Last updated: August 13, 2023
Get some inspiration for the best white elephant gifts under $20 for your next winter gift exchange!
The concept of a white elephant party is simple. During the holiday season, everybody brings a wrapped gift, and one by one, guests open them.
Once opened, gifts are fair game for partygoers to trade. You’ll likely end up with a completely different gift than the one you first opened by the end of the party.
Traditionally, a white elephant party was a way to get rid of the strange, useless gifts you received over the holidays.
Even when it’s not a re-gifting situation, the idea is to bring offbeat, funny, and unique gifts.
There’s usually a price limit for white elephant parties, which is why for this article, we’ve stuck to gift ideas under $20.
It’s also best when there’s a variety of gifts, ranging from high-quality and enviable to just plain ridiculous. That way, the competition for trading gifts gets fierce, and hilarity ensues.
So, if you’re heading to one of these gatherings, we’ve got you covered with plenty of inspiration for the best white elephant gifts everyone will fight for–or double over laughing at!
Note: this post contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips.
Table of Contents
Why I’m an Authority on White Elephant Gifts
I’ve been to plenty of white elephant parties in my time, and when it comes to finding engaging, hilarious, and cheap items, I am a verified expert.
As a teenager, my idea of a fun afternoon with friends was poking through the many local dollar stores in San Francisco.
We were collectors of strange and fascinating finds along the narrow aisles of the discount stores in Chinatown or the Mission District.
We’d leave with shopping bags bulging full of misprinted t-shirts, neon-colored backpacks, hilariously weird figurines, and all the hairclips a girl could dream of.
As an adult, I’m still an avid thrifter who can’t resist a dusty old junk store or flea market. But my shopping habits have also moved online.
While I can’t predict what you may find at your local dollar store or second-hand shop, I’ve found quite a few unusual, junk-shop-worthy white elephant gift ideas that you can order at the touch of a button.
And, of course, you can get all of these white elephant gifts for under $20.
Great White Elephant Gifts Everyone Will Fight Over
#1 Mrs. Meyers Kitchen Basics Set
Mrs. Meyers Kitchen Basics are some of the best-smelling cleaning products around. They use essential oils to craft fragrances reminiscent of luxe scented candles (which they also make!).
A complete set is slightly expensive compared to drugstore cleaning products when you’re just shopping for your home use, but it makes for an affordable gift that I would fight someone for.
#2 Busseto Cured Salami
Cured salami is classy, delicious, and shelf-stable before you open it.
It’s always nice to have some high-quality cured meat in the house, but there’s also something hilarious about the idea of people fighting over a sausage.
The Busseto Cured Salami isn’t just a premium gift–it will also give your group a good laugh, too.
#3 CIRCLE JOY Electric Wine Opener
In my wild youth, I perfected the skill of opening a wine bottle with a house key for those times you find yourself without an opener.
With the CIRCLE JOY Electric Wine Opener, that kind of ingenuity is no longer necessary. This is a gift for anyone who wants to up their kitchen gadget game (or their boozy picnic game!).
#4 Ouija Board
If you’re looking for unique gifts that will send a chill down everyone’s spine, an Ouija Board is just the ticket.
But be careful if you decide to break it out after the gift exchange because these things are no joke. I’m not kidding—I have stories!
#5 Bedsure Sherpa Blanket
A soft and plushy Bedsure Sherpa Blanket will make anyone’s home feel more luxurious. Everyone will be clamoring to get their hands on this, even just to touch the velvety faux-fur.
This throw blanket comes in six colors. It has a fleece backing and a faux-fur front, with a mottled, tie-dye coloration.
#6 Micron Pens and Desiliao Journal
White elephant parties are common in offices. And if your party is in a work environment, you might want to be careful about bringing gag gifts that are too off-the-wall.
Notebooks and pens make for some of the best office-appropriate white elephant gifts because they’re both enticing and practical.
I’m a professional artist, so I can say with good authority that Sakura Pigma Micron Pens are the absolute best pens around.
They produce a dark and delicate line, which is excellent for drawing or writing. And the ink is acid-free, which means it won’t fade.
#7 Crystal Growing Experiment
Gifts worth fighting for don’t have to be practical. A Crystal-Growing Experiment Set will transport adults back to their childhood days of playing scientist.
Not only is this great gift an excellent value for the money, but it’s sure to stand out at your white elephant gift exchange.
#8 Crayola Crayon Set
Continuing on the theme of fun white elephant gifts to bring out the inner child: a deluxe Crayola Crayon Set.
When we were kids, we all drooled over this set of 64 colors, and now as an adult, I know I’d try to snatch it up. A gift that brings a sense of nostalgia will have most people elbowing their way towards it.
#9 Succulents with Bamboo Stand
This surprisingly affordable planter display comes with three ceramic, owl-shaped plant pots and a three-tried bamboo stand to display them on.
The pots don’t include the plants themselves, but that makes this a lot easier to wrap. Who wouldn’t be eager for a nice piece of home decor?
