The Best White Elephant Gift Ideas for 2019
No white elephant gift exchange is made alike, but it’s safe to say there’s a huge variety of white elephant gifts that work no matter the crowd. That’s no small feat: A white elephant exchange (also known as a Yankee swap) might include coworkers, distant friends, family members of different generations, or other mixed ages and personalities, so a gift that could speak to all those people is a tricky find. Tricky—but not impossible.
In lieu of dependable-but-dull gift card ideas, try these white elephant gift ideas or Yankee swap gifts. They’ll make people taking part in the exchange smile and, with any luck, your white elephant gift will be the item at the end of the game that everyone’s trying to nab. (Just don’t get too smug about it.) With this guide, finding the best white elephant gifts for your next exchange—whatever the occasion—will be a breeze, so you can both be proud of your contribution and keep your attention on the other tasks on your to-do list.
What Is a White Elephant Gift Exchange?
But before we get to the gift ideas, we’re going to talk about what a white elephant gift is. If you’re not familiar with this popular ritual, white elephant gift exchanges involve purchasing a relatively inexpensive gift to present anonymously at your next get-together, office party, or family gathering. (It’s a good idea to establish a set budget when the party invitation goes out, so everyone’s on the same page.)
Each attendee places their wrapped gift in a pile, draws a number, and selects a gift from the pile in that order. The subsequent numbers can either choose a white elephant gift from the unwrapped pile or steal from anyone who has already opened a gift. The game continues until every wrapped gift has been opened. The more playful and interesting the gift, the better—the point is to have a little fun.
What Is a Yankee Swap?
In a Yankee swap, participants have the choice to keep or swap an open gift. Instead of choosing to open a gift or steal one, they choose a gift, open it, and then decide if they want to keep it, or swap it with someone else’s already opened gift. With both gift exchanges, though, neutral gifts are key—specific gifts for men or gifts for women can make the game less interesting.
White elephant gift exchanges or Yankee swaps typically take place during the holiday season as a more affordable, less stressful alternative to buying a gift for every party attendee (or worse, having to give a Secret Santa gift to someone you know not-so-well), but in theory, you could exchange gifts at any time of year. The white elephant gift ideas ahead will have you covered, no matter the occasion.
Sipski Shower Wine Glass Holder
Be prepared to bring the most stolen item at your white elephant party. Both practical and funny, using this shower wine glass holder is an easy way to relax after a long day.
To buy: $16; urbanoutfitters.com.
Umbra Trigg Hanging Planter Vase
Pair this set of hanging planters with two mini plants to make the ultimate white elephant gift. It’s a stylish option that’s still reasonably priced—perfect for staying under a price limit.
To buy: $21; amazon.com.
BedShelfie The Original Bedside Shelf
When it comes to gift exchanges, you can’t go wrong with a practical gift that’ll be put to good use, and that’s exactly what we love about this bedside shelf that has more than 1,100 five-star reviews on Amazon. Simple in design, the BedShelfie is a game-changer for small rooms that don’t have space for a full night stand. Available in four different sizes, the compact shelf can hold up to 15 pounds and has built-in groves along the sides so you can keep your devices connected and your cords organized.
To buy: $30; amazon.com.
Homesick Books Scented Library Candle
Hallmark Christmas Ornament Friends Central Perk
If you and your pals have already binge-watched Friends on Netflix, this commemorative ornament will be a hit at your next gift exchange. Reminisce on all the days the Friends crew hung out at the Central Perk cafe—without having to relive Phoebe's infamous “Smelly Cat” song.
Mr. Coffee Mug Warmer
This coffee mug warmer with more than 4,000 five-star reviews on Amazon is the desk accessory you never knew you needed. For those times your coffee gets cold too quickly, this handy, portable, and on-budget gadget was made for coffee lovers who are in constant need of a warm cup of Joe. Plus, the indicator light lets you know when your beverage is warm and ready to drink.
To buy: $10; amazon.com.
The Wand Wine Filter
Skip the wine hangover after a glass of your favorite vino with this pack of eight individual wine filters that actually work. The wine snob of the group will instantly be vying for these purifying wands that filter out histamines and sulfites, helping to reduce common wine side effects like headaches, congestion, or flushed skin.
