A White Elephant gift exchange is a joyful and affordable way of gift-giving with friends, family, and coworkers. Some would say that the best White elephant gifts are comedic in nature, while others may say they are simple, no-hassle, and functional. Although some people love a good laugh that comes with funny gifts, I think most people would appreciate a useful yet practical gift for a white elephant game. It doesn’t have to be a totally random gift like a hot dog toaster that makes extra-plump hot dogs or a quesadilla maker that you will never use.

A DIY homemade gift is an excellent way to create a useful gift that doubles as a thoughtful conversation piece for a white elephant party. There’s also a particular joy that comes with giving a gift that you have especially created. So, check out these practical yet unique Adult White Elephant gift ideas everyone will be sure to love this holiday season.

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What’s a White Elephant Gift?

White elephant gift exchange (also known as Yankee swap) is a gift-giving tradition where members of a particular group of friends, family, or coworkers exchange gifts – anonymously. The rules allow the group members to provide a gift up to a certain dollar amount that just about anyone can use and enjoy. The dollar amount for the white elephant gift is usually pre-determined by the host or generally what’s deemed financially appropriate for everyone.

In a white elephant gift exchange, gifts are wrapped, packaged, and placed anonymously in a pile with everyone else’s gift. The white elephant gift rule lets everyone get a unique number, and gifts are then selected in the sequence order of numbers. Members can either pick an unwrapped gift or “steal” one of the already-opened white elephant gifts from someone else. In the end, a gift can be taken up to three times, and the game ends when the last gift is picked.

What is the Difference between White Elephant and Secret Santa?

Secret Santa (also known as Kris Kringle) is a Christmas game where members of a group select a name randomly for someone in that group. Each member must then provide Secret Santa gifts for the chosen person. The gift giver, in turn, becomes the person’s Secret Santa. During the gift exchange, each person takes turns opening their gift and then tries to guess their Secret Santa.

On the other hand, for a white elephant exchange, you don’t actually know who will eventually get the gift you provide. Most gifts end up being gag gifts or funny white elephant gifts. Members choose a gift, swap an already-unwrapped gift, or keep it. Both party games are holiday traditions that are so much fun. They are often played at holiday parties or at family/office gift exchange events.

Let’s now get into the list of Adult White Elephant Gift Ideas everyone will love. 

Collage of Easy DIY Adult White Elephant Gift Ideas

DIY White Elephant Gift Ideas

Family Recipe Book

Make a family recipe book that includes some of your family’s (mom, dad, sister, or aunt) favorite recipes. You can include Aunty’s lasagna recipe or grandmas sweet potato pie. Write out the recipe in a small notebook or put the recipe in a small binder and string them together with yarn.

recipe book with cookware

Gift of Experience

For individuals with kids, offering an experience can make the perfect gift. An experience can include membership or a pass to the botanical garden, zoo, movie theater, or kids’ museum. Rather than buying a toy that will eventually break or get tossed to the side, a gift of experience is a real gift that families will love.

Dry Baking Ingredients in a Jar

Instead of baking cookies or a cake, add the dry cake or cookie mix ingredients to a jar. You can use a mason jar or any jar that can seal tightly and add the dry ingredients necessary to make such a cookie or cake. Write up the recipe and the baking instructions and add a cute label to the container.

Homemade Sangria Kit

This fun fruitful drink is the perfect white elephant gift for friends and family who will appreciate an excellent made cocktail. Put the ingredients for sangria together in a basket. Ingredients may include small sample-size (or large) red wine bottles, brandy or rum, seltzer or club soda, cane sugar, apple, and oranges. Top it off with cute wine glasses, ice cube molds, and details on how to make a fresh pitcher of Sangria.

sangria kit

Frame a Photo Printout

Last year my sister-in-law gifted us a framed photo printout of our daughter side by side with her cousins (our nieces). It was a picture that she had received in a shared group chat. Sis-in-law also gifted this same framed photo to her siblings. We all loved it! She knew we liked the pictures because we shared them, but none of us considered doing them ourselves, so it was the most thoughtful gift we had ever received.

Start by going into a local thrift store and finding a lovely picture frame. Picture frames are one of the few items I recommend buying used. Find a photo on Instagram, Facebook, or a photo you took. Write a short story on the back of the photo to add context to the gift, then frame it.

Snack Basket

A curated snack basket is an excellent DIY gift idea. You can add an assortment of items, including crackers, homemade cookies, salted caramel popcorn, beef jerky, dried fruits, chocolate, nuts, or handmade rice Krispies treats. With this type of assortment, there will be something for everyone to enjoy. Add real fruits to create a healthier snack variety.

Family Fun Night in a Box

Like the snack basket, you can curate a family fun night in a box by adding all the necessities needed for a fun family night. Include a board game or movie (gift card to an amazon prime movie), a small blanket, popcorn, candy bars, and chips. This fun gift is a great idea for families that enjoy spending time together.

