Let’s make sure we include the affordable gifts, too!
Holiday gift-giving can sometimes come with a lot of stress, and we want to eliminate that. There’s no reason to feel panic or for anyone to feel left out because they don’t have a lot to give this year. If you come from a big family or group of friends that put a lot of emphasis on gifts, you know it can be overwhelming. Let’s keep the focus on the spirit of the holidays and make sure Christmas is holly and jolly while keeping most of your coins in your pocket.
Make an agreement with your group of loved ones, have fun with it and stick to the plan. Here’s how to exchange gifts without breaking the bank:
This is our favorite holiday exchange idea and an easy exchange idea. We typically like to do it during Thanksgiving, but honestly, if you’ve got a family group chat and a little ingenuity, you can pick names at any time. You can put everyone's names in at one time or you can split the names up between kids and adults or whatever you think is best. You can also have one family draw another family. Just go with whatever makes the most sense. This helps everyone to get a gift and lowers the expectation of buying a bunch of gifts for family members. This works best for large or extended families, and you can set a price range for the gifts. Have fun!
Set a reasonable budget
If choosing names feels too limiting and you want to get something for all of your family and friends, we recommend setting a budget. Have your family and friends agree on a budget that makes sense, somewhere between $5 and $30, then get creative. The budget ensures someone’s not getting nail polish in exchange for a toaster oven and you can get a special gift for everyone.
Holiday Ornament Exchange
This one is near and dear to our hearts, and you’ll be surprised how long this gift lasts. Wrap up a special holiday ornament for your family member, purchased or handmade, and gift it to each other. It’s a great way to start building an ornament collection! When you look back on your tree years from now, you’ll fondly recall all the memories. You may forget a pair of shoes someone bought you, but you will never forget the handmade ornament you got from your favorite 40-year-old cousin when they were just 21.
This one is a fun one too and can also be based on a budget or just the person. Have everyone bring gift items for each family member's stocking and fill them up. Because the gifts are smaller and have to fit into a stocking, this can get really fun. Think movie tickets, candy bars, your favorite face wash or a small candle.
Handmade Gift Exchange
This one is old school and one your aunts and grandparents have been doing, whether the family agreed to it or not. Pair up family members and have everyone make a handmade gift. If you’re really crafty, it might be a sweater, but if you’re a beginner, go for a bedazzled photo frame. Even a scrapbook will work if done right. The point is to put your love and thought into it and really personalize the gift. We could also go for an old-fashioned tin of handmade cookies.
Create a theme
If your family is feeling really festive, create a theme. It can be winter accessories, gift cards, books, or even household decor. Whatever it is, pick a theme and stick to it. Make it fun but also usable, and you can change the theme each year. You can also decide on the theme by voting or picking from a pile.
Play holiday BINGO
It’s just like traditional bingo but with a twist. Have everyone bring some BINGO prizes, at least two per person, and play BINGO. You can give out mini bottles of alcohol, scarves, candy, gift cards, or whatever you like. It’s BINGO, holiday style.
The gift of time or expertise
This works well if you pair younger family members up with the older ones. Maybe you want to gift your uncle a free grass-cutting service or gift your mom one free tech setup day. You can exchange it for a free babysitting date night from the grandparents or ask mom to come clean your room like she used to do back when you were a child. The key is to think about what you’re really good at and what the family members would enjoy the most and gift it to them. What’s a better gift than lending yourself? Extra points if you create a homemade coupon with the service on it that they can cash in at any time!
Trivia Game Swap
This one is extra fun, and you can really put a holiday twist on any traditional game. It’s best to do this at the holiday party, and you should have everyone bring a wrapped gift so there’s enough for everyone. Make a fun game of trivia, bonus points if it's holiday style and personalized to the family. When someone gets their trivia question right, they pick up their gift!
White Elephant Exchange
The dreaded white elephant. This works better if you don’t take things personally because it can get a little heated. Decide if you want to split the kids and adults or if everyone is all in together and of course, set a budget. Next, have everyone bring a gift, draw numbers for the order of the gifts, choose wisely and pray someone doesn’t steal your gift when it's their turn lol. It’s competitive and it’s edgy, and we’re here for it. It works best if it’s a medium-sized group and if you limit the gift steals to 3 times a gift. Have fun, laugh, and don’t take anything too seriously.
Exchange recycled gifts
If your budget is really tight or if your family is more of the spirit of the holiday counts, exchange gifts you’ve already got. Maybe they are gently used items or a gift you got 2 Christmases ago that you never even used. It's the thought that counts, and the best gift is one that keeps on giving. Feel free to pick a theme; the only tip we have is to make sure you’re not regifting an item that came from someone that’s partaking in this year’s regifting. It gets…awkward.
This one is a crowd favorite and allows for a little Christmas magic as well. Have everyone write down their name along with two gift suggestions for themselves. Have the family randomly draw names so that everyone is assigned a Secret Santa. Then exchange gifts at the holiday party or over Christmas dinner and have everyone try to guess who their Santa was.
Have everyone wrap up a gift basket with a handful of their favorite things within the budget. Next, get each family to pick another family member's gift basket or randomly choose names and have a ball. You get to know a little more about your family and friends and you get to give the gifts you love the most: gifts you want for yourself. You can get beauty products, books, houseplants, or collector's items. Think it through and make sure everyone has something that they’ll love.
Whatever you choose, make it fun and remember, it’s not about the gift, it’s the thought that counts!
Here’s how to exchange gifts without breaking the bank. Photo Courtesy Getty Images