Skip to main content

5 alternatives to the dreaded white elephant exchange

It’s that time of year! The dreaded white elephant gift exchange mayhem is about to begin. Whether you are planning a corporate holiday party or a friendly shindig at your own abode, your guests will likely leave the soiree disappointed with the selected gift in hand.

So how do you avoid disappointing your guests, but still provide a fun gift exchange?  Try these five alternatives to the traditional white elephant exchange that will sure please everyone who leaves your party.


1.  Liquor Exchange


This age appropriate exchange is suitable for adult parties such as corporate parties or friend get-togethers. Price the exchange at $15 or $20 and each guest can bring a nice bottle of wine, craft beer selection or a small bottle of their favorite cordial.

Exchange rules are the same as the white elephant – stealing and all.

What makes this one a crowd favorite is that regardless of what package you open, you can always regift it as a hostess gift at your next party.  Even better, crack open the bottles at the party for a taste test.

2.  Scarf Exchange

Get your gal pals together and wrap up a fuzzy, winter scarf to gift. Scarves make a great, one size fits all gift and with all of the patterns and colors available, this is sure to be a fun one.

3.  Bring Your Favorites

Instead of trying to out “gag” each other at the party, bring a gift featuring your favorites: drinks, cozy items, movies, you name it!

This one works great with people of all ages including kids. I once did this one with a Girl Scout troop, and it was great to see the girls share why it was their favorite.

4.  Gift Card Exchange

Let’s be honest for a moment. If someone brings a gift card to a white elephant exchange, it tends to be the most coveted item there, if only because of its use. Put a price tag on what the gift card should be (say $20) and have everyone bring one to the party. Put all of the cards in the same type envelopes when guests arrive (to hide the identities of the stores) and put the envelopes on a Christmas tree. Each guest chooses one envelope from the tree based on white elephant rules.

Again, these make great regifts in a pinch or stocking stuffers for others. But you also can encourage your guests to branch out of the traditional Starbucks and Visa type and hunt for gift cards from small businesses around town (local restaurants or shops).  Judge this based on who your guests are, of course!

5.  Favorite Book

If you have a close knit group, say book club or church group, this works well. Wrap up your favorite book from this year with a little note as to why it touched you. Maybe encourage guests to include a little something extra that reminds you of the book. For instance, Eat, Pray, Love might include a family recipe for spaghetti.

If you have a corporate office group, this could work well if everyone exchanges their favorite business or leadership book.  “Lean In” was given to me by my boss last year and I was touched that he thought to help me develop leadership skills in a male dominated workplace.  Bear in mind, the point of an office party is to have fun, so if you are going to exchange leadership books, you might want everyone to include something in addition, like their favorite way to unwind.  And likely, liquor may come back out!

Lets stop the tradition of terrible white elephants and make people happy to participate. At the very least, they can leave the party with a good gift to pass along to someone else if they get “stuck” with the last pick.  Unless there are plenty of items still up for steals!

What other alternatives to the white elephant exchange have you participated in or planned that was successful?  Do you avoid the white elephant gifts or enjoy it?  What was the best “gag” gift you ever received?

Happy Stealing Everyone!


Smiley face
  • Sinea

    Oh…love all these ideas but especially the scarf exchange! Pinned and tweeted too. 🙂