13 DIY White Elephant Gift Ideas

Exchanging Christmas Gifts
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Need a good gag gift for a white elephant party? Then, check out these DIY white elephant gift ideas. They only take a few minutes to make and do not require you to be a crafting genius.

A white elephant gift exchange (see rules below) is a variation on the secret Santa or Yankee swap. There are many variations with different rules, but the premise is that it is a fun party game where you bring in a funny, weird, or tacky gift (usually a low value gift). The wrapped, anonymous gift goes in a communal pile. All guests sit in a circle pick a gift, open it, and then other guests attempt to steal it, when it is their turn.

  • 01 of 14

    Dime n’ Jewelry

    A "Dime n' Necklace" made from a cheap necklace with a dime coin
    Erin Huffstetler

    Surprise someone with a dime n’ necklace, a dime n’ ring, or a pair of dime n’ earrings. This "diamond" gift is easy to pull off. Just super glue a dime to an inexpensive necklace, ring or pair of earrings, and you are done. Try the dollar store for cheap jewelry options. They even sell super glue.

    If you want to make this gift seem even fancier, tuck it inside a nice jewelry box.

  • 02 of 14

    Used Gift Cards

    Cropped view of girl holding gift card with red bow
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    Have a bunch of gift cards with teeny tiny remaining balances? $.68 for a coffee shop. $1.37 for a home improvement store. $2.11 for a department store. Use a permanent marker to cross out the original amounts. Then, write the new balance on each card, and wrap them all up together.

    If you happen to have a bunch of empty gift cards lying around, another option is to wrap them up with one card that actually has a balance, and includes a note that says, “Only one of these gift cards actually has money on it." Let them have fun figuring out which one it is.

  • 03 of 14

    Extra Dough

    Cookie Dough

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    Wrap up a tube of cookie dough, and include a note that says, “Everyone needs a little extra dough around the holidays.” You could also do the same thing with a container of kids’ play dough, or a box of pre-made pie crust. Any dough will do.

  • 04 of 14

    A Zip-Tied Gift

    Zip Tied Gift
    Erin Huffstetler

    Wrap up a gift with wrapping paper. Then, wrap it up again with layer after layer of zip ties. To unwrap the gift, the recipient will have to cut through all of those zip ties. That will be annoying for them and amusing for everyone who gets to watch them do it. To make the gift even funnier, make a package of zip ties the gift.

    The dollar store is a cheap source for zip ties if you do not have any on hand. You may want to include a pair of scissors with the gift, so they will have a way to open it.​ Just tie a pair to the package with ribbon.

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  • 05 of 14

    All-Natural Bubble Bath

    All-Natural Bubble Bath
    Erin Huffstetler

    All-natural products are all the rage these days, so a bottle of all-natural bubble bath is a gift that is sure to be much appreciated. To whip up a batch, fill an attractive bottle or jar with dried beans, and finish the whole thing off with a nice label. Be sure to include instructions so the recipient knows how to use it. Something along the lines of, “Natural Bubble Bath: Cook, and eat one hour before your bath.”

  • 06 of 14

    Cold Hard Cash

    Money frozen in ice
    Erin Huffstetler

    Give the gift of cold hard cash. It is something everyone wishes they had more of this time of year. To put this gift together, just drop some change and a couple of small bills into a freezer-safe container (preferably one with a lid); fill it with water, and pop it in the freezer. Once it’s fully frozen, wrap up the container, and it is ready to give. Include a card that says, “Thought you could use some cold hard cash to help you get through the holidays.”​

  • 07 of 14

    Scratched Lottery Tickets

    Lottery Tickets

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    Tuck a note inside a card that says, “I bought you $25 worth of lottery tickets, and scratched them for you. You did not win anything.”

    Or take things a step further, and fill a box with scratched lottery tickets. Just ask someone you know who plays the lotto to save their losing tickets for you, and you will not have any money tied up in this gift.