Creative Spice Blend

I went to an engagement party where the host gave out favors that included homemade seasoning. The spices were mixed together beautifully and placed in a cute tiny mason jar with a personalized label. This blend was a big hit, and everyone loved this awesome gift.

A spice blend would make a fabulous homemade gift idea. You can pick up an assortment of spices from Target or a local grocery store. Mix together rosemary, oregano, basil, sea salt, or whatever herb you fancy, and give it a cute name. People love useful white elephant gifts that they can easily apply to their favorite dishes.

homemade spices for white elephant gift

Used Gift Cards

We all have unused gift cards that have been sitting around in our closets, drawers, or miscellaneous areas of our homes. Why not re-gift them to someone that can use them? Start by pulling together a bunch of gift cards with small balances. You could have a gift card to Starbucks for $4.50 and another gift card to Target for $8. With such small balances, I’m sure someone will find a use for them.

Thoughtful Book

I had a friend that loved real estate, and every year he would gift each of his friends the “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” book by Robert Kiyosaki. He would wrap the books in a pretty red bow. The gift of books is a wonderful idea for book lovers. You can pick out that special book or put together a cute collection of affordable used books that your friends will love. Design your own book divider to add a more personalized touch to the gift, and wrap the gift in a Christmas Tinsel garland.

books for white elephants

Acts of Service

If you are on a tight budget, offering friends or family an act of service can make excellent practical gifts. If they have a young child, you can offer one night of free babysitting or a day at the park. If it is an elderly parent, maybe offer to take out the garbage for a week. Get creative here. People love when folks do things for them.

Create a Caricature

Caricatures are cute, silly, and fun. Get a photo of the person you’d like to gift, create a caricature, and frame it. Get the help of an online company to turn real photos into a cartoon like caricatures. You can then print them out and frame them for the individual you plan to gift. The only thing about this gift is that you will need to know who you plan to gift the item, so it might be best for a Secret Santa.

Handmade Soap

Mostly everyone uses soap – or at least some version of it. Personalize and create a DIY soap that everyone will love. It may sound like hard work to make handmade soap, but you’ll be surprised how easy it is to make. You just have to figure out the smell and the ingredients needed to create that perfect soap formula. Here’s a quick guide from GoodHouseKeeping that provides excellent tips. Handmade soaps also make great stocking stuffers.

handmade soap for white elephant

Make a Candle

Try your hand at making a candle. Pick up a candle-making kit, your favorite essential oils, and a pretty heat-resistant thrift store jar to pour the candle into. What’s nice about these candle-making kits is that you can make multiple candles for other white elephant parties.

The Gift of Lotto

Instead of a gift card or straight-up cash, you can gift your friends and family a lottery ticket or scratch-off. Put it in a lovely homemade holiday card, or wrap it up with a fancy bow. Who doesn’t love the idea of possibly winning free money?

For the Tea Lovers

A Homemade tea blend is a very thoughtful gift for tea lovers. Buy the dried herbs or fruit and mix it up yourself. You can then package it in a small ziplock bag or pouch and package it individually for gift-giving to multiple people. You can add a tag and personalize it with a sweet note. You can even include a cheap tea diffuser and pair it with a set of small tea cups or teapot to help round out the gift.

handmade looseleaf tea blend

Curate Beautiful Ornaments

Years ago, my brother gifted us handmade ornaments that included a small map of the cities we lived in. We thought this idea was just genius. These ornaments helped to tell our story and gave us memories for years to come.

Curating your own ornament is a cool gift that is simple and very inexpensive to make. Here are some ornament ideas that you can easily follow, or check out this Glitter Handprint Ornament kit that we love that are great for families with small kids.

Gift a Terracotta Pot

DIY a small pot from the local thrift store by painting it with Acrylic Paint to make it look like an expensive terracotta pot. Once you create the terracotta pot, plant some herbs or cute succulents in it to help liven it up. This is a great gift that would make the perfect addition to anyone’s home.

Acrylic painted vases that look like terracotta

I hope you enjoyed the list of best adult white elephant gift ideas that are homemade. Now it’s time to get into the holiday spirit and create a gift everyone will love and possibly even fight for. The holiday season is just around the corner, and there’s no better way to kick off the holiday season.

Let me know what you think of these ideas by dropping a comment below.

Feel free also to follow me on my social media pages – Pinterest and Instagram or subscribe to my mailing list for other design inspiration and home decor ideas. Good Luck!

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Tamara White is the creator and founder of The Thrifty Apartment, a home decor and DIY blog that focuses on affordable and budget-friendly home decorating ideas and projects. Tamara documents her home improvement journey, love of thrifting, tips for space optimization, and creating beautiful spaces.

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