Which white elephant gift is best?
The gift-giving season is a fun one, especially when it comes to holiday parties. In lieu of traditional gift-giving to each person in an office or group, a white elephant gift exchange is a cost-effective, fun alternative.
Once the group decides on a price limit, participants purchase a gift to bring to the white elephant party. Since you don’t know who will end up with it, part of the fun is coming up with gifts that are hilarious, practical or shocking. You can play it safe with a gift that has universal appeal or go with a fun gift.
What to know before buying a white elephant gift
How the game works
To organize the white elephant game, first determine how many guests are involved. Next, decide on a price point for gifts, keeping them affordable for everyone. After that, set the ground rules: if you don’t want mature-themed gifts or prefer nonfood items, let people know before they begin shopping.
At the time of the party, guests arrive with their wrapped white elephant gifts. Numbers are pulled to see who gets first pick at the gifts, or can steal someone else’s. If you’re truly following the rules, guests are only able to steal two gifts. Lastly, everyone opens their gift to see their surprise.
Choose gifts based on the type of group
The game can push the limits with funny white elephant gifts among friends and family, but they might not be appropriate for the office or team parties. Not everyone has the same sense of humor, so a good rule is to purchase a gift that won’t cause someone to look at you differently after opening it. On the other hand, if you’re with friends and try to outdo one another, the sky’s the limit, especially with white elephant gag gifts.
Popular gifting ideas
- Something that involves others: white elephant gifts that involve others include board games, food baskets, or even popular DVDs. These make great family-friendly gifts and boost the chances that your gift will be used and enjoyed by as many people as possible. Food baskets can also take the shape of giant popcorn tins, cookie trays or specialty baking projects.
- Something that solves a problem: Practical gifts might seem boring, but consider a common problem among the group to which everyone can relate. Power banks are great for charging devices on the go, and car de-icer kits help someone clean off their car for a safe ride home in snowy conditions. Leather shoe polish kits are also popular, as they include products that can be used on other leather items.
- Something for self-care: White elephant self-care gifts are thoughtful and safe. They’re items the recipient will enjoy but would not necessarily purchase for themselves. These can be bath and spa sets or small aromatherapy kits. Gift cards also fall into this category, especially for popular restaurants or coffee shops.
How much you can expect to spend on a white elephant gift
White elephant gifts usually have $10 to $25 limits among friends and coworkers. Some families opt to spend a little bit more and may push it to as much as $50.
White elephant gifts FAQ
Q. I’m concerned the recipient won’t like or can’t use their white elephant gift. What should I do?
A. Since you don’t know who’ll end up with the gift, consider including the gift receipt. That way, if the gift isn’t to their liking, they can discreetly return it for something they’ll truly enjoy.
Q. Should we include children in the white elephant gift exchange?
A. It can get expensive if you start to include children, as parents end up footing the bill for an extra gift. You can do a modified gift for kids exchange and limit it to less than $5 per child if it’s affordable and amenable to the whole family.
What are the best white elephant gifts to buy?
Best white elephant gift for the money
Our take: This is a budget-conscious white elephant Christmas gift. It will become a seasonal favorite for the recipient.
What we like: It’s got a cute design and a cozy fit. It’s a great gift for the person who is truly a homebody in the colder months.
What we dislike: Some people found it too small.
Best self-care and wellness white elephant gifts
Our take: It’s a genuinely thoughtful gift. It’s light reading, offering useful life hacks from the Danish way of living well.
What we like: All-encompassing subject material including fitness, fashion, décor, and even recipes.
What we dislike: Because it’s pretty inexpensive, you may need to pair it with something else to meet your white elephant price limit.
Our take: If you’re looking for a self-care gift, this affordable bubbly foot spa is the top choice.
What we like: It delivers a relaxing experience with invigorating bubbles. The splash guard minimizes the potential for spills, and toe-touch controls let users adjust settings without much effort.
What we dislike: Unlike similar foot spas, this does not have heat settings.
Our take: This therapy dough is infused with essential oils for stress relief, the perfect gift for someone who fidgets or needs to unwind after a long day.
What we like: The dough was modeled after clay used by art therapists and, according to customers, it smells heavenly. You can squish it, squeeze it, and shape it however you like. It’s nice that the dough combines both stress relief and aromatherapy.
What we dislike: Some users complained that the dough dried out quickly; however, the makers recommend you simply add a bit of vegetable oil or essential oil to fix that.
