37. Retro: Presents reflect the past.
  38. Salt and pepper shakers: These can be funny or retro, and are just plain useful.
  39. Scarf and gloves: Especially in colder climates, exchange scarves and gloves for a useful gift.
  40. Snow globe: These can be modern or antiques, and can range in size.
  41. Socks: Exchange crazy socks, holiday-themed socks, or just plain warm, fuzzy socks.
  42. Soft: Exchange gifts with a "soft" theme such as blankets, pillows, and sweaters.
  43. Spa: Have a spa theme and exchange lotions, sea salt scrubs, and facial creams.
  44. Sports: Purchase gear from your recipient's favorite sports team.
  45. Store: Items can only be purchased at one store such as Target, Best Buy, or Walgreens.
  46. Survivor: Pick a "survivor" theme and exchange items such as pocket knifes, flashlights, and blankets.
  47. Sweaters: Go with an ugly sweater, holiday sweater, or cozy sweater theme.
  48. Time: Exchange items relating to time such as pocket watches and clocks.
  49. Tiny: Items must fit in a brown paper lunch bag.
  50. Travel: Choose a "travel" theme and exchange eye masks, passport holders, or small briefcases.
  51. T-shirt: Design funny or creative t-shirts.
  52. Weather: Go with a weather theme and exchange umbrellas, gloves, sunglasses, and scarves.
  53. Wine: Purchase red or white bottles of wine.
  54. Wine accessories: Instead of buying bottles of wine, exchange glasses, wine cork crafts, and bottle openers.

Collecting old photos or printing off digital photos to make a photo album is a wonderful keepsake gift exchange idea for any family member.
Collecting old photos or printing off digital photos to make a photo album is 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 interpret the theme as the giver wishes.

  1. Heirlooms: Gift family memorabilia and pass down family heirlooms and jewelry.
  2. Meals: Make a favorite family recipe that can be frozen, reheated, and eaten—everyone enjoys a pre-prepared meal around the holidays.
  3. Memories: Come up with gifts that recall a positive memory the giver has about the recipient.
  4. Pajamas: Everyone gives their sizes and receives a new pair of pajamas within the designated budget.
  5. Personalize: Personalize items such as a family doormat or cutting board.
  6. Photos: Put photos on mugs; or create a photo calendar, photo album, or photo blanket.
  7. Room: Pick a room of the house such as the kitchen, family room, playroom, or garage—items reflect the theme of that room.
  8. Re-gift: Find an item in your home you are no longer using that would be perfect for your recipient.
  9. Second-hand finds: These can be items found in thrift shops, garage sales, or eBay.
  10. Words: Write kind words about the recipient such as a poem or a story about why you love them.

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
Personalized specialty item
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: Make sure that they are artistic or personalized.
  3. Coffee: Purchase mugs, gourmet coffee beans, or coffee gift cards.
  4. Cookies: Exchange a dozen or more homemade holiday cookies.
  5. Desk: Get 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: Get items that will help the recipient organize their desk.
  10. Tumblers: Exchange items such as personalized insulated water bottles or mugs.

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

How to Play the White Elephant (or Yankee Swap) Exchange Game

Here are the simple rules to a White Elephant or Yankee Swap gift exchange game. Feel free to add your own variations to the game.

1. Everyone brings a wrapped gift.

2. Place the presents together so everyone can see them.

3. Players determine what order they will go in, for example, you could:

  • draw numbers,
  • order the players by how they are seated,
  • order the players by the time they arrived at the party,
  • or order the players 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 of the game, the person who went first has an opportunity to swap their gift for any other opened gift.

Source: Official White Elephant Gift Exchange Rules

Gift Exchange Game Idea: Number the Gifts

As each wrapped present arrives, place a number on the gift. You can use a sticker or tape the number on the present. Write the same numbers on folded scrap pieces 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 number.

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

Questions & Answers

    © 2015 Carly Sullens

    Comments

    Submit a Comment

    • CarlySullens profile imageAUTHOR

      Carly Sullens 

      3 months ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Hi Juggle Jack, yes, memory gifts are good for making a group laugh.

    • CarlySullens profile imageAUTHOR

      Carly Sullens 

      3 months ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Thank you Linda, I appreciate your feedback.

    • CarlySullens profile imageAUTHOR

      Carly Sullens 

      3 months ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Thank you Habibur. I appreciate it.

    • anikathakur profile image

      anika thakur 

      9 months ago from New delhi

      its nice ideas for Christmas gift exchange. Thank you

    • Allain Christmas profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      10 months ago from Central Florida

      I'll keep your article in mind, as I'm seeing lots of people asking for ideas on Facebook for their gift exchanges.

    • sarahspradlin profile image

      Sarah Spradlin 

      10 months ago from Little Rock, Arkansas

      Love these themes. I've never thought about doing that! Thank you.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      10 months ago from Germany

      Wow! Loads of great ideas. Thanks for sharing.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      10 months ago from sunny Florida

      Lots of fun suggestions....we used to have gift exchanges when I was still teaching...what fun it was.

      Angels are on the way to you this evening ps

    • MomsTreasureChest profile image

      MomsTreasureChest 

      10 months ago

      Fun ideas, thanks for sharing. Happy Holidays!

    • alexarain379 profile image

      Alexa Rain 

      10 months ago from egypt

      Fantastic best arrangement for everything related to gifts, it is look like a bank of gifts, Great Hub.

    • jugglejack profile image

      Juggle Jack 

      10 months ago from Indonesia

      memory is good to make the group laugh

    • Linda L Paquette profile image

      Linda L Paquette 

      12 months ago from New Hampshire/ Massachusettes

      Love your ideas, great article!

    • Habibsohel35 profile image

      Habibur Rahman Sohel 

      12 months ago from London

      What great ideas for gift exchange, i like the all ideas you shared here.

    • Natalie Frank profile image

      Natalie Frank 

      19 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!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      2 years 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

    • CarlySullens profile imageAUTHOR

      Carly Sullens 

      2 years 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 

      2 years 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 imageAUTHOR

      Carly Sullens 

      2 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

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

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      2 years 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 imageAUTHOR

      Carly Sullens 

      2 years 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.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 

      2 years 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 imageAUTHOR

      Carly Sullens 

      2 years 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.

    • Janellegems profile image

      Janellegems 

      2 years 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 imageAUTHOR

      Carly Sullens 

      2 years 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.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      2 years 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 imageAUTHOR

      Carly Sullens 

      2 years 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.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      2 years 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!

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