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White Elephant Gift Exchange: Tips AND Free Printables (Invitations & Rules)

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If you’re hosting or attending a white elephant gift exchange this month, here are some tips and free printables to help with this fun Christmas tradition! A white elephant gift exchange is a popular game where each member of a group brings a funny/interesting wrapped present of a certain dollar amount – entertainment then ensues as people exchange and steal gifts. And everyone ends up a winner with a gift!

How do I get started?

  • The game usually works best with at least 4-6 people and even more fun with larger groups.
  • Decide on a dollar amount for gifts AHEAD of time so it’s pretty even and communicate this information on your invitation. Click HERE to print a free invitation!
  • Also decide if you want a specific themed gift such as exchanging only holiday ornaments, kid’s toys, or books! Some people even choose to do re-gifts or small items they may not use at home any longer which involves no spending at all.

Click HERE: FREE PRINTABLE White Elephant Gift Exchange Invitations

White Elephant Invitations Free

What are the rules?

  • Click HERE for some basic white elephant gift exchange rules that you can print out and display at your event!
  • Place limits on exchanging or stealing gifts so the game will have an ending point. Visit for more detailed directions.
  • If you are thinking of planning this activity for very young children, first read the rules and then decide if your kids can handle it. (Side Note: I made this mistake once and there were tears because some kids were too young to understand the concept of picking a present and then having it taken away 🙁 ).

Click HERE: FREE PRINTABLE White Elephant Gift Exchange Rules

White Elephant Gift Exchange Rules

What do I bring?

In general, most white elephant gifts are under $20. You could go with a funny gift like a clever coffee mug, book, or Christmas ornament. Functional yet creative gifts are also popular. An example would be a fun kitchen gadget like this pineapple core remover, a hot sauce keychain, or a set of holiday cookie cutters. The more interesting the gift is, the more fun the game will be 🙂

white elephant gift ideas
Have you ever been to or hosted a white elephant gift exchange? If so, what did you bring? Any other tips you can offer?

Join The Discussion

Comments 52

  1. Lindak

    We do a white elephant at work. The funniest gift we had was a singing Christmas door mat. It was passed around for several years. The Bath and Body Works candle I wrapped last year was popular.

    • Lina (Hip's Modern Martha)

      Oh funny!

    • julesandjaid

      A little plug for this. My 18 yr old daughter has a White Elephant party every year. They now use hobonija (sister site to 13deals) for these pre packaged white elephant gifts. They are worth WAY more than $10 but it is so nice because no one adds more shopping or wrapping to their to do lists so no hassle and everyone is surprised by everything. The kids all bring a baked treat and the $10 to pay her back for ordering and everyone has a blast. The gifts range from great to funny to absolutely ridiculous but they have never had more fun. We loved it so much we signed up for their monthly subscription box which is essentially a surprise every month and haven’t been disappointed yet. As I said we use Hoboninja which is more combo geek/gadget vs 13deals which is a little more gadget only.

  2. candice

    I’ve always gotten small things as one gift. The first year I found a work survivors guide and tagged the small work area portion since our work area was pretty small. Then I found a mug with the keep calm and carry on. Finished it off with some chocolate.

    • Lina (Hip's Modern Martha)

      Cute idea!

  3. Vanessa

    I couldn’t attend one year because my daughter was just a few weeks old and we wanted to get rid of our turtle so I put in a box with paper and little tiny vent holes and wrote fragile all over . My friend took it and took good care of it and made sure it didn’t get tossed around . All the women thought it was fake at first then all realized it was real! Sugar the turtle got a very good home…

    • sarah

      Haha, 2 birds with one stone… Awesome!

    • Haley

      What a horrible way to give away a living creature. You should really be ashamed.

      • Elise

        Wow…go somewhere else with that noise!

      • Victoria

        I agree with you Haley. It’s a living, breathing being–not a toy to be given away on a whim. That was irresponsible, and no one with that type of thinking should ever own an animal. Same goes for you Elise.

      • juice

        I also agree with you Hayley. Bad idea to spring a living animal on someone as a gift. You have to think about how much the supplies they would have to purchase would cost, and the effort to take care of it.

  4. Anna

    I brought this screaming/ flying monkey for our Sunday school exchange last year with a bag of almonds- definitely got a laugh as it was launched several times across the big room :).

