This post was updated on November 30, 2021. The following updates were made: replaced or updated gift ideas and details for 2021. You can find the original post here.
“White Elephant” (also called “Dirty Santa”) games are a fun — sometimes raucous — way to exchange gifts. But since the nature of the game requires generic items, you may end up with a pile of knick-knacks that will inevitably be donated to charity, regifted, or squirrelled away into storage come 2022. But universally enjoyable gifts don’t have to be boring. Instead, you can turn your White Elephant exchange into a heated, high-stakes, and high-larious competition with these creative suggestions.
Speaking of gifts that may be squirreled away: if you find your home in need of a major holiday decluttering, the help of PODS portable storage container used as a staging area may be the ticket. You can get a rundown of a whole-home purge on the PODS Blog.
Now, onto the list!
READY FOR GIFT-OFF: USEFUL WHITE ELEPHANT GIFT IDEAS
Some of the best White Elephant gifts are the ones that have everyone thinking “I know exactly how I’d use that!” Whether multi-purpose or just plain clever, these useful gifts are a no-brainer for your next gift exchange.
COLLAPSIBLE WATER BOTTLE
It seems like we can never have enough reusable water bottles. The E-Senior Collapsible Water Bottle has a clever (and sleek) space-saving design, making it ideal for keeping in your purse, backpack, or carry-on. It’s BPA-free, lightweight, and boasts triple leak-proof protection! And with a 4-star rating, E-Senior’s bottle is a definite people-pleaser.
Bombas took the lowly sock and transformed it into a cult favorite by combining “sock tech” with the spirit of giving back. It turns out that socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in homeless shelters, so Bombas donates one pair of socks for every pair purchased. Now that will spread some cheer at your party! No need to worry about sizes and styles. Just purchase a Bombas digital gift card, print it out, and wrap it up. From high-performance sports to high-fashion colors, Bombas offers every style you can imagine. The hardest part for the lucky recipient will be choosing just one or two.
REUSABLE COFFEE CUP
Who doesn’t love a hot cup of joe? Make your friends’ coffee breaks a little more stylish (and eco-friendly) with the sleek KeepCup. Made from toughened glass and with a natural cork sleeve, this reusable coffee cup (or tea cup) makes a great gift for any hot beverage fan. The best part? The KeepCup receives an average rating of 4.5 stars from more than 2,700 reviews.
NIFTY TRAVEL PILLOW
If you have a travel-happy bunch in your gift exchange group, the Trtl travel pillow will be an in-demand item. The “pillow” is actually a scarf with an internal plastic brace to keep your head propped at a comfortable angle. Seasoned travelers swear by it and, on the plus side, it takes up less space than the typical stuffed travel pillow.
With devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home becoming more and more prevalent, smart plugs will be a sought-after gadget at any gift exchange. The Amysen Smart Plugs not only allow you to add voice control to any outlet, but they can also be controlled by your smartphone or home device remotely. This is one gift that definitely lives up to its name!
TILE MATE ITEM FINDERS
Here’s a gift for the forgetful folks in the group. The Tile Mate uses Bluetooth technology and an app on your smartphone to help you track items that are easily lost. Your keys are an obvious choice, but you could also attach one to your wallet, handbag, backpack, and even your water bottle (to name a few items).
REUSABLE STRAWS WITH A TWIST
With the prevalence of single-use plastics diminishing, a reusable straw set is a top item to have on hand. These collapsible straws from Kynup come in a pack of four, each with its own chic carrying case. Made of food grade stainless steel, they come with silicone tip attachments that feel more comfortable under your lips than all-metal straws as well as a cleaning brush. And with an average rating of 4.5 stars from more than 2,000 reviews, you can be sure these straws will become a regular guest in your friend’s future smoothies.
A small houseplant will liven up any home in the winter. Sure, you could give a gift card from The Sill, an indoor houseplant delivery service, but the idea of marking up your present with “Caution!” and “Fragile, this way up!” labels is a fun prospect to stoke intrigue among fellow gift exchangers, right? Go for a quirky-looking, low-maintenance succulent that requires very little water.
LESS WASTE, MORE FUN: WHITE ELEPHANT GIFTS FOR MINIMALISTS
Keeping the minimalists among your friends, family, and office in mind, experience gifts are another thoughtful way to give without adding to household clutter. Here are a few White Elephant gifts that minimalists will love.
Help White Elephants get a leg up on their New Year’s resolutions with passes to a local fitness studio or gym. Depending on the group, you could go zen with yoga passes or high-energy with CrossFit. Or let the recipient decide by gifting ClassPass credits, which will give them access to thousands of gyms and fitness studios (as well as salons and spas). This gift provides a great opportunity to test out some new fitness styles or spa treatments. Hip hop spin class, anyone?
Not only can you feel good about helping to support journalists and print media, but magazine subscriptions are also a gift that minimalists can enjoy and recycle once they’ve finished reading them. Or better yet, you can offer an online subscription for a totally waste-free gift. Check out Magazine Store for an extensive list of giftable subscriptions.
A set of passes to a new exhibit or well-loved museum are a hot-ticket item for culture-forward gift exchangers. Depending on your budget, you could also get a subscription for an annual gallery or museum membership. Check Groupon for membership and ticket deals, which often come around the holidays.
MEDITATION APP SUBSCRIPTION
The holidays are definitely a time when stress levels are high, which makes the appeal of a subscription to a meditation app all the more enticing. These apps give you access to guided meditations along with more focused content, like relaxing before going to bed or combatting anxiety. Try Headspace, which offers both monthly and yearly subscription options.
GIFT CERTIFICATE FOR FOODIES
The way to anyone’s heart is through their stomach, right? That’s why restaurant gift certificates are always a no-fail option. Instead of buying a gift card for a large chain or restaurant group, get specific with a hot new restaurant or a trendy bakery in town. That way, you’ll have everyone in the group salivating as they think about the delicious eats in store for them.
SCRIBD OR AUDIBLE SUBSCRIPTION
While it’s tempting to give books during the holidays, minimalists will appreciate having access to the electronic versions of texts. Scribd has millions of titles in its library of ebooks, magazines, audiobooks, and more, with monthly subscriptions available. For those who prefer a platform focused solely on audiobooks, Audible’s library is considered stronger in that category. Its subscription includes one audiobook per month and unlimited access to the “Plus Catalog” of originals, audiobooks, and podcasts.
SCRATCH-OFF LOTTO TICKETS
Keep the thrill of White Elephant exchanges going long after the wrapping paper comes off with scratch-off lottery tickets. You can turn a $20 or $30 gift into much, much more if the recipient is lucky enough to get a winning ticket! Just be sure that all participants are at least 21 years old.
VIDEO STREAMING MEMBERSHIP
Nowadays, it seems most people have dropped the traditional TV cable package for video streaming subscriptions. Gone are the days when the only option was Netflix (or when some people still didn’t have Netflix). Consider one of the other popular streaming options, as well, such as Hulu, Disney+, or HBO Max as a fun White Elephant gift.
Need more ideas? Check out our list of gift ideas that won’t end up in storage to discover more gems for your holiday.