To buy: $20; amazon.com.
Nail Polish Holder
This silicone nail polish holder will probably elicit some confused looks upon opening, especially if the lucky recipient is a man. This ring slash nail polish holder slash drip catcher will actually come in handy when there is no flat surface around—once the person figures out its intended purpose, of course.
To buy: $10; amazon.com.
TRUFF Black Truffle Infused Hot Sauce
This decadent hot sauce made it on Oprah’s Favorite Things list this year, so of course it’s one of our new must-have condiments to spice up any dish. The hot sauce-obsessed at the party will love the gourmet flavor that’s made from red chili peppers, black truffle oil from Northern Italy, and organic agave nectar from Mexico.
To buy: $18; amazon.com.
Five Two Silicone Straws
Saving the planet isn’t just cool—it’s also super important and, with these reusable straws, super easy. Slip these into your Yankee swap, and everyone will be scrambling to take these portable, bendable, colorful straws home. It includes 10 straws in irresistible colors, so everyone could get one … if their lucky final owner decides to share.
To buy: $25; food52.com.
The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook
Anyone who’s a fan of the Harry Potter franchise will get a kick out of this helpful cookbook that includes more than 150 Hogwarts-inspired recipes. Out of all the Harry Potter-themed gifts, this one takes the cake because you can make dishes right out of the novels—like Treacle Tart (Harry’s favorite dessert) or Molly’s Meat Pies (Mrs. Weasley's signature dish) from scratch.
To buy: $11; amazon.com.
GE Lighting LED+ Speaker Light Bulb
A lightbulb? Just hear us out: This lightbulb doubles as a Bluetooth speaker, turning any lamp or light fixture into a music machine. Let your contribution be the sleeper agent of the gift exchange by putting the bulb in different packaging and waiting to explain what makes it special, then watch the audiophiles scramble to take it home.
To buy: $30; target.com.
Rose Gold PopSocket
If you haven't seen a PopSocket on the back of someone's phone, you're missing out one of the best phone accessories of 2019. These handy knobs stick directly to your phone or phone case and help you have a better grip while texting or taking photos.
To buy: $14; amazon.com.
Birthstone Wine Bottle Stopper
If your gift limit is right around $25 to $30, these handmade, birthstone-inspired wine bottle stoppers are a classy option. Don’t worry about buying a specific birthstone, either—each one is so unique and pretty!
To buy: $24; uncommongoods.com.
Smartish iPhone Wallet Case
Anyone and everyone at your white elephant exchange will be scrambling for this clever phone case, which is sleek and good-looking but also super practical, thanks to the attached fabric wallet that can hold three cards plus cash. The case is available in different colors and phone sizes, so you can tailor it for your gift exchange audience.
To buy: $24; amazon.com.
DYFTD Did You Feed The Dog?
Pet-owning friends will love this feeding tracker, which easily mounts on a refrigerator (it’s magnetic) or sticks to a wall to demonstrate if the dog has or has not received food. Anyone without a pet might not understand, but those with a dog—especially those with multiple household members charged with feeding the dog, or those with not-so-great memories—definitely will.
To buy: $10; amazon.com.
OontZ Angle 3 Portable Bluetooth Speaker
The winner of this powerful, portable speaker can turn anywhere they go into a party. The speaker is splash-proof, with surprisingly powerful volume—a great gift for anyone (and affordable, too).
To buy: $30; amazon.com.
Mindfulness Card Set
Bring this one to the white elephant gift exchange among your yoga-going, matcha-drinking friends. This deck of 50 cards includes prompts and exercises that encourage peace of mind and body. Your strung-out or peace-seeking friends can pull out a card whenever they’re feeling stuck, but someone has to win the deck in the gift exchange first.
To buy: $17; uncommongoods.com.
Giant Brain Teaser Puzzle
Just try to resist tackling this puzzle in the middle of your gift exchange, we dare you. Whoever gets to bring this puzzle-slash-tchotchke home will be playing with it (and putting it on display) for weeks to come, and everyone will be impressed by your white elephant creativity—good luck topping it next year.