    • Lina (Hip's Modern Martha)

      Funny! My kids have those 🙂

  5. Carrie

    I’m curious I got for my white elephant gift for my Bunco gals Too Faced Beauty Wishes and Sweet Kisses pallete. Would you being a woman from age 30 to 55 like it?

    • K

      I would! Most women love some type of makeup!

      • Lina (Hip's Modern Martha)

        Yes agree – great gift!

  6. Brittany
  7. Cat

    Scratch off lottery tickets are always the most popular at our family exchange. The funniest thing we ever came home with was a lawn inflatable–pink Christmas pig! It is now tradition that it goes in the lawn for all holidays/events. It even sported college gear for my son’s high school graduation party!

    • Lina (Hip's Modern Martha)

      How interesting! Thanks for sharing Kendra.

    • Pat

      Yes! Hilarious AND useful – I bought 2 of those to give at our White Elephant on Saturday evening!!

  8. Olivia

    Last year at my husband’s Christmas party we bought a nice frame for whatever the price limit was then he took a goofy selfie and printed it on just regular computer paper. He then autographed it and we stuck it in the frame. It got the biggest laugh at the party. People still talk about it.

  9. Jamie

    I may sounds like a party pooper, but a few years ago (after getting regifted bride/groom ornaments in a fancy ornament exchange) I swore of gift exchanges, funny or not. Honestly, I’ve been so happy with that decision. I still go, and enjoy laughs and have a great time watching, but have found much less frustration and waste since boycotting. Most people don’t even notice that I have chosen not to participate. 😉. Highly recommended.

    • Monica

      I have mixed feelings about it too. My family has been doing this for years, but the last few years, I haven’t participated, but have fun watching.
      In the past, I have given /received scratch-off lottery tickets, magazines, bird feeder and bird food, mugs, flashlights, gift cards, gloves, scarves, and candy /snack food.

    • Pat

      For those who don’t enjoy, It is only fun if your group knows how to do it well. It can go very wrong. When my dd was in middle school, her “gift” was a jug of sour milk. Not even funny. She cried…
      There has to be a mix of good gifts and dumb gifts, but not too dumb. There has to be a good balance bad gifts to try to rid yourself of and great gifts to fight over just a bit. A few key rules and low expectations of getting something of value. Tucking a little gift card in with a dumb gift might keep someone from being disappointed.
      We have great fun hiding the gifts we don’t want in the host’s home before going home for the night. They find it days, months later, tucked in a book shelf, hiding in a cushion… who knows.
      Since we do the exchange every year, it’s fun to take something and watch it morph from year to year. One year someone brought a bedpan. The next year it came back disguised as a hat… the final year it came as a fancy lamp. I’ve always wondered if it finally got tossed or what…

      • JA

        Sorry to hear about what happened to your daughter. In kindergarten my son got a very babyish VHS tape. It was clear to me that it was a beat up yard sale type item. We didn’t even have a VCR any more! He was pretty sad about it, but we laugh about it now. In fifth grade he got five dollar coins wrapped in a box, the best gift in the class! So it evened out for him, and we donated the tape to the library.👍

  10. Cherryluva

    Last year at work I got a candle from bath n body works. I gave out a McDonalds gift card as our place of employment is right there. We have a knitter at work who makes beautiful scarves and the last two years they have been a hit. For our friends party I gave a kit that had pre mixed martinis that were in x mas ornaments. One gift that was given out was adult novelty items. That was kind of funny.

  11. Christy

    We do one at work and the stipulation is it has to be a made by you gift. So it could be a craft, bake good, or so on. Last year some did a date box with so many dates all planned out!!! We love doing it this way cause usually gifts are all nice and you aren’t usually spending much money.

    • Lina (Hip's Modern Martha)

      Good idea!

  12. Sarah d

    My family does a gift exchange each year. One year we had a “Pinterest Christmas”, so all gifts had to be something inspired by Pinterest. Another year was a “Groupon Christmas”, where we had to buy a fun groupon-type deal. Another year was an “As Seen on TV Christmas”, which resulted in some hilarious gifts.

    • Lina (Hip's Modern Martha)

      Oh I LOVE these ideas and variations!

  13. Lucy

    A bottle of wine with an ugly sweater on it is a great gift idea!