#10 Holstein Housewares Mini Waffle Iron
Good white elephant gifts are a bit off-the-beaten-path but still useful and fun. The Holstein Housewares Mini Waffle Iron hits all those marks.
It comes in four colors: black, lavender, mint, and yellow. The bright color options mean that this appliance doubles as kitchen decor, and it also has nonstick plates for easy waffle removal.
I have a similar mini waffle maker that I gifted to my fiance. It’s super convenient for whipping up a Saturday brunch at home or even making a waffle-shaped grilled cheese sandwich.
It makes for an awesome white elephant gift worthy of envy.
Best Funny & Hilarious White Elephant Gifts
#11 Boston Warehouse Chihuahua Cookie Jar
A funny-shaped ceramic figurine or jar was a hot commodity in my dollar-store days. This cute Chihuahua Cookie Jar is a perfect item for dog lovers and kitsch enthusiasts alike.
Depending on who you ask, it might be laughably cheesy or covetable campy, but this dog is sure to liven up your gift exchange.
#12 Gummy Candy Sushi Bento Box
Candy that looks like sushi is both fun and delicious. This set comes with the kinds of “sushi,” all of which are gummies.
They feature a range of sweet, fruity, and sour flavors, and their resealable package resembles an actual sushi tray. It’s a good gag gift that’s also fun to eat.
#13 Dehydrated Marshmallows
We all know that the best part of Lucky Charms cereal is those strange, crispy, dehydrated marshmallows.
I’m sure we’re all guilty of eating them straight out of the box, mainly leaving just bland oat cereal behind for the next person. (No, just me?)
Now partygoers can fight over a one-pound jar of these tasty morsels.
The lucky winner could add them to their bowl of lucky charms for a more marshmallow-centric blend or just nibble them straight from the jar.
#14 Little Live Aqua Dragons Sea Monkey Set
Speaking of dehydrated things–sea monkeys are a pet that comes in a packet. The Little Live Aqua Sea Monkey Set is a hilarious gag gift that will bring out everybody’s inner child.
This set comes with a tank and dehydrated eggs. Once added to water, the eggs will hatch into tiny sea creatures.
These low-maintenance tiny pets aren’t just for kids anymore. They’re a great trial run for any grown-up who isn’t sure they’re responsible enough for a cat or a dog.
#15 Quilted Northern Toilet Paper
If you’re looking for practical gifts that will get lots of laughs and liven the party up, consider an 18-pack of Quilted Northern Toilet Paper.
This item will look very inviting all wrapped up, and there will be a riotous reveal once someone unwraps it.
Everyone needs toilet paper, and getting 18 rolls as a gift will mean your friend will go many weeks before running out. It’s worth fighting for once you think about it!
#16 Cat Lovers Pasta
Pasta with fun shapes always makes for good, funny gifts at an exchange. It’s a novelty item that’s easy to enjoy (who doesn’t love pasta?).
While there are many different pasta shapes to choose from, I’m partial to this Cat Lovers Pasta because I’m a cat lover!
This set of two comes with an assortment of plain durum-wheat cat faces and spinach-wheat cat paws. Whoever ends up with it will surely get a chuckle and a delicious meal.
#17 Bob Ross Color Change Coffee Mug
The late great Bob Ross taught us that there are no mistakes in life, just happy accidents.
This color-changing Bob Ross mug makes an excellent office gift because the lucky recipient can keep it on their desk to remind them to calm down and enjoy the scenery.
This mug shows Bob’s face on a black background. When hot liquids make this coffee mug warmer, the black becomes a full-color reproduction of a classic Bob Ross landscape painting.
#18 Novelty Unicorn Mask
This creepily-realistic latex Novelty Unicorn Mask is just for giggles. If you bring this gift, someone is bound to wear it by the end.
We all have that one friend who would covet something like this and is bound to steal it from the first person who opens it.
Best Last-Minute White Elephant Gift Ideas
#19 Elephant Playing Card Deck
When in doubt–and in a pinch for time–an elephant-themed gift can be an easy and smart choice.
These Elephant Playing Cards are one of the best white elephant gifts from Amazon because it’s a beautiful deck that nods towards the party’s theme. Plus, it’s something someone might actually use.
#20 Elephant Plush Toy
If you want to lean even further into the theme, perhaps the best gift to bring to a white elephant party is…a white elephant!
This plush toy is cuddly and soft and has two cute gold embroidered hearts on the ear.
#21 Art Cat Puzzle
Puzzles always make a good, simple gift. They’re usually inexpensive but can provide a little fun for a whole family.
I’m a sucker for this cat-themed re-imagining of the classic piece of art, “The Birth of Venus.” Really, anything cat-related is always a crowd-pleaser!
#22 Wildflower Seeds
If your party is happening during the holiday season, then a package of wildflower seeds is a great way to help people focus on the coming spring during winter.
This pack of twenty can cover up to 100 square feet of land and includes an assortment of different seeds.
Choose from two different butterfly garden blends or one geared towards attracting hummingbirds.