To buy: $30; uncommongoods.com.
Dad Jokes Book
Initial reactions upon unwrapping this book may range from groans to snickers, but the tried-and-true comedy of classic Dad Jokes won’t go unnoticed by anyone at your white elephant gift exchange this year.
To buy: $14; urbanoutfitters.com.
The Chef’s Portable Multi-Tool
This pocket-sized gizmo holds twelve stainless steel kitchen tools, including a spoon, a grater, and a peeler—perfect for your gathering with outdoor enthusiasts, chronic picnickers, or on-the-go foodies.
To buy: $32; uncommongoods.com.
One Line a Day Five-Year Journal
For the nostalgic types—or those who feel like the last five years have just flown by—introduce this journal to your next gift-sharing gathering. Your more literary acquaintances will be scrambling to keep it by the end of the Yankee swap (and there’s a good chance whoever doesn’t take it home will be picking it up for themselves the next chance they get).
To buy: $10; amazon.com.
BrüMate Insulated Champagne Flute
Raise a perfectly chilled glass of bubbly where ever you go with this insulated flute, which looks great in any setting and keeps your celebratory drink of choice cool for hours. In your white elephant gift exchange, this one’s sure to get stolen and make the rounds a few times until the game is done.
To buy: $23; amazon.com.
Bluetooth Banana Phone
Add this gift to the pile to get a good laugh out of your fellow white elephant gift exchange attendees. Someone’s sure to break out in the bananaphone song—and someone else is sure to be itching to take this funny-but-useful gift home, particularly if they have kids (or they’re just a kid at heart).
To buy: $40; uncommongoods.com.
Pink Nostalgic Ceramic Christmas Tree
Everything old is always new again! Vintage Christmas decor is having a moment, and we can’t get over this miniature ceramic Christmas tree that gives a nod to the antique versions that were popular in the 1970s. This mini model doubles as an ornament and lights up, so it’ll surely make a statement on any tree.
To buy: $20; alwaysfits.com.
Everlane Packable Backpack
Any traveler or frequent overshopper will want this nylon backpack, which folds up into its own front pocket for easy packing. When it’s time to be used (either in an exotic location or when the grocery bags are looking too heavy) the bag unfolds into a go-anywhere backpack anyone can sport.
To buy: $35; everlane.com.
Scentered Portable Aromatherapy Balms Gift Set
Most people in your circle are likely stressed, distracted, or sleep-deprived sometimes—or a lot of the time—and will likely leap at the chance to nab a portable essential oil balm formulated to alleviate those issues at the annual gift exchange. This kit includes five pocket-sized balms in a subtle tin, perfect for staying calm, focused, happy, and more anywhere and everywhere.
To buy: $25; amazon.com.
Amazon Echo Dot
People might be shocked that you brought this to the gift exchange, but they shouldn’t be—the Echo Dot is available at a super affordable price point and is sure to be the top white elephant gift. Let everyone think of you as the incredibly generous friend who brought a smart assistant to the exchange—you can ride that reputation all the way to next year’s gathering.
To buy: $30; amazon.com.
Stanley Classic Trigger-Action Travel Mug
Tea- and coffee-drinkers alike will be racing to snatch up this one-handed travel mug, which allows the probably-in-a-hurry user to open the spill-proof lid with one hand. When the lucky winner of this mug isn’t drinking, the hot contents inside stay where they’re supposed to—where the vacuum-insulated body can keep them warm.
To buy: $22; amazon.com.
Himalayan Salt Tequila Glasses
For the tequila-loving crowd, this set of four shot glasses will be a hit (and an excellent addition to any bar cart). This white elephant gift is also pretty gender-neutral, so any fan of tequila or mezcal will have a gift option they’ll truly enjoy bringing home.
To buy: $28; uncommongoods.com.
Love Your Melon Navy Speckled Pom Beanie
It may not be cold out quite yet, but this beanie is a great gift at any time of year (it’ll get cold eventually, right?). The pom on top is adorable, and the colors will work for any white elephant exchange attendee—and who won’t try to take home a gift that promises warmer ears come winter?
To buy: $45; loveyourmelon.com.