15 White elephant gifts for any budget under $30

A white elephant gift wrapped on a table ready to be opened by a college student

In an earlier blog post, we talked about how you can budget for Black Friday and holiday shopping in general

One of our favorite suggestions was to do a white elephant gift exchange or as some may refer to it, a Yankee swap.

Whatever you call it, you can save a lot of money doing one of these and make a new tradition for you and your friends or even with your family members!

And they’re super fun and kind of competitive.

The traditional way to conduct a white elephant gift exchange follow these rules:

  1. Round up everyone who plans on being involved and set a dollar limit. 
  2. All gifts are wrapped and placed in a central location and everyone crowds around to start the swap.
  3. Each person picks a number out of a hat which assigns them their order in the pick. 
  4. The first person pics a gift.
  5. The second person picks a gift then has the choice to swap with the first person if they like there’s better
  6. This goes on down the line, each person getting the opportunity to steal a gift all the way to the very end.

These are the standard rules, however, to make it more fun you can set additional rules. 

We’ve included a few addendums to the rules:

The Number 1 Rule: The person who picks the number ‘1’ gets to pick after everyone has opened their gift, in other words, this is the best number to get because you get to pick whatever you want.

As Ricky Bobby says, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” Very applicable here.

The 3 Strike Rule: If a person gets stolen from three times they can no longer get stolen from after strike number 3 and they become stuck with their gift.

Alternatively, if a gift gets swapped 3 times, make that gift off-limits for the rest of the game. 

Hot Potato – Christmas Song Style: Everyone holds their gift and sits in a circle, then as a group, everyone sings the words to “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” or any Christmas song most people know the words to.

As the song comes to an end you have to keep whatever is in your hands. 

Set a theme: You can also set a theme for the gifts to be bought.

Some popular ones are:


Anything you have received in the past that you’ve never used


Funny/gag gifts

Inappropriate gifts

Practical/household gifts

Specific color gifts

Get as creative as you’d like here! 

Now for the good stuff! The Top Gifts for a 2019 White Elephant Gift Exchange

Coming up with gifts for gift exchanges can be a little challenging.

It’s hard to think of gifts that are good for everyone or creative. And having the gift everyone wants gives you so much street cred…well at least among the people you do the swap with.

Either way, it makes you look pretty great at gift-giving, which is, in fact, a natural-born gift.

Ok, maybe not but I’d like to think so.

Lucky for you, we separated this list by budget.

There are the under $30 gifts, under $20 gifts, and of course, under $10 gifts

That way there’s something for everyone here!

And hey, even if you don’t like anything on the list, maybe you’ll get the gears spinning for other ideas, so it’s worth checking out!

Gifts Under $30

1. "What Do you Meme?"

Doesn’t everyone talk in memes these days?

I swear the only conversations I have with my friends are either with memes or about memes and TBH there’s no shame. Everyone needs a good laugh and for me, it’s basically every hour on the hour with my group of friends, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

This is definitely one of my favorite newer games, it can get really inappropriate real quick and that’s the beauty of it!

2. Fire TV Stick Streaming Device

Get ready to wow your friends + family.

Disney+ just came out and the only way you should watch it is right on your TV just like old times.

The Fire Stick makes any TV a smart TV.

Even better, it makes you the winner of the gift swap (;

3. "The Bucket List"

There’s something so satisfying about having a coffee table book. Even if you don’t have a coffee table.

When I’m sick of studying and don’t want to read a book of my own, picking up a coffee table book is the best.

Also, this one is epic!

There are tons of ideas you might have never thought of and you can actually benefit from getting some out of the box ideas to add to your own bucket list.

And maybe you don’t have a bucket list...and if that’s the case, this book is for you!

4. Portable BT Speaker

These days I can't go a few hours without listening to music, who's with me?

What’s worse than getting together with a few friends and having to use your phone as a speaker? Sure it works, but an actual speaker is so much better.

The quality on this one is great, the acoustics are strong, and it has a 100 ft wireless range which is practically unheard of!

5. Tile Mate (2020)

This is the most practical gift for anyone.

We have ALL been there where we lose our keys, our phone, our minds….(sorry you can’t connect it to that last one.)

But anyone can utilize this small tile and stop wasting time looking for things that are lost.

Gifts Under $20

1. Adult Coloring Book

They say that coloring is a huge stress reliever.

It makes sense, you’re focusing on coloring within the lines and it actually becomes pretty meditative, which is really good for that busy brain you have that’s always focused on academics.

So why not give the gift of calm?

Coloring is also a pretty universal way to pass some time. 

Think long flights home, in between studying, you get the drill 

2. Letterboard

You’ve seen these everywhere, and they’re actually perfect for everyone.

Whether you’re super sentimental and want to write a motivating quote...

or you’re punny and just want a good laugh...

you can find a use for this board.

3. Brita Reusable Filtered Waterbottle

The best part about this water bottle, it filters all water.

This is essential on campus, especially when you’re in a bind and need water but all you have is a sink you can’t entirely trust.

Filtered water on demand?

Best gift ever.

4. Cozy Blanket

Ever been in your dorm, shivering, but you don’t have control over the heat? Yup, the worst.

Luckily if you have a cozy blanket it doesn’t matter if it’s cold, you can bundle up anywhere from your bed to your desk (even if that’s only 10 sq ft total!

Never get cold studying again!

This blanket is so cozy you’ll wonder how you survived without it. 

5. Travel Coffee Mug

Ok let’s be honest, you all drink coffee, and everyone needs a mug that they can take to and from class.

And even if you have one, coffee stains cups so it doesn’t hurt to upgrade here and there.

This one’s great because it’s insulated and not as expensive as some of the other ones on the market.

Hey, just because it’s not $40+ doesn’t mean it isn’t good… jeesh.

Gifts Under $10

1. 'The Hungover Cookbook'

Do we even need to say more?

This book has more than just recipes, it even has quizzes for analyzing the state of your hangover and your tracking progress.

2. Cat Pens

These are so cute.

Even if you don’t like cats c’mon you need these pens!

I’m such a sucker for good pens and these ones take the cake, cats or not.

Also, these will make you look and feel like the most epic gift giver ever.

3. Poo-pouri

Whether this is a gag gift or not is up for debate.

I will have you know that this stuff is a godsend and I actually keep it on me at all times.

I mean hey, if we are being honest, YOU NEVER KNOW when you’ll need this!

An acceptable gift for everyone even if it’s a little obscure.

4. Reusable Straws

Save the Turtles!

Yup, reusable straws are trending hard right now. And maybe that’s for no other reason than paper straws are the worst.

Sorry, but soggy and straw are two words I don’t love to use together. A straw shouldn’t be soggy, period.

But these reusable straws can prevent that, and you’re doing good for the environment at the same time by refusing plastic straws. Win.

I don't know about you, but sipping iced Coffee just isn't the same without a straw. Smh.

5. Mini Waffle Iron 

Okay, this one is just so practical.

First of all, everyone likes waffles.

Second of all, there’s surprisingly a lot more you can do with a waffle iron than you even know.

Think Cinnamon rolls….I see those gears spinning. Hey if you want to go even further, put a package of cinnamon rolls in with the gift, you’re welcome!

So take these ideas and run with them. They’re guaranteed to be hits!
Now when the white elephant gift exchange gets sprung on you, you have an arsenal of the best gifts no matter what the budget is.Woo! So many ideas.

Need a budget so you can holiday shop with ease?

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Combat the winter blues with this winter bucket list

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