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6 Holiday Gift Giving Ideas for Big Holiday Savings

Thank you for sharing!

We can’t play Santa to everyone during the holidays.  While our shopping list might seem as long as his, we don’t have unlimited funds, an army of elves, and a workshop in the North Pole cranking gifts out all year.  From extended family and friends, to teachers, neighbors and co-workers, the list to buy for seems to get longer every year.  Cull your list and save your budget by using one of these 6 Holiday Gift Giving Ideas among the groups you buy for… and even add a little entertainment value to your gift exchange!


6 Holiday Gift Giving Ideas for Big Savings

Creative holiday gift giving ideas have always been central in my family during the holidays.  My mom is one of eight kids, and there were 17 grandchildren.  Buying for everyone was a complete impossibility.  I finally convinced my husband’s family to adopt one of these as well, as buying for everyone every year was getting expensive – and unnecessary.

1. Yankee Swap

Whether you call it a Yankee Swap or a White Elephant Exchange, the premise is similar.  Everyone brings a gift to the exchange, and placed under the tree.  Numbers are drawn to determine the order in which you get to select a gift.  As each person opens a gift, they have the option to take a gift that has already been opened from someone else.  It’s ideal to be the last one to open a gift, as you then get the pick of them all!

It is helpful to set a budget (gifts of $25), theme (gag gifts), or both to facilitate a good exchange.  There are many variations and rules that can be applied (limiting number of steals, allowing first pick to go again at the end).

2. Secret Santa

This is a fun option for an office setting, or in groups, where you see people regularly.  Everyone draws a name and gives small gifts to their recipient at set intervals, only revealing themselves with the last, larger gift.  Gifts are given either daily over a week, or weekly over the month of December. Smaller gifts might be a coffee and muffin for breakfast, or a box of their favorite chocolates.  Again, it is constructive to set a budget both for the small and large gifts.

3. Exchange Names

This is the holiday gift giving means we elected in my husband’s family.  Instead of buying something small (that no one probably wants) for everyone and spending a ton of money, the grown-ups all draw names and buy one, nice gift for the person we select. It’s fun to keep it a secret until Christmas Eve when we exchange gifts, and trying to get ideas for what they really want from spouses or parents.  And in the end, you spend way less than buying for everyone, while actually giving a gift someone really wants.

4. Themed Exchange

This is a great way to give gifts to everyone (if you choose), as part of a swap, or even if you just exchange names.  Fun themes might be:

  • Ornaments
  • Handmade
  • Cocktails or Wine
  • Winter wear (scarves, hats, mittens)
  • Re-gift (wrap up something you already own or received)
  • Gag gifts

5. Musical Chairs or Hot Potato

Music games aren’t just for kids!  Although these are great options to use with a kids’ exchange.  As with other exchanges, everyone arrives with a gift (recommend setting a budget and/or theme).  For Hot Potato, turn up the Christmas music, sit in a circle and pass the gifts to your left.  When the music stops, yours is the one you’re left holding. For musical chairs, places the gifts under chairs in a circle and walk around until the music stops.  The chair you grab determines which gift is yours!

6. Adopt-a-family

The holidays are a time for giving, and it’s important to remember those less fortunate than ourselves.  Instead of wasting $20 on a gag gift for the office exchange, or exchanging gifts in your child’s playgroup, why not pool resources and give back?  Adopt-a-family this holiday as a group – collect donations and buy a family a holiday meal, gifts for their children, and collect good-as-new winter wear to keep them warm this season.  It’s a great opportunity to teach your children the true meaning of Christmas, all by forsaking a single toy, when the likely have a toy box that’s overflowing already.


Do you have a gift exchange with your friends or co-workers every year?  What is your gift exchange of choice? What budget do you typically set? If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out Part 1 in our Holiday Savings series, featuring tips to save on your annual holiday cards.

Thank you for sharing!

About Meghan

Meghan spent nearly a decade as a Financial Analyst, before spending the last 7+ as a SAHM to three little ones. She shares simple money tips for moms to help your family reach your financial goals by building a financial plan you can LIVE with! You can learn more about her background in finance, catch her daily on Instagram and Facebook, and her weekly live discussions in her community for Family Finance Moms.

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