  14. Dawn

    A box of beano and a gas card

    • Elise


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    $25 off $100 purchase at Gymboree x 1


  16. Brittany

    My husband received a book last year at an exchange that was titled “How to murder your mother-in-law”

    • Kasi


  17. rtsymom

    The ladies do this at my husband’s extended family Christmas party, though we call it Dirty Santa. Most of the gifts are decent items in the $15-20 range so everyone goes home with a goodie. Nothing like “stealing” a gift from your in-law. 😝

  18. Midcountymomma

    We do this at our big family Christmas every year. Our limit is $1.00. It’s interesting to see how creative you can be with $1.00–what people bring & what is “stolen” the most (dishwashing liquid & candy bars top the list). It’s a blast, & we always end up laughing!

    • Wassup

      Love the idea of limiting it to $1!

  19. Kiwi

    We have a awful stuffed fabric Christmas at work that gets passed around each year. If you get it then you have to add something to the tree. Now when someone gets it we say they can’t be fired, quit or retire until after they pass it on. The other gifts are a mix of funny and good.

  20. Tracie

    My family has around 20-30 participants each year we limit the cost to $20 and we end up with leatherman knives, drill bit sets, screwdrivers, candles, scarves, blankets, gift cards, one year we had an egg mcmuffin maker (awesome). It’s a lot of fun the more people you have. I buy 3 gifts 1 for a “mans gift” for my husband, 1 ladies gift for me, and 1 teen gift for my 15 year old that way we all play the game and there’s a little something for every age and gender. Other families do the same and it really is funny when things start getting stolen and there’s always an item that everyone wants. I think everyone should try it once

  21. Suzyq

    We did it as kids with our cousins and someone always went home crying or upset. Finally someone decided that everyone just had to buy a bag of candy and it ended up being a candy white elephant….much more kid friendly and a good alternative if children would like to play 🙂

  22. Vicki

    We do white elephant gift exchanges on my husband’s side of the family. It got boring, so we have been spelling out the word “CHRISTMAS” as our theme. Each year we are on a different letter. Last year we were on “R”, so I bought Rio 2 blu ray/dvd combo, a Rio Wii game, and a Rio Pez dispenser. It’s always interesting to see what everyone comes up with.This year we are on the letter “I”. So, I am giving the video console “Intellivision flashback” that I was able to snag on Xmas clearance last year. My husband may do a gift basket of instant coffee, instant mashed potatoes, and other instant items.

    • alycia m.

      LOVE this idea! I may be stealing it 😉

  23. Amy wazwaz

    We do white elephant game,but we all must bring ten gifts. They can be from the dollar store each if need be. Great if you Have stuff already at home too. We count them all and divide them by the amount of people. Once everyone has their limit. You can steal from them. Then once opened you can steal it also. Some times we stop after they have been opened not to do the stealing once again. We have little kids that play with adults. This makes it so no one loses. There are gag gifts and real gifts. Everyone loves the snack items and of course the funny stuff.

  24. Valerie

    We’re doing this at work this year. I assumed that white elephant exchange was to eliminate purchasing an item. Less stress for all.

    It meant dig into your closets or drawers and dust off that brand new item that someone once gave you; now regift it!! Am I wrong??

    • Lina (Hip's Modern Martha)

      No –you can totally do that! Have fun 😀

  25. liz

    We used to do the white elephant game every Christmas for years. Eventually our family got bigger with grandchildren now having spouses. Not everyone in the family had a partner and one year one of the single players became angry and stated that my daughter cheated because she told her husband that she wanted the gift that was stolen from her so he picked it on his turn and it happened to be the final exchange for that gift. The other single players then joined in and they said the couples do not follow the rules by telling their partners what to pick and the single players were at a disadvantage. Whew! I have never heard of this being a rule and I was sad to see such a fun game turned into an accusation of my daughter breaking the rules when we never even knew it was a rule “not to cohort or make suggestions to other players on what to choose”! Is this a rule to not cheer on or suggest a steal? Even if it wasn’t with your spouse – you are not supposed to suggest or encourage the person who is choosing the gift which gift to pick! I have searched and searched for this answer. This obviously put a stop to the game in our family because the purpose was to have fun and enjoy getting together – never occurred to me and my children that there were more detailed rules to this game. Please set me straight and enlighten me if we broke the rules?!?!?!?

  26. ronald newey

    just getting started

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