#23 Blood Orange Stress Relief Candle
If you’re stumped about what gift to bring to a white elephant holiday party, you can’t go wrong with a scented candle.
I love the sweet citric scent of blood orange. It freshens up the room and fits every season or style. This candle also has an attractive tin, making it look great in any home.
#24 Three-Pack of Posters
Posters are a fun choice because whoever opens the gift needs to unroll each one to see what it is, which adds an element of surprise.
I’m a fan of this art history-themed 3-pack, which includes Van Gogh’s “Skeleton,” Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist,” and Hokusai’s “The Great Wave off Kanagawa.” Each poster is a generously-sized 18″ x 24″, which is a great deal!
#25 QuadPro Magnetic Travel Chess Set
A QuadPro Magnetic Travel Chess Set is an excellent choice for anyone who likes to stay occupied and entertained while on the go.
This set folds up small for easy transport, and the pieces are magnetized so they won’t fall off if you’re playing on an airplane during turbulence.
#26 Starbucks Gift Card
While there are plenty of fantastic and gender-neutral white elephant gifts, nothing is more universal than a coffee card.
With a Starbucks Gift Card, your friend can get their iced coffee fix all week for free, making this a quick and easy gift to pick up at the last minute.
Best Ultra-Budget White Elephant Gifts Under $10
Some childhood nostalgia is always a good way to go when in doubt! This Original Slinky is just how you remember it, and it costs next to nothing.
This metal slinky is perfect for walking down the stairs, and the packaging features a retro graphic design that will take you back to the good old days.
#28 Pickle Bandages
If you’re looking for ultra-cheap gifts, sometimes it’s best to opt for something absurd.
These pickle-shaped bandages work great as a stocking stuffer, so they’ll also be a hit at a white elephant exchange. Give your friend a chuckle whenever they need to bandage a cut!
#29 Freeze-Dried Pad Thai
Weird? Yes. Silly and irreverent? Yes. Perfect for a white elephant gift? Yes!
#30 American Apparel Plain T-Shirts
The other option is the super-practical one when you’re looking for ultra-budget white elephant gift ideas.
This two-pack of American Apparel Plain T-Shirts will come in handy for just about anyone, and your wallet will thank you!
#31 REI Coolmax Ecomade Crew Socks
If you’re looking for useful and affordable white elephant gift ideas, these REI Coolmax Ecomade Crew Socks might be perfect.
What’s cool about these socks is that they use recycled plastic bottles, making them good for the world and cozy on your feet!
FAQs About White Elephant Gifts
How Does White Elephant Work? How do you Pass a White Elephant Gift?
At the start of the party, the first person chooses a gift to unwrap.
The following person can either decide to unwrap a new one or steal the first one, and this goes on until everyone ends up with a gift.
When someone steals your gift, you have the option to unwrap a new one or steal one from another person.
Is Secret Santa or White Elephant Better?
A Secret Santa can be an excellent way to make sure everyone in a group of friends or coworkers receives a gift, but no one has to spend a ton of money.
But a White Elephant gift exchange is much more of an activity–it’s a party after all–so it can be more fun. A secret Santa isn’t necessarily a party at all.
What is the Difference Between White Elephant and Dirty Santa?
Dirty Santa is just a different name for the same thing. The word “Dirty” refers to the deceptive act of stealing another person’s gift rather than anything X-rated.
Are Yankee Swap and White Elephant the Same Thing?
Yes! A Yankee Swap is yet another name for this type of gift exchange.
How do you Make White Elephant More Fun?
The best white elephant parties have a wide variety of gifts ranging from premium and desirable to funny and absurd. That way, the competition gets fierce.
Lots of fun wrapping paper with ribbons and bows make the unwrapping extra enjoyable.
And of course, a lively group of friends and an excellent selection of refreshments make a fantastic party!
Do you Wrap a White Elephant Gift?
Yes–it’s important to wrap a white elephant gift because the unwrapping and the surprise element are some of the main points of the party!
Are White Elephant Gifts Meant to be Useful?
A great gift doesn’t have to be useful, especially for a white elephant. While useful gifts might be more sought-after, something useless that makes your friends laugh is just as good!
How Much Should I Spend on a White Elephant Gift?
I’ve included only white elephant gifts under 20 dollars in this article. In general, these types of gifts shouldn’t break the bank.
Each group will set a price limit to ensure everyone is coming to the party with an equal gift, but the actual amount will depend on what your group of friends or office decides.
Conclusion: The Best Fail-Safe Gift
So what happens when I just can’t decide? I go for a Bedsure Sherpa Blanket. The wrapped appearance draws attention, and it’s perfectly practical yet luxurious.
No matter how old your friends are or how long you’ve known each other, fuzzy blankets are always popular.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elina Ansary is a writer, visual artist, and avid traveler. She grew up in San Francisco, CA, and spent her childhood camping up and down Northern California. These days, she visits artist residencies around the world and has lived in Amsterdam, Australia, and now Brooklyn, NY.
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