How to Save Money on Gifts with a White Elephant Exchange

White Elephant Exchange – Saving Money on Gifts

There’s a reason why the holidays are generally considered to be the “most wonderful time of the year”, as the old song goes; family and close friends are able to gather together and celebrate because of the time off from work and worries. Old traditions such as Secret Santa Gift Exchanges, and Christmas Carol singing, take center stage to foster the much-needed warmth during the cold season.

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As it pertains to the gift exchange, there are a myriad of variations of this – including the white elephant gift exchange method that minimizes the amount of money spent on gifts, while maximizing the thoughtfulness involved in procuring them.

What, Exactly, is a White Elephant Exchange?

The method involves finding a good thrift store, and shopping there instead of the big department stores. You find considerably cheaper items in the former, which allows you to get quite a few for your loved ones – without stretching your Christmas budget. On the magical day, everyone passes their gifts around while the family patriarch of matriarch reads A Christmas Carol or sings a holiday tune.

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Where does the “white elephant” part come in? Well, a white elephant was originally meant to refer to a cheap gift that the owner didn’t want, and so she gave it to someone else. These days, it’s meant to be symbolic of the idea that it’s the thought that counts – instead of the expense involved in procuring the gift. You don’t even have to shop the clearance aisle of the shop, if you’ve got duplicate items that you don’t need. Just wrap these up lovingly and bring them with you to the family-centered white elephant exchange party on Christmas Day.

How to Implement a White Elephant Exchange – The Rules

Since it’s your party, the rules can vary as much as you like – there are, however, some standards. First of all, the number of family members and close friends needs to line up perfectly with the number of gifts! No one should be left out. After you jot down the names of all the attendees on a slip of paper, place all the slips into a bowl. From here, your guest will, one at a time, pick slips of paper from the bowl. Here’s where it gets fun, and the following represents one of the variations on the white elephant gift exchange method.

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Once the first person opens a gift, the second person can either do the same, or take the first person’s gift. In the event that Person 2 choose to take Person 1’s present, then Person 1 is next in choosing another gift – she can also simply take the original gift back and then Person 2 now has to open a new present (she cannot steal the same gift again). The above process continues on, with new people opening gifts one at a time, until they’re all revealed.

Variations on the White Elephant Gift Exchange Theme

It’s your party, after all, and so you can make quite a few changes while keeping the spirit of the method alive. For example, one rule you can implement is “no stealing.” Basically, you keep the first present you open. Another one is that you can’t hide a gift after it’s been opened. The following is a variation on the preceding rule – there’s a limit to how often any particular gift can be stolen. There are many more options, of course, and you’ll settle on one as the day approaches.

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Gift Options from DIY to Thrift

Because of the sheer plenitude of possible Do It Yourself projects in the average household, you’ve got a lot of options for a DIY white elephant exchange gift. Just check any entitled magazine or, better yet, DIY-inspired website, for gift ideas. These can range from bathroom towels for a family member who wants to upgrade that area, boxes for a garage storage makeover, or a set of kitchen utensils.

Thrift Store Items

Lastly, the thrift store is a veritable paradise of cheap but useful gifts. Even if you implement a $5 cap on individual gifts, you still have access to 90% of the in store items at a thrift shop. Such things as portable wine glasses, reusable coffee cups, drawing pads for the aspiring artists in the family, and many more.

white elephant

The white elephant gift exchange is tailor-made to ensure that all family members and friends receive something for Christmas; more importantly, it fosters an indelible sense of togetherness for the holiday season. It highlights the importance of doing things together, while tossing a sense of fun and novelty in the usual Christmas party, as everyone gathers around the tree to open their end-of-the-year gifts. Consider the gift exchange option this year; perhaps it will become a standard for your family.

Check out our Christmas Gift Guide

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16 thoughts on “How to Save Money on Gifts with a White Elephant Exchange

  1. White elephant gifts are kind of fun. I mean you don’t always get what you want but they’re just goofy little things. I like all your ideas here.

  2. The mens group at our church does this at their Christmas party and my husband says they always have the best time. They do exchange new gifts but they have a $10 limit.

  3. I love this so much! Of course, it’s cheaper, but it also gives so much more of a sense of effort on the gifter’s part. You really have to get out there and look for something great.

  4. The way to really cut costs is to have them pull something from our home. That way there is no cost involved at all.

  5. This is such a good idea, I love the idea of gifting things from charity shops it really is amazing some of the things you can find in them. Last year I got my Dad some amazing books just before Christmas.

  6. Each year I get together with some friends I use to work with and we do a White Elephant Gift Exchange. Oh the switch up on the rules always leads to pure hilarity.

  7. I’ve never participated in one of these (at least that I can remember). It sounds like fun though and I’m all about saving money!

  8. Our family used to do a white elephant gift exchange every Christmas. I never thought of thrifting for it!

  9. We have done white elephant exchanges for years! I love doing them, but my favorites are themed ones. We’ve done Shop from your House, Something Sweet, It’s a Blue, Blue, Blue Christmas. Too fun!!

  10. White elephant gifts can be a challenge. Thanks for the tips, this is helpful. The holidays are so busy that it’s nice to have some help when it comes to shopping.

  11. This is my first time to learn about this and I am glad I was able to learn before I buy gifts. This would be a good idea to find perfect gifts and support locals too.

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