Is your upcoming holiday party gift exchange giving you heartburn? I don’t blame you. With the average American spending nearly $1,000 on gifts annually, one more shopping obligation (likely for someone you don’t even really know) is not exactly spreading holiday cheer.
Defeat the social pressures with one of these fantastically frugal ideas that will rock the party.
Are you in Charge? Alternative Gift Exchange Ideas
If you are in charge of setting up the exchange, mix it up. Instead of doing the traditional white elephant thing, try one of these alternative gift exchange ideas that will be much more fun and leave everyone with a little more in their pockets and/or hearts:
Unless you’re hosting a gift exchange for the Jerks Association of America, you can’t go wrong with this one. You can either select a charity for everyone to donate to and make it a group challenge, or have each person share a little bit about a charity they selected to donate towards, or mix up who donates to who’s charity choice. Just make sure to keep the personal donation amounts anonymous.
This one gives the participants more of a scavenger hunt and can add a lot to the fun. Require all gifts to be second-hand items (from a thrift store or their own house). You might get the prankster giving out lingerie or a toothbrush, but they would do something awkward regardless of the exchange rules.
The Gift of Words
In high school, an English class did this one as their holiday exchange, but I think it would be fun in other groups as well. Each person chooses a word that you don’t hear much but would be fun to have in your vocabulary. They write it out with its definition and used in a sentence. You’ll leave the party knowing two new words (yours and the one you received). My brother was careful to choose a word the teacher didn’t know and will always remember that “polyphenol oxidase” is the enzyme responsible for apple browning.
The Gift of Games, Songs, YouTube Videos, ANYTHING
You could adopt the same rules as the vocabulary exchange, but with a different topic. Everyone could write down the rules to an unusual game or the words to a poem or song or the URL to an interesting YouTube video or TED Talk. Find something that works for your crowd.
If you aren’t in a unique gift exchange, here’s some gifts that are practically free and will beat most of its competition (not that’s it’s a competition).
Homemade Jam and a Loaf of Homemade bread
Sounds intimidating, but it is actually really easy and others will be impressed. I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed to get this one. I like to make some each year and give it out to neighbors and friends. If you’re feeling extra cutesy, pick up some wicker baskets at the thrift store and maybe some polka-dot or checkered cloth to dress it up.
Favorite bread recipe: Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
Simpler bread recipe: White Bread
Here’s a Plum Jam Recipe that has more fruit than sugar, you don’t have to peel and doesn’t take pectin.
Or just search for a recipe online. The sugary ones are probably cheaper to make anyways.
Jalapeno Jam (my holiday favorite and even cheaper to make!) delivered with a tube of Ritz or Townhouse crackers and maybe cream cheese if you’re feeling generous.
String art can be extremely inexpensive. I spent a total of $2.78 on this one for my sister-in-law.
- Board = shelf from a junked stand in our scrap wood pile (alternatives= find a free shelf or entertainment center on the side of the road, you may need a friend with a table saw)
- Cloth = old t-shirt in my scrap fabric pile (alternatives= just spray paint it or leave it if your wood is pretty)
- Hot Glue (alternatives= staple gun/staples)
- Printer Paper/ink
- Nails = tiny brass nails, $2.78 at ACE hardware
- Embroidery thread = from my string collection (alternatives= $0.25 at Walmart)
- Just pick out a square piece of wood
- Stretch cloth over it and hot glue it into place on the back or just spray paint the board
- Find an outline on google images you like
- Scale it, Print it off, and trim excessive edges
- Nail into place around the whole outline
- Tear away paper
- String the string
Get inspiration with tons of other string art ideas at DIY Projects for Teens
A Painted Rock
You don’t have to be an artist to create something nice. Personally, I do not consider myself artistically inclined, but I have a steady enough hand to copy. Do a Google Image search and find something simple to copy. Even I could make these rocks:
For my mom’s birthday I found a large oval stone on the beach and put each of my 3 toddlers hand prints and names on it (names edited out in the picture for privacy) as well as the year at the bottom. It cost me $5.92 ($0.50 paints and a set of paint brushes from Walmart), but hardly used up any paint and the brushes I’ll have for a long time. I think of it as free.
For an exchange, you could paint the company or group logo, an object relevant to the group, or anything that makes you happy.
Good luck with your Christmas celebrations!
BONUS: Want to give a meaningful yet frugal gift to a friend or family member, try this post by Mrs Savy Saver.
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