The Best White Elephant Gift Ideas for 2020
No white elephant gift exchange is made alike, but it’s safe to say there’s a huge variety of white elephant gifts that work no matter the crowd. That’s no small feat: A white elephant exchange (also known as a Yankee swap) might include coworkers, distant friends, family members of different generations, or other mixed ages and personalities, so a gift that could speak to all those people is a tricky find. Tricky—but not impossible.
In lieu of dependable-but-dull gift card ideas, try these white elephant gift ideas or Yankee swap gifts, all available for less than $50. They’ll make people taking part in the exchange smile and, with any luck, your gift will be the item at the end of the game that everyone’s trying to nab. (Just don’t get too smug about it.) With this guide, finding the best white elephant gifts for your next exchange—whatever the occasion—will be a breeze, so you can both be proud of your contribution and keep your attention on the other tasks on your to-do list.
What is a white elephant gift exchange?
Before we get to the gift ideas, we’re going to talk about what a white elephant gift is. If you’re not familiar with this popular ritual, it involve purchasing a relatively inexpensive gift to present anonymously at your next get-together, office party, or family gathering. It’s a good idea to establish a set budget when the party invitation goes out, so everyone’s on the same page.
Each attendee places their wrapped gift in a pile, draws a number, and selects a gift from the pile in that order. The subsequent numbers can either choose a white elephant gift from the unwrapped pile or steal from anyone who has already opened a gift. The game continues until every wrapped gift has been opened. The more playful and interesting the gift, the better—the point is to have a little fun.
What is a Yankee swap?
In a Yankee swap, participants have the choice to keep or swap an open gift. Instead of choosing to open a gift or steal one, they choose a gift, open it, and then decide if they want to keep it, or swap it with someone else’s already opened gift. With both gift exchanges, though, neutral gifts are key—specific gifts for men or gifts for women can make the game less interesting.
White elephant gift exchanges or Yankee swaps typically take place during the holiday season as a more affordable, less stressful alternative to buying Christmas gifts for every party attendee (or worse, having to give a Secret Santa gift to someone you know not-so-well), but in theory, you could exchange gifts at any time of year. The white elephant gift ideas ahead will have you covered, no matter the occasion.
These laser-cut handheld mazes are perfect for fidgeting during a video call or a Netflix binge-session. As a white elephant gift idea, mazes and handheld toys are fun, interactive, and sure to draw out some competition—everyone will be scrambling to claim this gift and take it home.
If your group consists of both green thumbs and avocado fans, bring this white elephant gift to the party. This clear vase allows you to nest an avocado pit in the top to grow your very own plant. You can watch the roots and the sprout grow in both directions, making this both a fun activity and a piece of artwork for a windowsill or shelf.
Google Nest Mini
People might be shocked that you brought this to the gift exchange, but they shouldn’t be—the Google Nest Mini is available at a super affordable price point and is sure to be the best white elephant gift. Let everyone think of you as the incredibly generous friend who brought a smart home assistant to the exchange—you can ride that reputation all the way to next year’s gathering.
Sipski Shower Wine Glass Holder
Be prepared to bring the most stolen item at your white elephant party. Both practical and funny, using this shower wine glass holder is an easy way to relax after a long day.
DYFTD Did You Feed The Dog?
Pet-owning friends will love this feeding tracker, which easily mounts on a refrigerator (it’s magnetic) or sticks to a wall to demonstrate if the dog has or has not received food. Anyone without a pet might not understand, but those with a dog—especially those with multiple household members charged with feeding the dog, or those with not-so-great memories—definitely will.
Doughnuttery Do It Yourself Mini Doughnut Making Kit
Donut fans and New Yorkers alike will be eager (hungry?) to bring this white elephant gift idea home from the exchange—and, once they’ve had some of the donuts, they’ll be begging you to bring more next time.
Chefanie Farfalle Barrettes
Everyone at the white elephant exchange will get a good laugh out of these adorable hair clips—and then they’ll all be jealous of whoever gets to take them home. Contribute this gift to the exchange, and this year’s celebration will always be remembered as the year of the pasta barrettes.
Scripted Fragrance Corgi Soy Candle
Any dog-lover will be itching to get their hands on this fresh, all-natural candle. First, because it smells great, and second, because of the adorable dog-themed branding and candle label. The Corgi scent is a lightweight mix of lemongrass, wildflower, and jasmine, but candles are available in many different dog breeds—and there’s a Rescue dog candle—so you can pick the right candle for the dog-owners in your circle.
Speks 2.5mm Magnet Balls
These flexible, putty-like magnets are sure to be a sought-after item at your white elephant gift exchange, especially if there are thumb-fiddlers and fidgeters in the group. They can be an office tchotchke or a tool to keep in the car for spare moments of zen at stoplights; wherever they go, whoever brings them home at the end of the day will love playing with them.
Wander Puzzle Co. The Movement puzzle
Any puzzle-fan at your gift exchange will love taking this white elephant gift home. Colorful and challenging enough to provide a few hours’ entertainment (at least), this 500-piece puzzle will be snapped up before you know it.
Peanut Butter Spoon
If there aren’t any allergy sufferers among your white elephant exchange group, bring this spoon to the mix. It’s likely that everyone indulges in a jar of PB—or, even better, Nutella, or their spread of choice—every so often, and this handy spoon just makes that indulgence easier. And if they’re constantly making peanut butter sandwiches for little ones (or themselves), not eating the stuff straight from a jar with a spoon, they’ll appreciate the ability to get every bit out.
