This White Elephant Gift Exchange Variation is Free, Environmentally Friendly, and Tons of Fun

White elephant or “Yankee swap” gift exchanges can be a lot of fun at a Christmas party or any gathering of friends. I even wrote an article about some fun types of gifts to give at an exchange.

But, I’ve always been bothered by the fact that white elephant gifts, while often hilarious, usually have low utility and often end up in a landfill pretty quickly. With today’s environmental problems, not to mention supply chain issues, the last thing we need is to produce more crap that we don’t need.

The “No-Buy” Gift Exchange

The variation of the game that I’m proposing is a “no buy” gift exchange where you are forbidden to spend any money! You must give something that you already own!

There is no limit to the original cost as long as you don’t buy it for this event. You must give something that you already own.

For most Americans, this isn’t a problem. Most of us have tons of stuff we don’t need. Marie Kondo is making a fortune teaching us how to get rid of our crap! Here’s a fun way to get rid of one or two items!

Why It’s More Fun

You’ll find that this variation is even more fun than the original because each gift was actually owned by a player; it tells you more about them than something that is store-bought. Often, it is something hilarious.

You’ll see a wide variety of whacky gifts; not the typical candle type of gift that you’ll see so often at regular white elephant exchanges.

And, because there is no cost limit, you can give something potentially more useful than a gift capped at, say, $30.

Some Ideas

Here are some examples of things you might consider contributing:

  • Clothing that has never been worn because it is so tacky (or outdated)
  • Old CDs or DVDs (cheesy movies are great)
  • Puzzles that you’ve already done
  • Kitchen items you never use
  • Books (self-help books are often hilarious)
  • Food items (i.e., holiday candy that you don’t like)
  • Games you don’t play anymore
  • Exercise equipment
  • Sample products from your place of work
  • Branded swag from your place of work (the tackier, the better)
  • Something you made (for example, a really bad painting!)
  • Any gift you’ve received that you don’t need or like!

Give It a Try This Year

We all have gifts in our closets that we never use, some of which are pretty hilarious in their tackiness. So, at your next family gathering or Christmas party, why not give the “no-buy” white elephant exchange a try?

How did it go for you? Please comment below! – Brian

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Sandie Kimball
Sandie Kimball
2 years ago

I love this idea. I hate Yankee Swaps because they can get so mean-spirited, but I’d be overjoyed to watch people fighting over my used stuff! I’m saving this idea for the next holiday season. Thanks for sharing!