Best practical white elephant gifts
Our take: The Yeti Rambler lowball comes with the brand’s signature MagSlider Lid that seals in heat and cold so beverages are enjoyed at optimal temperatures.
What we like: It’s vacuum-insulated to keep drinks hot or warm for several hours. The sweat-free design keeps hands and gloves dry, and the sturdy construction will let you enjoy this vessel for a long time.
What we dislike: It keeps beverages ice-cold, but is less effective at keeping them warm.
Our take: Not only does this car wash kit come with full-size products, it’s also a convenient gift that most people can use.
What we like: The products are formulated by a trusted brand known for its streak-free shine, and there’s enough in this kit to cover at least half a dozen cleanings. A bonus pack of four air fresheners is included.
What we dislike: The glass wipes may dry out quickly, even though they’re packaged in a resealable tube.
Our take: This Cross pen features a timeless design, ideal for white elephant exchanges at work.
What we like: The well-balanced design is comfortable for long periods of writing. Sleek polished chrome details give it an upscale appearance. It will last through years of use.
What we dislike: It’s much heavier and thicker than everyday disposable pens.
Best white elephant gifts for foodies
Our take: Someone who loves to grill can spice up an array of dishes with this extensive seasoning set.
What we like: The set includes a well-rounded variety of flavors, and it comes in a giftable box. The spices are vegan-friendly, non-genetically modified and gluten-free.
What we dislike: Some felt the spices were too salty, so be conservative as you’re testing them out.
Our take: This mini waffle maker quickly and easily whips up a favorite comfort food, garnering the stamp of approval from the BestReviews Testing Lab.
What we like: It heats up and cooks waffles within minutes. The cool-touch handle allows safe waffle retrieval. It comes in many designs, including festive ones.
What we dislike: If you plan on making several waffles at a time, it’s not ideal.
Our take: This miniature microwave popcorn maker melts butter, measures kernels and pops them for a classic, tasty snack.
What we like: It’s mess-free and more affordable than buying popcorn bags at the grocery store.
What we dislike: Since it produces a small quantity, it’s not great for group movie nights or snack sessions.
Best white elephant gifts for cocktail lovers
Our take: Since Moscow Mules are a favorite festive beverage, this four-mug set is an ideal white elephant gift.
What we like: The copper-plated mugs feature the signature hammered design and slender handles. Stainless steel construction makes the mugs durable.
What we dislike: The mugs require hand-washing; they may get stained or damaged in dishwashers.
Our take: This set of two large stainless steel stones will keep wine, cocktails and other beverages chilled.
What we like: Given their size, you only need to use one per glass. A storage case is included, and the stones are dishwasher-safe.
What we dislike: Some users complained about the annoying sound the stones make when knocked against a glass.
Our take: This kit will have the user making the perect drink every time, and includes enough rum for three daiquiris.
What we like: It’s conveniently portable, and the brand offers other kits for a variety of beverages; champagne, gin and tonics, mai tais, mojitos and more.
What we dislike: A limited number of buyers complained about missing parts.
Best cute and quirky white elephant gifts
Our take: It’s hard to outshine this cuddly avocado at white elephant exchanges.
What we like: At 7 inches, this thick and soft avocado is an ideal kids plush toy or decorative pillow. It features a friendly face and vibrant green colors.
What we dislike: It may fall over if it’s not leaned against something.
Our take: This set of 100 cards is a must-have for the dog lover in your life, decoding dog behaviors and teaching them how to effectively communicate with their pup.
What we like: These cards can foster a deeper bond between a dog and their owner, and there’s even extra information on each breed. Plus, there’s a similar set for cat owners.
What we dislike: The card format means there’s no organization of the information.
Our take: This silly gummy bear will brighten up the room it inhabits during the day. At night, squishing its belly turns on a built-in light.
What we like: The bear comes in four fun colors: pink, green, blue and purple.
What we dislike: This cute, funny gift only provides ambient lighting, so it’s not particularly bright.
Other white elephant gifts worth checking out
Our take: This charming little ceramic mug takes the white elephant gift theme literally, perfect for the tea lover in your life.
What we like: The handy tea bag holder that rests in the elephant’s head minimizes mess.
What we dislike: With a 5-ounce capacity, it’s on the small side.
Our take: This bestselling handheld milk frother comes with a sleek chrome stand, making it practical and presentation-worthy.
What we like: The Zulay is simple to operate for beginners, and the steel whisk is easy to clean and rinse off. It can froth all milk varieties, including soy creamers and nut milks.
What we dislike: The frother and stand can be knocked over easily.
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Sian Babish writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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