  • 08 of 14

    Earthquake Detection Kit

    Dog Bobble Head

    Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

    Earthquakes are serious business. Make sure one does not go undetected by creating a handy earthquake detection kit for one of your friends. To create your kit, drop a bobblehead doll in a bag or box, and create a label that explains your gift. Be sure to include detailed instructions on how to use the device. After all, scientific equipment can be difficult to figure out.

    Have a permanent marker or paint pen handy? Then, it might also be fun to write “Earthquake Detection Device” across the base of the bobblehead.​​

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  • 09 of 14

    Portable Important Decision Kit

    A paper wad, a pair of scissors, and a rock in an Altoids tin
    Erin Huffstetler

    Forget careful thought and consideration. If you have an important decision to make, a simple game of rock, paper, scissors can sort it out for you. No one should ever be without these vital decision-making tools, which is why everyone needs to carry a portable decision kit.

    To make one for someone, start with an empty mint tin. Then, fill it with a tiny pair of scissors, a small notepad, and an itty bitty rock. Finish the whole thing off with a spiffy label to explain how it is used.

  • 10 of 14

    A Big Box of Nothing

    A wrapped box labeled, "To the girl who already has everything"
    Erin Huffstetler

    Put all of your wrapping skills into wrapping an empty box as nicely as you can. Use fancy paper, and include a big bow, so the box looks really enticing. Then, add a gift ​tag that says, “For the Person Who Has Everything.” They’ll be in for quite a surprise when they open it and discover that the perfect gift for the person who has everything is absolutely nothing.

  • 11 of 14

    Season Tickets

    Gag tickets labeled "Seasoning" Tickets
    Erin Huffstetler

    Use a free ticket printable to create a really authentic-looking set of season tickets to a fake event, complete with seat numbers and barcode. Then, hide the words, “Not good for anything,” somewhere in the fine print.

    Another option is to create a fake set of plane tickets and add, “Round trip ticket to nowhere,” in the fine print. There are lots of variations on this idea that could work, so have some fun with it, and tailor it to the guests at the party.

  • 12 of 14

    Hands-Free Cellphone Holder

    An elastic headband labeled "Hands-Free Cellphone Holder"
    Erin Huffstetler

    Place an elastic headband in a bag, and create a hang tag for it that says, “Hands-Free Cellphone Holder.” Include a picture of someone using the device (i.e. using the headband to hold a cell phone against their ear) to demonstrate the usefulness of the gift.

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  • 13 of 14

    Pet Dust Bunnies

    Dryer lint in a bag labeled "Pet Dust Bunny"
    Erin Huffstetler

    Use some dryer lint to fashion a couple “pet” dust bunnies. Add googly eyes and whiskers to complete the effect. Then, stick them in a bag with a label that explains what they are. You might also want to include some care instructions ​ or a warning that they multiply quickly.

  • 14 of 14

    Rules for a White Elephant Gift Exchange

    People exchanging gifts

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    1. Everyone brings one wrapped gift to the party, the funnier and tackier the better.
    2. All of the gifts are placed on a table as guests arrive.
    3. Then, names or numbers are usually drawn to determine who gets the first pick, the second pick and so on.​
    4. The first person selects a gift off the table and opens it.
    5. Then, the next person goes. They can either choose to steal one of the gifts that have already been opened or select a new gift off the table to open.
    6. If your gift gets stolen, you get to choose another gift off the table, or you can steal another person’s gift.
    7. The game continues until everyone has opened a gift, and usually involves lots of stealing. Since the first person did not have a chance to steal a gift during their turn, they are often given a chance to do that after the last person has gone. This usually sets off another big round of stealing.

    At some parties, a limit is placed on how many gifts can be stolen each round, or how many times each gift can be stolen. Often the limit is placed at three steals. You may want to adopt these rules if your party is under a time restraint. Regardless, the house rules should be explained at the start of the game, so everyone understands how the game will unfold.

    If you are the one hosting the white elephant party, be sure to invite lots of people. The game is a lot more fun when lots of gifts are involved.