White Elephant Gift Ideas Perfect for Any Holiday Party

At some point in the past, a wise, old sage figured out that the only thing nicer than sharing is taking. And thus the ancient custom of the “White Elephant” gift exchange was born.

friend gift exchange
Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

Known by various names from “Dirty Santa” to “Yankee Swap,” the larcenous idea is that everybody in the group — office party, family gathering, bowling league, etc. — brings a gift of a pre-set value (let’s say $10). Unlike “Secret Santa,” this custom offers a bit more bloodsport: Gift Receiver No. 1  opens a present, then Gift Receiver No. 2 opens a present. Here’s where it gets interesting: if No. 2 likes No. 1’s present better, then No. 1 has to relinquish the gift. And so it goes, right down the line, where — depending on your group’s rules — the last person to open a present is allowed to choose from any previously opened gift for trade. Hilarity ensues. Hopefully. (Note: Get the exchange over with before too much eggnog is consumed. Wrestling at a holiday party is not a good look.)

As of there isn’t enough pressure on holiday gift-giving, the (usually) low price point and lack of a specific target may leave you momentarily baffled at the vast array of potential gifting choices. Our advice? Go funny. Go wide. Go selfish. You never know — play your cards right and, at the end of the round, you just might end up getting back your own gift.

White Elephant Gift Ideas

Pracitcal Gifts

best white elephant gift ideas practical gifts socks

Lottery Tickets

All it takes is a dollar and a dream, right? And the Powerball is up to how much again? Look, if it’s the winning ticket, you’ll never forgive yourself, but think how much fun you’ll have at the winner’s early retirement party.

Low-Denomination Gift Card

Because nothing says you care like a gift card that looks like you didn’t spend any time thinking about it, other than the five minutes while you were waiting in line at the grocery store?

Socks

Come on. It worked for your aunt every single year when you were a kid. How could it fail now?

Gag Gifts

best white elephant gift ideas stack of toilet paper getty images

36-Pack of Toilet Paper

Because what’s more practical than toilet paper? Pretty much everybody uses it, and the extra-large, gaily-wrapped package is sure to generate a lot of interest…and a lot of ribbing of both giver and receiver.

Dad Jokes Book

We’re relatively certain that there’s a toilet paper joke in here, somewhere. Given the current crop of interest in dads — from jeans to jokes to commercials — a dad joke book is sure to brighten things up around the holiday table.

Fake Poop and Other Gross Things (Within Reason)

We’re not quite sure how fake poop ever became … well, a thing, but let’s just go with it. Think of it as really colorful manure to help stimulate creative growth.

Homemade Gifts

holiday cookies
Foodcollection RF/Getty Images

A Mixtape

Because everyone needs to understand how friggin’ cool Mongolian throat singing, the pop stylings of Pavarotti, or the complete masterworks of DEVO truly are. Admittedly, this goes a little above and beyond in the dedication department, but it’s an awesome opportunity to really pour some of your own personality into creating a truly unique gift.

A Scarf

If you can knit, this one is where it’s at. (You could also just buy one.)

A Tin of Party Mix or Cookies

Why buy a bag of Chex Mix when you can make five times the amount at home for the same price? And then give it away. You can do the same with cookies or any other little treat you happen to know how to make.

Cheap Gifts

Grab a bucket. Fill it up. Tie a bow on it. Done. It could be auto car products, a bunch of coffee mugs, or a hodgepodge of useful little items every day. It won’t cost you much and it will probably end up being the most fought-over present. Enjoy the spirit of giving.

mug gifts
Michelle Patrick/EyeEm/Getty Images

Boozy Gifts

Make sure your gathering is age-appropriate, but this oldie but goodie offers a chance to show up with something that warms more than just the heart. Get bonus points by producing a hand-lettered label for the bottle.

For “real” gift ideas, head over to The Manual’s gift guide for the guy who has everything for a few ideas to get for the man who “needs nothing.”

Auto

You Don’t Need a License to Pilot the FlyNano One-Man Seaplane

You don't need a pilot's license but we do encourage aviator goggles and a bomber jacket.
Food & Drink

Dried and True: How to Make Beef Jerky at Home

Don't be a jerk. Rat some jerky (after you make it yourself).
Food & Drink

The 5 Best Man Crates to Gift Yourself

Everyone deserves to be spoiled. Sometimes, you just have to do it for yourself.
Food & Drink

10 of the Coolest Bar Carts Perfect for Your Man Cave

Can you really call your man cave a man cave without a way to easily access your favorite spirits? No. The answer is no.
Culture

10 Fine Fellows We Lost in 2018

The past year saw the deaths of many notable people, people for whom the world is richer to have had.
Fashion & Style

Tracksmith’s ‘No Days Off’ Line Makes Running in Winter Warm

This apparel makes it fun to run outside in the snow ... which is insane.
Culture

The 15 Best Quotes About Fatherhood You Will Ever Hear

These might help dads feel like maybe they're not such big screw-ups after all. However, they might also make other guys consider enhanced birth control options.
Culture

Why Low-Impact Exercises Should Be an Essential Part of Your Workout

Odds are, it’s not running or daily workouts causing injury, but the lack of low-impact cross-training.
Culture

Get Your Fitness Into Shape with the Best Workout Apps

Finding time to hit the gym can be tough. Get fit at home or on the go with the best workout apps. All it takes is one click to get started. No gym required.
Culture

10 Great Books You Can Read in One Sitting

If you love a good book and you're looking for one (or 10) that you can read in one go, whether while on a flight or bunked down at home, consider any of these brief but masterful novels.
Culture

Celebrate Muhammad Ali’s Birthday on January 17 with the Best Boxing Movies of All Time

It’s only suiting we celebrate his birthday on January 17 in style: binge-watching boxing movies and slipping into our gloves for a sparring session.
Culture

How to Build Your Own Personal Home Gym for Under $350

With a home gym, there are no monthly membership bills or drop-in fees, and you can customize your workout to whatever you're feeling on the day.
Culture

5 Most Common Running Injuries: Tips for Prevention and Treatment

The human machine is a complex system of bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles, but even with the best preparation and training, this machine is subject to break down.
Culture

The Best Resistance Bands for Every Kind of Workout

Not all of us have room for an extensive home gym set-up, in which case you want to invest in versatile and compact pieces, such as resistance bands.