Making decisions is hard, but fortunately, this little paperweight makes it easier. They can keep it on their desk or the kitchen counter for keeping mail, notes, and other odds and ends in place, and when they need to decide if they’re going to the store today or tomorrow or picking between pizza or Chinese takeout for dinner, this little white elephant gift can help. Just give it a spin, and it’ll make any choice so much simpler.
Umbra Trigg Hanging Planter Vase
Pair this set of hanging planters with two mini plants to make the ultimate white elephant gift. It’s a stylish option that’s still reasonably priced—perfect for staying under a price limit.
BedShelfie The Original Bedside Shelf
When it comes to gift exchanges, you can’t go wrong with a practical gift that’ll be put to good use, and that’s exactly what we love about this bedside shelf that has more than 1,100 five-star reviews on Amazon. Simple in design, the BedShelfie is a game-changer for small rooms that don’t have space for a full night stand. Available in four different sizes, the compact shelf can hold up to 15 pounds and has built-in groves along the sides so you can keep your devices connected and your cords organized.
Hallmark Christmas Ornament Friends Central Perk
If you and your pals have already binge-watched Friends on Netflix, this commemorative ornament will be a hit at your next gift exchange. Reminisce on all the days the Friends crew hung out at the Central Perk cafe—without having to relive Phoebe's infamous “Smelly Cat” song.
Mr. Coffee Mug Warmer
This coffee mug warmer with more than 4,000 five-star reviews on Amazon is the desk accessory you never knew you needed. For those times your coffee gets cold too quickly, this handy, portable, and on-budget gadget was made for coffee lovers who are in constant need of a warm cup of Joe. Plus, the indicator light lets you know when your beverage is warm and ready to drink.
Nail Polish Holder
This silicone nail polish holder will probably elicit some confused looks upon opening. This ring slash nail polish holder slash drip catcher will actually come in handy when there is no flat surface around—once the person figures out its intended purpose, of course.
Five Two Silicone Straws
Saving the planet isn’t just cool—it’s also super important and, with these reusable straws, super easy. Slip these into your Yankee swap, and everyone will be scrambling to take these portable, bendable, colorful straws home. It includes 10 straws in irresistible colors, so everyone could get one … if their lucky final owner decides to share.
GE Lighting LED+ Speaker Light Bulb
A lightbulb? Just hear us out: This lightbulb doubles as a Bluetooth speaker, turning any lamp or light fixture into a music machine. Let your contribution be the sleeper agent of the gift exchange by putting the bulb in different packaging and waiting to explain what makes it special, then watch the audiophiles scramble to take it home.
Smartish iPhone Wallet Case
Anyone and everyone at your white elephant exchange will be scrambling for this clever phone case, which is sleek and good-looking but also super practical, thanks to the attached fabric wallet that can hold three cards plus cash. The case is available in different colors and phone sizes, so you can tailor it for your gift exchange audience.
OontZ Angle 3 Portable Bluetooth Speaker
The winner of this powerful, portable speaker can turn anywhere they go into a party. The speaker is splash-proof, with surprisingly powerful volume—a great gift for anyone (and affordable, too).
Mindfulness Card Set
Bring this one to the white elephant gift exchange among your yoga-going, matcha-drinking friends. This deck of 50 cards includes prompts and exercises that encourage peace of mind and body. Your strung-out or peace-seeking friends can pull out a card whenever they’re feeling stuck, but someone has to win the deck in the gift exchange first.
Dad Jokes Book
Initial reactions upon unwrapping this book may range from groans to snickers, but the tried-and-true comedy of classic Dad Jokes won’t go unnoticed by anyone at your white elephant gift exchange this year.
The Chef’s Portable Multi-Tool
This pocket-sized gizmo holds twelve stainless steel kitchen tools, including a spoon, a grater, and a peeler—perfect for your gathering with outdoor enthusiasts, chronic picnickers, or on-the-go foodies.
One Line a Day Five-Year Journal
For the nostalgic types—or those who feel like the last five years have just flown by—introduce this journal to your next gift-sharing gathering. Your more literary acquaintances will be scrambling to keep it by the end of the Yankee swap (and there’s a good chance whoever doesn’t take it home will be picking it up for themselves the next chance they get).
BrüMate Insulated Champagne Flute
Raise a perfectly chilled glass of bubbly where ever you go with this insulated flute, which looks great in any setting and keeps your celebratory drink of choice cool for hours. In your white elephant gift exchange, this one’s sure to get stolen and make the rounds a few times until the game is done.
Bluetooth Banana Phone
Add this gift to the pile to get a good laugh out of your fellow white elephant gift exchange attendees. Someone’s sure to break out in the bananaphone song—and someone else is sure to be itching to take this funny-but-useful gift home, particularly if they have kids (or they’re just a kid at heart).
Scentered Portable Aromatherapy Balms Gift Set
Most people in your circle are likely stressed, distracted, or sleep-deprived sometimes—or a lot of the time—and will likely leap at the chance to nab a portable essential oil balm formulated to alleviate those issues at the annual gift exchange. This kit includes five pocket-sized balms in a subtle tin, perfect for staying calm, focused, happy, and more anywhere and everywhere.